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Calgary layoffs hit temporary, part time staff in coronavirus response

With ongoing coronavirus-related closures at City of Calgary facilities, hundreds will be temporarily laid off as the city continues to make COVID-19 adjustments.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi made the announcement at a news briefing Monday, stressing they weren’t permanent reductions.

“We continue to follow the guidance of Alberta Health Services to limit the spread of this virus so that we can protect our employees and the citizens that we serve,” said Nenshi.

“Doing so has required significant changes to some of the programs and services that we offer. So today, we have made the incredibly difficult decision to make some temporary workforce adjustments.”

Majority of layoffs in recreation, Mayor said

This decision affects temporary and part-time City of Calgary employees.

Mayor Nenshi said that these would be employees in city business units that are no longer providing services.

“The majority of them are with recreation given the fact is the facilities that are closed now – the various gyms and rec facilities,” said Nenshi.

“There are some related staff and other business units that are similarly providing services that are now close, there’s not very many of them.”

The city was reluctant to provide an exact number at the briefing, saying instead that the situation was “fluid.”

Nenshi said that Edmonton, who announced the layoffs of more than 1,600 people Monday, had a similar percentage of temporary and part time workers. He said that roughly 1,200 employees fell into this category, but that not all would get a layoff notice.  

Education over enforcement for coronavirus public health rules

Rumours have been circulating around social media of people getting dinged $1,000 for not adhering to the provincial and municipal rules regarding physical distancing, mass gatherings and even playground use.

CEMA Chief Tom Sampson said he’d been in contact with both the city bylaw services and the Calgary Police Service (CPS) and he said that no charges of that nature have occurred.

“I can’t say 100 per cent, but to my knowledge, we’re all in agreement that we’re working on education, not enforcement at this time,” Sampson said.

LiveWire Calgary was in contact with the Calgary police Monday and they said they would be collating statistics, but at this time didn’t believe there were any $1,000 fines. They weren’t certain yet if tickets were doled out under the public health ordinances with lesser fines attached.

Regarding kids in playgrounds, Nenshi said he never thought he’d see the day where we had to have playground police, “to pull the children off the swings.”

“That does not sound like fun at all,” said Nenshi.

“In reality, we do need to turn to parents and to communities and remind them playgrounds are closed. Play structures are closed. The skate parks are closed. Anything that is a high touch surface is just not safe. It’s not safe for your kids.”

Weekend road closures along Calgary routes

The City of Calgary closed off portions of Calgary roads this weekend to give citizens more space to get into the outdoors. TRAVIS KLEMP / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

City of Calgary Roads director Troy McLeod said they would be evaluating the number of people who used the closed-off city roads to get out and enjoy exercise while maintaining social distancing.

“We’re encouraging everyone to do that in their neighbourhoods, so we can disperse that activity across the city,” McLeod said.

McLeod said he’s like the program to continue and after further conversation they’ll decide how they’ll move forward with it. They also have the city’s spring cleanup program that’s coming up.

Mayor Nenshi echoed the message of staying in your neighbourhood, even if there are road closures to provide space for others.

“It’s really important to think of this not as we’re having a street festival and everybody come down. This is not COVID-fest 2020,” said Nenshi.