The City of Edmonton has been active in the fight against COVID-19, often implementing bylaws and restrictions in the name of public safety – but with a new council being elected Monday, will that continue moving forward?
Dr. Darren Markland is an intensive care physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. He says municipal governments have played a large roll in curbing the spread of COVID.
“It’s absolutely been instrumental in the control of the pandemic. We have had to download leadership from the provincial level to municipal levels,” he explained.
Of Edmonton’s three front-running mayoral candidates, two are firmly in support of the city continuing to play an active role: Kim Krushell and Amarjeet Sohi.
“This is a crisis we are facing. So it’s not a matter of when it will come in front of council. It will be in front of council the day we are sworn in,” Sohi said.
“I do believe the province needs to show leadership, they’re in charge of health,” Krushell said.
“But, the problem is, if they’re not showing leadership, we have to step up and show leadership ourselves.”
Both Sohi and Krushell said they support the face-covering bylaw and mandatory vaccines.
Krushell wants to take the provincial restriction exemption program one step further and have the city make it mandatory, like Calgary did.
“It’s not fair to businesses that they’re suddenly having to become the enforcer. By being able to say, ‘Look, our city requires it.’ It takes that pressure off. And I’m happy to take the heat on that. I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Sohi said he agrees with the direction the outgoing council and city manager are on.
“All city employees and people who work for the city must be vaccinated and those who use city services should also be required to show proof of vaccination,” he explained.
Sohi also has a plan to drive vaccination numbers.
“What I have proposed to do is support cultural communities with targeted vaccination programs.”
Another candidate for the mayor’s seat, Mike Nickel, voted against mandatory masking back in August.
On Aug. 30, Nickel posted a video to his Twitter profile saying he was utterly frustrated with his fellow councillors.
“I have a council and mayor that think they’re smarter than Dr. Hinshaw. Without any provincial guidance, city council has decided to re-institute the mask bylaw,” he said.
On Sept. 1, Nickel also tweeted his opposition to the idea of mandatory vaccinations, writing: “I am vaccinated. I encourage others to do so. But as mayor, I will not force others to get vaccinated against their will. This includes City of Edmonton employees.”
Nickel has repeatedly said health is the province’s jurisdiction.
“The province has to step up and provide those clear guidelines and we’ll follow the provincial regulations. That’s all we can do,” he said Friday.
When asked what would happen if the province doesn’t act, Nickel said: “Then we run into problems.”
As for Markland, he said Edmonton was lucky to have the leadership it did through the majority of the pandemic.
“I think things could have been tremendously worse if we had people who were tone deaf to the health needs of our population,” Markland said.
Monday is election day. Polls are open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.