Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley has called on Premier Kenney to implement new restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 as case numbers rise.
The official Opposition is calling on the UCP to “immediately reintroduce the Jan. 18 public health orders to protect Albertans from the dangerous third wave of COVID-19.”
“Albertans’ lives are at stake and there are proven measures that could be protecting them,” Notley said today. “I was shocked that Jason Kenney failed to do this on Thursday. He laid out a compelling case to take action and then failed to act.”
The measures implemented allowed indoor gatherings of up to 10 people, but closed fitness studios and in-person dining.
“He must re-introduce the measures that effectively contained the spread of COVID over the winter and he must do it today,” Notley said.
Kenney may accede to this request - not just because his approval rating is in the toilet. He has warned that Alberta was “now in a significant new wave of COVID-19.”
“We know with great certainty that we will have close to 500 COVID-19 patients in hospital just two weeks from now,” he said Thursday, adding that number could grow to 1,000 people in a month’s time.
Notley says existing restrictions are insufficient. “Jason Kenney said that hundreds upon hundreds of people will be hospitalized in the next 14 days and then did absolutely nothing to prevent even more people from being infected over this long weekend,” Notley said. “The premiers of B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec have all re-introduced public health measures to keep their residents safe. But Jason Kenney is dithering and worrying more about his political future and political base than the lives of Albertans. I cannot believe that his failure to act is based on professional public health advice."
Notley does concede that schools should remain open. “For the moment, I hope we can keep our schools opened safely,” Notley said. “But I also urge the government to immediately convene an urgent conversation with teachers and district boards to determine how to keep students and staff and families safe through to June.”
Dr. Darren Markland, an intensive care physician at Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital, has added his voice to Notley's in saying that existing public health measures in place in Alberta are insufficient.
“The brutal fact of the matter is, all we have to do is look to Ontario to see what our future is and that will be our future in seven to 10 days. Their ICUs are full, they’re having to institute much more stringent measures,” he said.
Public health measures are largely supported by most Albertans - this is reflected in voting trends. A recent Leger poll conducted between March 5-8 had Albertans back the NDP over the UCP 51%-30% if an election were held today, a blowout that Notley didn't receive even back in 2015, when Conservatives were divided between two parties. Other pollsters aren't offering much hope for Kenney, either. A recent Commonground poll had Kenney trailing far behind the NDP, 32% to 42%.
Overall, since the beginning of 2021, it seems most Albertans are siding with Notley over their incumbent premier.