Federal leaders on the campaign trail found themselves facing a curveball thrown by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Thursday.
The premier’s move Wednesday night to declare a public health emergency and launch sweeping new restrictions amid the fourth-wave COVID crisis was something federal leaders were asked early on.
Facing the most scrutiny was Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, who previously said she supported Alberta’s approach to the pandemic and that it was better than the approach taken by the federal government.
When asked about Alberta’s crisis on Thursday, O’Toole did not rescind that support. He just said that he, as prime minister, would work with all premiers to contain the pandemic.
“The federal government should provide participation and support for the premiers, not pick up feuds with them as Trudeau has done,” he told an audience in St. John’s, NB.
The harshest criticism of the Alberta premier did not come from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who simply said that things would have been better in Alberta now if Kenny had acted sooner on the fourth wave of the pandemic. Instead it came from both the left and the right: NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, and PPC leader Maxim Bernier.
Singh said in no uncertain terms that he condemned Kenny’s leadership on the pandemic.
“Mr. Kenny is a failure in leadership; the people of Alberta are suffering because of that failure, there is no doubt about it,” he said in Toronto.
He also criticized Trudeau for calling the election instead of focusing on the pandemic.
In a campaign stop in Oakville, Bernier aimed for Kenny to re-open too soon and not to let COVID-19 escalate, but to reverse course.
“Jason Kenny, as you know, said a few weeks ago that he didn’t want a vaccine passport, but today he flip-flopped like O’Toole on the vaccine passport,” Bernier said. “shame on them.” On Twitter, Bernier called Kenny “autocratic” for imposing the new ban.
On Wednesday night, Kenney acknowledged that the aggressive reopening of the province in July was a mistake. Despite previously vowing not to, he unveiled a vaccine-passport system, and rolled back a series of public health restrictions.
The province is in the grip of a fourth wave of the pandemic. On Wednesday, 24 people died of corona in the state within 24 hours.