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Emergency debate on Alberta COVID crisis was pure politics: Cooper

On May 5, Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Heather McPherson, was granted an emergency debate in Parliament on the COVID-19 situation in Alberta. McPherson called on the federal government to take action on what she deemed a crisis situation.
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NDP MP Heather McPherson calls on the federal government to help Alberta during May 5, 2021 emergency debate on COVID-19.

St. Albert - There was plenty of finger-pointing in an emergency federal debate held last week on the COVID-19 situation in Alberta, and St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper is naming Canada's Prime Minister as the top person to blame.

“Canada is in the middle of a third wave. And the position that Alberta finds itself in is a direct result of Justin Trudeau’s complete failure of leadership on COVID – and in particular, the failure to procure vaccines,” he stated in an interview.

On May 5, Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Heather McPherson, was granted an emergency debate in Parliament on the COVID-19 situation in Alberta. McPherson called on the federal government to take action on what she deemed a crisis situation.

“We're here tonight because my province is in crisis, and that crisis is threatening all of Canada,” McPherson said during the virtual debate.

The provincial government brought in stronger public health measures on May 4 in response to record-breaking COVID infection rates. Alberta’s per-capita rate of infection is the highest in Canada and the United States, McPherson pointed out.

“I see us in Alberta are nearing capacity,” she said.

McPherson has placed much of the blame on Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, although she did have some choice words for the Prime Minister as well.

She stated the main reason the numbers are so high in Alberta is the way Kenney has managed the pandemic.

“From the very beginning of this global pandemic, he has failed Albertans. His Donald Trump-like approach to COVID-19 has put us where we are today in a state of absolute crisis,” she said.

“And I believe honestly, this is the biggest lesson all of us need to take from this pandemic: the failure to acknowledge the reality of COVID-19 and to commit to ending its spread is devastating to our health, our lives, our economy."

McPherson said there is overwhelming evidence from around the world that restrictions are effective at stopping the spread and one of the only ways besides vaccines to do so.

A November 2020 study published in Nature on the effectiveness of government COVID-19 health measures found the most effective measures included curfews, lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings, closures of educational institutions and cancellations of small gatherings.

The study also found effective methods that were less intrusive to a local population, including border closures and government support for vulnerable citizens, and recommended governments tailor health measures to the local context. The study stated less drastic measures could potentially foster better compliance from a population.

In a May 4 press conference to announce stronger public health measures, Kenney said the province has resisted pressure to implement widespread and long-term lockdown policies because it recognizes the severe impact these measures have on people’s lives.

“From day one, our goals have been to avoid large-scale loss of life, to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed, while minimizing the damage of restrictions on our broader society. Governments must not impair people's rights or their livelihoods unless it is absolutely necessary to save lives,” he stated.

Cooper said the debate in Parliament was pure politics and a transparent effort by the NDP to attack the Alberta government in the House of Commons where Kenney wasn’t there to respond.

“Are there criticisms that could be offered to the provincial governments? Perhaps there are. But look, my focus as a Member of Parliament is to focus on the things that the federal government could and should be doing and have failed upon,” said Cooper.

After 14 months of the pandemic, Cooper said people are struggling and the sooner we are able to get out of the pandemic the better.

"The way that's going to happen is once we see a significant uptick in terms of vaccination, so that's the bottom line ... the provincial government can only administer vaccines that are delivered to them by the federal government, and we have not seen predictability, we've not seen a clear plan on the part of the federal government," he said.

McPherson also blamed politics as the reason behind the COVID situation in Alberta.

“People in Alberta are dying because of inaction because of finger-pointing between the federal and provincial governments. While these governments are trying to decide who's to blame, families are losing loved ones – not one family I've spoken to is worried about jurisdiction,” she said.

McPherson called on the federal government to support rapid vaccination programs in hard-hit areas and to offer support to vulnerable populations and municipalities.

On the same day as the debate, Trudeau spoke with Kenney about the pandemic. A press release stated they agreed on the importance of continuing close federal-provincial collaboration on the vaccine rollout and managing the impacts of the third wave in the province.

In an email, Jerrica Goodwin, press secretary to the Premier, said the two leaders discussed the federal government's offer for assistance.

“Premier Kenney said while federal assistance is not currently required in Alberta, he expressed gratitude for the Prime Minister’s offer and said Alberta will reach out should such assistance become necessary in the future," Goodwin wrote.

“Premier Kenney also asked the Prime Minister for the federal government’s cooperation in Alberta’s efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines from neighbouring American states,” she added.

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