Albertans like to be the best, but earning the moniker of the COVID-19 hotspot in North America with the highest number of per capita cases is not an award we will be putting up on the mantle anytime soon.
What is even more discouraging is it literally has taken to the point of our house being fully ablaze and burning to the ground for the elected leadership of the province to take action.
For example, last week Premier Jason Kenney said he would only take decisive action to enact more public health restrictions if we were on the verge of a catastrophe for our provincial health care system.
The idea of preventative action, to avoid reaching catastrophe altogether, was dismissed in favour of protecting economic interests first. The advice of experts and health care workers, who are stressed and burned out beyond recognition at this point, was ignored in favour of political ideology.
And so this virus and its more infectious variants has been allowed to flourish and spread. The mixed messaging of this government and lack of serious action and communications with Albertans has served as an incubator for the opposition to public health measures to save lives and prevent long-term side effects in those infected.
We now have two Albertas. One where people acknowledge there is a reasonable and practicable reason to limit our movements temporarily restrict our freedoms because they value human life, and one where being inconvenienced is seen as oppression.
Granted, with the rollercoaster nature of this government's actions with each wave, what is happening to small businesses is a lot more than an inconvenience. Without additional measures to financially support small and medium sized business owners, we are on the short road toward economic catastrophe as well.
This is where Kenney's false dichotomy fails him. Nobody actually wants restrictions or to take actions that hurt businesses, but they would rather that people don't unnecessarily die more.
The choice is not between lives and livelihoods, as he would suggest. But between action and inaction – with the largest deficit in the province's history, the UCP cannot fathom the idea of spending any more money to support businesses and their employees. But they can tolerate the debilitating long-term effects of COVID for some patients and the death of others in exchange for having the most relaxed public health measures in the country.
It all comes down to priorities.
The good news is Alberta Health has finally recognized the unique circumstances facing the Banff and Lake Louise region and responded to lobbying by local politicians and our MLA to do something about it.
Now if only we could get two weeks worth of paid sick days for every single Albertan. This is the type of game changing move that could get us over the finish line with the vaccine rollout.
The other thing we need here in the Bow Valley? A break from the increased visitation by Albertans from other parts of the province looking for a break from these troubled times. We get it, we truly do. But when they visit this valley and ignore recommendations against non-essential travel, they are putting additional pressures on our small communities that we just don't need right now.
Kenney stood behind a lectern on Tuesday night that had a sign that said "stop the spike." We couldn't agree more and we hope that while we all go through the process of becoming inoculated against this virus, the spike in tourism stops, the spike in those ignoring or refusing to follow public health measures is stopped, and the spike in local infection rates is stopped.
Because it is about time the provincial government does something about these current trends, even if it is too little too late for some.