I was scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday, when I came across this gem.  Amir Attaran is a Professor of Law and Medicine at the University of Ottawa, a keyboard warrior, and frequent commentator on Canadian politics:

This was only the first of a seven-tweet long storm that just got more and more bizarre:

Attaran is willing to hold the people of Alberta hostage for the glaring and blatant idiocy of the provincial government of Premier Jason Kenney.

This is what politics is coming to.  I’ve never been a fan of the ‘When they go low, we go high’ version of politics, as it tends to lead to a string of Ls, dating back to John Kerry’s doomed 2004 presidential campaign and the Swift Boat controversy.  There is very much a role for the Michael Moores of the world, those willing to fight back against specious lies and attacks.  Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada wrestled power away from the Conservatives in 2015 in part because they fought back, though largely in a more genteel fashion.  And Joe Biden just won the presidential election because he and his surrogates weren’t willing to let President Trump get away with his baseless attacks.  At least in part.

Yes, Jason Kenney is an idiot.  And yes, Kenney’s United Conservative Party romped to victory in last year’s provincial election, holding 63 of the 87 seats in the Alberta legislature in Edmonton.  They also won 54.9% of the popular vote, which means SFA in Canadian politics, but it shows just how serious a beatdown this election was of the governing New Democratic Party, who were reduced from 52 to 24 seats.

And yes, Kenney’s handling of the Covid pandemic lies somewhere between incompetence and criminal incompetence.  And yes, Kenney takes great pleasure in popping off about Canada and bitching and moaning about how his province pays the. most into the Equalization Program, by which the federal government re-distributes money between the provinces so that the so-called ‘haves’ support the so-called ‘have nots.’  And, yes, Alberta is one of only three ‘haves,’ along with British Columbia and Ontario.

But this still is not how Canada works.  Canada has all kinds of problems, including existential ones posed by separatists in Québec, as well as noises made by people in Alberta (including Kenney) threatening Albertan separation.  But that doesn’t change how the country works.  To put it bluntly, not a single Canadian province, not even Ontario, would survive on its own without greatly reducing the quality of life and standard of living that Canada offers.  And we all know that. Hence, Québec has held two referenda and both times Quebecers voted to stay in Canada and hence Alberta’s so-called ‘Wexit’ really doesn’t amount to much more than a bunch of whiny snowflakes.

And even at that, the people of Alberta are our fellow Canadians.  Playing politics the way Attaran demands is to play a zero sum game with the stakes being people’s lives.  This is not a Canada I am interested in and it should not be a Canada any of us are interested in.

Health care is indeed a provincial matter, but it is also governed by federal legislation.  And, as Attaran notes, Ottawa has the power to impose standards, and indeed, provincial delivery of healthcare is held to standards set by the federal government.  But Canada has not done so in terms of Covid.  If the Alberta government believes it is entirely a provincial matter, the Canada Health Care Act of 1984 will disabuse it of that notion.

This kind of reductionist politics only leads to more division, more unwinding of our social contract, and the ties that bind us together.  It’s one thing for Michael Moore, in Fahrenheit 9/11, to challenge Republican lawmakers rattling their sabres for the US to go to war in the Middle East to send their sons and daughters to war, it’s another for a Liberal Party of Canada partisan to suggest holding sick Albertans hostage to make a point during a global pandemic.