As historic week closes, Premier Jason Kenney updates anxious Albertans

At the close of a week unlike any in history, Premier Jason Kenney will hold a news conference Friday to update Albertans about his plan to guide the province through the greatest period of uncertainty since the Great Depression.

For many, including the premier himself, it may be difficult to grasp all that has changed in just the past five days.

On Monday, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the province reached 74, with schools, daycares and universities already closed, the government announced plans to expedite the passing of its $57-billion budget.

On Tuesday, as the case total reached 97, the government passed the budget and Kenney declared a state of public health emergency. Alberta’s Provincial Operations Centre was elevated from a Level 3 to a Level 4, the highest level. Bars, nightclubs and casinos were ordered to close immediately.

On Wednesday, Kenney announced that Albertans who were in self-isolation and weren’t collecting pay or other benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic could apply for one-time cash payments of $573 from the government.

“We must begin to prepare ourselves for a time of adversity unlike any we have seen since the 1930s in this province,” Kenney said that day in an address to the legislature.

On Thursday as the COVID-19 case total reached 146, and Alberta recorded its first death from the illness, Kenney made an impassioned speech in the legislature that referenced the Battle of Britain, urging Albertans to “keep calm and carry on” the way Londoners had during the bombings of 1940. 

“It is hard for us, right now, to grasp the potential depth of [the coming] recession,” Kenney said. “I think it is our collective responsibility as leaders to offer a sense of solidarity, confidence and hope. But it must be predicated on realism.”

That realism, Kenney said, on a day when Western Canada Select oil was trading at under $10, was that Alberta will likely be harder hit than most other jurisdictions.

“We have never experienced anything like this in the history of our energy industry,” he said. “We are facing a period of profound adversity.”

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