Throughout this Covid-19 crisis many political leaders who I strongly disagree with have done a good job in my estimation. I have no problem saying that a lot of these leaders have risen to the moment and have earned respect for that work to date. But at the same time, not all have risen to the challenge while others are really starting to backtrack on whatever progress was made.
We’re seeing good examples of this when it comes to the re-opening of our society and economy, as provinces are taking different approaches in fits and starts. Quebec had to slow down some re-opening measures and just today New Brunswick has had to re-instate some measures because of an outbreak in the Campbellton area. But Alberta seems to be standing alone in their aggressive approach, even announcing yesterday that the Conservative Government of Jason Kenney won’t be extending Alberta’s state of emergency when it expires on June 15th.
Even with all the different re-opening measures, no single Canadian province or territory besides Alberta is moving in that direction and for good reason. It’s generally agreed that even as things start to re-open this health emergency is far from being over. This isn’t like a flood or forest fire that once it’s dealt with the emergency disappears. We know we’re in a long fight here against Covid-19 yet for some reason the Kenney Conservatives are choosing to ignore that. That lead to some legitimate questions about this decision, bringing some striking comments in the Alberta Legislature as Kenney tried to explain this move:
Ugghh!!! Come on man, seriously? After three months of this we still have to have this discussion about the ugly trope that Kenney started with there? Kenney trotted out the old canard about how other things will kill more Albertans, as if they were all on level footing. He stated that more people die of accidents than Covid-19, which is very cold comfort to the families of those who have already died because of Covid-19. It’s also ignorant of a very simple fact; accidents aren’t contagious diseases! I can’t believe that I need to point out to a politician as experienced and long in the tooth as Jason Kenney that you can’t treat fighting a global pandemic of a contagious disease the same way you would seat belt safety or teaching your kids to safely cross the street. If accidents like car crashes became contagious, you better believe that governments everywhere would be taking measures to limit our exposures to our SUV’s or to protect the public at intersections everywhere. But of course it’s silly to compare the two, not to mention intellectually dishonest, a tactic that Kenney has traded in for well over two decades.
He then goes onto the next line of attack. He points out that “there will be more infections, there will be more outbreaks, there will be clusters, there will be more hospitalizations and sadly there will be more COVID-related deaths.” He just takes that as a matter of fact concept, like there will be nothing we can do to stop it so why try. But it’s the next part that I found to be especially illuminating. He challenged health officials to figure out how to protect the most vulnerable in the “strongest and most discreet ways possible.” Discreet? Wait, you mean that Kenney is concerned about discretion when it comes to how this disease is being treated? He’s saying out lout that he wants to make sure that the treatment of Covid-19 is “out of sight, out of mind”, as if that will make it easier for everyone else to go on about their business and forget about what’s going on across the planet.
That’s not just whistling past the graveyard, that whistling past while the graveyard is covered by protective drapes so no one can see the graveyard at all and assume that it’s really a fun place like an arena or an amusement park. There’s no graveyard there, I can see the images of the roller-coaster right there! Christ that’s taking burying your head in the sand to a whole new level. But that’s not where Kenney ended, not at all. He uttered a short 9 second sentence that was just chilling, especially coming from the leader of a provincial government in this country:
“The average age of death from Covid in Alberta is 83, and I remind the house that the average life expectancy in the province is 82.” That’s what he said, word for word, without any emotion or sense of just how ghoulish those words were. They insinuated all kinds of things, which were in the context of that statement. Kenney was trying to suggest there was nothing abnormal about people dying from this disease, which I guess means he wants to ignore the meat plant workers or health care workers who have become ill and succumb to this pandemic. They don’t count in this argument from Kenney.
But what the argument is really trying to say is that “Hey they had a good life, they were going to be dying soon enough anyway.” He basically tries to say this is no big deal because they were old. He insinuates that they are expendable because “hey, they were going to die anyway so why should the rest of us suffer?” The point also completely ignores the whole concept around quality of life that despite the fact that the average life expectancy may be 82, many people life long beyond that date and don’t start to see a decline until they are way passed that age. I look at my maternal Grandfather, who lived until he was 6 months shy of 100 and he was in fine shape, physically and mentally, well into his 90’s. Hell, at 82 he was just getting started. But in Jason Kenney’s eyes, those 17 years he lived after would have been worth throwing away to ensure that he can get a haircut.
I’m not surprised to see Jason Kenney of all people make such cold, callous and thoughtless statements because that’s how he’s made his career since the 90’s. The only thing that would have made that an even more “Kenney” comment would have been to add a line about the “depreciation of human capital” or something like that. Those words of his yesterday display the worst kind of hubris and a total lack of basic compassion. Where other politicians have grown in response to Covid-19, Kenney has continued to shrink in this spotlight. But as with many things with Kenney, those words give you some clear insight to how he views the world. He’s willing to let more people die, put others at greater risk of dying & try to push the treatment of those who fall into the shadows all so there can be a return to a normal that the vast majority of people agree isn’t coming back. This just screams of an approach that’s going to fail & will lead to the next Covid hotspots in this country. I hope and pray that doesn’t happen but when I see those words from Jason Kenney, I see the same Kenney that has always been there. That isn’t what folks need now but sadly it’s what has been delivered and that’s a scary proposition.