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Progress Report #227
Your weekly update on Alberta politics for July 28, 2020
on the web at theprogressreport.ca/progress_report_227
Alberta’s COVID-19 numbers are worse today than on the day the provincial government first closed the schools—and they’re trending higher and higher. Alberta’s curve is “no longer flat,” warns Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. We have stumbled back into the realm of exponential growth.
But in less than five weeks, the UCP are planning to completely re-open our schools.
Jason Kenney’s pox party
The Premier has demonstrated a pattern of not taking this disease seriously. Just a few days ago, he was touting a vacuous column by climate-denier and general science-not-understander Danielle Smith which argues that Alberta should follow Sweden’s ‘just let everyone get sick and get over it’ approach. Fatalities from coronavirus in Sweden are over ten times the Canadian average. Smith previously argued in favor of using hydroxychloroquine, the now-debunked ‘treatment’ for COVID-19 that was popularized by Donald Trump (and which killed a few Americans.)
Mr. Kenney’s attempts to minimize concerns about the virus have been going on for a while now. He was already up to it back in the spring.
“One thing I think we’re learning, epidemiologically, is that that population has a very high level of immune resistance, of immunity and resilience against an influenza of this nature,” Kenney told the legislature back in May. COVID-19, said Kenney, is an “influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the most elderly.”
COVID-19 is not influenza, or even remotely related to influenza. Five Albertans under 60 have been killed by it this summer.
It is not safe to simply ‘get and beat’ COVID-19. Reports from the United States, where the coronavirus is raging completely out of control, are confirming that many survivors are stuck with permanent damage to their hearts, lungs, nervous systems and other organs. And even if children are more likely to get through a bout of corona unscathed, they still have go home–where they can spread the disease to adults and the elderly. Creating a gigantic reservoir of contagion in our schools puts the entire province at risk; for an example, look to Israel, which nearly had the coronavirus wiped out but then completely re-opened its schools. Israel’s coronavirus infection rates since the re-opening have skyrocketed and are now nearly at American levels.
What’s truly terrifying is that if things get out of hand, our provincial government is unlikely to listen to any warnings from teachers. When outbreaks were looming at the JBS and Cargill meatpacking plants this spring, the unions representing those workers warned the government and urged them to intervene. But the UCP’s extreme anti-union politics led them to ignore these workers entirely, leading to what was at the time North America’s worst coronavirus outbreak.
I have no doubt that the UCP will be equally dismissive of warnings from Alberta’s teachers, especially given that the UCP is essentially conducting a cold war against public sector unions like the Alberta Teachers’ Association. All of this adds up to a very grim potential future. It may not be long before, for the safety of the kids, themselves, and everyone else in the province, Alberta’s teachers are walking picket lines around our schools.
- In Edmonton, a collective of housing and social workers, Black, Indigenous, and racialized people, and anti-poverty activists are occupying the green space along 104 St and 96th Avenue, and have set up a mutual aid camp there to provide support to unhoused and precarious people who have been ill-served by the city’s patchwork response to the coronavirus crisis. The organizers of Camp Pekiwiwen say they will continue to occupy this space until the city meets their demand to reallocate $39 million away from the Edmonton Police Service budget and towards housing the homeless. For more information, including how you can support the camp, please see Black Lives Matter Edmonton’s Instagram page.
- Also in Edmonton: Habitat For Humanity has reached an agreement with the dozens of precarious racialized families that they were threatening to evict. HFH Edmonton had drawn intense criticism, even from the international HFH organization, for changing the terms of their arrangements with these families at the last minute. Thank you to everyone who participated when we called on you to join BLM Edmonton’s letter campaign–your voice helped make this happen!
- In the likely hope that no one was paying attention, the UCP quietly dropped some dramatic news on Sunday: the province is laying seven charges against Suncor for a spill at their Strathcona County refinery in 2018. What did they spill? How much damage did they do? Why did it take the government two years to even think about consequences? You won’t find out from reading Environment Minister Jason Nixon’s 79-word press release. Hopefully we get more details when this goes before the courts on Wednesday.
Yes, I’m back–sort of! While I am still on sick leave for another week or two, I took the newsletter back as a therapeutic task to keep myself on an even keel. Please be aware that I may be slow to respond to correspondence as I am not really ‘back on the job’ yet. And thank you to everyone who has sent kind words through my health struggle and surgery, your support really does mean a lot.
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