Last week the NDP released that Alberta could have had 25 million more rapid tests for public distribution during the current Omicron-driven fifth wave had the UCP responded to federal procurement offers last fall. MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul, Dave Hanson says “The NDP and the Alberta Teachers’ Association have been filling the air with outrageous rhetoric and hyperbole for too long.”
On January 26, the NDP said in a news release, “When Ottawa offered provinces a chance to purchase additional rapid tests last fall—when COVID-19 rapid-antigen tests were readily available—no additional tests were ordered for Albertans. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, leveraged the federal offer, securing a provincial stockpile of 10 million tests before the New Year despite having a population of only one million people.”
“Albertans went through the entire holiday season trying to avoid Omicron and see their families while frantically stalking pharmacies and paying premium prices for tests on Kijiji,” said Alberta NDP Health Critic David Shepherd. “It is absolutely infuriating to know that had Jason Kenney and the UCP been focused on the pandemic and not their own internal drama, Alberta would be in better shape today.”
The NDP says that in a news conference on Health Minister Jason Copping acknowledged the decision, saying that “Saskatchewan ran a public system with public access to tests earlier on than we did”.
According to the NDP release, “Alberta did not plan for public distribution of tests until December. On December 22nd, 2021, the UCP announced Alberta would pay for an additional 10 million rapid tests, less than half of what they would have received by exercising proper foresight. AHS held a five-minute board meeting to approve the procurement that same day.”
According to the federal government, Alberta has received more than 18 million rapid tests. On January 5, Jason Kenney tweeted that the province had distributed about 8.5 million tests. The NDP says, “The UCP government has not released a comprehensive breakdown of how many tests they received, what process was used to determine how to disperse them, or where rapid tests were ultimately deployed.”
“The discrepancy between numbers and lack of transparency around the deployment of rapid tests raises serious questions about how the UCP is making decisions,” said Shepherd. “The secrecy around these rapid tests certainly gives me pause. Albertans deserve a full accounting of where every single test went, and a plan for where the next shipment of tests will go. We need rapid tests in schools, universities, workplaces and pharmacies. The UCP should tell Albertans exactly how many will be dispersed to these sites and when exactly they can expect them to arrive.”
The Alberta NDP is calling on the UCP to release a full breakdown of rapid test deployment, expected arrival dates for replenishment, and where they will be allocated going forward.
MLA Dave Hanson for Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul responds to Lakeland Connect questions
Lakeland Connect reached out to MLA Dave Hanson for Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul to provide a response to the NDP claims.
We asked what was one of the Government’s main priorities throughout the last two years of the pandemic.
“Our priority has always been, and will always be, the well-being of children,” David Hanson—MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul told Lakeland Connect. “Unfortunately, this pandemic has had a major impact on students, many of whom have not been able to even see their friends face-to-face for months.”
MLA Hanson says, “Keeping children at home for extended periods of time not only damages their relationships with their peers, but their education and mental health.”
“We have safely got our kids back to school, where they ought to be, and we are committed to keeping schools open,” MLA Hanson said. “The NDP and the Alberta Teachers’ Association have been filling the air with outrageous rhetoric and hyperbole for too long. They’re
even fighting our efforts to strengthen the teacher disciplinary process, even though the current process, which is overseen by the union, has failed our kids before.”
MLA Hanson says the Alberta Government is doing everything it can to better protect residents from COVID-19.
“We are doing everything we can, including equipping schools with a total of 65.6 million masks, and up to 8.6 million rapid tests in the coming weeks, to enable parents and children to return to a normal life,” MLA Hanson told Lakeland Connect. Experts agree and continue to stress the importance of in-person learning to the overall health of children and youth. That is why Alberta’s government has placed
such a high priority on safe in-class instruction and making sure schools have the tools they need to continue providing a world-class education to Alberta students.”
MLA Hanson told Lakeland Connect “The federal government has sent our province over 16 million rapid tests, and from the very beginning, we have been working diligently to make sure these tests are distributed across our province in the most effective way possible.”
‘We have enlisted the help of organizations across Alberta to distribute these tests, which in turn makes it possible for Albertans to access these tests as soon as they need them,” MLA Hanson told Lakeland Connect. “But we know that’s not enough. On our own, Alberta has
secured an additional 14.3 million tests, on top of our federal supply, which we are also working on distributing to Albertans.”
MLA Hanson says the provincial government in Alberta is not the only ones experiencing this problem because of the federal government’s actions.
“Like the rest of the world, we are working under supply chain constraints, which has impacted everyone’s ability to access rapid testing,” MLA Hanson told Lakeland Connect. “We’re also constrained by the federal government’s inaction in approving new rapid test kits for
Canadians that are already available in the United States and across the European Union. In spite of that, we have already supplied businesses, schools, municipal services, and rural hospitals with over 7.6 million free rapid tests under our Employer and Service Provider Rapid Testing Program.”
MLA Hanson says, “Giving these organizations the ability to distribute test kits helps to free up our health care system, so our nurses and doctors can focus on caring for the most vulnerable.”
“Burdening our health care centres, and making patients wait days to access testing from their local pharmacy, is simply not feasible, and it’s not fair to Albertans,” MLA Hanson said. “This is why we are relying on help from our businesses and schools to get this testing out as well, giving people more options to access this vital service. We will continue to oversee this process to make sure that we make these tests available to everyone who needs them as soon as possible.”