EDMONTON – Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney struggled Tuesday to contain a rapidly expanding COVID-19 crisis that has invaded hospitals and sparked a party revolt against his leadership.
Kenney was expected to replace Health Minister Tyler Shandro with Labor Minister Jason Copping in a cabinet change in mid-afternoon.
The Kenney government also approached the federal government for emergency help with COVID-19 hospitalizations that could soon force doctors to ration life-saving resources.
Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver asked the government for air transportation to transport patients to care facilities outside of Alberta and more intensive care nurses and respiratory therapists.
“Federal assistance in these two areas has the potential to create significant relief for the health care system,” McIver wrote in a letter to Bill Blair, the federal minister for public safety and emergency preparedness.
Blair responded on social media: “Federal officials have been engaging their counterparts in Alberta for the past week to offer help. I made it clear that when an application is received, it will be approved. We will work together to help the people of Alberta. ”
Last week, Alberta turned to other provinces for help when it declared a public health state of emergency. At the time, Kenney reintroduced the collection restrictions and announced a vaccine passport form.
Alberta has more than 20,000 active cases. On Monday, there were 954 COVID-19 patients in the hospital and 216 of them were in intensive care, well above the normal capacity of the ICU.
Many surgeries have been canceled and Kenney estimated last week that hospitals could be overwhelmed by the end of the month without direct action.
The prime minister faces not only public but internal reaction from the rank and file of the United Conservatives, as well as members of the caucus for his handling of the pandemic.
Joel Mullan, the party’s vice president for policy, said Kenney must resign or face an expedited review of his leadership.
Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney fought Tuesday to contain a rapidly expanding COVID-19 crisis that has invaded hospitals and sparked a party revolt against his leadership. #ableg #cdnpoli #COVID
“(A resignation) is necessary because both party members and the public have lost faith in Jason Kenney’s leadership,” Mullan said.
He said Kenney has failed to consistently make extreme and inflexible political decisions on COVID-19, only to withdraw when the ever-changing and mutable crisis has forced him.
At the latest recall, Kenney submitted proof of vaccination requirements after proclaiming for weeks that he never would.
“We get into a corner where there is no other option but to turn you into a liar to get out of there,” Mullan said. “This is a very fluid situation with a virus that we do not yet have firm knowledge of.
“There is no management of public expectations. Instead, he just tells people, ‘No, that’s how it’s going to be’ until it’s not. It’s no wonder people don’t trust him anymore. “
Kenney won’t face a party leadership review until the end of next year, unless at least 22 United Conservative constituencies vote to hold one sooner.
Mullan said more than 30 voters’ associations have said they intend to request a review, but most have not yet formally ratified their decisions.
“I don’t know exactly when it will be done, but it seems like it’s moving pretty quickly.”
Mullan said that if a leadership review were called, it would take place in two to three months. Kenny would need a simple majority vote of the members to keep his job.
“If you get less than 50 (percent), you are fired.”
Last week, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer for health, admitted that the fuse for the fourth blast wave was lit on July 1, when Kenney lifted nearly all health restrictions, faster than any other province. He said it was safe to do so, because 70 percent of eligible Albertans had received at least one dose of vaccine.
Kenney stated that COVID-19 was effectively defeated and that a future increase in cases could be accommodated in the healthcare system. He said he did not imagine needing an alternative.
After that, vaccination figures stalled and lagged behind other provinces. That prompted Kenney to recently offer $ 100 to anyone receiving a first or second injection.
His government did not act during July and August when the number of cases soared and Kenney went on vacation.
Last week, he said he did not act sooner because he did not believe that Albertans had followed the renewed health restrictions.
This Canadian Press report was first published on September 21, 2021.