Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Glen Argan: ‘Best summer ever’ falling well short

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  • August 13, 2021

My most recent conversation with an avid COVID-denier came during one of my frequent walks in Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley. According to my interlocutor, the COVID pandemic is a hoax and a mysterious “they” are hiding data which would show that tens of thousands of people have died from anti-COVID vaccines.

I asked who “they” are and why they would perpetrate such a hoax and hide information so obviously of public concern. “There are lots of theories,” he said. But he was most enamoured with one that says that George Soros and Bill Gates are trying to grab power and impose their ideas on the world. I wondered about that since Soros is 91 years old and one would think that by that age he might have his mind on matters other than gaining world power.

“It doesn’t matter,” my interlocutor said. Soros and Gates supposedly want the world’s population reduced to about 500 million people which they believe is the optimal population for everyone on Earth to have a decent standard of living. Their way of accomplishing this is to kill people off by getting them to take vaccines and to suppress their individuality by forcing them to wear masks.

However, according to Wikipedia, by 2017 Soros had donated $12 billion (US) to various social causes to reduce poverty, improve higher education and increase government transparency. It is also relevant that Soros is of Jewish descent and that in the run-up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election he donated more than $23 million to groups trying to defeat American President George W. Bush. Republicans do not like Soros, nor do those who believe there is a Jewish conspiracy to control the world.

Lots of people have beliefs like that of the man I met in the valley. I believe that I am not out of line in saying that in Alberta most of them supported the United Conservative Party the last election. I am also suspicious that the Alberta government’s abominable lifting of all public health restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 owes at least a little bit to the desire to keep these people voting Conservative. If I am wrong, I am sure Premier Jason Kenney will set me straight.

The first thing to say about this is that abandoning restrictions which would save lives is anathema to traditional conservatism. Conservatism, I have always hoped, aimed to preserve the social equilibrium by upholding moral norms such as public health and the value of human life. A modern conservatism takes a different view — it tears down restrictions on private and corporate business maximizing their profits. These two forms of conservatism are opposites even if some adherents deny that.

The second thing is that the Kenney government has given up the fight against COVID-19 even though that decision may have catastrophic effects on Alberta’s population. Physicians across the province are saying just that, based on advice provided by the World Health Organization, Centre for Disease Control, Canadian Pediatric Society and Health Canada.

Kenney has proclaimed the summer of 2021 “the best summer ever” for Albertans. Instead, most Albertans are living in what feels like a dystopian novel. We are experiencing extreme heat and drought, and inhaling smoke from forest fires in British Columbia which are widely seen as a result of global warming. As well, cases of the COVID delta variant are increasing rapidly.

Alberta has the lowest vaccination rate against COVID in Canada, leaving both the vaccinated and unvaccinated susceptible to the fourth wave of the pandemic. At least some who refuse the vaccine do so for religious reasons, although I know of no religion which elevates personal autonomy above social responsibility.

Protests against the government’s own failure to protect the common good have been muted. Most of us have pandemic fatigue. Many have simply given up fighting a government which is implacable in its lack of competence, common sense and compassion. Alberta has a storied and colourful political history, but it has never seen anything like this.

(Argan writes from Edmonton.)

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