As the COVID-19 pandemic transitions to an endemic, United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership candidates are calling for a look back, but for different reasons.
Some Albertans feel that pandemic restrictions went too far in restricting freedoms, while some complain that the Alberta government didn’t go far enough to manage the spread of the virus or to help front-line workers deal with unprecedented demand for health services.
Danielle Smith and Brian Jean said they don’t want to see a repeat of government intrusion.
Rajan Sawhney and Travis Toews, both former UCP cabinet ministers, would like to see an inquiry into whether the province’s response was good enough.
“Albertans need to know where the government erred, where it got things right, and we need to know ultimately what happened, what worked, what didn’t,” Toews said, noting the province’s response was “far from perfect.”
In response to advice from the Alberta Health Services, the Kenney-led Government of Alberta implemented restrictions like bans on indoor gatherings, masking in indoor public places, and vaccine passports. These moves were divisive, as rural areas and conservatives complained about the resulting breach into their rights while liberals and other urban areas angrily bemoaned the easement of these restrictions, as they led to further spikes in COVID cases.
Adding to these frustrations were scandals of UCP Cabinet Ministers and MLAs who were not following the restrictions that they created. Notably, Leela Aheer and Rajan Sawhney publicly criticized Kenney for breaking the restrictions, after which, the former was shuffled out of Cabinet. Another candidate for the UCP leadership race, Todd Loewen, alongside MLA Drew Barnes, was kicked from the UCP caucus after posting letters denouncing the implementation of COVID restrictions.
Premier Kenney maintains that all the restrictions were made in accordance with advice from Alberta Health Services and to prevent a collapse in the provincial healthcare system. Similar restrictions were enacted across other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world as well to deal with the healthcare ramifications.
With new, more infectious COVID variants circulating, more COVID surges are expected. If hospitalizations rise, further government action may be required to curb the spread of infection and protect the health care system.
To date, only two candidates have taken a stance on COVID-19:
|Danielle Smith||Amend the Human Rights Act to ensure that the choice of vaccines remains a choice|
|Rajan Sawhney||Independent inquiry into the province’s pandemic response|