Thursday, September 16, 2021

On politicization

There have been a couple of indications as to how Alberta's refusal to take basic health precautions in the face of COVID's fourth wave (and in all likelihood Saskatchewan's as well) can be traced to a willingness to govern based on the O'Toole Cons' campaign strategy rather than the health and well-being of citizens. But as long as we know Kenney is treating the issue solely as one of politics, there are a couple of implications worth raising. 

The first is that it's wrong to say that O'Toole is merely as bad as Kenney and other premiers in their pandemic response. Rather, O'Toole has been relying on them to be worse than they might have been otherwise if a refusal to protect public health didn't fit his political interests. And now, we've managed to reach the point where his valuation of the public interest is below even Kenney's.

But the second is that there may be another political factor at play. The UCP has been considering its options for most of this week. And if it had acted quickly, there would still have been time for people to apply for special ballots - allowing them to vote by mail, or at relatively quiet and low-traffic returning offices.

The deadline to apply for a special ballot expired on September 14. The UCP made the announcement of a state of emergency on September 15. 

As a result, while Kenney's announcement yesterday may not have fit perfectly with the Cons' campaign plans, it might nonetheless have fit with a general desire to distort election results toward the right. 

O'Toole's main concern is surely that a vaccine mandate and health rules will drive voters to the PPC - and anybody starting from a position of pandemic denial is unlikely to hesitate about venturing out to vote. But if there's a risk of also affecting voters who care about responsible pandemic management, they'll face conflicting forces: while they may be less inclined to accept the Cons as good-faith actors, they'll also be less likely to vote at all. 

That might be slightly worse than a wash for O'Toole in the short term, but it's entirely compatible with the interests of the UCP and its movement allies who want to be able to point to some more extreme option as an excuse for their own refusal to listen to anybody to the left of Attila the Hun. And we'll have every reason for suspicion the timing was aimed at that effort if we see Kenney, Scott Moe and their apologists point to PPC results as a driving force in their own future actions. 

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