Kenney under fire during emergency debate in House of Commons on COVID-19 crisis in Alberta – fr

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OTTAWA – The Alberta legislature may have been silenced, but its partisan warfare was transferred to the House of Commons on Wednesday as MPs held an emergency debate on the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the province.

Edmonton NDP MP Heather McPherson called for the debate and used it to criticize the handling of the health crisis by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, which she said drove the rate highest infection rate in North America and left the province’s health care system on the brink of crisis. collapse. “

“If you want to know why it’s so bad in Alberta, why other provinces resisted the third wave better than my province, the answer is clear: it’s Jason Kenney,” McPherson said in a keynote address. late night debate.

Kenney, according to McPherson, has failed every step of the way, taking a “Donald Trump” approach to the pandemic.

He ignored scientific evidence and calls from doctors, downplayed the severity of COVID-19, “belittled” efforts to control the spread and, even as the crisis worsened, took only “half measures To impose public health restrictions while blaming everyone. but himself for the problem, she said.

“Thanks to the embarrassing joke our provincial government has become, we have the biggest health crisis Alberta has ever seen,” McPherson said, his voice cracking at times with emotion.

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“Jason Kenney was an absolute disaster for Alberta.”

She argued that Alberta has become a “petri dish” for more deadly and contagious mutations in the COVID-19 virus that will spread across the country if nothing is done to put out the fire in the province.

McPherson urged the federal Liberal government to step in and help Albertans by getting more vaccines to warm areas of the province, improving sick leave benefits and introducing a national pharmacare plan.

But she did not spare Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from criticism.

“He’s watched what’s going on in Alberta and he hasn’t done anything because he’d rather watch Alberta burn than help Jason Kenney.

She later agreed to “rephrase” this accusation, after being reprimanded by a Liberal MP, saying the federal government had been “missing” during the Alberta crisis.

As the debate raged, Trudeau spoke to Kenney. The prime minister’s office said in a statement about the phone call that Trudeau “offered federal government support to help Alberta respond to the growing number of COVID-19 cases” as well as the “partnership between the two governments to quickly provide safe and effective solutions. vaccines for Albertans.

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Alberta Conservative MPs, some of whom served with Kenney when he was doing federal politics, opposed McPherson’s accusations of the Prime Minister’s incompetence.

“Let’s talk about federal failures and we can leave the provincial debates to the provincial legislatures instead of using this seat to attack provincial politicians who are not even there to defend themselves,” said Garnett Genuis.

Kenney’s government abruptly suspended the Alberta legislature earlier this week.

Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner, Conservative health critic, said other Canadians need to understand that Alberta was in deep economic recession before the pandemic hit and lockdowns made matters worse.

It’s not that Albertans don’t want to follow public health orders, she argued, it’s that “people need to eat”.

“It is very paternalistic to just say that people who may not follow the restrictions are doing so from a place that looks like a bourgeois contempt for the law… Lockdown is a luxury for a lot of people in my community. . It’s just the reality.

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Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she shares McPherson’s concerns about what is happening in Alberta. She said Ottawa has offered support to Kenney, as it has in other provinces, and that she will be there for Albertans.

Yet she pointed out that 80% of the Eighty percent of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on pandemic relief came from the federal government.

Conservative MPs from Alberta blamed their province’s woes squarely on the federal government’s inability to provide a stable supply of vaccines in February and March, when production issues repeatedly delayed scheduled deliveries.

But Hajdu noted that 17.2 million doses of vaccine have now been delivered across the country, placing Canada third in the G20 in terms of vaccination rates, and vaccine deliveries are steadily increasing.

As for directing more vaccines to warm areas of the province, Hajdu said it was strictly up to Alberta to decide how to allocate its share of vaccines. It could, as Ontario did, choose to give priority access to people in the hardest-hit areas, she said.

Tory MPs have repeatedly referred to the fact that the UK, which led the world in vaccinations during the winter, is now reopening as Canada struggles to cope with a third wave of COVID -19.

But Hajdu said vaccines are only part of the answer. She noted that the UK has much stricter public health restrictions than those imposed in Alberta and some other provinces.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 5, 2021.

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