Alberta changes health ministers amid hospital crisis and challenges to Kenney’s leadership

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney replaced his health minister as the province’s hospitals are overcrowded with COVID-19 patients and he faces growing anger from within his own party over its handling of the pandemic.

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Jason Kopping was sworn in as Minister of Health on Tuesday afternoon. He replaces Tyler Shandro, who with the Alberta premier has been the pandemic’s chief political spokesman. Mr. Shandro will take over from Mr. Köping as Minister of Labor and Immigration.

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Premier offered little explanation for the switch. Mr. Kenny praised Mr. Shandro’s work ethic, but said, “It is time for a fresh start, and a renewed eye is on the largest department of the government, especially at such a time.”

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Alberta prepares critical-care triage plan amid surge in COVID-19 cases

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Mr Kenny addressed job stress, and referred to an incident at a Public Canada Day event where protesters against health restrictions surrounded Mr Shandro, his wife and two young sons, shouting abuses and insults.

Hospitals in the province are facing a huge capacity crunch. There are 222 people in intensive care units, non-urgent surgeries have been postponed, and front-line workers are working out triage protocols to determine which patients are eligible for the highest level of care.

Mr. Kenny’s leadership is also facing new turmoil. His party and caucus are divided over COVID-19 measures, including health restrictions and the province’s new vaccine passport system.

Two United Conservative Party legislators said the prime minister is expected to face a trust vote during the caucus meeting on Wednesday. The Granthshala is not naming these two legislators to allow them to discuss internal affairs of the party.

Also, several UCP constituency associations are pushing for an earlier leadership review – before the fall of 2022, when it is now scheduled.

A day after a federal vote in which a minority Liberal government returned to office, Mr Kenny’s government formally announced “contingency plans” to move patients out of the province from Ottawa, as well as allowing ICU registered nurses and respirators. Formally requested for help in finding. Doctor to come to Alberta.

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair – re-elected on Monday – responded that federal officials “have been engaging their counterparts in Alberta for the past week to offer help.”

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“I have made it clear that when a request is received, it will be accepted. We will work together for the people in Alberta,” Mr Blair tweeted.

Coronavirus Tracker: How many COVID-19 cases are there in Canada and around the world? Latest Maps and Charts

On Tuesday, one of the legislators who spoke to The Granthshala said about 20 legislators were prepared to vote against the premier. The second lawmaker said there was no agenda for Wednesday’s caucus meeting, but a group of legislators planned to move a no-confidence motion regarding Mr. Kenny’s leadership.

University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young said Mr Kenny is “in the fight for his political career”. She said Tuesday’s cabinet switch is unlikely to move the dial because the premier has been seen calling the shots in the pandemic, and because it does nothing to change the fundamental divide in his party over how COVID-19 have to handle.

However, Prof. Young said there is widespread dismay under Mr. Kenny’s leadership, “Is this the moment you want to bring additional turmoil to the government?”

In an interview, Calgary-Hayes’ constituency union president Al Brown, who has been involved in coordinating the effort to press for an early leadership review, said the proposal calls for the party to be reviewed by March 1. is as. Said that once constituency association boards pass adequate resolutions, the party has 60 days to announce the timing of such review.

He said there is concern among some unions, particularly in Edmonton where most ridings do not have incumbents and will need to recruit new candidates.

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“This is not a vote to remove the leader,” said Mr. Brown, “it is asking for a leadership review first to give CA time to do what it needs to do, and then to know that The grassroots has voted to support Jason and move forward. This dispels all speculation.”

Kevin Wilson, president of the Airdrie-Cochrane Constituency Association, said the debate right now is largely about leadership timing and that he downplayed the importance of the motions. He said that his board supports the prime minister.

However, Samantha Steink, president of the Central Peace-Notly UCP Constituency Association, said Mr. Kenny had thwarted the Conservative movement. He is against the vaccine passport system, and Central Peace-Notly legislator Todd Lowen was kicked out of the UCP caucus in May, another period of high COVID-19 case counts, when he publicly called for Mr. Kenny’s resignation. was called upon.

“It is time for members to decide who they want to lead them through the rest of the way,” Ms Steink said, adding that she hopes Mr Kenny will resign or oust him before next year. Will go

Mr. Kenny told reporters that the UCP board would sort it out when the leadership was reviewed.

“I am happy to be accountable to my party members,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we cannot allow the government during periods of crisis to be distracted or destabilized by political opposition to policies that are absolutely necessary to protect the health care system and save lives.”

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