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Calgary enters state of local emergency after COVID-19 cases spike

Calgary is in a state of local emergency in the wake of the province’s public health emergency and new health measures around the spread of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Alberta announced new public health measures as COVID-19 case counts continue to be among the highest in Canada.

Previously, Mayor Nenshi said without action from the province it would be difficult for the city to do anything further with their own state of local emergency. That included enforcement.

Prior to Wednesday’s city briefing, Mayor Nenshi told councillors that they expected further details on city powers today.  

“It’s very clear that these numbers are indescribably bad,” he said before starting day three of Calgary budget deliberations.

“There are parts of the City of Calgary that have higher infection rates than any country in the world.”

He said forget the political and legal aspects of all this, we’re in an emergency. Nenshi said it’s important that all Calgarians make the right decisions moving forward.

“We have to do everything we can to flatten this curve. Now I’m saying to citizens, ‘those are the rules. That’s what you must do.’ But I’m also calling on every citizen to do more,” he said.

Calgarians need to ask themselves when they do their day-to-day tasks if it’s the right thing to do. Does it need to be done now? Can it be done in a safer way?

City actions

During the briefing Wednesday, Calgary Emergency Management Chief Tom Sampson said they support the province.

“The province is headed down a path to drive the COVID numbers down,” he said.

“And our job is to make that path as smooth as possible for our citizens, our communities businesses in our communities, and in fact, all of Alberta.”

What does a state of local emergency do?

It allows the city to direct city resources to handle an emergency (pandemic), particularly around the procurement of resources, Chief Sampson said.

They can also activate certain city services and prioritize the COVID-19 response.

Mayor Nenshi said it would have little impact on citizens.

Sampson said Calgarians need to get behind the spirit of the measures.

“I hope these further measures show a positive impact and slow the spread of covid, and bring our case numbers down,” he said.

Sampson said they’re still assessing the impact that it will have on the city.

He said that the state of local emergency allows them to activate certain city resources. It also allows them to take action to aid the city’s most vulnerable.

It also allows them to prioritize the needs of the city during the emergency.

Enforcement of COVID-19 public health orders

Right now, Mayor Nenshi said that the Calgary police can write tickets on the public health orders. The fine amount starts at $1,000 but, after going through the courts, it could reach $100,000 for an offense, the province said Tuesday.

“If you’re going to be flagrantly putting people’s health at risk, expect to get a big ticket,” said Mayor Nenshi.

“And no, I don’t have a problem with someone phoning 311 and saying there’s a party next door.”

The mayor was asked about planned anti-mask rallies in Calgary and if the police would be out to write ticket to participants.

He said if people are breaking the rules, yes, he expects ticket will be issued. Including around the 10-person limit on outdoor gatherings.

Did the province go far enough in COVID-19 restrictions

Both the mayor and Chief Sampson said the city would do everything it could to support the provincial action taken.

Mayor Nenshi said he didn’t want to get into a jurisdictional battle, but if he did talk to Premier Jason Kenney, he would ask a couple questions.

“I’ll tell you, I don’t understand why casinos are open and doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.

The mayor also said that while they have supplemental powers that could add to the provincial restrictions, right now they don’t anticipate using them.

An example the mayor used was the provincial restriction on indoor playgrounds, but not parks or gardens. He said they may have to look at those types of measures in Calgary.