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As for the political implications of his measures, Kenney did well to adopt a conciliatory tone in his speech, especially when it came to thanking doctors, nurses and other health-care workers for their extraordinary efforts. It was a wise move, given the anger that still exists over contract showdowns with most health-care groups.
Kenney’s inner pitbull did bark once when he criticized those calling for the most aggressive lockdown measures, such as shutting down restaurants.
“For some it’s a little bit easy to say, ‘Just flick a switch, shut ’em down,’ ” he said.
“I would ask people who have the certainty of a paycheque, particularly a government paycheque, to think for a moment about those individuals whose entire life savings are tied up in businesses such as that. I would ask them to think about the 175,000 people who work in that industry, disproportionately women.”
The big political concern for Kenney is whether these measures will a) succeed and b) keep together his party’s coalition of small “c” conservative moderates and often fiery libertarians, with many in the latter group having immense distrust of mask mandates and most lockdown measures.
Kenney predicted that even as he spoke his Facebook page would be flooded with angry people complaining about his lockdown. “To those folks I say this: ‘This is not an abstraction. If you know somebody waiting for surgery … this is about them. It’s not about our political preferences.”
I suspect Kenney’s overall message and actions will satisfy his base, many of whom feared even greater lockdown measures.
My own hope was that Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw would continue to take into account all aspects of public health in their decision, both COVID spread and the health impacts that flow from lockdown, unemployment and bankruptcy, such as mental anguish, isolation and opioid death. Kenney and Hinshaw clearly engaged in that kind of complex and difficult analysis. We’ll now see if they’ve struck the right balance.