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Lost faith: Calgary pushes ahead with its own potential COVID-19 plans

Calgary’s mayor said even if the province does take action on COVID-19, who knows if it’s going to be the right action.

That’s why Calgary city councillors will be gathering Friday for a committee meeting to discuss possible local public health options.

On Thursday, the province reported an additional 1,339 cases and five additional COVID-19 deaths in Alberta. There are 487 people in hospital (+22), with 114 in ICU (+7)

Addressing the public for the first time in weeks yesterday, Premier Jason Kenney said to expect a decision this week. It’s believed more information will come from the province on Friday afternoon.

Edmonton has already reinstated their face coverings bylaw, as have other Alberta municipalities.

“I have lost any faith in the ability of the province to do anything,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“So even if they do it, who knows if they’ll do it right.”

The Emergency Management Committee will be convened by the chair, Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, on Friday.

According to Nenshi, there are only a few things the city can do without provincial authority, one being reinstating the mandatory mask bylaw. The bylaw was rescinded July 5.

The city has already mandated that the city’s employees either be fully immunized or they will be subject to rapid testing. The city can also mandate that only fully immunized citizens can access city property and facilities, including recreational facilities.

Mayoral candidate presents motion on masks, vaccines

Mayoral candidate Jan Damery drafted a motion that would lead to the adoption of enhanced COVID-19 measures.

She said that a conversation regarding the situation doesn’t go far enough. Her proposed motion would direct city administration to prepare a bylaw reinstating the face-covering bylaw while introducing vaccine passports. 

“For weeks we’ve known the risks of another lockdown. I’m concerned that the City Council just isn’t moving fast enough” said Damery.

“I’m glad to see Councillor Carra calling this meeting, but we are yet to see a robust plan presented by any councillor as to how we keep Calgarians safe, businesses open, and prevent another lockdown.”

Damery, who has been calling for vaccine passports for the last month, gathered a coalition of council candidates on Monday in support of her COVID response plan.

Jan Damery (centre, red) along with other Calgary city council candidates, are calling for more public health action with rising COVID-19 cases. CONTRIBUTED

Her proposal would reinstate the mask bylaw with some modifications. Only fully vaccinated people would be able to remove their masks inside public places that choose to exclude unvaccinated members of the public, like eating areas of restaurants and bars. Unvaccinated members of the public would not be permitted to enter these spaces. 

Coun. Jyoti Gondek, who is also running for mayor, has also been pushing for a special meeting of council to address the COVID-19 situation.

Vaccine mandate ‘a gross overstep’ of municipal authority: Farkas

Current Ward 11 councillor and mayoral candidate Jeromy Farkas and said it’s a pretty obvious statement to make that the province isn’t communicating.

“It’s leading people to become scared, and if there’s that vacuum and that silence, then any number of other voices will fill that void. Some with good intentions, some with bad intentions and potentially others seeking just political gain,” Farkas said.

Still, Farkas would prefer the decisions be made at the provincial level. Especially if it comes to vaccinations.

“I am certainly not in support of mandatory vaccination,” said Farkas.

“That would be a gross overstep of City of Calgary municipal authority.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at a Jan. 7 COVID-19 press briefing.

Farkas said he has an open mind to the ideas his colleagues will bring forward Friday. Ultimately, he thinks it is best to leave these decisions to the health professionals.

“Every step of the way, my message has been to listen to the place of Dr. Hinshaw, and to have our municipal government stay within our lane,” he said.

“But it’s becoming more and more difficult if there’s radio silence from our provincial health authorities.”