Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is in hot water this week after one of his ministers shared an image of the provincial leader and several ministers at an indoor meeting without masks.
The image was shared Wednesday by Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, and showed the premier, Madu, Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard and chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw seated together indoors participating in a town hall.
While Hinshaw is masked, Kenney, Madu and Allard are not wearing masks in the photo.
Alberta currently mandates mask-wearing in all indoor spaces, including workplaces. The order came into effect Dec. 8.
The image quickly prompted backlash on social media.
Many users specifically called out the recent “COVID loves” ad campaign launched by the government in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro was asked about the image during a briefing on rapid testing Thursday morning. He says he was unaware of the specific circumstances of the meeting, but noted that politicians will often take off their mask at a lectern or podium to speak.
Shandro has previously praised Alberta’s approach to masking, calling it one of the most “pro-mask” jurisdictions in Canada even before the mandate was in place.
“We were one of the first jurisdictions to recognize how effective masks can be as a tool in responding to the pandemic,” he said in late November. “We continue to encourage Albertans to use masks in any situation where they cannot physically distance.”
When asked about the image during Thursday’s daily COVID-19 briefing, Hinshaw said the mask mandate was designed so that people can temporarily remove their masks in a safely distanced personal work station.
However, she noted that she personally tries to keep her mask on at all times when possible.
“I do typically when I’m in a meeting space keep my mask on at all times,” she said. ”It’s important that all of us are considering our actions.”
In an email to HuffPost, a representative from Kenney’s office said the ministers were actively speaking with community members, and that’s why the masks were off.
“The Premier and ministers were actively speaking during a virtual townhall with community groups,” she said. “Masks were removed while speaking, just as is done during a press conference.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated with Hinshaw’s remarks from Thursday and comment from Kenney’s office.