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ROSIN: It’s time to reopen Alberta

UCP MLA Miranda Rosin writes in a guest column that while she has been critical of continued lockdowns, Alberta’s phased re-opening plan is the right path.

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Miranda Rosin

Guest Column from Miranda Rosin, MLA for Banff-Kananaskis

The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines health care as “efforts made to maintain or restore physical, mental or emotional well-being”. In short, physicality makes up only one-third of what is considered overall health by the medical dictionary itself. Similarly, the World Health Organization’s Constitution defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

As governments all over the world – ours included – continue their pursuit of flattening the COVID-19 curve, we must stop treating COVID-19 in isolation and rather must begin treating it as a part of our greater healthcare system. Those struggling with depression, isolation, anxiety or suicidal thoughts in themselves or their children deserve to be nurtured equally to those suffering from physical symptoms of the virus. The wellbeing of people fighting internal battles is just as important as the wellbeing of those fighting physical ones, and that is why I believe reopening our province is so incredibly important right now. No handout or government support can supplement a life, dream or livelihood lost. We, as human beings, need something to live for again; a reason to get out of bed in the morning and face the day ahead with optimism. So, Alberta is carefully reopening.

Even amidst the strongest public health restrictions our government ensured 85 per cent of Alberta’s economy could remain open in some capacity, but recently we unveiled a clear, transparent plan that will restore full and long awaited normalcy to our society. As someone who has been critical of non-targeted, non- regional, lockdown-style restrictions in all jurisdictions that have implemented them, I am incredibly excited to see such a plan introduced. It will not only begin the process of carefully reopening our province but it will put us on the path to fully restoring our old normal, where we walked without fear of our futures and congregated by the thousands to celebrate our favourite sports teams and musical artists. Our province has always been a world leader in more ways than one, and now is our chance to also lead in taking back charge of our own destiny – even if the rest of the world isn’t prepared to follow.

The four-step plan we unveiled is based on strong data and the capacity of our healthcare system to support not only COVID-19 patients, but also patients dealing with heart failure, kidney disease, orthopedic injury and other health ailments. Less than 10 per cent of Alberta’s positive COVID-19 cases required hospitalization, so rather than restrict the entire province based on case numbers alone – 94 per cent of which did not present serious symptoms or require any health treatment – our path forward is based strictly on hospital capacity and our ability to provide healthcare to those that need it the most.

Every step forward is based on a decline of hospitalizations by 150 less than the previous step, with a three-week buffer in between. Step 1 began on February 8 and was primarily characterized by the careful reopening of restaurants, pubs and coffee shops for in-person dining, purposefully in time for Valentine’s Day. Step 2, which we already have data to justify entering but are waiting in the three-week buffer period, will be primarily characterized by the reopening of fitness facilities and increased retail shopping capacity. Step 3, achieved when our hospitalizations dip below 300, will see the reopening of attractions such as museums, movie theatres and art galleries, the resumption of adult sports, and most importantly an easement of social gathering restrictions. Finally, in Step 4 we will be able to once again attend major performance events such as music festivals, concerts, sporting events, wedding receptions and conferences.

Albertans have fought through a lot, not just over the past year but over the past six. Our business community, in particular, has been struggling for years, which our government has worked hard to help

by lowering taxes, introducing grants and incentive programs, and reducing red tape. But COVID-19 has challenged us all with a new level of economic adversity. After all we’ve gone through as a province, Albertans deserve to know that their government has a plan and is committed to taking on the risks with courage to get Albertans’ lives back on track.

If you know me, you’ll know that I strive to keep partisanship away from my life. I have a deeply held conviction that our world needs more governance and less politics, more unity and less division. Hearing our opposition refer to the decision to reopen Alberta as “political”, based not on professional health advice despite being made in cooperation with health experts, shows their clear lack of understanding for both the data on COVID-19 and the hardship so many Albertans have endured over the past year.

We are Albertans. We are a self-determinant people and facing adversity with confidence has always been in our DNA. Prolonged, mass shutdowns are not the solution. Embracing the true Albertan inside each of us and taking a confident, diligent and optimistic step forward into our future as a province is.

You have spoken, and you have been clear that it is time we relinquish our fears to a common belief that the best is yet to come. Together, we can not only take charge of our own destinies again, but we can pave a way for the rest of the world to see that life safely can, and must go on from here.

Guest Column from Miranda Rosin, MLA for Banff-Kananaskis

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NOW HIRING: Reporters in Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg & Ottawa

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Canada’s fastest growing independent media company is looking for a new senior reporters for the position of bureau chief in Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, and Ottawa.

Position Overview

The Bureau Chief is the manager and chief reporter responsible for overseeing the News Division in a given province or region for the Western Standard.

Bureau Chiefs working outside of the Company’s Calgary headquarters may in some circumstances work from a home office.

The Western Standard produces a high volume of news and opinion content on a daily basis.

Reporting and Parameters

The Bureau Chief reports directly to the Editing News Director. 

He or she will have their performance reviewed on an annual basis. 

Major Duties & Responsibilities                                                                         

  • Write frequent and compelling news copy with a rapid turn-around. 
  • Use the Freedom of Information Act and other tools available to obtain compelling and important content for news copy.
  • Oversee and edit the copy of the employees and contractors in the News Division’s Bureau.
  • Meet with the Editing News Director and subordinate employees and contractors to assess the direction of the News Division’s Bureau, develop short and long-term goals, and ensure compliance with the Western Standard’s Editorial Principles.
  • Listen to the viewpoints and reports of the News Division’s Bureau employees and contractors. 
  • Maintain awareness and knowledge of the Western Standard’s readership and editorial metrics.
  • Maintain a reasonable and professional social media presence.  

Job Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree in journalism or communications is preferred but not required.
  • 5-8 years’ industry experience.
  • Passion for writing and editing interesting copy.
  • A portfolio of published copy.
  • Strong knowledge of the media process and industry.
  • Excellent communications and research skills
  • Self-starting

If you believe that this a challenge that is right for you, send your resume and cover letter to careers@westernstandardonline.com.

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UPDATED: Kenney puts Alberta in hard 3-week lockdown

Kenney, in a televised address said the move was needed to “avoid disaster in our hospitals.”

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has ordered a three-week hard lockdown on the province.

In a televised address, Kenney said the move was needed a “avoid disaster unfolding in our hospitals.

“We will not permit our health care system to be overwhelmed,” he said.

“This is a last resort and a necessary step. With cases continuing to rise, we have no choice but to take serious action now or jeopardize putting the health system at risk. If we don’t do this now, if this doesn’t work, then we’ll need a much longer list of restrictions, which no Albertan wants to see. The best way to get out of this is for all Albertans to follow these new measures and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.”

Kenney had previously been scheduled to give a press conference and take questions from reporters, but it was canceled in favour of the speech soon after the Western Standard published a story about his comments to the UCP caucus following the Bowden rodeo where he said “I want a new base”.

He said as of Tuesday there were 671 people in hospital with 150 in ICU.

Here’s a list of the new regulations:

Schools

Mandatory, additional restrictions for hot spot regions

  • Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools will transition to online learning, effective May 7.
  • Post-secondary schools will transition to online learning, effective May 5.
  • Childcare facilities can remain open.

Indoor gatherings

  • All indoor gatherings remain prohibited.

Outdoor gatherings

  • All outdoor social gatherings must be limited to no more than 5 people and a maximum of 2 household cohorts.
  • Mandatory physical distancing must be maintained at all times between members of different households.

RETAIL

  • Retail services must limit customer capacity to 10% of fire code occupancy (not including staff) or a minimum of 5 customers. This includes individual stores and common areas.
  • Shopping mall capacity limits will exclude common area square footage.
  • Curbside pick-up, delivery and online services are encouraged.

Restaurants, bars, pubs, lounges and cafes

Mandatory, additional restrictions for hot spot regions – Effective 11:59 pm on May 9

  • All in-person dining, including on patios, is prohibited.
  • Only take out or delivery services are allowed.

Indoor activities

  • All indoor sport, performance and recreation activities for youth and adults are prohibited.
  • Indoor fitness and recreation facilities must close, including for 1-on-1 training.

Outdoor activities

  • All outdoor sports and recreation activities are prohibited, except with members of your household, or your two close contacts if you live alone. This includes:
    • all group physical activities, such as team sports, fitness classes, training sessions
    • all one-on-one lessons and training activities
    • all practices, training and games
  • Outdoor recreation facilities can remain open unless specifically closed by public health order.

Professional sport organizations

  • Professional sport organizations that have received an exemption can continue, provided protocols are strictly followed.

Personal and wellness services

Mandatory, additional restrictions for hot spot regions – Effective at 11:59 pm on May 9

  • Personal and wellness services, including hair salons, barbers, nail salons, estheticians, tattoos and piercing, must close.

Places of worship

Mandatory, additional restrictions for hot spot regions – Effective May 5

  • Faith services are limited to 15 in-person attendees.
  • Physical distancing between households must be maintained at all times.
  • Virtual or online services are strongly recommended.
  • Drive-in services where people do not leave their vehicles and adhere to guidance are allowed.

Funerals

Mandatory, additional restrictions for hot spot regions – Effective May 5

  • 10-people maximum for funerals, including participants and guests.
  • Funeral receptions are not permitted.

Kenney is also doubling the fine for not obeying COVID-19 cabinet orders from $1,000 to $2,000. The maximum fine stays the same at $100,000.

“We will not tolerate those who endanger the health of fellow Albertans,” said Kenney.

Retail spaces will be limited to 10% of capacity.

Outdoor gathering limits will drop from 10 people currently to 5.

Churches have to change from 15% capacity to only 15 people.

Funeral services are having their attendance cut in half from 20-10.

Kenney called on those who can work from home, to do so.

“If you can stay home, do so for the next three weeks,” said Kenney.

Normal procedure for previous lockdowns has been for Kenney to appear in a press conference format – announcing the new restrictions and then taking questions from the media.

But after an exclusive story this afternoon from the Western Standard, the premier’s office changed the Tuesday night event to a televised address where no questions could be asked.

The Western Standard has learned Kenney told a closed-door UCP caucus meeting on Sunday “I want a new base” as he slammed the rogue anti-lockdown rodeo in Bowden.

Kenney used the Sunday virtual caucus meeting to rail against the ‘No More Lockdowns Rodeo’, which attracted approximately 4,000-5,000 attendees over the weekend.

Three UCP MLAs, who spoke to the Western Standard on the condition of anonymity, said another MLA spoke up and reminded Kenney that the people who went to the rodeo were the “base” of the UCP’s support.

“If they are our base, I want a new base,” Kenney told the meeting, according to the three MLAs.

On Monday, when Kenney announced further restrictions were coming, he noted cases were dropping in BC and Saskatchewan, who have similar restrictions.

“These are people that simply don’t care about COVID,” said Kenney, adding the rodeo crowd believed COVID-19 was a “conspiracy or hoax.

“Too many Albertans are ignoring the rules in place.

“(They have) forced me to take further steps. Stronger health measures will be announced (Tuesday).”

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

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BROWN: Ontario’s experiment in self-destruction

“Ontario Premier Doug Ford is now ‘social distancing’ himself from reality.”

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Guest Column from Alexander Brown Communications Director for the National Citizens Coalition.

In a now-infamous column in The Atlantic – written back in those halcyon days where we viewed NPIs (read: lockdowns) as sacred and unquestionable – a journalist castigated “Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice” as the state looked to reopen.

And then something funny happened. In the months to follow, the apocalypse never came. Georgia ended up with fewer COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people than 18 other U.S. states. Many of those states had the strictest of lockdowns.

Today in Atlanta, the Braves are now playing baseball in front of 40,000 cheering fans.

If Ontario Premier Doug Ford was capable of recognizing these myriad, incongruous moments, or if he’d even taken the time to read the now dozens of studies that highlight the rather dubious efficacy behind small business lockdowns, school closures, and particularly any limitations on the safety of the great outdoors, perhaps Ontarians wouldn’t once again find themselves welded inside of their own homes.

But after 15 months of zero lessons learned, Ontario feels like it’s back to square one, when in reality, we’re so close to the finish line.

It never had to get this bad.

As much as the premier has been preyed upon by every union, special-interest, and conflict-of-interest under the Toronto sun, as of late, he only has himself to blame.

Why is that?

Doug Ford has a problem. And no, it’s not just Ontario’s notoriously over-stuffed, and mismanaged hospitals, although that has certainly compounded the province’s present-day calamity in regards to a worrying, end-of-respiratory-season hospitalization peak, and a relentless, daily ‘messaging apocalypse’ carried out by government, media, and a rotating cast of television doctors with side businesses.

His problem lies in that ‘messaging apocalypse’. Even as the province begins to turn the corner, the Ford is – somewhat ironically – utterly immune to inspiring positivity.

This Friday, not one day after New York City announced a hopeful “full reopening” for summer, Ford held a press conference from home, and inexplicably decided to start sounding the alarm on the threat of a “fourth wave”, and “deadly, vaccine-resistant variants”.

If this was a clumsy attempt to shift some of the blame back onto Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for what Ford perceives as a failure to secure the border, it’s irresponsible at best, and dangerous at worst. One should not be fomenting fears at a moment when the provinces should be encouraging the efficacy of vaccines as an option for those who want one, and laying out clear exit strategies for Canadians to follow.

As the National Post’s Chris Selley has pointed out numerous times, “This province’s ability to maximize misery while minimizing results and refusing to keep anything in perspective should be bottled and fired into the sun.

This was one of those moments. This was the new ‘premier dad’ at his absolute worst. It’s often hard to believe that Ford occupies the same landmass as a BC Medical Officer of Health who speaks positively about being in a “post-pandemic world this summer”, and who actually encourages happy, healthy outdoor behaviour. (As of writing, golf, tennis, basketball, and most forms of outdoor recreation are still banned in the province of Ontario.)

As the likes of Selley, Furey, Lilley, and Randall Denley noticed in the early days of COVID-19, something was rotten in the state of Denmark when it came to Ford’s stage presence. An early pandemic darling for his can-do attitude his empathy for those who were as scared as he was, Ford would still stride to the podium like he was in the midst of passing a kidney stone. And eventually, as the needs of greater public health – like Ontario’s millions of missed cancer screenings, and a major mental health crisis – started to push the premier to (rightfully) reopen the province, his status as a pandemic darling began to wane.

His new friends abandoned him in record time. And his once rock-solid ‘Ford nation’ base felt increasingly alienated by his tepid endorsements of small business, and his continued myopic approach to lockdowns. 

15 months later, and that hasn’t changed, even as the world has changed around Ontario.

At this point, that should only be hard to believe for those who haven’t been paying attention.

We now know definitively that you’re supposed to put resources before restrictions. That you should never close schools. And for the love of all things good and holy, you need to let people exercise and stay healthy when they’re faced with an endemic virus with a proven track record against those dealing with obesity and high blood pressure.

Going forward, this leaves Ontarians in an uncomfortable position. Either the premier’s hyperbolic, hyper-negative messaging on ‘fourth waves’ and the futile nature of vaccines shows that ‘premier dad’ really does care more than others, or, he really does plan on being one of the last leaders in the free world to move on from COVID-19.

Rational Ontarians, of course, know that it’s the latter.

If only he’d just come out and say it: he’s scared. He’s not ready to move forward, or to get back to normal. It’s hard to begrudge someone their fears, frustrations, and resentments, especially after a 2020-21 was spent fielding demands, anguished cries, and vile abuse. 

But he owes it to Ontarians to just come out and say it.

“Folks, I’m not ready. In fact, I don’t know when I’ll be.”

Either set a date for reopening, or set them free.

Guest Column from Alexander Brown Communications Director for the National Citizens Coalition.

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