Kenney grilled on Alberta's 4th wave response, claims Hinshaw made no recommendations in August
Premier Jason Kenney suggests Alberta’s chief medical officer of health is to blame for not bringing forward 'further recommendations' at the height of the fourth wave this summer.
The premier, alongside other provincial ministers, were grilled by the official opposition in a COVID-19 response debate in the legislature late Monday night.
"Had there been further recommendations later in August to take additional measures, I would have immediately convened a cabinet committee meeting to approve those," said Kenney.
Premier Jason Kenney suggests Alberta’s chief medical officer of health did not bring forward 'further recommendations' at the height of the fourth wave this summer.
Hinshaw is tasked with making recommendations to the provincial COVID cabinet committee, where it is considered for implementation.
Kenney suggests the reason for high hospitalizations and deaths in the fourth wave of the pandemic was due to low vaccine coverage in the 20 to 50-year-old age bracket.
The premier pointed to modelling data from the U.K. and Israel, which saw higher vaccine uptake in that age bracket, resulting in lower hospitalizations and deaths.
The premier’s calendar shows he was on holidays for nearly three weeks in August.
NDP leader Rachel Notley demanded a debate be held on the government's response and asked why, following the 'Best Summer Ever' campaign, restrictions were not reintroduced in August.
“Why was there no action then? Did (Hinshaw) recommend action premier?" asked Notley.
Political scientist Keith Brownsey of Mount Royal University says the premier is simply trying to shift blame.
"He tries to offload responsibility onto the public service," said Brownsey. "It's reprehensible. I've said before that it crosses an ethical line."
Brownsey says Hinshaw’s job is to provide information to the government and it's up to elected officials to make the decisions.
"Remember our public servants are to be anonymous and to provide advice and they're to be politically neutral. You don't pick on them."
As for why Kenney is trying to save face, Brownsey believes the premier is trying to shore up his own leadership, which has been challenged several times.
"If this were the typical provincial government, a comment like this, would be the precursor to the removal of Deena Hinshaw."
CTV News Calgary reached out to speak with Hinshaw but was directed to contact the office of the premier.
Hinshaw is typically scheduled to provide media briefings on Tuesdays and Thursdays regarding the provincial COVID-19 outlook, but this Tuesday's availability has been postponed.
The premier’s director of government communications says Hinshaw's absence is not due to the premier's comments.
"We altered Dr. Hinshaw's regular schedule to accommodate a number of embargoed media briefings and news conferences related to legislation being introduced this week," explained Christine Myatt in a response to CTV News on Twitter.
"There's only so many media events we can host in a given day."
Hinshaw is expected to provide her next briefing Wednesday.
The premier's office issued the following statement to CTV News Tuesday afternoon regarding Kenney's Monday night comments.
"As has always been the case, the Chief Medical Officer of Health and her team develop recommendations for public health measures which are then brought forward to cabinet for approval. It is a statement of fact that expert officials did not bring forward recommendations forward at the time in question. The idea that his comments in any way attribute "blame" for the fourth wave - an idea which appears to have emanated from Twitter - is entirely without evidence or reason."