CALGARY — Premier Jason Kenney is away on vacation and has not been seen or heard from publicly since Aug. 9. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions for COVID-19 have more than doubled since then, with cases surging amid a fourth wave, something the premier predicted would not happen.
“We just don’t see that scenario,” Kenney said June 18 when he announced the province would “open for good.”
“I fully expect that we will see an increase in cases, particularly with a typical seasonal wave for contagious disease of this nature, probably starting in mid-October,” he said at the time.
Alberta NDP health critic David Shepherd calls Kenney’s hiding an embarrassment.
“I think they are afraid of their far-right base, their own MLAs,” he said. “And they’re afraid of having to answer for the fact that the premier only weeks ago stood and said, ‘Oh, that’s not the sort of scenario we see coming,'” he said.
Stephen Carter, the former campaign manager and chief of staff for former premier Alison Redford, says Kenney is entitled to time off, but needs to act accordingly to developing situations.
“His actions have led us to this place and it feels to me that he should be here taking action to ensure that it doesn’t get worse than it is,” said Carter.
“Being premier means responding to everything as it happens, when it actually happens.”
Some political watchers say there could be more to Kenney’s absence with a federal election campaign well underway.
“Erin O’Toole is probably saying to Jason Kenney, thanks for helping me last time, but I think this time I’m go it on my own,” said John Church, a political scientist at the University of Alberta.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro has also been absent, last speaking to reporters at the end of July.
He was seen visiting a vaccine clinic on Tuesday, speaking with healthcare workers.
Church believes Kenney’s “open for good” comments two months ago have backfired.
“To say you had no idea that this was coming or this would happen, that’s either very naive or its deliberately deceptive,” he said.
There are 90 people in hospital in the Calgary zone, with 14 in the ICU. A total of 284 people are in hospital provincially.
CTV News reached out Shandro’s office for comment but have not heard back on when he may address the current situation.
Kenney’s office refused to answer when his vacation would be over, but have previously said his vacation was a “working one,” and he is constantly staying in touch with his cabinet.