EDMONTON — Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta has more than enough protective masks, gloves and ventilators for its own COVID-19 needs, so it’s sharing some of its surplus with provinces in more dire need.
Kenney made the announcement Saturday from an Alberta Health Services warehouse in Edmonton, noting that it and eight other warehouses are full of supplies.
He said Ontario will receive protective masks, gloves and ventilators, Quebec will receive masks and gloves, and British Columbia will get masks.
“I for one as an Albertan and as a Canadian could not in conscience watch us stockpile massive amounts of surplus equipment while we see many of our fellow Canadians in some provinces within days of running out of some of these supplies,” Kenney told a media teleconference.
Kenney said he began receiving urgent messages about a week ago from other premiers whose health systems are short on equipment. He said he waited to make sure some of Alberta’s own shipments had arrived before making the decision to share.
Jitindra Prasad, who is director of procurement at Alberta Health Services, told the news conference that Albertans’ needs will still be met.
“I think it’s really a great honour that we are able to do this and I think it does demonstrate that Albertans will always stand with fellow Canadians coast to coast,” Prasad said.
Alberta will send 250,000 N95 respirator masks and 2.5 million procedural masks to Ontario, along with 15 million gloves, 87,000 goggles and 50 ventilators.
Quebec will also get 250,000 N95 masks, two million procedural masks and 15 million gloves.
B.C. will receive 250,000 N95 masks.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault retweeted video of Kenney’s sharing announcement shortly afterward with a simple message: “Thanks for your help Jason.”
The Alberta premier said the number of hospitalizations in the province are below numbers that had been predicted in models for this point, and he says that’s due to Albertans following public health guidelines.
He also credited Alberta’s early pandemic and planning for the surplus in supplies, as well as its buying power that he says comes from the provincial health system’s central administration.
Alberta’s recent relationships with both B.C. and Quebec have been fraught after both of their governments stymied pipeline expansions to ship Alberta crude through their provinces.
But Kenney said he’s been moved during his weekly conference calls with other premiers, where he said they’ve expressed “real solidarity” for the economic hardships Alberta is facing, not just from COVID-19 but also the recent collapse in oil prices.
He said the province was looking beyond the disagreements in order to save lives, but said he hoped other provinces wouldn’t forget the gesture later.
“We Albertans contribute $20 billion more to the rest of Canada than we get back in benefits every year. That helps to fund their hospital systems, their heathcare systems, their schools and social services,” Kenney said.
“So I hope that one of the lessons to be learned from this crisis is that we are all in this together.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2020.
Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press