As calls for stricter health measures continue, a new poll suggests public confidence in Alberta’s COVID-19 response is wavering.
Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi has been one of the voices pushing for further, yet targeted measures to help limit the spread of the virus.
“I know the language has really changed in the last two weeks from personal responsibility and we’re going to avoid any lockdowns to ‘if this doesn’t work, lockdowns are needed,'” Nenshi said Wednesday. “My argument would be: if that is your thinking, move quickly.”
Alberta recorded 730 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and the death toll rose by 11.
In total, 443 deaths in Alberta have been linked to COVID-19 since the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in the province back in March.
According to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, a significant portion of those deaths have been recorded in November alone.
“This is frightening information to have, and there must be a response that informs Albertans what the strategy is,” Mount Royal University associate professor of policy studies, Lori Williams said Wednesday.
According to a new poll from Leger, 59 per cent of respondents said they were either somewhat or very dissatisfied with how Alberta’s United Conservative Party government has handled the pandemic.
Only 31 per cent of respondents said they were ‘somewhat satisfied,’ while just six per cent said they were ‘very satisfied.’
Leger has been tracking public opinion of the actions taken by Canada’s provincial and federal leaders to limit the spread of the virus since March.
Leger’s poll on Mar. 31 showed only 27 of Albertans were dissatisfied with the government’s response to the early stages of the pandemic.
“What we’ve seen, in fact, all along in Alberta is the Alberta government has tended to trend lower than the other provinces,” Leger’s western Canada vice-president Ian Large told Global News. “They did not get the spike that the other provinces and the federal government got early in the pandemic in terms of the bounce other political leaders got.”
The findings of the poll were unsurprising to the leader of Alberta’s official opposition Rachel Notley, who cited a “war” between the province and healthcare workers.
“They’ve attacked public healthcare in the middle of a historic pandemic, and they are failing to understand that their unwillingness to act to limit the spread of this virus is putting our economy in jeopardy,” Notley said. “They are taking uncertainty and accelerating it.”
The opposition NDP has called on the province to provide Albertans with clear measurements that are being used to determine if a lockdown is needed, to limit confusion after restrictions are announced.
Confusion has been one of the big issues with the COVID-19 response, according to Judy Gabriel, who is still dealing with lingering side-effects of her COVID-19 diagnosis back in March.
“I think we could do better,” Gabriel said. “(The province) seems like they’re trying, but I think there’s a lot of confusion, I think there’s a lot of slow movement in terms of what they should do, what way they should go.”
In response to the Leger poll, the province said it relies on data to make its decisions regarding COVID-19 health measures, and not public polling.
“Alberta’s response to COVID-19 has always been based on the data-driven advice of public health officials, not public opinion polling,” Christine Myatt, the premier’s spokesperson, said in a statement to Global News. “We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect both lives and livelihoods in the face of this ongoing global pandemic.”
However, the economic downturn, higher unemployment and challenges in the oilpatch prior to the pandemic may have played into the public’s opinion of the government’s pandemic performance, according to Large.
“Governments have trouble with maintaining popular opinion during recessions, and in Alberta, we’ve got this sort of triple whammy going on,” Large said. “Despite, I think, the government’s very efficient response and very effective response certainly in the early days, I think it’s not surprising that bounce that we would expect from that leadership we saw from the government is just not able to overcome the frustration with all these other issues.”
The most recent Leger poll surveyed 1,522 Canadians between Nov. 13 and 15, 2020, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.51 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.