Opinion: Cut Kenney some slack

Politics is a tough and nasty business – more so these days than ever. I don’t envy any leaders making choices with challenging and uncertain impacts on both the health and livelihoods of Albertans.

One of those leaders in the most difficult position of all is Premier Jason Kenney, who just imposed another level of COVID based restrictions, while having to contend with keeping a raucous conservative political family united.

In Alberta, our Latin motto, Fortis et Liber, or ‘Strong and Free,’ couldn’t be a more apt description of the wonderful people who live and work to prosper here.

You won’t find folks elsewhere with a deeper devotion to hard work and family values while coupled with a fierce belief in personal and economic freedoms.

There exists a resilient spirit of individual liberty in our province – and I know, in principle, that’s a very good thing.

But some folks have recently gone way too far. Premier Kenney and his family have received death threats for imposing restrictions that are ONLY similar or less restrictive than other provinces.

Frustration about restrictions is a given, complaining vigorously is understood and expected but physical threats towards anyone are completely unacceptable. Period. Treating each other with respect is the essence of civil society.

There are still those that decry the new restrictions as not harsh enough, often with language designed to help themselves politically. On the other extreme, there are some who seem to believe that complete freedom (i.e. no lockdowns whatsoever) without meaningful vaccination levels is also possible. Confusing times.

The premier and his government are simply in a no-win situation regardless of the direction they evolve.

During this time of frustration and hardship, it’s tempting for conservatives to turn on their leadership and their party, but it’s the wrong move. We need alignment across all parties to improve the health of residents and restore the economy that we all rely on.

This is really way beyond politics. It’s about rational and reasonable thought for the benefit of Alberta. It’s about working with the new lockdowns where there is – for the first time in more than a year – a sight-line to recovery as the impact of our vaccination program finally becomes our reality.

Some of those attacking our leader overlook that at the federal level, we don’t have a single person – Prime Minister or Cabinet – willing to directly answer a question. Press events are carefully managed and Question Period has nothing to do with honest or transparent answers – only political speaking points. Premier Kenney and his colleagues should be celebrated for taking questions and responding in an open and transparent way even when we don’t like the answers.

We are close to the other side of this final wave of this pandemic – better times are ahead – given the experience of Israel and other regions that are further ahead on the vaccination curve. That is the wave that matters.

And on the economy, energy and commodity prices have rebounded to unexpected levels, and investment is truly beginning to come back to our province. I am putting my money where my mouth is with an innovative outdoor entertainment complex in downtown Calgary. I believe in Alberta and the summer that lies ahead.

No one has governed perfectly at any level during this pandemic, but while navigating through it, our premier has also achieved a great deal. We have significant improvements to our labour laws, we have removed burdensome levels of red tape, we are bringing sanity back to our education curriculum, and continuing to move forward on a fair deal within Confederation – all while navigating the most challenging pandemic imaginable.

I implore Albertans to show a little patience and give the guy the opportunity to get us through this. We are at the finish line. We are weeks away.

Let’s focus on what’s important: vaccinating to beat the pandemic into submission, while restarting our economic engines in the spirit of keeping our great province together.

If we’re divided, we lose. If we’re united, we win.

W. Brett Wilson is a Calgary businessman and philanthropist.

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