Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said Thursday the city has been monitoring the developments in Calgary closely, as councillors there passed a bylaw mandating businesses and facilities to opt-in to the province’s COVID-19 restrictions exemption program in order to continue operating.
Calgary officials and councillors said they heard from businesses across the city who received backlash when announcing they would participate in the REP which, in other regions, is referred to as a vaccine passport.
Calgary’s COVID-19 Vaccine Passport Bylaw was passed by city council on Wednesday, in a vote of 13-1. It comes into effect Thursday. Under the new municipal bylaw, city peace officers have enforcement authority previously not given to them under the public health order issued by the province.
Iveson said the city has reached out to the Edmonton business community and neighbouring regions to consider if a similar approach might be useful in the Metro Edmonton area.
However, he said so far Edmonton businesses are already widely opting in to the REP and haven’t reported experiencing the same challenges Calgary businesses have.
“We’re not hearing the same calls that Calgary is from their business community asking for such a bylaw,” Iveson said Thursday.
“We haven’t heard that same concern.
“Compliance is already very, very high in Edmonton… This is the direction they will go for public health and for their own viability.”
He said the Calgary Chamber of Commerce asked city council for additional support for bars and restaurants. The Edmonton businesses community hasn’t turned to the city to ask for reinforcement, Iveson said.
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“That hasn’t been the case here, as far as I can tell.”
Iveson said Edmonton patrons should expect to provide proof of vaccination when entering a non-essential business.
A municipal bylaw would give local bylaw officers powers to help with REP enforcement, and the mayor said it would divert them from their other responsibilities.
“It is the province’s jurisdiction to provide enforcement,” Iveson said.
“If people are being unruly… call the cops…. Call 911.”
He also pointed out the timing would be difficult. Council would have to be called back from recess for a special meeting to pass such a bylaw.
“I’m not sure it is a good use of council’s time during this election process.”
“Our restaurant and bar businesses… those folks have, by and large, stepped up and have provided the leadership themselves. Maybe they never should have been downloaded that responsibility by the province, but they were.”
However, if the situation changes and the city hears from the businesses community that municipal support in the form of a bylaw is needed, Iveson said he’s open to considering it.
“We would want consistency with Edmonton Metro,” he explained, adding any potential bylaw would be more effective if it was the same across the region, not just the city of Edmonton.
The mayor says he understands why people are looking to municipalities to do more.
“There are abundant feelings of confusion and frustration… with how the province has handled these health measures as a whole.”
Iveson said the city is looking at the COVID-19 recovery grants and if they can specifically support businesses adapting to the REP.