Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Trudeau is rejecting accusations from Alberta’s justice minister that his federal government is part of a trio rooting for that province’s health system to collapse due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Trudeau is rejecting accusations from Alberta’s justice minister that his federal government is part of a trio rooting for that province’s health system to collapse due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Alberta justice minister sorry for saying feds, others rooting for COVID disaster

Blame and responsibility have recently been at the centre of debate in Alberta

EDMONTON — Alberta’s justice minister says he was wrong to accuse Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Alberta’s Opposition N-D-P, and the media of rooting for COVID-19 to buckle his province’s health system.

“I would like to offer an apology for my recent comments on my personal Facebook account,” Kaycee Madu wrote on Twitter Tuesday night.

“Alberta is facing an unprecedented public health crisis. My comments were wrong, as all Canadians want this global pandemic to end as soon as possible.

“I fully support the premier’s recent call to avoid the divisive political rhetoric during what we all hope is the final period of this pandemic and will continue the important work of government in protecting Albertans from this virus.”

The apology came a day after Madu’s spokesman, Blaise Boehmer, told reporters in a statement that Madu was standing by his accusations, adding, “The minister won’t apologize for stating the obvious.”

Earlier Tuesday, prior to Madu’s apology, Trudeau rejected the accusations.

“It’s a shame to see people pointing fingers and laying blame and suggesting that anyone in Canada wants anything else than to get through this pandemic as safely as possible everywhere,” Trudeau said in Ottawa.

Premier Jason Kenney, also asked about Madu’s comments prior to the apology, said he hadn’t seen them but said, “COVID has caused us a lot of us at various times to say things we regret, and I just encourage everybody — whatever side of the political spectrum they’re on — to give each other a break right now.”

Trudeau noted he reached out to Kenney and Alberta’s big city mayors last week to offer further support if called upon. Kenney declined the offer.

“Every step of the way the federal government has been there to support Canadians, with $8 out of every $10 in pandemic support coming from the federal government,” said Trudeau.

The issues of blame and responsibility have recently been at the centre of debate in Alberta. Kenney’s government has been criticized for waiting weeks to respond with tighter health restrictions to the current third wave that now threatens to overrun the health system if left unchecked.

Alberta has recently had COVID-19 case rates that are the highest in North America.

Kenney acted with renewed rules a week ago, closing schools and introducing sharper limits on businesses and worship services.

He also stressed now is not the time to lay blame. Prior to that, Kenney and his ministers had repeatedly accused Trudeau’s government of hamstringing the relief effort with a slow vaccine rollout. As late as April 29, Kenney blamed Alberta’s entire third wave on Ottawa.

Last Friday, Madu, in a Facebook post, wrote that the province couldn’t risk giving the COVID-19 virus a chance to “overwhelm our health-care system.

“That’s what the NDP, the media and the federal Liberals were looking for and want,” he wrote.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said her caucus has done its job as the Official Opposition.

She said they’ve pushed Kenney’s government to enact rules to reduce the spread of the virus, while giving businesses financial aid to survive and workers support to allow them to isolate but still provide for their families.

Notley added, “You don’t tend to see that sort of incendiary, thoughtless messaging or tone from someone who takes on the role of justice minister.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, reported 24,998 active COVID-19 cases Tuesday. There are 705 people in hospital with the illness, 163 of them in intensive care — the highest since the pandemic began.

Hinshaw confirmed the province won’t give out more first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for the time being.

“Based on global supply challenges, we do not know when Canada, and in turn Alberta, will receive additional doses,” said Hinshaw.

There are 8,400 doses left, which will be used for second shots.

Hinshaw also said they will wait at least 12 weeks between AstraZeneca doses, given current research is showing that the interval delivers the best protection.

Alberta has administered more than 255,000 first doses of AstraZeneca.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2021.

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