Dennis L. Modry BSc, MD, MSc, FRCS, FACCP, FACS is the Clinical Associate Professor, Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Alberta. He is also the Founder and Director of the Heart, Lung and Heart-Lung Transplant Program and was the Director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (1984 – 2015).
Dear Premier Kenney:
Many Albertans – myself included – commended you on your previous commitment to a balanced approach to protecting Albertans from COVID-19, while at the same time not completely abrogating our freedoms and rights such as free speech, peaceful assembly, association, and our ability to earn a living and care for our families.
(Tuesday) you imposed new lockdown measures which severely limit and, in some cases, shut down entirely many social, family, friendship, spiritual, recreational and entertainment pursuits that Albertans rely on for their well-being, just as you did in the spring. While you have commendably spared small businesses from suffering the complete shut-down they experienced this past spring (and your apology for this mistake is laudable and honourable), it seems that you have not learned much from the lockdown harms which Albertans experienced earlier this year.
The evidence that you provided for this lockdown is both suspect and incomplete and does a disservice to Albertans who deserve more from you. A major tenet of the Hippocratic Oath that physicians like myself ascribe to is “First Do No Harm”, which is ignored by this imposed lockdown.
Is it too late to correct this lockdown error? No, not if you are willing to be better informed. We have learned a great deal since the onset of this pandemic, much of which is the result of how different regions and countries have attempted to control the spread of COVID-19 and treat those infected. Now we know who is at greatest risk and have proven effective therapies for those who are seriously ill, as reported by the National Institute of Health on Dec 3, 2020; and we are on the cusp of mass immunization consequent to multiple vaccines soon to be available worldwide. The public should be reassured, rather than locked down.
Within the last few weeks, new evidence informs a more nuanced approach to better protect Albertans without unintended and unacceptable consequences, such as defined in the excellent recommendations of the Great Barrington Declaration, further addressed below.
I acknowledge with reverence those Albertans who have passed on from COVID-19, just as I acknowledge many others like Jerry Dunham who have died because lockdowns prevented their access to healthcare for very serious non-COVID-19 illnesses and conditions. I acknowledge the many with despair who have died from suicide and drug overdose. We now know that lockdowns are more lethal than COVID-19, and must learn from what has transpired to ensure we do not continue to make the same mistakes. Were you not informed of these facts, or did you simply ignore them?
Please consider the following evidence and unintended consequences that should give you the courage to retract the restrictions:
- We are nowhere close to overwhelming our healthcare system. As of December 9, 2020 there were 654 COVID-19 patients in 8,500 beds, or 7.7 per cent of capacity. There were only 112 patients in 272 ICU beds, or 41.2 per cent of operational capacity, however, you have stated publicly that the ICU capacity can be increased to 1,081 beds. This implies that, at present, only 10.4 per cent of potential ICU beds are filled.
- Have you evaluated what percentage of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are actually in hospital because of COVID-19, as opposed to with COVID-19, wherein it is the underlying disease that is the actual reason for the admission? The public deserves to know.
- Have you evaluated the percentage of patients who died with, but not from COVID-19? This information is extremely important to share with the public who deserve a fair and balanced presentation of the facts to both prevent fear and panic, as well as garner buy-in of government policy.
- Are you aware that the PCR test for COVID-19 has a false positive rate of up to 50 per cent according to the CDC (USA Center for Disease Control), and up to 90 per cent by other sources?
- Are you aware of how many people have died or become seriously compromised because they could not access healthcare for non-COVID-19 disease, including treatments for heart disease, cancer, and other life-threatening problems? Lockdowns are more lethal than Covid-19, which cannot be over-emphasized. Do you not think that the public should know this?
- Are you aware of how many people have committed suicide due to government-imposed lockdowns and the shuttering of businesses, schools, colleges, and universities? Have you tried to find out?
- Do you believe that it is ethically and morally appropriate for government to pick winners and losers by defining what is an essential versus a non-essential business, or activity such as, but not limited to, social, recreational, fitness-related, or spiritual pursuits?
- Are you fully aware of the magnitude of the economic devastation Alberta has sustained, and that we are spiralling down rapidly to a have-not province, according to the Fraser Institute?
- Are you aware of how many divorces have occurred consequent to lockdowns and loss of income? What about the increase in domestic abuse, family violence and increase of substance abuse?
- Are you aware of the short- and long-term effects on the mental health of our most vulnerable, including our children?
- Have you been apprised of how much crime has increased due to people becoming desperate just to stay alive?
- Finally, in the interests of transparency, please provide the information highlighted above to all Albertans on a daily or weekly basis on the AHS website, various social and other media sources available, so that we the people of Alberta can work with you, rather than question the validity of imposed interventions that are no longer required.
Your consideration to rescind the lockdown should also be based on fact. I implore you to read the Great Barrington Declaration authored by professors in medicine from Oxford, Harvard, and Stanford, who are experts in epidemiology, immunology, biostatistics, vaccine development, mathematical modelling, and public health policy. The Declaration has been co-signed by 38,154 medical practitioners, as well as 12,717 medical and public health scientists world-wide. Please also review the section in the Declaration on Frequently Asked Questions. You will be better informed and better able to give proper consideration to a more humane, compassionate and effective approach, rather than inflicting a multitude of harms on 4.4 million people. Please consider the following targeted recommendations:
- All testing should stop immediately, particularly for those who are asymptomatic, except for;
-People presenting to hospital with respiratory problems
-Nursing home employees with ‘point-of-care’ testing
- Nursing homes should have a comprehensive campaign for;
-Staff education in infection control
–Vitamin D daily for all inhabitants
-Electronic audiovisual communications for loved ones wishing to stay in touch
- There is also gathering evidence on the use of Ivermectin to prevent COVID-19, as evidenced in this Senate Testimony on December 8, 2020. The evidence for effective prophylaxis with Ivermectin is compelling
- Everywhere – hospitals included – should open immediately with conventional pre-Covid-19 precautions.
- Mandatory mask-wearing should cease (except for health professionals) as there is no credible scientific basis, as evidenced in the November 18, 2020 Danish randomized controlled trial reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Further, no country has reported a change in the trajectory of COVID-19 diagnosis consequent to widespread public testing of asymptomatic citizens before and after the institution of a countrywide mask mandate.
- Interventions such as total lockdowns, social distancing, and compulsory mask use are causing more harm than good. The genie (virus) is out of the bottle and the spread cannot realistically be controlled at all by the current interventions.
- Contact tracing and snitching should cease immediately.
- AHS must come clean with Albertans and provide robust information on the unintended consequences of lockdown measures which were initially well-intentioned but have now proven to be harmful to Albertans’ mental, physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and economic well-being; as well as lethal from suicide, drug overdose and inability to access healthcare for serious non-COVID illness and conditions.
- Finally, as healthcare is in your purview, please ensure that decisions come from your government/AHS, and not from municipalities who do not have access to the necessary resources and expertise to justify restrictions of any kind.
In conclusion, we have learned much over the past several months. Perhaps most important is the knowledge that lockdowns are more lethal than COVID-19, which should compel you and your government to end them. Your advice and policies for the benefit of Albertans should be predicated on one important tenet of the Hippocratic Oath, “First Do No Harm”, and a focussed approach will achieve just that, as explained in the Great Barrington Declaration.
As for each of us Albertans, we must simply adapt and learn to accommodate to COVID-19, as we all did every previous year with seasonal influenza. We must all take personal responsibility for our health and take actions that are in each of our best interest, including vaccination if one is so inclined, which may well be of benefit if one is COVID-19 negative. Healthcare, like all freedoms, must and should always remain an informed choice, not a government directive.
Dennis L. Modry, BSc, MD, MSc, FRCS, FACCP, FACS
Clinical Associate Professor, Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Alberta
Founder and Director of the Heart, Lung and Heart-Lung Transplant Program
Director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (1984 – 2015)
MORGAN: Alberta needs less talk, and more action from Kenney
“Premier Kenney needs to pick a lane and to stick to it with authority.”
Support for the United Conservative Party under Premier Kenney’s leadership has collapsed. Exclusive polling for the Western Standard has the UCP languishing at an abysmal 26 percent support while the NDP is at 41 percent while the new and still leaderless Wildrose Independence Party has climbed to 9 percent province-wide. This trend is nothing less than catastrophic for the UCP and they will need to make some major changes if they hope to be re-elected in 2023.
With nearly two years in power now, it is tough to point to any concrete changes or policies from the Kenney government. While Jason Kenney talked a great game at campaign time, we have seen little follow-through. Where is the promised democratic reform through citizen’s initiated referenda and recall legislation? Where is the fiscal conservatism and moves to get the budget under control? When will the government act on even one of the Fair Deal panel recommendations?
While Premier Jason Kenney continues to try to be everything to everybody, he is losing support on all fronts. The NDP-left will never learn to love the UCP, yet Kenney remains reticent to take on the government unions which are opposing all efforts at fiscal reform or efficiencies. Kenney has talked tough with unions, but won’t act. It’s time to take a stand and start cutting spending, not just haircuts. We are running out of money and taxpayers are running out of patience. It won’t become any easier for waiting.
On the democratic reform front, Kenney needs to implement the promised referenda and recall legislation. It has been nearly two years and this doesn’t need to be studied any longer. We know what we need and we know what we voted for. Give it to us already.
On the Western alienation front, Kenney has been at his most disappointing. This again has been clearly indicated in the recent polling commissioned by the Western Standard. Support for independence is exploding to new records in Alberta. While the UCP was not elected with a mandate to pursue independence, they were elected as a party expected to stand up to Ottawa. It is time that they did it.
Ottawa has more control over Alberta today than when Jason Kenney came to office. Tough talk is clearly not working.
No more panels. No more “expert” studies. No more kicking the can down the road. Albertans want some leadership and they want somebody to protect Alberta’s interests from an increasingly hostile federal government.
We have made it clear that we want a provincial pension plan. I doubt that I will see it implemented before I am old enough to collect it, and I am only 49 years old.
Why more study on whether or not we want a provincial police force? We know we want it. Now start working on what it will take to create it. What did we get? The province commissioned yet another study.
Where is the Alberta Chief Firearms Officer we were told we would get? How hard is it to appoint somebody? Instead, we got an Alberta Firearms Advisory Committee. More talk.
We are getting a referendum on equalization at least, but Kenney has made clear that there will be no ‘or else’ consequences if Ottawa and the other provinces fail to make reforms.
We are living in tough times. Citizens want to see leadership and that means seeing leaders making tough, definitive decisions. Wishy washy approaches to issues aren’t acceptable.
Premier Kenney needs to pick a lane and to stick to it with authority. If you oppose lockdowns, don’t impose them. If you support lockdowns, do it unapologetically and do it in full. Trying to appease both sides only alienates both sides.
Talk is cheap and we are tired of hearing it. If the current government can’t discover how and where they want to actually act on things, they will be replaced in the next election, and I fear for what that replacement may be.
Cory Morgan is the Podcast Editor and a columnist for the Western Standard
OUELLETTE & SHAW: Freedom of expression is under attack in Canada
“While Canada is a relatively free country, the pandemic has exacerbated our pre-existing shortcomings in terms of freedom of expression.”
Our freedom of expression is under attack. In recent years, there’s been a significant trend toward censorship in the media, in academia, and among the general population. The controversy at the University of Ottawa over the use of the N-word is one example among others. Why do we need to worry about this trend? For one thing, an attack on our freedom of expression is also an attack on our standard of living.
The virtues of freedom of expression are widely recognized: It improves the quality of our democratic institutions, facilitates the exchange of ideas, and leads to sounder, more transparent public policies.
But aside from these benefits, there is also a strong link between freedom of expression and economic growth. This is confirmed by the economic literature and by many academic papers from different researchers at Stanford University, Dartmouth College, and the University of California, Berkeley, who all arrive at the same conclusion: The exchange of ideas stimulates innovation, and innovation is one of the main engines of economic growth and rising living standards.
Encouraging the exchange of ideas and the protection of freedom of expression is therefore intuitively beneficial, and this is confirmed by the scientific literature. But concretely, what would the average Canadian stand to gain if our governments put in place public policies encouraging greater freedom of expression?
According to our calculations and our econometric model, individual Canadians would be an average of $2,522 richer each year. Obviously, this amount wouldn’t be deposited directly into one’s bank account, but rather, a gradual increase in our living standards would result from the effects of more freedom of expression.
In the sample of 132 countries used in our study, Canada is among the top 15 per cent in terms of freedom of expression. But while it is true that we live in a relatively free society, taking this good ranking for granted would be a mistake.
Indeed, governments have a lot of room to grow when it comes to improving freedom of expression, especially if we compare ourselves to Norway, the top country in the ranking. There, it is standard practice for politicians to make constant efforts, encouraged by citizens, to better protect freedom of expression.
In contrast, in Canada, and especially in certain provinces like Quebec, the government can arbitrarily decide to subsidize one media outlet rather than another, which can potentially hinder media independence and lead to biased and less reliable information. Not to mention that it is increasingly difficult to obtain information from our governments through requests for access to information, which hampers proper public debate. This situation should alarm us.
In order to improve the country’s performance in terms of freedom of expression, thereby also improving our standard of living, we have three recommendations:
- Favour media independence from government by limiting arbitrary subsidies and, in their place, creating a regulatory and fiscal framework favourable to all media;
- Encourage Canadian public universities to protect freedom of expression in order to truly allow their researchers, professors, and students to express themselves freely without risk of reprisals;
- Increase the information and data available to the population by reducing the need to make requests for access to information, in order to facilitate public debate.
While Canada is a relatively free country, the pandemic has exacerbated our pre-existing shortcomings in terms of freedom of expression. We must not allow the current situation to become the new normal. For the sake of our standard of living and the wealth of our country, we must do more to promote and protect the freedom of expression of all Canadians.
GUEST COLUMN: By Miguel Ouellette, Director of Operations and Economist, and Maria Lily Shaw, Economist, Montreal Economic Institute
FILDEBRANDT: Kenney culls Rehn from the herd, but none of it adds up
“If Rehn was the sacrificial lamb, it raises even bigger question about why his head was on the block, and not the other six.”
The Great Snowbird Scandal has finally claimed its first real political victim. On Thursday morning, Jason Kenney fired Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn from the UCP Caucus. But none of it adds up.
Rehn – for all his political sin of travelling to Mexico during his own government’s lockdown – was just one of seven snowbird MLAs.
Former Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard was forced to resign from cabinet –a demotion to be sure – but she still remains comfortably in the UCP benches. Jeremy Nixon, Jason Stephan, Tanya Fir, and Tany Yao all still enjoy full membership in the UCP Caucus.
Why is Pat Rehn the only one to be exiled to northwest corner of the legislature – otherwise known as ‘Siberia’?
Publicly at least, Kenney’s statement on the unilateral firing did not mention the Snowbird Scandal at all.
“The most important job of an MLA is to represent his or her constituents,” Kenney wrote in his statement. “It has become clear that Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn has failed to do so. He has made no meaningful effort to work in his constituency, or properly to represent his hard-working constituents.”
“I have repeatedly asked Mr. Rehn to be more present in his constituency. He has ignored calls from me, UCP Caucus leadership, and his constituents to do so.”
So the Snowbird Scandal had nothing to do with it, on paper at least. He was fired because he was an absentee MLA not working very hard, according to Kenney. It’s a curious reasoning that requires some scratching below the surface.
The Slave Lake Town Council issued a scathing letter on January 5 with a laundry list of sins committed by Rehn, including their claim that he doesn’t live in Slave Lake. In fact, they allege that he mostly lives in Texas, something Rehn denies.
While Texas would be a bit far aboard, I have a spoiler for readers: many, many MLAs and MPs do not reside full-time in their constituencies.
Even Jason Kenney himself does not live in his Calgary-Lougheed constituency. In fact, there is pretty strong evidence that he didn’t quite live in Alberta for much of the time that he was a Calgary MP.
It doesn’t really matter, so long as an MP or MLA works hard for their constituents, and earns their support come election day. At the end of the day, constituency boundaries are largely arbitrary lines on a map, drawn up by political appointees.
But for Pat Rehn alone, it appears to have mattered to Kenney.
Kenney official reason given – that he wasn’t working hard or around the constituency – holds no water.
Most backbench MLAs – especially those on the government side of the house – have remarkably little of importance to do. They read cue cards with pre-scripted puffball questions and pablum speeches written by staffers when the legislature is in session. When the legislation is not in session, their biggest job is to show up and be seen kissing babies at their local legion.
Most complaints about Rehn from his constituency is that he wasn’t kissing enough babies. Is that alone really cause to fire an MLA from the caucus?
For those not born yesterday, something clearly doesn’t add up.
So why was Pat Rehn really fired by Kenney?
Western Standard reporters have obtained some interesting documents that appear to cast a new shadow over Rehn. Our reporters will do their due diligence with these documents before we discuss them publicly, but if they are what they appear to be, then this is the real reason that Kenney sacked Rehn.
We can only hope that Kenney did his due diligence with these documents first.
But even if these documents prove the worst possible scenario, Rehn deserves a chance to explain himself fairly.
If the UCP had kept its promise to pass recall legislation, then his constituents could judge for themselves. But, they could also decide to pass judgement on the other six snowbirds.
Was Rehn just a sacrificial lamb for the other six Snowbird MLAs? A Mainstreet Research poll conducted for the Western Standard found 68 per cent of Albertans want Kenney to fire all seven (known) Snowbirds. Alarmingly, 41 per cent even wanted Kenney himself to resign over the matter, including 21 per cent of those who voted UCP last time.
If Rehn was the sacrificial lamb for this scandal, it raises even bigger questions about why his head was on the block, and not the other six.
Perhaps Rehn was a rogue and this was a convenient opportunity to cull him from the herd.
One way or another, we don’t know the whole story. I’d be surprised if we know half of it yet.
Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher of the Western Standard
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