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March 24: Western Canada and COVID-19

As of Tuesday March 24 there are 1,068 positive or presumptive cases of COVID-19 from B.C. to Manitoba and 2,757 positive or presumptive cases in Canada.




As of Tuesday March 24 there are 1,068 positive or presumptive cases of COVID-19 from B.C. to Manitoba and 2,757 positive or presumptive cases in Canada.


The province has identified 57 new cases to bring the province’s total to 358 – 28 of which are suspected to be related to community spread.

Alberta also announced its second death, a woman in her 80’s from MacKenzie Towne continuing care centre.

Two staff members from the MacKenzie Towne continuing care centre have also tested positive.

The number of new cases, including the most recent death is why Alberta is taking the measures they have to encourage social distancing and self-isolation if ill, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during the press conference Wednesday.

The Edmonton Bonspiel that occurred March 14-15 has resulted in 12 positive cases of COVID-19. Three of the infected physicians are from the Red Deer area – 58 patients and 97 health professionals will be contacted by Alberta Health.

“This is why it is critical that individuals self-isolate at the first sign of symptoms,” Hinshaw said.

Those symptoms are fever, runny nose, sore throat or cough.

Dr. Hinshaw reiterated that self-isolation for those who are sick only needs to last 10 days after they become ill. Those who have no symptoms but are returning from out-of-country travel still need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Additional information for Alberta residents can be found here.

British Columbia

The province announced 145 new cases over the past 48 hours, bringing the province’s total to 617. 173 people have officially recovered and there are no new deaths, maintaining the province’s total at 13.

Two of the new cases come from one care home each, one in Little Mountain and another in Evergreen Heights.

A B.C. area dentist who attended the Pacific Dental Conference March 5-7 passed away over the weekend after contracting the virus.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said that the recovery numbers are increasing and 28 per cent of infected persons have recovered as of Tuesday.

Additional information for B.C. residents can be found here.


The province announced one new case of COVID-19 bringing its total to 21.

A drive-thru testing site will be open in Winkler on March 25 for referrals only.

“It’s really all about capacity,” Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Tuesday.

“As that capacity increases, those priorities will be people with respiratory illness in hospital, all health care workers with respiratory illness, and those priority groups in potentially closed settings such as First Nations (and) possibly corrections.”

Returning travellers will continue to be tested and still require self-isolation for 14 days.

All of Manitoba’s current cases are currently recovering at home.

Additional information for Manitoba residents can be found here.


The province announced an additional six cases on Tuesday bringing its total to 72.

A leaked document from Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) detailed a conservative estimate of up to 15,000 deaths in the province from COVID-19. The Ministry did not return a request for comment.

“Based on what we know from other jurisdictions, it is critical we act immediately to expand acute care capacity to mitigate the impact of COVID-19,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said in a release after the leaked document was made public.

“Demand will exceed capacity.  All jurisdictions are facing this challenge.  We are not alone.  We are acting immediately to ensure Saskatchewan residents get the care they need from the right provider, at the right time, with the right supports in place.”

The release stated that SHA has “already initiated measures to ensure this demand is met.”

“Actions that people and communities must take to address this challenge include:

• Practicing good hygiene, washing hands regularly and practicing social distancing (two meters apart wherever possible);
• Abide by provincial and local travel, self-isolation, event and gathering restrictions;
• Use medical supplies effectively and efficiently so that they are there when needed;
• Avoid visiting our hospitals and long-term care facilities unless there are compassionate reasons for doing so.”

Additional information for Saskatchewan residents can be found here.

Provincial tallies:

  • Quebec: 1013 confirmed and presumptive cases, including 1 recovered and 4 deaths
  • British Columbia: 617 confirmed cases, including 5 recovered and 13 deaths
  • Ontario: 588 cases, including 5 recovered and 7 deaths
  • Alberta: 358 confirmed cases including 2 deaths
  • Saskatchewan: 72 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Nova Scotia: 41 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 24 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Manitoba: 21 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • New Brunswick: 17 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Prince Edward Island: 3 confirmed cases
  • Yukon: 2 confirmed cases
  • Northwest Territories: 1 confirmed case

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard
Twitter @Mitchell_AB

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SLOBODIAN: O’Toole breaks promise. Again

This is a dramatic about-face from what O’Toole, trying to win over social conservatives, promised when he was campaigning for the leadership in 2020.




Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has broken a critical promise he made to health professionals when vying for the leadership.

Doctors must refer patients seeking procedures such as abortions, medical assistance in dying, and gender reassignment surgery, said O’Toole during a campaign stop in Winnipeg Friday.

“They will have to refer, because the rights to access those services exist across the country,” he said.

“We have to respect conscience rights, but allow there to be referrals.”

He didn’t explain how the two could co-exist.

This is a dramatic about-face from what O’Toole, trying to win over social conservatives, promised when he was campaigning for the leadership in 2020.

At the time, O’Toole adamantly vowed to support health professionals whose moral or religious beliefs opposed certain medical procedures. 

In his platform he specifically zeroed in on the issue of referrals.

O’Toole said he would protect “the conscience rights of all health care professionals whose beliefs, religious or otherwise, prevent them from carrying out or referring patients for services that violate their conscience.”

Social conservatives were looking for protection for medical professionals wanting to neither perform specific procedure nor make referrals.

This isn’t the first time O’Toole betrayed the social conservative wing of his party.

In the past, he peddled himself as staunchly pro-life.

However, while campaigning in Quebec Wednesday, he assured potential voters they needn’t worry about him getting in the way of abortion rights.

“Je suis pro-choix,” O’Toole declared.

Later, when challenged on that moral reversal, O’Toole who is on record as being pro-life, insisted: “My position has never changed.”

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard


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SLOBODIAN: Gay Alberta NDP MLA openly mocks believers of God

And she sported a huge grin during a stunning display of reprehensibly rabid intolerance on Friday.




Edmonton NDP MLA Janis Irwin mocked Jesus and the Bible, used bully tactics, interfered with a citizen’s right to free speech, and encouraged vigilantism against a street preacher.

And she sported a huge grin during a stunning display of reprehensibly rabid intolerance on Friday. 

In a climate where Christians are perceived as fair targets and churches are being burned and vandalized, a politician promoting this appalling behaviour shows pathetically poor judgment at best.

This is Alberta’s Official Opposition Deputy Whip, critic for women’s and LGBTQ2S+ issues, someone who peddles herself as committed to social justice (apparently only for whom she agrees with).

Irwin proudly tweeted and posted a photo on Facebook of herself intimidating a street preacher. She included childish emojis and an invite for others to join in the harassment “every Friday” at Pride Corner, located on Whyte Avenue and Calgary Trail, not even in the Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood riding she represents.

Irwin in street protest

She posted these comments:

“On my way back home and I couldn’t possibly drive past Pride Corner without stopping.”

“Stayed just long enough to hear about my sins and dance a little too.”

“Stop by! They’re there every Friday night til late, drowning out the hate.”

Stop by to do what exactly? Sounds like an invitation to harass, or possibly worse, a street preacher. 

Mission accomplished. Several fuming people promised to head on down to do just that.

The photo shows a male holding a sign saying: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be Saved.’

A female, attempting to block him, holds signs saying: ‘Respect my existence or expect my resistance’ and ‘Keeping YEG hate free.’

Fine. Two people expressing their views.

The problem is the other person in the photo, that being Irwin, holding signs saying: ’This is homophobia disguised as Bible quotes’ and ‘Hate speech is not welcome here.’

A politician inserting herself into this is a pure intimidation tactic against someone she disagrees with.

It takes imagination to conclude the male’s sign spews hate.

One person who commented on Facebook was hardly impressed.

“The Christian has every right to be there – freedom of speech – preaching what he genuinely believes. You are the ones invading his space to make a scene and to provoke a reaction.”

Amen, brother!

Another person wrote: “I am confused, the scripture on the sign has no reference to homosexuality. How is that hate speech?”

Irwin retorted that the preacher says “hateful and harmful” words but neglected to elaborate.

“His preacher friend across the street confirmed to me that I am, in fact ,going to hell,” she claimed, not elaborating on how that alleged encounter transpired.

“I can laugh, but it’s not about me. It’s about that young kid struggling with their sexuality,” she added.

Oh, save it. That young kid deserves a role model who doesn’t condone double standards.

Irwin’s openly gay. 

Yeah, about that…don’t care. The concern here is character and actions, not where one’s affections lie.

When a politician promotes tolerance for me, but not for thee, there’s a serious problem.

Irwin’s Facebook page is saturated with selfies, promoting LGBTQ2S+ issues, and condemnation of Kerry Diotte, Member of Parliament for Edmonton Griesbach, who defeated her in the 2015 federal election.

A red flag about her credibility with facts swirls around false accusations that Diotte promotes conversion therapy.

He has stated that “conversion therapy is a harmful practice and should be banned.”

But he voted against a final “flawed” Liberal Bill C-6 failing to address what would be considered conversion therapy on the grounds that it could “jeopardize or even criminalize some conversations with religious leaders and others when counselling someone.”

The point is Irwin has dishonestly, relentlessly portrayed Diotte as an intolerant hater.

Having known Diotte for many years, it can be stated with absolute surety that he is decidedly not intolerant of gays or anyone, regardless of skin colour or religion.

A new attack appeared Friday on Irwin’s Facebook page spewing the same lies.

When contacted to get his take on whether Irwin crossed a political line, Diotte wondered what her performance has to do with provincial politics.

“People have a right to free speech no matter who they choose to worship. If somebody is fomenting hatred, we have laws against that. The correct thing to do is call the police and make a complaint. If a person is saying something hateful, it is your duty to report, not to incite,” said Diotte.

“What on earth is wrong with spreading the word of God? What kind of world do we live in when people are mocked for that? It’s seriously a sick world when that happens,” he said.

“There are many homeless people in the market with various addictions and maybe the preacher will reach even just one of them and turn their lives around,” said Diotte.

Irwin is obliged to fairly represent Christians in her constituency. With her intolerant bias, can she?

Christians leaders must step out from behind the safety of their pulpits and tell this MLA to respectfully stop mocking Jesus and those who, in Irwin’s view, have the audacity to worship Him.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard 

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BARNES & LOEWEN: Taking a lesson from Redford, Kenney appoints half of caucus to plum jobs

“With this shuffle, Kenney has increased the size of government while forcing a chosen few to pay a political price for his own failures. That fits a pattern of behaviour that Albertans have come to expect from a premier more concerned with his own scandals than Albertans’ interests.”




With this week’s cabinet shuffle, Premier Kenney is going to great lengths to put his selfish short-term political interests first.

The premier increased the total size of Cabinet by 15%, up to 26 ministers and associate ministers. If you include parliamentary secretaries and other non-cabinet officers, the total number of the premier’s direct appointments now accounts for 50% of the UCP caucus.

It’s abundantly clear this shuffle has nothing to do with strengthening our province or helping Albertans. It was a crass attempt to buy the loyalty of disheartened and frustrated MLAs. 

It is also reminiscent of the tactics of another deeply unpopular premier from Alberta’s past. As Premier Alison Redford’s administration slipped into scandal, she also handed out 30 appointments, representing half her caucus. While most Albertans take Redford’s failed leadership as a cautionary tale, Premier Kenney seems take it as an instructional manual.

When you take a closer look at Premier Kenney’s new cabinet, things only get worse. Here are a few issues that stand out:

No change at the top

While cabinet shuffles are typically used to reset unpopular government policies, Premier Kenney obviously believes his policies are fine, and has made to no changes at the top of his cabinet. 

Notably, Premier Kenney remains his own minister of intergovernmental relations. Since taking on this post in April of 2019, the premier has achieved next to nothing on this file. He has outright failed to influence federal policy on the carbon tax, the tanker ban bill C-48, or Bill C-69, the no more pipelines bill. The federal government has not offered to address Alberta’s concerns on Equalization, and its minor tinkering with the Fiscal Stabilization program is little more than an insult.

To this day, federal government repeatedly meddles in provincial jurisdiction with regard to resource development, and when the Keystone XL pipeline was cancelled, the premier couldn’t get the prime minister to lift a finger. No minister in this government has a worse record than the intergovernmental relations minister, and he should be replaced.

No regional balance

Of the 26 people with seats at the cabinet table, 17 are from Calgary, making up 65% of the total.

Of Alberta’s 41 rural constituencies, only eight (less than 20%) are represented at the cabinet table. With the departure of MLA Grant Hunter from cabinet, there is now effectively no representation at the table for Albertans from the rural south. In fact, there isn’t a single MLA in cabinet south of Calgary’s city limits.

If you want to be in Jason Kenney’s cabinet, the obvious first step should be winning a seat in Calgary. Of 23 Calgary ridings won by the UCP, 17 (74%) are represented in cabinet.

Wildrose purge

Of the 13 former-Wildrose MLAs elected under the UCP banner in 2019 (each with a minimum of four years’ experience), there are only three in cabinet. Two former Wildrosers (Hunter and Aheer) were expelled from Cabinet, and two others (Loewen and Barnes) have been expelled from caucus altogether. 

No accountability

One of the biggest political scandals of the year (the Sky Palace patio party) featured several senior ministers including the premier himself violating their own health restrictions. Earlier in the year, the premier threatened any restriction violators with expulsion from the UCP caucus. In January, MLAs who did not break health restrictions were all punished. However, none of the Sky Palace ministers were demoted in this cabinet shuffle. Meanwhile, the lone minister who dared to question the premier’s claims that he followed the rules (which he later recanted) was dismissed from cabinet.

The bottom line is it’s hard to take this premier seriously when he talks about finding efficiencies or improving government accountability. With this shuffle, Kenney has increased the size of government while forcing a chosen few to pay a political price for his own failures. That fits a pattern of behaviour that Albertans have come to expect from a premier more concerned with his own scandals than Albertans’ interests.

Guest Column from Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen.
Drew Barnes is the Independent MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat
Todd Loewen is the Independent MLA for Central Peace-Notley

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