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Alberta’s Childlike Fantasies

Boohoo to laws governing nationhood, nature and reality itself, cry Premier Smith and her base.

Mitchell Anderson 16 Nov

Mitchell Anderson is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Tyee.

It’s nice to feel special. Everyone enjoys that sense of certainty when you feel seen and loved and important. And while that feeling of primacy is crucial to early childhood development, it can become a dangerous indulgence later in life if large groups of people feel they are exempt from the consequences of their actions, the laws of nature, or even our shared reality.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and her core followers in the United Conservative Party are exactly such snowflakes. Smith declared to her enthusiastic supporters that the first action of her government would be to pass the “Alberta Sovereignty Act,” effectively treating the Canadian Constitution like a buffet. This magical thinking holds that Alberta could somehow select those federal powers deemed palatable and cast aside others such as federal environmental oversight like so much jello salad.

This audacious claim to Alberta exceptionalism was central to her pitch for party leadership. Rivals who dared acknowledge reality were scorned as sellouts by her true believers. Former premier Jason Kenney declared Smith’s proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act a “full-frontal attack on the rule of law” and “catastrophically stupid,” as did almost all of Smith’s leadership competitors. Rational thought however is a hard sell in Alberta these days and Smith swept to power with a majority UCP support.

Next up were the laws of nature. The COVID pandemic has so far killed 47,000 Canadians — more than were lost in the Second World War — and over 40 are added to that toll every day. Over 5,000 Albertans so far are dead due to this largely preventable disease. Yet Smith remains a hardcore vaccine skeptic despite almost three continuous years of teachable moments.

Smith and other so-called populists seem to believe the best way to combat a rapidly evolving virus is with political bluster targeted towards their partisan base. As our health-care system teeters towards collapse, Smith has pledged to forever end any public effort to control COVID with proven tools like mask and vaccine mandates. The provincial chief medical officer would be replaced with a handpicked team of advisors reporting to the premier. And who might that team include? Smith shocked even members of her own party by inviting discredited quack Dr. Paul Alexander to advise her government on COVID policy.

Alexander previously provided COVID policy advice to disgraced ex-president Donald Trump and advocated a “let ‘er rip” strategy to accelerate widespread infection of a virus that has ended over one million American lives. In a leaked email from 2020, Alexander opined, “Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk… so we use them to develop herd… we want them infected."

Alexander recently characterized safe and proven COVID vaccines as a “bioweapon.” He also chose to appear on a September episode of Infowars hosted by Alex Jones — recently ordered to pay over $1.4 billion in damages for spreading heinous lies about the Sandy Hook massacre. If Smith succeeds in implementing her pet theories on epidemiology and public health, it will be beleaguered health-care workers who will be picking up the pieces as usual.

Politics is another area where western snowflakes feel an aggrieved sense of entitlement. Last year the so-called “freedom convoy” held the nation’s capital hostage in a month-long occupation. Not content to merely protest public policy — a core Canadian value protected by the Constitution — many had signed onto a “memorandum of understanding" demanding that the Governor General dissolve the duly elected Parliament and install a junta of disgruntled truck drivers to run the country instead.

While this was often called a trucker protest, most actual truckers in the country — 90 per cent of whom were vaccinated — wanted nothing to do with it. This was instead an insurrection borne of ill-informed entitlement, its members apparently unaware that the rest of the country was just as fed up with the pandemic as they were.

Seeking to achieve political power in Canada is of course every citizen’s right — it just involves time and effort that the Ottawa occupiers didn’t want to bother with. Any politician knows well the endless hours involved in getting nominated, door knocking, trying to address the often-conflicting concerns of constituents, and of course becoming elected.

Addled by the ethers within their social media silos, convoy leaders seemed incredulous that an elected prime minister refused to negotiate with them as equals, even as many of them called on Justin Trudeau to be tried for treason.

The sad fact is that this unelected mob did in fact achieve a semblance of political power. The Ottawa occupation and border blockades cost the Canadian economy up to $5.2 billion per week and did not end until the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act. Result: all levels of government are now so reticent to redeploy pandemic restrictions that proven tools like mask and vaccination mandates are effectively off the table.

And what did the mob achieve? More Canadians have died from COVID so far in 2022 than all of 2021 or 2020. We’re seeing almost 160,000 new infections each day, 7,900 of which will result in long COVID — a debilitating condition that will cost governments around the world billions of dollars each year.

Hospital wait times in Ontario for most patients now reach up to 45 hours. Demand for intensive care beds in children’s hospitals are now beyond capacity in many parts of Canada. Harrassed by anti-science snowflakes, and burnt out by preventable hospital overflows, registered nurses are fleeing their profession at double the rate of five years ago. The pandemic might be officially considered over but the virus has not got the memo. All of these consequences can be itemized under the towering costs of misinformation and the peculiar petulant politics that have taken root in many parts of our country.

COVID is certainly not the only crisis we will collectively need to grapple with. The climate emergency, threats to democracy, and an uncertain economic future all demand our disciplined, rational focus. A rapidly changing world demands that we not waste vital time indulging the whims of any favoured political cohort, no matter how special they feel.

Enough with the toddler tantrums in Alberta. The time has come to set aside childish things and act like grown-ups.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Coronavirus

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