Alberta’s justice minister is under fire for remarks he posted on Facebook that said the federal Liberal government, the media and the NDP opposition wanted the province’s health-care system to be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.
Kaycee Madu made the remarks last week, a few days after the UCP government introduced more restrictions to contain a surge of COVID-19 cases in Alberta.
In the comment section of another user’s Facebook page, Madu wrote that the government needed to act or run the risk of leaving Albertans “in field and makeshift hospitals, gasping for breath because we have [run] out of ventilators, manpower etc.”
“My point is that I don’t think it will be responsible to simply wait until we have a disaster on our hands,” wrote the member of the legislature for Edmonton-South West.
“That’s what the NDP, the media and the federal Liberals were looking for and want. We simply couldn’t allow that to happen.”
NDP MLA David Shepherd, the Opposition’s health critic, said it was “disgusting” for Madu to claim the opposition and the media are cheering for the province to fail and for people to die.
Shepherd, who represents Edmonton-City Centre, pointed out the NDP caucus had for months been calling for the government to bring in stricter measures. He suggested that cabinet, which includes Madu, delayed acting to avoid upsetting the UCP’s base supporters.
“They’ve continued to make decisions that are more about their own political interests than supporting the public health on behalf of Albertans,” Shepherd said.
“I think that’s what we’re seeing from this minister here. And that is why Alberta finds itself in such a bad situation in the midst of this third wave.”
‘The minister won’t apologize’
But a spokesperson for Madu defended the justice minister’s comments.
“The minister was referring to the increasing tendency of different groups, including the NDP, to exploit the pandemic for their own political purposes,” press secretary Blaise Boehmer said in an email.
“We see this every day with the NDP’s overcooked and incendiary rhetoric, both in the legislative assembly and on social media. The minister won’t apologize for stating the obvious.”
Madu’s comments don’t align with a new tone being set by Premier Jason Kenney, according to Duane Bratt, a professor of political science at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.
Previously, Kenney would regularly target Prime Minster Justin Trudeau and the federal government for the lack of vaccines. But now shipments of vaccines are regularly arriving in Alberta.
Bratt said Madu’s Facebook post conflicts with the new message coming from the premier.
“I don’t know what Madu was thinking,” he said. “It just makes him look bad.”
As far as political gaffes are concerned, Bratt said this one is minor.
“But it does take away from the change in message, change in tone, that we’ve seen previously.”
A spokesperson for the federal government said Albertans expect governments to do everything possible to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“The federal government has done this from the start and will continue to do what it takes, for as long as it takes,” said Annie Cullinan, press secretary to Jim Carr, the federal government’s special representative to the Prairies.