New Year’s Day 2021 was a tough day for Premier Kenney. Over the Christmas break a number of his Cabinet, MLAs and political staff, used the time off to jet off for warm holidays. All the while Government instituted a significant lockdown of businesses and public and family gatherings due to the pandemic.
As news of these departures began to seep out over social media, the Premier went out to face the music; but it was like trying to put 10 pounds of poop in a 5-pound bag. The Premier’s news conference was a major failure and he must retrieve the situation.
His defence went something like this:
- The Alberta government focuses on public responsibility and implementing lockdowns are a last resort
- Alberta has supported an agenda for safe air travel. Tens of thousands of people are traveling safely, and WestJet might collapse if travel stopped
- Those MLAs, Cabinet Ministers, political staff and senior officials who traveled didn’t break the law
- So, no punishments would be meted out
- But he now realizes to demonstrate leadership this isn’t good enough and he ordered everyone to return home and no more travel.
But that left 5 pounds of poop outside the bag:
- Kenney avoided mentioning the travel advisory posted on the Alberta government website that warns explicitly against unnecessary travel
- His Chief of Staff, Jamie Huckabay traveled to the United Kingdom, undoubtedly with the Premier’s approval. Worse yet, he returned via the US, skirting around the Canadian ban on air travel from the UK,
- The UCP Whip had apparently issued an advisory or order to UCP MLAs not to travel,
- And it seems implausible, given the reporting requirements for Cabinet members that leave the province, that Kenney would not have known that a couple of his Ministers were MIA,
- He participated in a video meeting with Minister Allard the vice chair of a cabinet committee while she was in Hawaii.
In his press conference he forgot to thank the millions of Albertans who stayed home, gave up family gatherings, family traditions and struggled with isolation. Nor did he acknowledge the 14,500 active cases suffering in hospitals or at home. And he might have offered a tip of the hat to the 100,000 Albertans who successfully fought the virus.
While he mentioned the death of a police officer, he was silent about the Albertans dying every day during the Christmas season. It would have been better had he said nothing at all.!
The UCP fail to understand the frustration and outrage the double standard Kenney condoned for UCP insiders compared to the restrictions severely normal Albertans have to observe. It seems that he dares not discipline anyone because there were so many transgressions by others. He cannot discipline his political staff when he signed off on his Chief of Staff’s family holiday.
But it isn’t too late to make amends:
- He should address Albertans again to demonstrate his compassion for those who are dying, suffering and locked down. It is critical he regain some moral authority. There will be difficult days and restrictions before vaccinations are widely available
- He should demote Tracy Allard by reassigning her responsibilities for emergency management, and accept the resignations of Jeremy Nixon and Jamie Huckabay
- He should encourage the UCP Whip to sanction the UCP MLAs who disobeyed the directive not to travel.
- He should rethink the communications strategy and advisors that led to this disastrous press conference.