CALGARY — The province announced the continuation of testing, tracing and isolating COVID-19 cases until the end of September Friday, another in a series of about-faces that served as a vindication of some critics.
“I think everybody in the province was deathly afraid that, you know, we wouldn’t be able to see where things are going,” says Dr. Joe Vipond, a Calgary emergency room physician and vocal critic of the abandoning of all public health measures.
“How do you make good policy if you can’t see the numbers?”
Vipond was also the target of the premier’s staff, depicted as an NDP operative. But the concerns raised by Vipond and others are now being used to support the provincial government’s latest abrupt change in direction.
“The pattern has been the same through the second wave and the third wave and now again,” said Lisa Young with U of C’s School of Public Policy. “We’re all supposed to see the world one way, and anyone who doesn’t see it that way is foolish.”
“And then there’s a sudden shift, without really acknowledging that in fact the people who were critical were correct in the first place,” Yound says. “I really struggle to attribute a strategy to this.”
The change comes after repeated protests in Alberta’s major centres, often populated by medical professionals and educators concerned about the previous plan to end virtually all tracking by August 16.
But Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Friday that hospitalizations are showing a concerning trend upwards among the unvaccinated – 62 per cent higher than anticipated.
She also appealed for a calmer tone in public debate.
“I believe that with very complex and even wicked problems like COVID-19, we are not well-served by holding on to positions rather than identifying that we have common interests,” Hinshaw said.
The opposition NDP also lashed the government over its handling of the evolving crisis.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen that Jason Kenney and the UCP have been putting their own political fortunes ahead of public health in Alberta,” said NDP MLA David Shepherd.
CTV News asked the premier’s office if it would tone down its attacks on critics of pandemic policy. There was no response.
A new Angus Reid poll completed earlier in the week showed 63 per cent of Albertans disapprove of the premier’s handling of the pandemic, the worst of any Canadian premier.
The poll is considered accurate plus or minus two per cent, 19 times out of 20.