Edmonton mayoral candidate Michael Oshry released a platform commitment saying he would try to get support on council for mandatory vaccines for all city staff and for any member of the public entering municipal buildings, like libraries and recreation centres.
Oshry said he’s heard from Edmontonians while out campaigning, and they want stronger COVID-19 policies.
“People are really quite upset that a vocal minority are getting their way on this issue in our province and in our city,” he said.
“We have to go with the majority on this issue. If we want to get rid of mask mandates, get the economy back and stop shutdowns, we need to get people vaccinated. I believe in science. You can’t have an opinion on science, you know?”
Oshry said he would have exemptions for people with legitimate medical conditions and children who aren’t eligible for the vaccine based on their age.
The majority of Edmonton’s front-running mayoral candidates agree with the idea, including Kim Krushell, Cheryll Watson and Amarjeet Sohi.
“I think we’re going to have to go in that direction because otherwise our businesses and the safety of our workers, the safety of our health-care system and the safety of kids in schools is going to be in jeopardy,” Krushell said.
“All of us wear seatbelts for a reason. This is no different than that concept, and I think we need to use common sense.”
In a statement, Watson wrote: “I’m pro-vaccine and pro-proof of vaccination.”
She added: “I am frustrated with all three orders of government for not working together to take consistent actions and create clear communications to deal with the pandemic. Instead, they’ve placed the burden and greatest impact on our residents, businesses and employers.”
Sohi wrote: “I will lead by example to protect public health and our economy by working with council to require full vaccination of all eligible City of Edmonton employees.”
On the idea of mandatory vaccines for the public, Sohi added: “I also urge the provincial government to implement a vaccine passport system, which would enable safer operation of city facilities, local businesses and help boost vaccine uptake.”
“If the province does not, I will work with council to explore all options to ensure those using city facilities and services are safe.”
However, one candidate, Mike Nickel, said he wouldn’t even consider the idea of mandatory vaccinations.
“This idea of forced vaccinations is a non-starter, as far am I’m concerned,” he said.
As a standing councillor, Nickel also voted against Edmonton’s mask mandate.
He said he supports vaccination and is vaccinated but argues these decisions should be left in the hands of provincial and federal governments.
“You’re a bus driver. Are you going to challenge everybody coming on the bus as to whether you’ve been vaccinated? That’s just not practical in terms of what the city does,” he explained.
Oshry said his policy would not see anyone forced to get a vaccine.
If someone chose not to get their shots, they would have to get a negative test before entering a city building, at their own cost.
Oshry believes his policy would help drive vaccinations.
“We need some leadership on this issue. Paying someone $100 to get vaccinated is not going to work.”
Edmonton’s municipal election is on Oct. 18.