‘I apologize’: Kenney says Alta. wrong for COVID-19 pandemic to endemic shift, not sorry for Open for Summer plan

EDMONTON –

Premier Jason Kenney apologized for his government’s recent COVID-19 response as he introduced a proof of vaccination program and implemented new restrictions for the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenney started off the press conference by apologizing for moving Alberta too quickly from a pandemic to endemic based on provincial modelling.

“I know that we had all hoped this summer that we could put COVID behind us once and for all, that was certainly my hope and I said that very clearly,” said Kenney. “It is now clear that we were wrong, and for that I apologize.”

A reporter asked the premier to what degree the events that happened between July 1 and now were a reflection of his leadership, and if he would give Albertans more than “we were wrong, and I apologize.”

“We were wrong in talking about moving this from pandemic management to endemic management in July and August. I frankly don’t think we were wrong to lift public health restrictions in July we actually saw that case counts and the Delta variant to continue to stabilize and come down through most of July even after large public events.”

However, Kenney stuck by his Open for Summer plan that eventually saw mounting cases and hospitalizations, and a slow vaccination uptick.

“I also think it’s critically important to understand that at least in this society that you can’t sustain serious intrusions into people’s lives permanently. And so no, I don’t apologize for this decision to relax public health restrictions in the summer supported by the data.”

Kenney says that there would’ve been “massive” non-compliance and anger from people if they had maintained “lockdown-style policies” throughout the summer.

“Yes, I said a lot of optimistic things in the summer, because I think it is the job of a leader to convey a sense of hope and optimism, not a sense of despair and pessimism, and from the perspective of where we were in July there were good reasons to be hopeful and optimistic.”

The reporter doubled down on his question, asking Kenney again if he thought his leadership failed between July 1 and now, if at all.

“I don’t think this is about me, I think this is about protecting our hospitals, and we have to do what is necessary to do so.”

Wednesday marked the most Albertans ever occupying ICU beds in the history of the province, with the CEO of AHS announcing it was asking neighbouring provinces for help managing the situation.

“I don’t apologize for not maintaining lockdown-style policies permanently but I do apologize for having predicted we could be open for good.”

University of Calgary associate professor Lorian Hardcastle says an apology from the premier would have shown Albertans that he’s capable of changing and approaching the pandemic differently than he has in the past.

“I think that people are really concerned about the lack of leadership; there’s a perceived absence of the leaders in the past few weeks and I think that people wanted him to stand up and admit what they got wrong,” said Hardcastle. “Perhaps not be so defensive about the Open for Summer plan.”

Independent MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen are now calling on Jason Kenney to resign from leadership.

A statement reads: “Inconsistent and negligent management of the pandemic has destroyed public trust. For the good of the province, the Premier must immediately resign so that public trust can be restored.”

Barnes and Loewen were kicked out of Kenney’s caucus in May for openly challenging Kenney’s health rules and leadership.

Hardcastle says she doesn’t think the calls for his resignation will amount to Kenney actually resigning from office.

“But I do think time and time again we’ve seen cracks in the party that are going to be difficult for the premier to manage going forward,” she said.

“I would be surprised if he didn’t take a lot of criticism for these decisions from within his own party.”

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