Albertans expressed a mix of anger, dismay and encouragement in emails to Premier Jason Kenney in the minutes following his Sept. 15 televised address that ushered in a number of COVID-19 restrictions.
The premier delivered a live TV address at 6 p.m. that night, declaring a state of public health emergency and announcing a proof of vaccination program among other restrictions.
Emails to the premier’s office began arriving within three minutes of the start of his address. They were obtained by CTV News via a freedom of information request.
“To say that you have failed the responsible population of this province is an understatement,” reads one email. “Pandering to the selfish unvaccinated is unacceptable.”
“Now you reward people that are anti vaccines,” reads another email.
“Typical [to] wait until it’s so bad to cancel everything and change all the rules. Now we’ve witnessed this for what? The fifth or sixth time?”
“Why should I, as a civic-minded Albertan, be denied access to my family, friends, health care needs and to public places because a number of citizens are refusing to be vaccinated thus continuing to promote the spread of COVID-19 cases,” asked another.
Others looking to return to a more normal life were more encouraged by the premier’s announcement.
“I support any actions you folks deem necessary to deal with the loud small minority who oppose the sensible and sane approach to the pandemic,” reads an email.
“Our ICUs are not just for unvaccinated COVID patients.”
Two weeks after the premier’s address, Alberta ICUs hit a pandemic-high COVID-19 patient count of 267.
Since Jan. 1, unvaccinated Albertans have made a majority of cases (84 per cent), hospitalized cases (84 per cent) and deaths (76 per cent).
Given close to 70 per cent of all Albertans having had two doses, those percentages actually understate the effectiveness of vaccines.
Accounting for the wide difference in the number of vaccinated versus unvaccinated Albertans, rates of hospitalization, admission to ICU, and death are several times higher for those who haven’t had a shot.
‘FRUSTRATED, TIRED AND INFURIATED’
Others who wrote in expressed fatigue with yet another round of restrictions.
“Given you as a government can not seem to address the anti-mask, anti-vax minority, I will no longer comply with your new recommendations,” reads an email.
“You chose to not do the right thing and restrict the unvaccinated. It’s on you, not on me. I will not abide by it,” reads another.
As of Thursday, 670 Albertans have died due to COVID-19 since the Sept.15 address, including 14 under the age 40.
Many who emailed were opposed to the Restrictions Exemption Program, Alberta’s version of a vaccine passport, as well as the $100 offered to those getting a first dose of vaccine.
“These incredibly tyrannical measures have gone absolutely too far, “reads one email. “I am frustrated, tired, and infuriated.”
“Vaccine passports work. $100 gift cards do not,” reads another.
The Restrictions Exemption Program, and to a much lesser extent, the coincidental offer of a $100 gift card to get a first shot, appear to have led to a sharp increase in the number of vaccinations in the days following the announcement.
‘TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE’
Other writers focused their discontent on the premier’s prior pledge to not to introduce vaccine passports.
“I can’t believe I am seeing our conservative premier lie numerous times about not having any more restrictions,” wrote one emailer. “Open for good has been said numerous times.”
Just two months before his September announcement, Kenney reiterated his opposition to vaccine passports, even going as far to say he’d challenge Ottawa if a federal passport was introduced.
“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that we will not facilitate or accept vaccine passports,” Kenney told reporters in July.
“Every time, and I mean every time, you say something isn’t going to happen, it does in the coming weeks,” reads another email.
Others warned the premier of political consequences to come.
“You waited until we were a national disgrace and embarrassment before you acted with punitive measures,” reads an email.
“You have let us down badly,” reads another. “Too little, too late.”