Calgary Chamber of Commerce against Alta.’s move to cancel vaccine passports
The program is the first to go as part of the province's three-step plan to lift public health restrictions.
A major business group has slammed the Alberta government’s decision to eliminate a proof-of-vaccine program, calling it “akin to ripping the Band-Aid off before the wound has healed.”
The Calgary Chamber of Commerce issued a strongly worded statement on Feb. 8, just hours after Premier Jason Kenney announced that businesses will no longer have to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from patrons as of midnight.
Alberta’s Restrictions Exemption Program, or REP, was introduced last fall in an effort to curb spiking case rates and encourage vaccination. It requires Albertans to show proof of double vaccination or a negative rapid test result to obtain entry to businesses operating under the program.
The program is the first to go as part of the province’s three-step plan to lift public health restrictions.
“The restriction exemption program has served its useful purpose. It has done its job,” Kenney told a news conference.
But chamber president and CEO Deborah Yedlin said that public health measures like the REP and masking remain critical to ensuring people feel comfortable dining at restaurants, attending sporting and entertainment events, going to gyms and going to work.
“Today’s announcement on the immediate removal of all pandemic measures and restrictions ignores the importance of consumer confidence in our economic recovery,” Yedlin said.
She added the chamber believes that prematurely lifting restrictions could lead to reduced revenues for businesses, as people choose to stay home and minimize the potential for exposure to the virus.
Yedlin also warned of labour shortages due to illness, and a potential increase in infection rates at schools, “sending children and teachers home and disrupting work patterns and productivity for many parents.”
Another industry group, the Alberta Hospitality Association, which represents restaurants and bar owners, wanted to see other restrictions — such as a liquor curfew, bans on live music and billiards, and rules about how many people can be seated at one table — removed before the passport program.
Instead, those restrictions remain in place until at least March 1.
“We’re in favour of whatever it takes so that we can operate our businesses at 100 per cent. If that means keeping the REP, then by all means,” said Ernie Tsu, president of the association and owner of Calgary’s Trolley 5 brewpub.
“They went against all of the stakeholder groups that wrote letters in. They didn’t listen to us at all.”
The Edmonton Chamber said before the announcement that it supported responsible health and safety measures that allow businesses to operate while protecting customers, workers and communities.
“We would hope that any decision to ease restrictions would be made in consideration of health information and supporting data,” Jeffrey Sundquist, president and chief executive of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, said in an email.