Hours after Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Jason Copping urged Albertans to cut down their close contacts by 50 per cent and cancel Christmas parties to slow the spread of the Omicron variant, members of the United Conservative Party gathered at a restaurant in Edmonton for a Christmas reception.
“The premier’s advice to Albertans was given only a short time before our event was to begin,” UCP director of communications Dave Prisco wrote in a statement.
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“Given our compliance with the REP (Restrictions Exemption Program) and adequate spacing in the venue with reduced capacity, we decided to proceed.”
Photos obtained by Global News show among those in attendance was Justice Minister Kaycee Madu.
“The hypocrisy of this government continuing to ask Albertans to do what they say but not what they do is incredibly frustrating,” NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray said in response to the gathering.
Gray points to last Christmas when several UCP MLAs and staffers travelled abroad as Albertans were being told to lockdown during the second wave of the pandemic, a scandal that became known as Aloha-gate, and then the June dinner on the Skypalace patio where Premier Kenney and senior members of his cabinet, including then Health Minister Tyler Shandro, broke social distancing rules.
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“It is frustrating, it is exhausting and Albertans are sick of it,” she said.
Mount Royal University Political Scientist Duane Bratt agrees.
“There’s a pattern here,” Bratt told Global News, adding that in order for people to take restrictions and recommendations seriously, the governing party needs to walk the walk.
“Even if it’s not legislated, even when you encourage people, you have to follow that.”
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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health was asked Thursday if she was disappointed to see the members of government gathering.
“The choices that others make certainly are based on risk assessment and understanding of the circumstances. I want to reiterate that it’s very important right now to make choices that minimize the spread of the variant and that it will take every opportunity to spread,” Hinshaw said
“Everyone makes choices based on what they assess the risk to be and certainly, the rules still enable people to gather together.
“There may be specific context where there’s reasons to continue having a gathering that I’m not aware of.”
Hinshaw went on to say that her job is to provide recommendations and information to the public based on the current evidence that’s available to her.
“If I were sit in judgement of everyone who perhaps caused increased risk, I would not have enough hours in the day.”
Hinshaw stressed again that she hopes Albertans will take the Omicron variant seriously.
“What I would encourage all of us to do is to take every opportunity to minimize the chances that Omicron has to spread,” she said.
“We know the numbers are climbing very fast and I think Albertans should expect over the next week or two, especially during the holiday season, that it’s highly likely that there will be at least one infectious person present in gatherings where you’re gathering with someone outside your household and should plan and prepare accordingly.”
The UCP had a similar Christmas party planned for Calgary members on Wednesday night, that event was cancelled.
With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.