The Alberta opposition wants answers on how the UCP government handled the pandemic – Canada News

The opposition in Alberta hopes to build on a vibrant 2021, with the new Democrats surpassing Prime Minister Jason Kenney’s United Conservatives in popularity polls and fundraising.

NDP leader Rachel Notley says the goal for 2022 is to provide ideas on how to build the economy while continuing to demand answers, data and accountability from the government on how it handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The hole Jason Kenney has dug is deep and we need to get out of it,” Notley said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press.

“We need to get our province moving forward with economic diversification, energy transformation, and ensuring that we keep our young people here (and) restore our post-secondary institutions.”

Notley’s NDP spent much of 2021 demanding information and responses from the Kenyan government about its delayed response to COVID-19’s fourth wave, which pushed intensive care unit capacity and health care to the breaking point in September.

Kenney had removed all but a handful of health restrictions from July 1, announced that the pandemic was over, and said there was no need for a contingency plan in case the Delta variant took hold.

“The biggest single mistake and breach of trust and betrayal of the Albertans happened behind closed doors, and the Albertans did not even see it happen,” Notley said. She noted that the number of cases increased at an alarming rate in August while both Kenney and then-Health Minister Tyler Shandro were on holiday. They said they were in contact with the staff daily.

“They did not act to make any serious effort to protect the Albertans from the fourth wave until mid-September, long after they should have done so,” Notley said. “In doing so, they caused the worst fourth wave in the country … damage to our health care system as well as … loss to families in Alberta that were completely prevented.

“It was a deep failure.”

The NDP was among critics who led and rode on waves of outrage that caused the Kenyan government to turn its course on several issues: coal mining on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, a proposed Class K-6 training curriculum, and planned pay cuts for nurses.

Notley said the goal is to have all of her party’s candidates for the 2023 election in place by next fall, as well as unforeseen instances if Kenney calls one earlier. The interest is encouraging, she said.

“It is fair to say that we will end up with more controversial nominations in this election than probably the last 20 years combined – and not just contested between two people, but three and four people.”

In early 2022, Ariana Mancini will carry the NDP standard in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche city election. Kenney is due to call it mid-February to replace former UCP lawmaker Laila Goodridge, who successfully ran for the Conservatives in the September federal vote.

Brian Jean, who lost to Kenney for the UCP leadership, won the party nomination on a pledge to push Kenney out as party leader. Jean says the prime minister’s top-down leadership and failure in important matters have left the party ripe for a return to an NDP government.

Kenney had promised to sign Jean’s nomination papers if he won the nomination, and Jean attacks the province and urges others to help him dump Kenney.

Notley said Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is a microcosm of Alberta politics: the NDP focused on helping the constituency; UCP focused on internal gamemanship.

“UCP is chronically attracted to their own internal drama. They are an organization built for politics, not for governance, and as a result, they fail to lead the province.”

Notley, who was prime minister from 2015 to 2019, aims to be ready if she returns to the prime minister’s chair. The party has launched consultations and offered proposals for building the economy through diversification and job growth. There are already political views on hydrogen and geothermal development, infrastructure and high technology.

Political scientist Duane Bratt said the NDP does not need to change its game plan. He said Notley’s strength is to position former cabinet ministers as effective critics and let them share the spotlight while scoring hits on government increases and controversy.

“One of the things that’s pretty striking is that Notley is not the only spokesman for this party. Their bench strength is stronger now than when they were in government,” said Bratt of Mount Royal University in Calgary.

“They must (just) stay out of the way and look like a credible government waiting.”

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