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Hinshaw will not 'judge' UCP for having Christmas party despite recommendations


Dr. Deena Hinshaw said she would not "sit in judgement" after the United Conservative Party held a Christmas gathering just hours after she and other officials asked Albertans not to.

The province's chief medical officer of health was repeatedly asked Thursday by journalists if she was disappointed and frustrated by the revelation.

"My job is to provide recommendations, to provide the public specific details on what we know about variants," she said.

"If I were to sit in judgement of everyone who perhaps caused increased risk, I would not have enough hours in the day."

Hinshaw pointed out that many gatherings are still allowed, but again told Albertans that "it's very important right now to make choices that minimize the spread."

As she has throughout the pandemic, Hinshaw also refused to say what restrictions she recommended to the government, as COVID-19 case numbers continued to rise with the arrival of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Jason Copping were not at Thursday's media briefing.

"We are appealing to Albertans to reduce their number of daily in-person contacts by half over the coming weeks. We also need Albertans to make personal choices in their daily lives that will slow transmission," Kenney said at approximately 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

"We strongly encourage workplaces to cancel any social gatherings," Copping added.

At 6:30 p.m., the doors opened to the UCP's capital region reception at Parlour Italian Kitchen and Bar just a few blocks from the Alberta legislature.


"To have the health minister yesterday tell all Albertans, and all Alberta workplaces, 'we think you should be cancelling your holiday parties,' and the UCP to still hold those shows that Jason Kenney lacks all leadership," NDP MLA Christina Gray said.

A UCP spokesperson defended the decision to go ahead with the party. Dave Prisco said the gathering didn't break any rules, but a similar party in Calgary the night after was cancelled "in accordance with the premier's advice."

Kenney apologized in January for an international travel scandal involving several MLAs and staff members. He also apologized in June for not following COVID-19 rules during a rooftop dinner.

"Albertans are frustrated. The hypocrisy we continue to see from this government undermines our public health response and exhausts Albertans,” said Gray.

Justice Minister Kayce Madu confirmed he went to the party, but said he didn't know how many people were there.

"Absolutely, I was there. The timeframe was too close for that event to be cancelled," he claimed, adding that the business had already spent money and the party made a commitment to be there.

Madu said "as far as I know" the event complied with provincial rules.

"Whilst I understand the concerns that some people have, what is expected of everyone is to understand what the rules are, comply with the rules. We will always have debate about the optics of particular course of action by some group, including myself," he said.

A source confirmed to CTV News Edmonton that Associate Minister Dale Nally was also at the party, but his spokesperson did not respond to questions about that on Thursday.

Party officials also would not say how many people attended, but the premier's spokesperson confirmed that neither Kenney nor Copping were there.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said her team will not have a Christmas party.

"When we saw case counts rising, and other provinces impose restrictions, we cancelled this month's holiday staff party to reduce in-person contacts. It was the responsible thing to do," Notley tweeted on Wednesday.

Bars and restaurants were allowed to be open on Wednesday, with masking, vaccine and distancing rules in place.

Alberta reported 1,625 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday after completing around 11,800 tests.

"I will just say that all of us, everyone across this province, we have an opportunity right now…the choices that we make will have significant consequences not just for us, but for those around us," Hinshaw said.

A complete list of the province's health measures is available online. Top Stories

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