Kenney and Hinshaw: Together Forever
I found it very ironic when it was announced that former Premier Jason Kenney and former CMOH Dr. Deena Hinshaw landed new jobs on the same day last week.
The timing of the announcements is just another reason that Kenney and Hinshaw will be forever linked in Alberta politics.
When I heard the news about Kenney and Dr. Hinshaw last Wednesday as I was driving back from training sessions in Hinton on an icy highway, I quickly realized how they’ll forever he joined by the history of the pandemic in Alberta.
There’s also nobody who made more headlines in Alberta since the start of the pandemic than Dr. Hinshaw and Alberta’s former Premier.
Their media style was as different as different can be. There was Dr. Hinshaw doing daily updates at 3:30pm for months after the pandemic started. She was guarded in her comments, likely knowing her political bosses were listening to every word she said. In the early days of the pandemic, so were Albertans. The news media knew it too and that’s why her daily news conferences were so well attended, even if questions from reporters were only taken over the phone.
It wasn’t a world she was used to, but she did those news conferences as well as she could, often under great political pressure I’m sure.
Kenney talked about the pandemic more than any other Premier, with the exception of Ontario’s Doug Ford. His style was totally different than Hinshaw’s. His answers to media questions were incredibly long. It was as if Kenney wanted to make as many points as he could, hoping that something would stick.
Give him credit. He didn’t shy away from talking about the pandemic, or his government’s restrictions, most of the time. I do think he realized far too late that it would be better to say less and allow Hinshaw and others to carry more of the load.
Perhaps the biggest way the two will be linked came in the summer of 2021. In June Kenney announced his Open For Summer campaign. Starting July 1, most COVID restrictions would be dropped he said and Alberta would lead the country in returning to normal.
Dr. Hinshaw told a news conference not long after that she supported the Premier’s announcement to open things up. Virtually everyone I talked to suspected she didn’t have much choice. If she would have done anything other than give Open For Summer her full support, she likely would have lost her job.
We know it wasn’t the “Best summer ever” as Kenney promised. In fact, it may have been the worst public health policy decision ever made in Canada.
It was interesting to see what happened that summer. Hinshaw didn’t do a news conference again until late July, even though COVID numbers were starting to rise again. When things started to look really bad, Kenney was on a holiday at an undisclosed location. Hinshaw wasn’t talking in his absence and neither was Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
What could she say to the media though? The damage had already been done. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
By the time Kenney returned to work at the end of August, it was clear we had a huge wave coming in Alberta. Rapidly rising case counts, hospitalizations, ICU stays and COVID deaths followed.
In a rare bit of honesty from AHS, former CEO Verna Yiu basically told reporters assembled at a news conference in the fall of 2021 the situation in hospital ICUs could have been even worse, but so many people were dying there, it created some space for others.
I remember that comment and appreciated her making it in the media. I’m sure her political bosses didn’t.
Now only a year and a half later, Kenney, Hinshaw and Yiu are all gone. Shandro was moved out of his Health portfolio too.
Give Her a Book Deal!
I don’t expect it to happen, but if Dr. Hinshaw wrote a book on her memories from the last three years, I would place a pre-order quicker than Connor McDavid can skate.
Can you imagine the stories she could tell about what went on behind the scenes? Coming into work every day must have been incredibly difficult. She was a doctor first, who became the Chief Medical Officer of Health and like all of us, never expected to go through anything like the pandemic.
What she did to get fired by Premier Danielle Smith is still unclear to me. I am happy she’s got a new job in BC and I suspect she knows that six-month contract will turn into something much longer.
I did like the way BC Health Minister Adrian Dix threw some shade on the Alberta government as he talked about how his government appreciates the work of medical professionals, saying Hinshaw wasn’t the first doctor to move their services to BC and she won’t be the last. He even compared it to a free agent signing, which was interesting. Dr. Hinshaw did make almost $600,000 in 2021.
The other common thread that Dr. Hinshaw and Jason Kenney have is Danielle Smith. Smith fired Hinshaw and Kenney dislikes Smith so much he disappeared as soon as she was elected as leader and announced he was giving up his seat the day she took her new team into the Alberta Legislature.
The timing of his resignation was a middle finger salute to the new Premier.
I know this won’t be a popular opinion, but I felt sorry for Kenney in his last few months as Premier. He was in a no-win situation, as both party members and Albertans in general had widely differing opinions on how COVID should have been handled.
It will be interesting to see where Dr. Hinshaw and Kenney go from here. Whatever happens, it can’t be as stressful as it was for them the past few years.
Image credits: Reuters/Edmonton Journal