This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.
After months of feeding carrots to vaccine-hesitant Albertans, Premier Jason Kenney is breaking out the stick.
He is telling Alberta’s 25,000 civil servants who work directly for the government they must be vaccinated by Nov. 30 or produce a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of every scheduled workday.
Those that refuse won’t be fired but will be placed on unpaid leave.
“Our aim is to encourage and educate all the members of the public service to get vaccinated,” said public service commissioner Tim Grant.
In a previous incarnation a decade ago, Grant was a general leading Canadian troops in Afghanistan against the Taliban, an experience that might come in handy when dealing with another bellicose opponent: Alberta’s anti-vaxxers. At least, any anti-vaxxers who happened to work for the government.
The government doesn’t know how many of its 25,000 workers are unvaccinated but based on statistics for the general population, Grant figures it’s about 4,000 people.
Alberta’s major problem continues to be members of the general population who are driving the fourth wave of the pandemic by refusing to get vaccinated, contracting COVID-19, then subsequently clogging up hospital beds and forcing the cancellation of all elective surgeries.
Another major problem is how Kenney has been dealing with the crisis.
247 in ICU is good news?
Time and again, he’s had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to take action. And even then, as he did Thursday, he makes it sound like everything is under control.
“As of this morning, we had 247 COVID patients in intensive care, down from 257 the previous day, and roughly flat from where we were a week ago,” Kenney said on Thursday, making it sound like having 247 people stricken with COVID-19 in intensive care was good news.
And keep in mind that also on Thursday, Alberta Health Services reported another 20 people had died from COVID-19. One of them was a 24-year-old man from northern Alberta who had no known pre-existing conditions.