“Effective September 15, 2021, the Government of Alberta has declared a State of Public Health Emergency. … We have identified two areas where the federal government could assist with our response.”

With these words, in a letter to federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver formally requested assistance in dealing with the province’s COVID crisis. He was also, you might say, declaring an end to what the premier had once predicted would be “the best summer ever.”

I have hesitated in criticizing our politicians and public health authorities for the mistakes made in dealing with the pandemic because we have never dealt with anything quite like it in a hundred years. Alberta’s government now deserves to be an exception.

When the government removed almost all of the COVID restrictions in July, a few health authorities felt it was worth the risk. But many strenuously objected, enough certainly to indicate that we should proceed with caution. We did not. All too quickly, it was back to “normal.”

Nor did we act when the numbers began to surge. Not until it was overwhelmingly obvious we were into another spike did the premier act and even then reluctantly, refusing to require vaccine passports (a “restrictions exemption program”) until well after other provinces had done so despite our far worse case rate.

According to a letter from the largest health care unions begging the premier to ask the federal government to immediately deploy the military, the Red Cross and all other available medical resources, “There are no more nurses in our province who can be deployed. There are no more paramedics. There are no more respiratory therapists. There are no more support staff. … The well is dry.”

So here we are. The health care system is coming down around our ears. Front-line workers are preparing triage protocols. The minister of health has been fired. We are begging the feds for help—and sensibly we must.

The fact that the UCP must go cap in hand to Ottawa, to a Trudeau government no less, indicates how desperate the situation is. Some pundits have suggested they were delaying until after the election, hoping against hope they could approach a Conservative government rather than a Liberal one. I would never be that cynical.

I’m just glad they are finally acting appropriate to the seriousness of the crisis. And I’m glad Ottawa is there to help.

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