Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is rejecting an accusation from Alberta’s justice minister that the federal government is part of a trio wanting the province’s health system to collapse under the pressure of COVID-19.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, meanwhile, says he hasn’t seen the headline-making comments from cabinet minister Kaycee Madu.
Trudeau, speaking in Ottawa Tuesday, said: “It’s a shame to see people pointing fingers and laying blame and suggesting that anyone in Canada wants anything else than to get through this pandemic as safely as possible everywhere.
“Playing politics at this point is just not what Canadians want to see.”
Alberta has recently had COVID-19 case rates that are the highest in North America.
Trudeau noted he reached out to Premier Jason Kenney and Alberta’s big city mayors last week to offer further support if called upon.
“Every step of the way the federal government has been there to support Canadians, with $8 out of every $10 in pandemic support coming from the federal government,” said Trudeau.
“We will continue to work with all governments across this county to make sure we’re getting through this.”
Last week, Kenney introduced tighter public health restrictions. He warned that hospitals were otherwise on course to be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks.
Madu, in a Facebook post on Friday, wrote that the province can’t risk giving the COVID-19 virus a chance to “overwhelm our health-care system.
“That’s what the NDP, the media and the federal Liberals were looking for and want,” he wrote.
Madu was not made available for an interview, but his spokesman has said he stands by the remark.
Kenney, asked by reporters about Madu’s statement, said: “I haven’t seen those comments, but I believe … we shouldn’t be pointing fingers.
“COVID has caused us a lot of us at various times to say things we regret, and I just encourage everybody — whatever side of the political spectrum they’re on — to give each other a break right now.”
Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said her caucus has pushed for Kenney’s government to enact rules and messaging to reduce the spread of the virus, while giving businesses financial aid to survive and workers support to allow them to isolate but still provide for their families.
“A minister of the Crown would be best served to listen to the proposals that are put forward by the Opposition as well as, heaven forbid, the critiques, because that is actually the way our system works,” said Notley.
She said Madu’s comments in the justice post are Kenney’s responsibility.
“You don’t tend to see that sort of incendiary, thoughtless messaging or tone from someone who takes on the role of justice minister,” she said.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, reported 24,998 active COVID-19 cases. There are 705 people in hospital with the illness, 163 of them in intensive care — the highest since the pandemic began.
Kenney, after resisting calls for more health restrictions, acted a week ago. He closed schools and brought in sharper limits on businesses and worship services.
Kenney and his ministers have repeatedly accused Trudeau’s government of hamstringing the relief effort and, as late as April 29, Kenney blamed Alberta’s third wave on Ottawa for a slow vaccine rollout.
Also Tuesday, Hinshaw confirmed the province won’t give out more first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for the time being.
“Based on global supply challenges, we do not know when Canada, and in turn Alberta, will receive additional doses,” said Hinshaw.
There are 8,400 doses left, which will be used as second doses.
Hinshaw also said they will wait at least 12 weeks between AstraZeneca doses, given current research is showing that the interval delivers the best protection.
Alberta has administered more than 255,000 first doses of AstraZeneca.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
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