Bell: Alberta health minister, top COVID doc dance around Smith – Calgary Sun


You’d think I was talking to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

But no, this isn’t time travel to a bygone Hollywood.

This is present-day Alberta where the hot air is heavy with politics.

And the political dancing duo?

None other than Jason Copping, the UCP government’s big cheese on the health-care file and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s top public health doc.

Danielle Smith, the former Wildrose leader, rattled some cages big-time the past week in her quest to become Alberta’s next premier in October.

The cage-rattling could be heard across the country.

If premier, Smith promises the provincial legislature will have the authority to refuse to enforce any federal law or policy or court decision if it attacks the province’s powers or is against the interests of Albertans.

Then, in case you were busy down in the basement and didn’t hear the latest, she also vowed in the future if the virus acts up there would be no lockdowns, half-lockdowns, quarter-lockdowns or COVID restrictions on the general public.

You won’t be discriminated against for not being vaccinated and actions by Ottawa against the freedoms of Albertans would not be enforced.

Few poked their head out on Smith’s COVID bombshell of a brainwave.

In the Land of Off The Record, some UCP types thought she was just grandstanding.

She couldn’t possibly believe what was saying.

It was a joke, right?

When I talked to Smith she wasn’t laughing.

She was accused of pandering, poking the hornet nest of the most angry.

She was seeking attention. She would be unmasked in the fullness of time.

Maybe she was one of those so-called lunatics trying to take over the asylum.

Where was the win in slamming Smith?

Attack Smith and some UCP types will say you’re soft on Ottawa.

Attack Smith for ruling out all lockdowns and some UCP types will say you’re soft on freedom.

Others deep in the bowels of the Land of Off The Record believe Smith’s views would lead to a terrible health-care situation most Albertans would never tolerate.

I decide to take it to the top, the last scheduled COVID update.

It was like being at the last couple of minutes of a game where almost all the spectators have left the building.

I thought it was worth a shot to ask Copping and Hinshaw what they thought of Smith’s plan to NEVER have lockdowns or closings.

A simple direct question with a simple direct answer. Just curious.

After all, Premier Jason Kenney had spoken of those he saw as the Let ‘Er Rip crowd “who would have had us do absolutely nothing, which could have meant at various points exceeding the capacity of the health-care system, pulling life support from people and filling up the morgues.”

Copping, the UCP government’s health head honcho, shows his moves, obvious as they are.

They made choices, tried to strike a balance, other places stateside had more deaths. There are vaccines and anti-virals and added beds and variants easier to spread but less severe.

Copping says there are no guarantees for the future.

Why do so many politicians offer up these chestnuts believing we will actually think they mean something?

“All we can do is deal with the situation that’s in front of us and make the best choices we can with the tools we have and strike the right balance.”

HE DIDN’T ANSWER THE QUESTION!

Hinshaw says “going forward I will always provide my best advice based on available evidence and the balance of risks and harms.”

Grrr … under my breath … so what’s your best advice on no lockdowns?

Try again.

I think I know what they think but I want them to confirm it.

Copping. Round 2.

“I haven’t heard the exact comments being made.”

Trust me. They were blunt.

He hopes we never go through those COVID waves again.

PLEASE ANSWER!

“We don’t know what the future is going to bring,” says Copping.

Gadzooks Batman, that insight again.

“But our approach, quite frankly, is to minimize any impact with restrictions while being able to manage the risk and we’ll have to make a judgment at that point in time.”

Two questions max. He successfully rags the puck.

Hinshaw. Take 2.

“The experience of the past two years I think has given all of us a lesson in humility. We don’t know what’s coming in at us in the future.”

You don’t say. Did you get that from Copping?

“I will continue to evaluate the situation and provide my recommendations which would include whatever measures I believe would be appropriate then it would be up to elected officials to make policy decisions.”

But what of Smith’s promise to never have lockdowns of any type of restrictions on the general public if she is premier?

It’s the last scheduled COVID update. Just tell us what you really think.

Too much to ask.

We do hear reports the campaign manager for federal Conservative leadership hopeful Patrick Brown has left to help Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner with her yet-to-be-announced campaign to become the next premier.

I bet she’ll tell us what’s on her mind.

rbell@postmedia.com

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