CALGARY — Alberta UCP caucus chair Nathan Neudorf (Lethbridge-East) spent Monday morning clarifying remarks he made in a televised interview on Friday.
Appearing on Lethbridge-based Bridge City News, Neudorf explained that the province was basing its actions on the pattern the Delta variant took in the United Kingdom, where the fourth wave struck before it got to Alberta.
“In the UK, we also saw a rapid rise of case numbers,” Neudorf said. “But then of equally rapid decline as it finished going through the unvaccinated population, it didn’t have anywhere to go.”
“I’m very hopeful that we will see the same kind of trend (in Alberta),” he said. “Maybe a bit of an accelerated case (count), but then a very quick decline as well, allowing us to safely keep businesses open, so we don’t have to add further restrictions.”
Monday Neudorf said he does not mean that he hopes that there will be a spike in cases, saying Alberta is currently experiencing the fourth wave and he hopes the spikes end quickly, again pointing to the UK as his example.
“I’m very hopeful that we will see the same kind of trend, maybe a bit of an accelerated case rate, but then a very quick decline as well, allowing us to safely keep businesses open,” said Neudorf.“We have seen COVID cases rise in Alberta over the past several weeks. My hope is that they would level off and drop as quickly as possible.”
He went on to say while case rates are rising most quickly among unvaccinated Albertans there is no need for additional measures to protect school children.
“Trying to predict exactly what COVID numbers will do in different segments of the population, like children going back to school has been unsuccessful. So I think we must just watch very, very closely to see what actually happens rather than trying to guess what may happen.”
Children under the age of 12 comprise the largest single cohort of unvaccinated Albertans. Most will be returning to school this week.
CALLS FOR RESIGNATION
Speaking at Calgary’s McDougall Centre, Lethbridge-East MLA Shannon Phillips called Neudorf’s comments reprehensible.
“I was appalled by those comments. At no point should a parent expect ‘we’ll see what happens’ as a response to the spread of a pandemic. It was just appalling,” said Phillips. “And the fact that he has not walked those comments back shows me he is not fit to occupy the UCP caucus chair.”
Calgary Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci was more direct in admonishing Neudorf.
“We have written to Mr. Neudorf and called for him to resign his position as chair of the UCP caucus,” said Ceci. “He must apologize to all Albertans and make it clear that his callous disregard for the well-being of Albertans, especially kids, especially the immunocompromised, is not the official position of the United Conservative Party caucus.”
The Alberta Teachers’ Association said Neudorf’s comments reflected what it sees as a government plan to offload the responsibility for protecting elementary school children to individual school boards, schools, and teachers.
“I hope that the government’s plan is not to just ‘let it rip, and we’ll see what happens’. I mean, there has to be more in terms of guidance for public health in our province than that,” said ATA President Jason Schilling.
“It’s once again a further indication of this provincial government abdicating their leadership and responsibility to the citizens of this province and putting it onto school boards to try to have to deal with mitigating and navigating through COVID right now.”
LACK OF LEADERSHIP
University of Calgary Political Scientist Lisa Young said despite his role as UCP caucus chair, Neudorf’s opinions may not reflect the government’s position on COVID-19 in Alberta, but in the absence of any political leaders like the health minister, or premier making public appearances, Nixdorf’s comments do carry more weight.
“The government has been quite tight-lipped about exactly what its plan is here. And so what we saw from Mr. Neudorf appear to be sort of the first clear statement of what the government’s plan for the fall really was. Now, you know, we don’t know for sure that that’s the case. But I think certainly many took it that way,” said Young.
“Part of the significance of this statement is that it’s certainly consistent with what we’re seeing in terms of the public health measures, and that there hasn’t been any, you know, any effort to publicly distance the government from those statements, which you would typically see if an MLA had in fact, ‘gone rogue’.”
Tyler Shandro has not spoken in public since the end of July. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has not appeared in public since Aug. 9.
Shandro’s office told CTV the minister has been back at work for over a week, despite his lack of public appearances.
Kenney’s office said the premier is expected to return to work later this week.
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