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Edmonton will not implement municipal COVID-19 vaccine passport

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton will not implement its own municipal COVID-19 vaccine passport' City of Edmonton will not implement its own municipal COVID-19 vaccine passport
Many members of Edmonton city council don't agree with the removal of the provincial Restriction Exemption Program. Friday they decided on how the city will be moving forward measures. Sarah Komadina has the details – Feb 11, 2022

In a 9-4 vote Friday, Edmonton city councillors decided the city won’t implement its own municipal restrictions exemption program (REP) in the wake of the province removing its COVID-19 vaccine passport.

“I know there are many, many Edmontonians that are disappointed with how the provincial government lifted COVID restrictions too fast, too quick,” Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said.

“I am disappointed, too. The provincial government did not consult with anyone,” he said, saying municipalities and school boards weren’t asked for feedback.

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Restrictions Exemption Program has been ‘extremely tough’ on rural Alberta businesses: Kenney – Feb 8, 2022

Many councillors said they would have liked to have seen a provincial REP continue, but a local one simply wouldn’t work.

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“A local Edmonton-alone REP program just won’t work as much as we wish it would,” Sohi said.

The mayor said it would create uncertainty for local businesses, municipalities don’t have the tools and resources to enforce such a bylaw, and a local REP would put the burden of enforcement on front-line workers.

“We cannot, in good conscience, put them in harm’s way with so much tension and polarization on this issue,” Sohi said.

Read more: COVID-19: Kenney announces Alberta vaccine passport program ending at midnight

A special council meeting was held Friday afternoon after councillors asked administration Wednesday to look at whether and how Edmonton could bring in its own REP in the absence of an Alberta-wide one.

Click to play video: 'Alberta businesses divided over vaccine passport elimination' Alberta businesses divided over vaccine passport elimination
Alberta businesses divided over vaccine passport elimination – Feb 9, 2022

Some councillors also said they’d heard from Edmontonians — fully vaccinated and who supported all other public health measures up to this point — who asked council not to implement a local vaccine passport.

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“They do not have the energy to implement new restrictions,” city manager Andre Corbould said.

“A lot of people are really tired,” Coun. Sarah Hamilton said, “and don’t want us to do this.

“Most are fully vaccinated and support restrictions so far but feel any further action on the city’s part would be too far.

“I think we might endanger our relationship with the provincial government. And I think we have a lot of issues ahead of us… where we’ll need good-faith conversations.

“I think that proceeding on a city-operated REP would probably create a bit of a challenge to that relationship.”

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Read more: COVID-19: Edmonton looking at municipal restrictions exemption program

Administration was asked to look at legal capabilities, implications and enforcement.

In its report to councillors, administration recommended council not implement its own REP and not implement a mandatory symptoms-screening program at all Edmonton businesses and venues.

“The burden of administrating the program would rest with those front-line workers and servers (who are) at risk of violence, abuse and aggression,” Corbould said.

He said administration found a municipal bylaw could result in heightened public division and more complaints to the city.

“I do feel that at this stage, the removal (of the REP) could have serious consequences,” said Coun. Ashley Salvador, “but we do not have the same force of law as the provincial government.”

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Some Albertans celebrate end of the restrictions exemption program – Feb 9, 2022

“I have felt a lot of emotions this week,” added Coun. Erin Rutherford. “Fatigue. We’re all tired… I’m sad.”

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She expressed anger at the provincial government for the lack of warning and collaboration with municipalities and lifting restrictions so quickly.

“Municipalities absolutely have a role in public health… but we cannot go it alone,” she said.

Rutherford said she hopes the province responds to the city’s request for additional health data and recommendations made by chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw ahead of the decision to start easing health rules.

Coun. Aaron Paquette said that without provincial support, a municipal REP is “ineffective” and “legally unsustainable.”

Coun. Jennifer Rice said “public safety is important for everyone,” but she believes “the city should understand jurisdictionary boundaries.”

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Businesses can continue using COVID-19 QR codes as long as they are issued: Kenney – Feb 8, 2022

Edmonton businesses can choose to implement their own vaccine requirement or symptom-screening program without a bylaw in place, Corbould told councillors.

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In fact, in City of Edmonton recreation centres, staff are doing symptom-screening checks at the entrance.

Read more: City sets guidelines for when Edmonton’s COVID-19 mask bylaw to be reviewed

Councillors also heard Edmonton’s face-covering bylaw — which applies to everyone over the age of two in all indoor public spaces — will remain in effect and unchanged.

Once the province’s mask mandate lifts for children under 12 on Feb. 15, kids won’t be required to wear face coverings in schools, hospitals or daycares, even within Edmonton.

In order for Edmonton council to debate the face-covering bylaw again, two triggers must occur: the provincial mask mandate must be lifted and Edmonton must have fewer than 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people for 28 consecutive days. Edmonton currently sits at about 500 cases per 100,000 people.

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Some Edmonton schools taking steps to address air quality in classrooms – Jan 6, 2022

Councillors passed two motions Friday:

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“That the mayor, on behalf of Edmonton city council, requests the province of Alberta develop a formal bilateral consultation and engagement process with the City of Edmonton to discuss issues of mutual interest and that the province of Alberta consult and seek input from the City of Edmonton before lifting further COVID-19 protocols.”

“That administration explore the effectiveness, feasibility and cost of installing HEPA air filtration systems in city-owned facilities as a preventative measure against COVID-19, and include any site-specific recommendations.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta businesses divided over vaccine passport elimination' Alberta businesses divided over vaccine passport elimination
Alberta businesses divided over vaccine passport elimination – Feb 9, 2022

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