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Calgary Chamber of Commerce pushing for COVID-19 vaccine passports in Alberta

Click to play video: 'Calgary Chamber of Commerce pushing for COVID-19 vaccine passports in Alberta' Calgary Chamber of Commerce pushing for COVID-19 vaccine passports in Alberta
WATCH: As Alberta gets set to roll back COVID-19 measures next week, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce said it wants proof of vaccinations to be an additional measure to help keep businesses open. Adam MacVicar reports. – Aug 11, 2021

In the hopes of keeping businesses open as COVID-19 cases rise in Alberta, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce is expressing its support for a vaccine passport system in the province.

Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Deborah Yedlin said a vaccine passport could serve as an additional safety measure as Alberta is set to scale back testing, masking and isolation requirements on Aug. 16.

“If you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it,” Yedlin told Global News. “So let’s look at other options that are out there.”

Read more: Canada getting vaccine passport for international travel

The call comes a day after Quebec announced details of its vaccine passport system, which will be implemented Sept. 1.

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The vaccine passport in that province will only be used to access non-essential services like gyms, restaurants, bars, festivals and event venues, but will not be required for retail stores.

Yedlin said the Chamber wants to see a similar system implemented in Alberta so businesses can stay open despite a rising number of cases in the province.

“It’s all about keeping people safe, keeping clients guests and patrons safe,” Yedlin said. “It’s also about making sure that we keep our economy open, and we’re not faced with another lockdown.”

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Is it ok to ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccine? – Aug 6, 2021

However, Premier Jason Kenney has repeatedly said he isn’t in favour of vaccine passports, and raised concerns the policy would violate privacy laws.

“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that we will not facilitate or accept vaccine passports. And that in fact, I believe that they would, in principle, contravene the Health Information Act and also possibly the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,” Kenney told reporters when asked about the issue on July 12.

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“So these folks who are concerned about mandatory vaccines have nothing to be concerned about and there will be no vaccine passports in Alberta.”

Currently, 76.5 per cent of Albertans over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 67.2 per cent of the province’s population over the age of 12 are fully immunized.

Read more: How to reach the vaccine-hesitant: What experts, reluctant Canadians say

Jean-Christophe Boucher, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, has been researching data on COVID-19 and vaccines through millions of interactions collected daily from social media platforms.

He said while concerns over efficacy and safety contributed to a lot of vaccine hesitancy, many also had a lack of trust in government institutions and any infringements on their freedoms.

“It wasn’t because they were afraid of the vaccine, it was because they kind of didn’t trust public authorities to make these things happen,” Boucher said.

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Vaccine passports set to launch this fall to help Canadians travel overseas – Aug 11, 2021

But with so much information already shared by policy makers and health authorities about the COVID-19 vaccine, Boucher said a vaccine passport appears to be the last policy tool available ahead of mandating vaccines.

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“The COVID passport essentially increases the threshold or the price of freedom,’ Boucher said.

“Freedom isn’t free, and in the grand scheme of things, Canadians are able to choose whether or not they want to be vaccinated. However, they’re not free of the consequences of these choices.”

Boucher also said a passport could lead to an uptake in those getting the vaccine.

Read more: Quebec vaccine passport plan to start in September, won’t include retail stores

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce said it plans to start the conversation around the vaccine passport and hopes to lobby the province and federal government on the issue.

“It doesn’t mean that it has to stay in here forever,” Yedlin said. “But until we get everybody vaccinated, and we get the 12 and unders vaccinated — then we can start thinking about how we change things and take things off the table. But right now, we need this on the table.”

On Wednesday, the federal government announced it was moving forward on a vaccine passport for Canadians to be used for international travel.

The digital passport will include the holder’s vaccination history, when and where they received their jab, and the type of vaccine they received.

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Federal officials said the passport will be available to all citizens, permanent residents, as well as temporary residents in Canada who are fully immunized.

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