A City Reunited: My Hope for The Future Beyond the Pandemic
Last week I signed an AUMA pledge stating I would:
- Keep local elections local;
- Maintain independent and non-partisanship;
- Demonstrate transparency; and,
- Engage in respectful behaviour.
I intend to keep that commitment and therefore, that is how I am also addressing the Provincially mandated health and safety restrictions, including the ‘vaccine passport’ program.
Many of you have asked me about my stance on mask mandates, vaccine passports, and government restrictions in general. First of all, I want to start off by saying that I have deep sympathy for every single person who has been affected by Covid-19; whether you’re a business owner, a parent, have lost employment, or you or a loved one have been sick, or tragically lost a life.
When people ask me whether I support the current restrictions, it’s difficult to answer because this long-drawn-out global pandemic has brought about so much divisiveness related to mandated masking, forced business closures, school shutdowns, work-from-home legislation, and many other measures. It saddens me to see people becoming divided over this as opposed to being kind to one another; it also saddens me to see people losing their lives to this very dangerous, and deadly disease.
Another reason it is difficult to answer is because I truly believe that in a fair and equitable society, we should all have the freedom to choose. I believe this freedom is also a contributor to health, and I recognize with freedom, also comes great responsibilities.
A consensus from Healthcare leaders around the world, based on sound scientific evidence and expertise, has advised us that the only way out of this pandemic is by increasing the vaccination rates throughout the province, thus we need to encourage more citizens to do just that. The default question to their recommendation is, how do we do that?
I also believe, and this is where my pledge comes into play, this IS NOT, AND SHOULD NOT, be a decision of a Municipal Council.
Agreeing or disagreeing with vaccinations and/or vaccination passports is not a factor in how I could lead this City as Mayor, and therefore, I am choosing to keep my personal choice and opinion to myself. By not sharing my personal opinion I hope to show that I hold space, and have compassion for your freedom of choice, while also recognizing where my responsibility to be transparent with you is. If you are wondering whether, as the mayor, I would put policies in place that usurp the provincial government’s areas of responsibility, my answer is it’s not up to me, and depending on what it was might not even be within the powers of the municipality. I would be one member on council, and like anything that has come to me while on council, I would need to be presented with facts, courses of action, and recommendations - that’s how the position works, even as mayor. I’m not in a position (nor do I want to be) of dictatorship, and asking me a very broad question then expecting very detailed specific answers isn’t conducive to being an effective elected official.
Is it heartbreaking to see what’s happening? Absolutely, yes. Is it scary that we are going through a fourth wave and in a state of health emergency? Absolutely, yes.
Regardless of how I feel though, my control over it as a municipally elected official is very minute. We can help amplify the science, educate people on how to protect themselves, and yes, if administration and/council of the whole decides, implement measures like mask mandates and vaccine passports. Like I said though, my decisions would be based on what’s presented in real time, not theoretically and until then, it’s only my personal opinion about right now (which if I share, goes against my pledge).
I will also add, that in October of 2020, I voted in favour of a municipal mask mandate, and in June of this year, strongly voted against repealing the bylaw (which unfortunately precluded me from being able to bring a new motion forward).
As a business owner in Spruce Grove, I have been mandated to choose one of the regulation paths the Province has set forth. I have made the decision to implement the Restriction Exemption Program, which means unvaccinated patrons are not able to visit. It was a difficult decision to make, one that many businesses have faced harassment, hate, and bullying for because they chose to implement the REP. While I offer compassion and understanding for those who choose to stay unvaccinated, the fact is, if I didn’t implement the program, I would have to go out of business. If I closed my doors right now, instead of implementing the REP, it would likely have to be for good.
It’s an unfortunate shirking of responsibility that the Province has downloaded to business owners, and one that has only created more divide throughout the community. I truly hope we will all be able to come back together soon, and offer all of you, vaccinated or otherwise, my honouring of how difficult this pandemic has been and how much it’s changed all of our lives.
If you have any questions, feel free to give me a call 780-995-1522 or email me at email@example.com