The implementation of the City creating their own potential COVID bylaws has been a popular topic the last week with the recent restrictions changes from the Province. I want to thank everyone that took the time to contact my office to share your feedback. My hope with this update is to provide some clarity on what has been decided, and my position on how I voted. On Friday, February 11th, the conversation concluded. During this conversation City Administration recommended the following:
- They did not recommend implementing a restriction exemption equivalent bylaw in its own facilities or for private businesses in Edmonton.
- They did not recommend implementing a Bylaw requiring businesses within the City to participate in an active COVID-19 symptom screening program.
- For the time being City Administration recommended the City’s Temporary Face Covering Bylaw remain in place with no change. Further conversations will be had about this bylaw if needed.
City Council voted to accept these recommendations and a bylaw was not enacted.
I could not support enacting a new municipal vaccine passport bylaw, and I voted in favour of accepting Administration’s recommendations. I do support maintaining a face covering bylaw for a few more weeks, until hospitalizations normalise. My decision was based upon a frank and realistic analysis of the situation, which I have outlined below.
On Wednesday Morning I conducted a survey with my constituents. By 10:00pm I had received 1,012 responses. 443 (44%) preferred that all restrictions be removed, and 569 (56%) favoured maintaining some or all restrictions. I was not able to break down how many were in favour of a new Restriction Exemption Program (REP), maintaining a mask bylaw, physical distancing, symptom screening, or any combination of those measures.
I try very hard to represent the consensus view of ward pihêsiwin, but in this case, there was no clear consensus.
City Council also received input from our Business Improvement Areas, the Chamber of Commerce, local business owners and front line City workers. All that feedback consistently advised strongly that Council should not impose a new REP bylaw or symptoms screening program. This additional feedback tipped the scales for me.
I realize that roughly half of you will not be pleased with this result. I welcome your feedback, as always.
Please keep in mind that my staff work very hard to support you, and typically get your messages before I do. There is no way I could have reviewed the thousands of messages I received this week without their help. But there have been too many insulting and profanity-filled phone calls and emails of late, and my staff don’t deserve to be treated that way. Please share your views, but please be courteous.
I understand that many are frustrated that the Province removed the REP so abruptly. I share that frustration and disappointment. I think it should have remained in place a few more weeks.
But the Provincial REP was intended to motivate people to get vaccinated, and 84% of Edmonton residents now have two vaccinations. We have reached “peak cooperation.” The REP was successful in motivating people to get vaccinated. Regardless of the motivations of the Provincial government to move so quickly, the fact remains that the REP had reached the end of its usefulness.
In order for a municipal bylaw to be effective, we need to consider how many people will follow a bylaw of their own accord, and how many will not follow it unless compelled.
The Provincial restriction exemptions program and the mask bylaw carried the weight of a declared health emergency, and they extended across the province. Not everyone was happy, but most people complied. All these aspects considered, If Edmonton is the only city in the province to have a passport requirement, the level of voluntary compliance will be significantly lower.
That means we need more emphasis on enforcement to make this bylaw effective, and there is no effective way to enforce a REP bylaw. We have nowhere near enough of our own Bylaw officers, and it is rather unlikely the Edmonton Police Service have the resources to enforce this bylaw either.
Therefore, it would be up to front line workers - servers in restaurants, clerks in grocery and home improvement stores, our own City staff in recreation centres - to attempt to enforce this bylaw.
We have seen that many in our society have lost their capacity to conduct themselves respectfully. There is a significant risk that those objecting to any new restrictions would act in a threatening and intimidating way.
This was the point that our business community and our own City employees raised. They did not want to be put in the position of enforcing an unpopular City bylaw. I agree with them. I didn’t want to put those front line workers in the position of enduring a number of threatening confrontations on a daily basis. The risks of removing the restrictions no longer outweigh the risks of confrontation, violence and disorder.
Many people have expressed deep frustration with those that have chosen not to vaccinated, or that were slow to get vaccinated. Many would like to see a passport requirement remain, to segregate, to punish those who are not vaccinated.
During the fourth (Delta) wave, there was a close correlation between those that were not vaccinated and those that were contagious. That close correlation does not exist to the same degree with Omicron. Vaccinated and unvaccinated persons contracted Omicron in relatively equal proportion.
That is not to say that vaccinations are no longer important or encouraged. They are. A vaccinated person will have a much less severe reaction, is less likely to require hospital care and therefore puts less pressure on our health system. We should get vaccinated, and we should get our booster when we can.
But maintaining a REP bylaw in place simply to punish a select group of people is wrong.
So what should we do?
Our goal is simple. Reduce pressure on the health care system - on hospitals.
Advice from health advisors to Council told us that our focus needs to be limiting the spread of Covid from infected persons to uninfected ones. The point of distinction needs to move away from who is and who isn’t vaccinated, and towards who currently has COVID and is therefore a contagious threat to others.
The medical advice is that persons displaying symptoms need to go home and stay home for 5 days. That we all should continue to wear a face covering to protect others, in case we have Covid but are not displaying symptoms. That we should maintain physically distancing, washing and sanitizing our hands, and limiting the size of the groups we gather in.
I came to realize that enacting a new bylaw would be more divisive than effective, virtually impossible to enforce and largely an exercise in futility.
Instead, I chose to follow City Administration's advice and medical advice, by encouraging our citizens to care for each other by limiting contact, to stay home when they are sick and to continue to wear a mask in indoor public spaces until hospitalization rates normalize.
I encourage everyone to be kind to one another and to be respectful of each other's choices.
Do you like this page?