Lives and livelihoods are being endangered by Kenney’s stubborn refusal to stop behaving like a Republican governor
EDMONTON – As long as Premier Jason Kenney continues to follow the Trump/Republican playbook on COVID, the pandemic will worsen and both lives and livelihoods in Alberta will be at risk, says the president of Alberta’s largest worker group.
In a speech posted to YouTube, Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said the pandemic is out of control in the United States largely because defeated American Donald Trump and dozens of Republican governors built their COVID policies around the false assumption that people have to choose between managing the pandemic and protecting the economy.
“They chose nonsensical libertarian talking points … over common sense precautions to protect the public good,” said McGowan. “Unfortunately, Jason Kenney has been using the same playbook as his Republican American counterparts. And, we’re all paying the price.”
McGowan was responding to the new pandemic measures announced by Kenney on Thursday, which include a temporary ban on some indoor recreational activities, an earlier closing time for bars and a requirement for more spacing between people attending faith services.
“If that sounds weak and insufficient for the crisis facing our province, that’s because it IS weak and insufficient.”
McGowan says he is endorsing the call from hundreds of Albertan doctors and citizens for a “circuit-breaker lockdown” because the UCP’s mismanagement of its pandemic response has left Albertans with few other options to save lives and restore the confidence and security necessary to stabilize jobs and the economy.
In addition to this tough measure, McGowan and the AFL say Alberta needs the following:
- Mandatory paid sick leave so people can actually afford to stay home when they’re sick or when they need to isolate.
- Dramatically increased funding for schools – so we can hire more staff to cover when other staff are isolating and to shrink class sizes to promote physical distancing.
- Mandatory investment in proper ventilation in schools and workplaces, so we can heed the new scientific evidence on aerosol transmission of COVID.
- Proactive inspection of workplaces and fines for employers who have put their workers at risk by not following public health guidelines.
- Adopt a zero-COVID, “crush and contain” strategy, similar to the ones adopted by the jurisdictions around the world that have been most successful at dealing with COVID – like New Zealand and Australia.
McGowan says the UCP also needs to stop driving doctors of the province; scrap its plan to layoff 11,000 health care workers; and withdraw efforts to privatize lab and testing services, all of which “are the definition of insanity” during a pandemic.
“Premier Kenney said he would act when faced with a catastrophe. Well, a catastrophe is unfolding before our eyes. But instead of action, all we get is Republican-inspired talking points and half measures,” said McGowan.
“There was an easier way to do this. That way involved investing in the things we need to keep infections low: like testing, tracing and support for people in isolation. But our government didn’t take that road. By downplaying the problem, behaving as if the pandemic was over, squandering precious time that should have been used for preparation for a second wave and engaging in austerity when we should have been investing in prevention, the UCP chose the hard way.”
McGowan concluded by urging Albertans to stand up to Kenney and hold him accountable for his mismanagement of the province’s pandemic response.
“Maybe, just maybe, we can pressure the government to acknowledge that with COVID, as with so many other things, it’s better to follow the lead of Canadian provinces like BC, rather than Republican states like Oklahoma.”
Contact: AFL President Gil McGowan @ (780) 218-9888 (cell)