Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says the country is seeing the result of “wrong choices” that Alberta and Saskatchewan made during the pandemic as a resurgence of COVID-19 cases rampages through both provinces.
Both Alberta and Saskatchewan have seen dramatic rises in COVID-19 infections after reopening that have led to severe public health restrictions as hospitals and ICUs fill up.
“We’re seeing right now what the wrong choices made in Alberta and Saskatchewan have led to,” Trudeau told reporters during a campaign stop in Montreal on Sunday.
“We do not need a Conservative government that won’t be able to show the leadership on vaccinations and on science that we need to end this.”
Trudeau has sought to portray his political rival, the Conservative’s Erin O’Toole, as a leader who will “take Canada backwards” by rolling back greenhouse gas reduction targets and canceling child care deals, but he’s also targeted Green and NDP voters who might be otherwise convinced to vote strategically for his party.
Kicking off his final day on the campaign trail, Trudeau drew comparisons between O’Toole and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, whose leadership is under review after a frustrating year that saw Albertans questioning his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic after the province was declared open for summer.
Trudeau offered Albertans a choice of “whether they want Erin O’Toole to continue working with Jason Kenney on not ending this pandemic.”
“Or, do they want a liberal government that is going to stand up for the almost 75 or 80 per cent of Canadians, including a vast majority of Albertans, who have done the right thing?” Trudeau said.
As of Friday, Alberta Health said the province had 19,201 active COVID-19 cases and noted 911 people are in Alberta hospitals with COVID-19, 215 of which are in ICUs. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan set another record on Sunday for daily new COVID-19 cases, reporting 543 in a single day with 249 patients in the hospital, including 55 in ICU.
Kenney has apologized to Albertans for peeling back protections throughout the province too early, and on Wednesday re-introduced a state of emergency and several public health measures including a vaccine passport and mandatory work-from-home rules, unless an employer determines a physical presence is required.
But Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the restrictions have likely come too late to curb Alberta’s devastating fourth wave.
“If measures are let go of too quickly, and vaccination rates aren’t going up fast enough… you’re giving room for this virus to accelerate if your vaccine coverage isn’t moving up faster than your reopening or easing measures,” Tam said.
More to come.
–With files from Global News’ Aaron D’Andrea, Kelly Skjerven, Phil Heidenreich and the Canadian Press