A UCP MLA blasted Premier Jason Kenney for his tone to Albertans as he again reimposed COVID-19 regulations on the province.
“Last Friday, the Government of Alberta announced restrictions adopting a disparaging and accusatory tone toward unvaccinated individuals,” said Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie in a letter to constituents on his Facebook page.
“People refusing COVID-19 shots were painted as culpable for creating challenges to the healthcare system. This type of communication from our leader feeds a narrative of anger and division which is unproductive in an already turbulent time. The $100 vaccine incentive has also created animosity within the constituency and I am not in favour of the negative tone adopted by leadership.”
The anti-Kenney comments are a change of pace for Guthrie who has previously shown steadfast support of the premier in the face of caucus unrest.
In fact, it was Guthrie who made the motion in the UCP Caucus to expel the disgruntled MLAs Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes.
And he had earlier blasted his former colleague Barnes’ call for government bureaucrats and provincial politicians to take a 20% wage rollback to show solidarity with Albertans suffering from COVID-19 pandemic economic woes.
But it appears times have changed.
“Two months ago, the Government of Alberta, my colleagues and I told you that Alberta was not only ‘Open for Summer,’ but ‘Open for Good.’ With all the information at my disposal, I truly believed this to be the case. Yet here we are, weeks later, imposing restrictions on constituents again, and for this reason, I want to offer my sincere apologies,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“I think most Albertans watched with trepidation over the last several weeks as patient numbers in hospitals, particularly ICUs, began to climb and vaccination rates stalled. Increased anxiety from the public regarding the load on the healthcare system triggered discussions on mandatory vaccination, masks, and vaccine passports. These contentious issues have created division within our community.
“I am vaccinated and believe vaccines to be an effective measure to protect Albertans from the virus. That said, I also support the rights of individuals to choose for themselves, have control over their bodies, and have the right to maintain privacy in personal health matters. If one believes that we should have these individual rights and we are indeed “in this together,’ then we should respect the decisions of our fellow constituents regardless of what those decisions may be.”
Guthrie said the rising pressure on the provincial hospital system has to be the top priority for the UCP government.
“The degradation of our public health system and the inability to react to an evolving situation is the issue at hand, not accusing individuals who are unvaccinated,” said Guthrie.
“During last week’s announcement, it was also revealed to me that the province will be introducing a QR Code for Albertans to use as proof of vaccination for organizations choosing to introduce a so-called ‘vaccine passport.’
“Such a move suggests that the government’s position on this practice is shifting. Various public opinions exist on the use of vaccine passports, but I am not convinced it is a good practice for domestic use as it not only limits access to services and isolates individuals, it also provides a false sense of security for those who are vaccinated – all of which increases the divisions we unfortunately see now.”
Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard