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Petition pushes for lift of COVID-19 restrictions on small businesses in Calgary

Click to play video: 'Common Sense Calgary launches petition to re-open Calgary' Common Sense Calgary launches petition to re-open Calgary
Citizen advocacy group Common Sense Calgary has launched a petition calling for restrictions on small businesses in Calgary to be lifted. Sarah Offin reports. – Jan 6, 2021

A citizen advocacy group in Calgary has launched an online petition asking for COVID-19 restrictions on small businesses in the city to be lifted.

Common Sense Calgary started the petition after Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi admitted Tuesday that two members of his staff had travelled internationally over the holidays despite the government advising people to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.

Read more: 2 members of mayor’s office travelled to Hawaii: Nenshi

The day before, Premier Jason Kenney took to social media to announce that six Alberta MLAs and a high-level UCP staff member who took part in non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic had been reprimanded.

The six MLAs who travelled out of the country have either resigned from or lost their ministerial or cabinet committee roles, and the premier’s chief of staff was asked to step down.

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Read more: Alberta MLAs who travelled during COVID-19 pandemic lose ministry portfolios

The petition calls the decision to travel abroad the “kind of gross hypocrisy that entirely undermines the moral authority of our government.”

“Local businesses (are) suffering while elite government officials take their business to the tropics.”

The petition goes on to state that, “If Mayor Nenshi thinks it’s fine for his chief of staff to shop at small businesses in Maui, maybe it’s time to lift the restrictions on small businesses in Calgary.”

“If you are a senior political staffer or senior politician yourself and you’re travelling to jurisdictions where businesses are open to enjoy the freedom that’s being made available in those areas, then I think it’s incredibly hypocritical for us to not be re-examining what’s going on in our own cities and how our own businesses are suffering,” Common Sense Calgary executive director Megan McCaffrey said Wednesday.

Click to play video: 'Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi admits staff travelled abroad' Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi admits staff travelled abroad
Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi admits staff travelled abroad – Jan 5, 2021

Though the petition is addressed to Nenshi, the restrictions referred to in it were announced by Kenney’s UCP government on Dec. 8 and are in place province-wide.

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The mandatory public health measures limited retail to operating at 15 per cent capacity and forced all restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes in the province to stop their in-person services. Only take out, curbside pickup and delivery services are allowed.

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The restrictions will be in place at least until Jan. 12.

McCaffrey said the petition will be presented to city council, “just to make sure that they are fully aware of just how disappointed and Calgarians are in what’s going on.”

“I think a lot of Calgarians, especially those that are involved heavily with businesses who have lost their jobs, are just extremely confused and disappointed about these loopholes that have been built into the rules that allow more privileged and more elite individuals that are incredibly well-informed about what’s going on with the COVID-19 virus to evade restrictions at home,” she said.

Read more: COVID-19: No clear answer on when Alberta’s public health restrictions will be lifted

As of 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the petition had nearly 2,900 signatures. McCaffrey said she hopes the petition will restore some balance within the health measures.

McCaffrey also said she thinks Nenshi “dropped the ball” in handling the city’s travel situation.

“I think Albertans, Calgarians have been very clear what their expectations are in terms of sanctioning staff that have made mistakes like this one,” she said. “You cannot advocate for stricter, longer lockdowns and then take yourself out of those jurisdictions.”

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Click to play video: 'Calgary city officials react to members of Nenshi’s staff travelling over holidays' Calgary city officials react to members of Nenshi’s staff travelling over holidays
Calgary city officials react to members of Nenshi’s staff travelling over holidays – Jan 6, 2021

On Tuesday, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw addressed the frustration and anger that some Albertans are feeling.

“Every day we are presented with a choice about how we want to react to our circumstances,” Hinshaw said.

“The choice that’s in front of us today, as Albertans, is whether we continue to pick up our game and to care for each other by following those restrictions, or whether we choose to let this divide us.

“Take that deep breath, look at our current situation and say, ‘Where do we want to go?’

“We can only do this together and the more of us who work together to bring our numbers down, the more effective we’ll be.”

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Read more: Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout rate and the plan to ramp it up

As of Tuesday, the provincial government was reporting 13,411 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. In total, 919 people are being cared for in hospital, including 140 people in intensive care.

Provincially, 1,168 deaths have been recorded.

– With files from Adam MacVicar

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