COVID-19: City of Calgary weighing impacts of potential easing of provincial health measures

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COVID-19: Calgary councillors exploring impacts if restriction exemption program is rescinded
WATCH: City of Calgary officials are exploring their options if the Alberta government rescinds the restrictions exemption program. Here’s Adam MacVicar with the main concerns if COVID-19 restrictions are lifted too soon. – Feb 3, 2022

The City of Calgary’s vaccine passport bylaw would automatically end if the province axes its restrictions exemption program, according to city officials.

Although city officials have not been notified of any potential changes to the provincial COVID-19 health measures, city administration along with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) are examining how the easing of those health measures would impact the city’s response.

On Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney announced on social media that he expects his government will be announcing a plan to ease restrictions sometime next week.

“The City of Calgary is aware that the government of Alberta is looking at lifting some COVID-19 public health restrictions,” a city spokesperson said in a statement to Global News. “The city is currently working through multiple scenarios depending on what actions the provincial government decides to take and when.”

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The city’s vaccine passport bylaw has been in effect since September 2021, which made it mandatory for certain Calgary businesses like bars, restaurants and movie theatres to opt into the provincial passport system.

Changes were made to the bylaw in November 2021 — and again last month — to better align it with the provincial program.

Due to the language in the bylaw, it “ceases to have effect” if the province’s program is scrapped.

City officials said the mask bylaw, however, would be unaffected by the change.

Premier Jason Kenney announced early this week that his government is hoping to remove some public health restrictions, including the vaccine passport program, by the end of the month if the province’s COVID-19 situation improves sufficiently to warrant the changes.

Kourtney Penner, the city councillor for Ward 11 and chair of the city’s emergency management committee, has made a request to city administration and CEMA for an update on the impacts to the city.

“We do know that there would be impacts and we would have to respond accordingly,” Penner told Global News. “So it’s just understanding what those are, and having our administrative team make sure that all of council understands it exactly the same.”

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What is unclear is what action councillors will take regarding the city’s response to COVID-19.

​”I know we have the ability — and it’s a stretch — to ask people to wear masks and make that the law of the land,” said Ward 9 councillor Gian-Carlo Carra. “I’m not sure we have the jurisdictional capabilities, power (or) capacity to keep a vaccine passport going in the absence of provincial support.”

The city’s community development committee is expected to get an update on the COVID-19 situation and options available to them when they meet next week.

“A Calgary context approach to COVID,” Penner said. “That’s what we’re most hearing from residents is that they need to just know what is happening and that the rumour mill is challenging for them.”

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