Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi blasted both the province and protesters Monday, as Alberta saw another weekend with thousands of COVID-19 cases.
Nenshi spoke with media on Monday about steps Calgary might take to protect the city’s workforce. He did so as numbers emerged showing 4,740 new cases in the period from Friday to Monday. The average infection rate per test was more than 10 per cent each day, with Saturday topping out at 12.3 per cent.
ICU numbers grew by 15 per cent, and it’s believed Alberta is at or nearing surge capacity for ICU beds. There were also 18 deaths recorded, according to provincial data.
Monday was also a day where hundreds protested at hospitals in Calgary and Edmonton.
Fences were erected and security tightened at both Foothills Medical Centre and the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.
“The hospital protests are, in a word, disgusting,” Mayor Nenshi said. He noted the health care workers are trying to keep people alive. Provincial data shows that 72 per cent of new COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated.
“If you show up and try to prevent someone from getting emergency medical care, or make healthcare workers feel bad about their lives, you’re the worst kind of human being.”
Premier Jason Kenney backed the right to peaceful protest but drew a line at impeding access to medical care. In a statement, Premier Kenney reminded Albertans that demonstrations are a protected civil liberty.
“And while Canadians are entitled to peaceful protest, one can still question the appalling judgment of those protesting across the country today,” the Premier said in a statement.
“It is outrageous that a small minority feel it’s appropriate to protest at hospitals during the pandemic while our healthcare workers continue to tirelessly battle the global menace of COVID-19.”
Question period draws more frustration from Nenshi
In question period at Monday’s final meeting of council, Coun. Jyoti Gondek asked the mayor and administration if there was anything in the city’s power to stifle the protests around the hospital.
City solicitor Jill Floen reiterated the right to peaceful protest.
“But, when safety is compromised, the Calgary Police Service is positioned to assist,” she said.
Nenshi doubled down on his frustration with citizens protesting around hospitals.
“If you think blocking people from accessing and achieving emergency care is the right thing to do, give your head a shake. You don’t deserve to be a human being,” he said.
In a noon scrum with media, Nenshi said the city is looking at what kind of workplace policies other organizations have around mandatory vaccines and testing.
“But let me be very clear, we expect to the city colleagues, the people who work for the City of Calgary be that and we expect that they’d be fully vaccinated by November 1,” he said.
Union leaders have told LiveWire Calgary that they haven’t received the full policy yet but expect to grieve any disciplinary action against workers if they don’t vaccinate.
Nenshi also talked about mandatory vaccinations at larger city and provincial institutions – including corporations. When asked what it means that these organizations are having to make their own decision on this, Nenshi said the Premier can rail on about freedom of choice.
“It’s a complete abdication and failure of leadership on the part of the Government of Alberta,” Nenshi said, adding that while he can direct interest to the minority, but the majority will act on its own.
“Ultimately, people will do it without him. And I think that’ll be a bit of a surprise for him.”