David Staples: Alberta’s strong response to COVID-19 is remarkably unpopular. Why?


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The fight with the doctors: It can be argued that it is high time for an Alberta government to finally curb the ever-increasing payments to physicians in Alberta, which are considerably higher than elsewhere in Canada. The Kenney government decided to act and dropped the hammer of a government-imposed settlement on doctors at the end of February. Weeks later, the pandemic struck, but the Kenney government was slow to pull back from its hostile rhetoric and fierce battle with medics.

Many reasonable people have wondered why this fight was so necessary during a health crisis.

Kenney’s Cool Bedside Way: Ontario Premier Doug Ford won people over during the pandemic by posing as a heartwarming friend with deep pockets. But Kenney hasn’t changed his behavior or politics much. I see him as a capable, cerebral, and energetic technocrat, but others see those same traits and describe him as cold, mean and devious.

In his main speeches on the pandemic, Kenney cited Alberta’s response as being akin to the Battle of Britain. But this war analogy failed among young Albertans. And if it really was a war on great evil, why was Kenney fighting with his frontline soldiers, the medics?

In the end, the war analogy missed the mark. We don’t need to be fierce and aggressive to defeat the virus, we need to be self-disciplined and quietly resolute, but also driven by feeling and compassion.

Kenney and the wise and empathetic Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw are to be commended for helping to keep Alberta’s death rate so low while keeping the economy so open. Kenney’s government has also been hit by economic and social forces beyond its control.

But UCP has fallen flat when it comes to empathizing when empathy is now a necessity.

Kenney and the UCP may well channel more Deena Hinshaw, less Winston Churchill.

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