It has been almost a month since Premier Jason Kenney appeared in public but Wednesday he addressed Albertans in a Facebook live question and answer session.
The premier explained he was on vacation for parts of August to recharge but rejects the notion that he abandoned Albertans as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to worsen in the province.
“It’s important a person in my position doesn’t burn out and recharge my batteries,” he said, adding he was in touch with his office and senior staff while he was away.
Kenney addressed a number of other topics in the one-hour and 11-minute session, including vaccine mandates, the province’s COVID-19 response, the opioid crisis, the federal election and job creation.
With COVID-19 cases rising, the premier explained that the alternative to “lockdowns” is higher vaccine uptake but right now, that isn’t happening fast enough.
He also noted that the province is “monitoring the situation” when it comes to COVID-19 cases and additional mask mandates are still in place on public transit, ride share and taxis.
“We are concerned and rightfully so. How do we deal with the current Delta surge that we are seeing? It is problematic because we are starting to see an impact in the health care system,” he said adding restrictions is the last resort to protect the health care system.
As for vaccines, he said his government will never force vaccine mandates on businesses, but organizations like Alberta Health Services are able to enforce their own vaccine rules. AHS will require all frontline health care workers later this fall.
“The government doesn’t step in and tell businesses what they can and cannot do in terms of the safety of their own operate. I’m a conservative, I believe in limited government, particularly when it comes to not interfering with how people do business,” he said.
Kenney said in response to a question about how other leaders may handle COVID-19, that he needs to consider the overall impact of the virus.
“It’s easy on a day-to-day basis to count positive PCR test results or hospitalizations and it’s important to do that as well. It’s a lot harder to measure the indirect and sometimes longer-term impacts of restrictive measures,” Kenney said.
In terms of job creation, the premier was thrilled with the 73,000 jobs that have been added in the province and the quarterly provincial fiscal update that was delivered earlier this week. The province had projected about a 4.8 per cent growth, but that’s been raised to 6.7 per cent.
“We are leading Canada in economic growth… it’s happening right across the economy, it’s so exciting. Commodity prices are back which is helpful and some of that is translating to investment, which creates good-paying jobs,” he added.