February 23, 2024

Stereo Computers

Things Go Better with Technology

Kenney still has yet to face the media amid Alberta’s COVID-19 surge, as NDP proposes vaccine passport

5 min read

Article content

Thursday marked the 24th day since Premier Jason Kenney took direct questions from the media, a period of time during which Alberta’s COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations have skyrocketed.


Article content

On Wednesday night, the Premier appeared publicly for the first time since Aug. 9 to answer self-selected questions from Albertans on Facebook Live, saying his government is concerned about the surge in cases and suggesting his officials would hold a news conference this week.

“We have always looked at restrictions as a last and limited resort,” said Kenney. “If indeed we do see this wave jeopardizing the health-care system, we may have to take some very targeted actions.”

The Premier’s comments fed speculation that the UCP would announce renewed public health measures as early as Thursday, but following caucus and cabinet meetings the sole government announcement was that 70 per cent of eligible Albertans had received both doses of vaccine — a 0.1 per cent increase from Wednesday’s update.


Article content

The health-care system is already facing renewed pressure due to higher COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations. Surgeries have been delayed, patients have been transferred and some emergency room beds have been temporarily closed.

On Aug. 9, the day Kenney last held a news conference, the province reported 244 new cases of COVID-19 and 3,380 active cases. There were 129 Albertans in hospital, 26 of whom were in intensive care units.

On Thursday, Alberta reported 1,339 new cases of COVID-19 — the highest daily case count since mid-May and the second consecutive day new cases surpassed 1,300. There are currently 12,868 active cases in the province and 487 people in hospital, of which 114 are in intensive care.


Article content

The Opposition NDP and Alberta doctors have been critical of Kenney’s absence, and during Wednesday’s Facebook Live one person accused him of hiding by not holding a news conference, which Kenney rejected.

“I’m hiding in plain view,” he said, adding that he has been working out of his office at the McDougall Centre in Calgary this week after taking “a couple weeks of holiday.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, hasn’t held a news conference since Aug. 13, when she announced a delay in plans to end routine COVID-19 testing and mandatory isolation. Those measures are set to end Sept. 27.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro last gave a media briefing July 28.

The government has defended the leaders’ absences by pointing to daily updates posted on Twitter by Hinshaw and her team.


Article content

NDP calls for vaccine passports

Meanwhile on Thursday, Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley called for the government to introduce vaccine passports for Albertans to enter non-essential businesses and attend mass gatherings, saying the move will curb transmission and keep hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia and Quebec are phasing in or already have requirements for people to show a vaccine card, online image or smartphone verification for activities deemed non-essential such as visiting bars, restaurants, casinos and sports events.

“If we don’t act now, I fear we will reach a place where Albertans will be scrambling to catch up with the rest of the world, and our health care and economy will be needlessly injured in the process,” said Notley.


Article content

“No one wants to go back to restrictions. That’s why we’re proposing a better way.”

Kenney has repeatedly said the province will not mandate proof of immunization to access non-essential businesses and public spaces, arguing the measure would go against privacy laws.

But some private businesses and universities in Alberta have announced vaccine requirements, including the Edmonton Elks and the Edmonton Oilers and Rogers Place, or proof of negative testing.

Notley said she wants to see the government offer Albertans a scannable digital QR code by the end of September that would encourage vaccinations and lower the risk of public COVID-19 transmission.

Albertans can access their proof of vaccination records online. The government has also announced Albertans will soon be able to get a smaller paper proof-of-vaccination card.


Article content

During the Facebook Live, Kenney reiterated the importance of getting vaccinated and said the government is considering a “new and different” incentive to encourage people get people immunized.

Alberta lifted almost all health restrictions July 1, with officials saying it was time to stop treating COVID-19 as a crisis and instead manage it long term, which would free up health workers and resources for other health issues.

The province now leads Canada in per capita cases.

— With files from The Canadian Press and Anna Junker

[email protected]


Stay posted with 10/3, our Canadian affairs podcast featuring expert perspectives, wherever you get your podcasts. Listen to the latest episode:



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

stereocomputers.com | Newsphere by AF themes.