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Calgary Stampede sponsor ‘will not be encouraging employees to attend’ event

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WATCH ABOVE: An email sent by the president of Cervus Equipment to employees said participating in the Calgary Stampede could create unnecessary health and safety risks for employees and customers. The email comes as Alberta prepares to reopen July 1 and lift nearly all public health measures related to COVID-19. Julia Wong reports – Jun 25, 2021

A sponsor of the Calgary Stampede is telling employees that partaking in the large-scale, summertime event amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could be risky.

Global News has obtained an email sent to employees by Cervus Equipment president and CEO Angela Lekatsas. It says participating in the Stampede “could create unnecessary health and safety risks for our people and our customers” and the company “will not be encouraging our employees to attend the Stampede with their families or customers.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: Doctors’ group concerned about Calgary Stampede, major corporate partner won’t take part

The email comes weeks after another company, TC Energy, said it would not be participating in the Stampede from both a branding and hosting perspective and as doctors from the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association have raised concerns about the risk of holding a large-scale event when the majority of Albertans are not fully vaccinated.

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Cervus Equipment, which is an equipment dealer, said it will continue to provide the Stampede with financial and equipment support, but it will not be providing employees with tickets or passes to this year’s event.

“We really made that decision as an essential service, to our customers in the agricultural and transportation spaces,” said Brian Radiff, the company’s marketing and communications manager.

“We just felt we really needed to ensure we are operating as safely and efficiently as possible and that all our staff are available when our customers need it.”

READ MORE: Calgary Stampede: Everything we know about the 2021 event so far

Radiff disagreed that the email advises employees that they should not attend the event.

“We’re not telling our employees not to go,” he said. “We would never tell them what they can or cannot do, or should or should not do.

“If they want to take their families and head on down to the grounds, then we absolutely support them in their choices. Just, as an organization, we’re not providing a means for them to do that. he said.

“We have full faith in our elected bodies and the decision-makers in these things, but we also want to be abundantly safe with our employees.”

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READ MORE: COVID-19: Calgary Stampede emphasizes physical distancing as 2021 plans ramp up

Premier Jason Kenney has defended the province’s reopening plan, which – as of July 1 – will see nearly all public health measures lifted and allow for large-scale events such as the Calgary Stampede.

“At the end of the day, we cannot permanently rely on damaging public health restrictions to protect our public health from this pandemic, especially since we now have the incredibly effective and powerful tool of vaccines,” Kenney said at a news conference in early June.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw has also said in the past that she does not believe the Stampede will post a significant risk to the health-care system.

“I actually think the Stampede is not going to be the biggest risk as we’re looking at people travelling,” she said on June 8.

Radiff said Cervus Equipment is acting out of an abundance of caution.

“With the busy harvest season coming around the corner, if one of our stores was taken down because unfortunately we had an outbreak or something like that, that would really be a detriment to our customers,” he said.

“We just want to make sure we are being as safe as possible for our customers and our employees.”

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In response, the Calgary Stampede provided Global News with a statement that said it remains committed to meeting and exceeding all public health guidelines.

“It’s disappointing to hear this, as it is in direct contradiction to our operating plans which have been reviewed and supported by Alberta Health and the chief medical officer of health,” the statement reads.

The Stampede has said it is planning for a scaled-down event that still includes midway rides and a rodeo, but does not include chuckwagon races.

Harrison Fleming, the deputy press secretary for the premier’s office, said he does not believe that employers get to dictate what their workers do or don’t do in their personal time.

“We would encourage all Albertans, including employers, to consult the expert medical advice of chief medical officer of health Hinshaw, who has been central in Alberta’s safe reopening plan,” he said in a statement to Global News.

-with files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich

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