The new restrictions announced Tuesday ban all indoor and outdoor social gatherings, forbid in-person dining, personal services and indoor gym activity, but allow retailers to remain open with fewer people allowed in the business at a time.
“I think those things should only be done as a last and limited resort and not a first resort,” Kenney said while appearing on 630 CHED Mornings with Chelsea Bird and Shaye Ganam on Wednesday.
Many, like Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, say these restrictions have come too late to bend the curve back down. But it’s a claim Kenney refutes.
“It’s true, we have to address the very real threat to our healthcare system of the current surge in cases,” he said.
“If Albertans follow these new guidelines and restrictions, we’ll be able to do that while balancing protection of lives and livelihoods.”
Kenney has fought against stricter measures, saying implementing them would violate Albertans’ “fundamental rights and freedoms” to work and provide for their families.
He reiterated that, while Section One of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does say government can infringe on people’s freedoms, it needs to be proportionate, necessary and limited.
“The notion that you immediately, without really much debate or reflection on it, fundamentally impair people’s rights and freedoms is not the kind of society that I think most Albertans want to live in,” he said.
“We need to be thoughtful about that and deliberate and not dismiss concerns about rights and freedoms as merely the preoccupation of a small minority.”
Ganam pressed Kenney, saying this is a one-in-100-year pandemic, which could be considered a necessary reason to exercise that ability, but Kenney disagreed, saying Ganam was criticizing him for not taking more robust measures sooner.
“These are extraordinary measures that we’ve been taking on and off throughout the past nine months,” Kenney said of his government’s response.
Another area Kenney’s government has received criticism for is the collapse of the contact tracing system.
While Alberta’s contact system was strong in the beginning of the pandemic, it has fallen further and further behind as case numbers have continued to rise.
Kenney defended his system, saying developed countries around the world are having a difficult time keeping up with contact tracing.
“This is not a competition, my point is that through most of the eight of the last nine months, we’ve done very well amongst large population jurisdictions in North America and Europe.
“We’re dealing with a very, very serious spike in cases in the past month. We’re not denying that whatsoever. That’s why we took these extraordinary measures yesterday.”
Kenney said the province has about 1,100 contact tracers hired now and continues to work on hiring and training more.
The premier also announced the province would be introducing a new program on Thursday in an effort to slow transmission.
“One of the challenges we’ve seen here in Edmonton, for example with the highest levels of transmission, tend to be in some of the lower-income neighbourhoods where people are living in higher-density housing situations.”
A monetary incentive and free housing in a hotel will be offered to those who are sick, test positive, are a close contact or are symptomatic.
The new measures introduced Tuesday will be in effect for at least four weeks.