Canada’s least popular premier is having a rough time giving away $3 million as an incentive for vaccine-hesitant Albertans to get their COVID-19 shot.
Alberta, the second province after Manitoba to launch a vaccine lottery, is home to some of the highest anti-vaccine sentiments in the country.
Kenney filmed a teaser video Saturday for the “Open for Summer Lottery” outside an Edmonton immunization clinic, where he lamented that people were not showing up to get the shot.
The contest officially launched Monday, offering three chances for Albertans to win $1 million in a move that even members of the opposition NDP tepidly applauded before it devolved into chaos and confusion.
People on social media were perplexed by seemingly contradictory information on the government website about proof of vaccine requirements.
Brock Harrison, Kenney’s executive director of communications and planning, responded by posting that Albertans who didn’t understand the rules have a “reading comprehension issue.”
Asked at a Monday press conference whether people can win the lottery and get proof of vaccination later, Kenney said, “I think we’re going to allow that.” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he was unsure.
Kenney later posted on Twitter that entrants will have to get vaccinated a week before the draw at each stage of the lottery, and that proof of that vaccine is not required to enter the lottery but is required to collect the prize.
Spokesperson Jerrica Goodwin confirmed to Vice World News Tuesday the winner’s immunization record is only required to claim the prize. Goodwin said the winner must prove they got a first dose within seven days of the chief medical officer of health determining that 70 percent of Albertans have received their first dose.
“If the draw winner cannot provide proof they were vaccinated within a week of the surpassing the 70 percent milestone, another name will be drawn,” she said in an email.
Goodwin said 325,180 Albertans had entered the draw as of 5 p.m. Monday.
Kenney’s approval rating sits at 31 per cent in Alberta, the lowest in the country according to an Angus Reid poll released last week. His approval rating has continued to slip as he’s faced heavy criticism from health experts for the province’s vaccine rollout.
Even his own party members have hammered him publicly following a recent string of pandemic-related PR disasters.
Fifteen of his United Conservative Party Members of the Legislative Assembly signed a letter in April saying they formally opposed the province’s COVID-19 restrictions, prompting Kenney to kick two of his most outspoken critics, Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen, out of the party.
The premier chastised organizers of a small rural rodeo in May where attendees gathered outdoors to protest COVID-19 restrictions—at a time when Alberta had the highest infection rate of any province or state in North America—but weeks later he announced the massive Calgary Stampede would be approve to go ahead in July complete with midway, rides, and concerts. Rodeo performers and staff were granted a federal travel exemption last week.
Kenney was spotted earlier this month having dinner and drinks with Shandro the health minister and other high-ranking party members on the roof of his penthouse office that Albertans often refer to as the “Sky Palace,” ignoring the government’s own social distancing rules. The premier was called out for his “hypocrisy” and pushed to apologize by two cabinet ministers and at least two other members of his own party.
Kenney initially denied breaking the rules despite the clear photographic evidence, but admitted a week later that he did and apologized.
But on Monday, UCP MLA Tony Yao criticized the federal government for delays in the vaccine rollout and blamed the media for making Alberta look bad, in a statement he read in the legislature.
“News media should focus more on facts and figures by reporting on real events instead of pushing opinion by editors and supposed journalists in their left-wing propaganda that they try and peddle as the news,” Yao said.
As of Monday, 69 per cent of Albertans over age 12 had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 21 per cent were fully vaccinated.
Follow Kevin Maimann on Twitter.