The City of Calgary would be forced to rescind their vaccine passport bylaw should the province end the Restrictions Exemption Program.
In a statement sent Thursday afternoon, the City said they’re aware the province is looking at potentially lifting some COVID-19 public health restrictions.
Earlier in the day, a UCP statement indicated Alberta Premier Jason Kenney would be removing restrictions within days. In a Facebook Live video, the Premier all but confirmed it.
“That’s why early next week, the COVID Cabinet Committee will approve a plan for the careful lifting and public health measures, beginning with the restriction exemption program,” he told viewers.
The city issued their statement prior to the Premier’s announcement.
“The City is currently working through multiple scenarios depending on what actions the provincial government decides to take and when,” the emailed statement read.
“The Vaccine Passport Bylaw will end automatically when the Province’s Restrictions Exemption Program is ended by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.”
The city’s face coverings bylaw would not be impacted by these changes.
The City cited Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s assertion that while hospitalizations are plateauing, they’re still higher than at any point during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is still significant pressure on our health care system and the current provincial and City measures continue to protect the health and safety of citizens,” the city said.
Recently, the city amended its vaccine passport bylaw very specifically to match public health rule changes implemented by the province. It doesn’t impact the face coverings bylaw because that’s a separate council-implemented policy, not tied to a provincial mandate.
Rollercoaster ride: Mayor Jyoti Gondek
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she, like other Albertans, will be tuned in to the press conference when restrictions are lifted, just to get the details like everyone else.
“I think this is another example of the rollercoaster we’ve been on during this pandemic where we have no idea what the province is going to do,” the mayor told LiveWire Calgary.
Mayor Gondek said she couldn’t say how the city would proceed until they knew the province’s plans.
“We have no idea what restrictions they will lift. We have no idea what the timing is. We literally don’t know a thing about what they’re proposing. We can’t respond to something that we don’t know anything about,” she said.
“This is yet another one of those times where we would be willing partners in this process of public health and public safety, but we continue to be cut out.”
In the Facebook Live conversation, Premier Kenney was asked if a provision could be added to stop municipal vaccine passports or mask bylaws. The Premier acknowledged cities currently have the right to do it.
“We will certainly take a look at that because I don’t think that the city governments – aldermen, councillors, excuse me – have any… This is not their normal field of responsibility. They don’t have access to the same data that we do,” he said.
“If the province moves ahead, safely, to probably lift our public health measures, but we have municipal politicians improvising their own local policies, I think that would be a matter of great concern.”
That didn’t sit well with Mayor Gondek.
“Instead of being treated like a partner, municipalities have been shut out of the entire situation again. To hear the comments about how municipalities shouldn’t enact their own measures because they don’t have access to the same data and science that we do, well then give us access.”
‘No good decision before us’: Coun. Penner
Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner, who chairs the city’s Emergency Management Committee, told LiveWire Calgary they’ve asked administration to consider the implications of creating a passport program of their own.
Penner admitted there are not only legal and logistical challenges with it, but political ones as well. We asked if this council could afford to expend the political capital necessary to implement their own, considering the division it’s recently created with blockades and convoys.
“We have no good decision before us,” Penner said
“We may not be able to act even with the best medical advice out there. We may not be able to do that for a number of complicated reasons.”
The City of Edmonton’s mayor, Amarjeet Sohi, posted something to Twitter similar to Calgary’s response.
Penner said seeking a Calgary solution is reasonable, while others want restrictions ended. There’s just little, if any, consultation with the province, she said.
“I agree that cases look different in different jurisdictions. And I agree that sentiment around restrictions is different in different jurisdictions,” Penner said.
“But without engaging at the local level, and this one-size-fits-all blanket bans to how we approach COVID in Alberta is really a disservice to Albertans.”