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Barnes blasts own government over proposed EMS dispatch changes

This is just the latest run-in Drew Barnes has had with Premier Jason Kenney and his government.

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Rebel UCP MLA Drew Barnes is voicing concern with another of his government’s moves – to centralize EMS dispatch across the province.

“The best way to get the safest service is to keep it local, not to centralize,” said Barnes, a former Wildrose health critic and current UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.

When Barnes was in Opposition, he also blasted NDP moves to centralize the service.

The move would see all calls for EMS handled by Alberta Health Services (AHS) dispatchers in Edmonton, Calgary and Peace River.

“In terms of cost effectiveness, centralization never saves money,” said Barnes in an interview with the Western Standard.

Alberta Health has said the move should save about $6 million.

“Another of the problems is that if you’re as small rural service, sometimes your ambulances get pulled in by the big cities when it’s busy,” said Barnes.

“Rural Albertans will suffer. A lot of local knowledge in terms of addresses and areas will be lost.”

Barnes said he has seen nothing from the health minister or members of the cabinet that shows any benefits of the move.

Barnes is the second in the UCP caucus to be skeptical of centralization.

Tany Yao, the UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, told the Fort McMurray Today he had a “mixed opinion” on the topic.

“In particular, our region is unique in that it’s so isolated and for that reason alone I think we can manage it,” said Yao, who is also a former firefighter and paramedic with the Fort McMurray Fire Department. 

“It’s a difficult one, but it’s one that I prefer stay within our local community.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and other Alberta mayors have also voiced concerns about the move.

This is just the latest run-in Barnes has had with Premier Jason Kenney and his government.

One came on the heels of a dissenting report from Barnes, who was a member of the premier’s Fair Deal Panel. That dissenting report included calling for an independence vote if Alberta was unable to secure a fair deal within confederation, prompting the NDP to demand that Barnes be thrown out of the UCP Caucus.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard and the Vice-President: News Division of Western Standard New Media Corp. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

News

Calgary company testing COVID vaccine on humans

Providence Therapeutics said in a Tuesday statement they hope to have the vaccine ready to go by the end of the year.

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A Calgary company has become the first Canadian firm to start clinical trials on a possible vaccine for COVID-19.

Providence Therapeutics said in a Tuesday statement they hope to have the vaccine ready to go by the end of the year.

“Subjects will be monitored for a total of 13 months from the beginning of the trial. However, there will be enough data accumulated by April 2021 to move into Phase 2 in May 2021, pending regulatory approval,” the company said in a statement.

“Sixty volunteers between the ages of 18-65 will be enrolled in the Phase 1 study and divided into three groups of 20. Three different dose levels of PTX-COVID19-B will be administered together with a placebo in each group.”

The human testing of the vaccine will be carried out in Toronto.

“Having a made-in-Canada solution to address the global COVID-19 pandemic will augment the reliability of vaccine supply for Canadians, contribute to the global vaccine supply and position a Canadian company on the global stage as a contributor to the solution,” said Brad Sorenson, CEO of Providence Therapeutics.

Canada’s vaccination plan has fallen into shambles because the drug maker Pfizer has stopped shipments here so they can remodel their plant in Europe.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Monday the province has plans to vaccinate 50,000 people a day, but they have no doses to deliver.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Energy

POLL: Westerners on their own in Keystone battle

Overall, 59 per cent of Canadians say it’s time to move on from Keystone XL, an opinion driven by respondents in the country’s most populous provinces, especially Quebec, the poll found.

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A new Angus Reid poll released Tuesday shows people in Alberta and Saskatchewan will be fighting the battle to save the Keystone XL pipeline project on their own as the rest of Canada says it’s time to move on.

“With majorities in Alberta and Saskatchewan saying if it were up to them, they would press the Biden administration to reverse course. Majorities in BC, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, however, are of the view that it is time to accept the decision and focus instead on other Canada-U.S. priorities,” the Angus Reid group said in a statement.

Overall, 59 per cent of Canadians say it’s time to move on from Keystone XL, an opinion driven by respondents in the country’s most populous provinces, especially Quebec, the poll found.

Angus Reid poll

The poll found while majorities across the political spectrum acknowledge the economic damage the Keystone XL cancellation may cause to Alberta, this sentiment is lowest among past NDP voters (52%) and highest among past CPC voters (87%), a concentration of whom are from Alberta

“The Keystone XL issue is viewed through a different lens across the country. Overall, 51 per cent say this is about the economy and jobs – a view held by a majority of those in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada. For 49 per cent -including at least half in B.C., Ontario and Quebec – the project is about environmental concerns and climate change,” said the statement.

“Just over half (52 per cent) of Canadians say its cancellation is a “bad thing” for Canada. There is stronger agreement (65 per cent) that Alberta will be worse off with the pipeline blocked. By contrast, just two-in-five (40 per cent) believe that overall this is a negative for the U.S. (where domestic oil output has boomed in recent years).”

Angus Reid poll

Canadians from coast to coast have sympathy for the province. While those in oil-rich Alberta and Saskatchewan are the likeliest to say the cancellation is to Alberta’s detriment, more than half in every region of the country agree, said the statement.

Angus Reid poll

“Moreover, the lens through which Canadians view these priorities highly correlates with how they would handle Keystone’s cancellation. Seven-in-ten (69 per cent) who say economic considerations come first would push for authorization, while nine-in-ten (88 per cent) of those that prioritize environmental considerations would accept Keystone’s cancellation and move on.”

Angus Reid poll

Alberta has billions of dollars tied up in the project, with $1.5 billion of taxpayers’ money handed to TC Energy already, along with $6 billion in loan guarantees.

Premier Jason Kenney told a Wednesday press conference he had “no regrets” about staking so much taxpayers’ money on the project.

Kenney has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his help getting the money back. Kenney has also said Alberta will sue.

During the Democratic primaries and campaign, Biden vowed to kill the pipeline, large portions of which have already been built in Alberta. He made the vow before Alberta invested it’s money.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, have also said in the past they would put an end to fracking, a promise they did not repeat during the campaign.

The Keystone pipeline runs from Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Texas.

The new pipeline would have run from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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News

COVID lockdown remains as new virus variants found in Alberta ‘a serious threat’

Shandro said 20 cases of a variant from Great Britain, along with five cases of a variant from South Africa, have been discovered in the province.

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There is no sign of Alberta relaxing COVID-19 lockdown regulations as numerous cases of virus variants are showing up in the province.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Monday the variants are “a serious threat.”

Shandro said 20 cases of a variant from Great Britain, along with five cases of a variant from South Africa, have been discovered in the province.

He said the variants are one of the reasons the province will not be easing lockdown regulations as they make sure the health care system is not overwhelmed.

Shandro said any easing of the restrictions will be based on the amount of “risk” involved.

When asked about numerous Alberta businesses opening despite lockdown regulations, Shandro said: “Our hearts go out to all business.”

Shandro also blasted the federal government as Alberta currently has no COVID-19 vaccines to hand out. Manufacturer Pfizer has said Canada will not receive any doses this week.

“We need more doses – now,” said Shandro, adding Alberta is currently ready to vaccinate 50,000 people a day when the shipments resume.

He noted Canada has only vaccinated two per cent of the population, while in the US, the figure is six per cent and the UK, ten per cent.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said regulations will be relaxed “as soon as it’s safe.”

She said in the last 24 hours, Alberta has found 362 new cases of the virus, along with 25 deaths. The positivity rate is 5 per cent.

It’s is the fewest number of new cases in a day since Oct. 23.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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