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Gong show: Mayor Gondek miffed by a lack of conversation on city bylaw powers

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek there was no conversation with Calgary about the Alberta legislation to remove city powers to implement their own public health measures.

On Tuesday, the provincial government issued a release saying they would be introducing amendments to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) restricting the ability of municipalities to pass their own public health bylaws.

Premier Jason Kenney has insinuated this would be the case prior to new rules coming into effect March 1.  After the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) was first removed there were questions about cities maintaining their own.

At that time, Premier Kenney said they would look into MGA changes.

“It would be confusing and divisive to have multiple different public health policies, particularly when there is no compelling public health rationale,” Premier Kenney was quoted as saying in Tuesday’s provincial release.

“It is time for us to move forward together.”

On March 1, the province lifted most of the public health regulations. While Calgary had made its own bylaw amendments to align them with the province, Edmonton still has a mask mandate in place.

Mayor Gondek scoffed at the Premier saying we needed consistency, clarity and unity.

“I guess this begs the question: Why didn’t we need unity and clarity and lack of confusion in the midst of the pandemic when our health care system was being absolutely crushed by variants?” Mayor Gondek said.

“It was at that point in time that this very Premier said ‘municipalities, I urge you to set your own guidelines, I urge you to create your mandates, you are best equipped to understand what is needed for your citizenry.’”

That was then, this is now, the mayor said.

You’re uninvited

Mayor Gondek said Calgary wasn’t consulted, but they were given the heads up by Ministers that something was coming down.

“I think (Ministers) may be equally as surprised and unaware of how this rewrite (of the MGA) is going to take place,” she said.

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver also said this would eliminate confusion.

“Municipalities have asked the provincial government to take the lead on public health policy many times in the past, and we are confident now is the right time for everyone in the province to follow the same rules to avoid confusion and frustration,” he said.

The mayor said the city hasn’t received any data they requested from the province prior to the removal of public health measures. That was requested when they aligned their mask bylaw with the provincial one.

Mayor Gondek said at a time when there could be collaboration on affordable housing, the opioid crisis on Calgary downtown, the province opts to reopen the MGA.

One issue arising from this squabble is the enforcement on transit. The current health order doesn’t give municipal peace officers the power to enforce it. The mayor called it a “gong show.”

“This is what’s beautiful. The city would have to enact its own bylaw. But we can’t, because apparently, according to the Municipal Government Act, that will be rewritten, we won’t have that power,” she said.