Nenshi blasts province on COVID reaction

'I've never seen a government this incompetent,' Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said of the province.

Calgary Herald 3 minute read September 16, 2021

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s disappointed with new provincial COVID-19 measures which leave it up to businesses to decide between implementing a vaccine passport system or closing indoor dining.

Nenshi said the province should have simply required Albertans to be vaccinated to visit restaurants, instead of “putting it on the restaurant” to decide.

“It’s cruel,” said Nenshi. “It’s cruel to those entrepreneurs who have already been through so much.”

Council discussed the COVID situation late Wednesday night in the wake of a provincial announcement of sweeping new restrictions to blunt the fourth wave.

The city will participate in the province’s so-called “restriction exemption program” and Calgarians will be required to provide proof of vaccination to access some city services, but there aren’t yet details about what that will look like.

Councillors asked city officials two weeks ago to report back on the issue of whether the city could require vaccines to access some city facilities such as recreation centres. But there’s still ongoing analysis of the latest COVID restrictions, and decisions will come another day.

The city is also planning to require employees be fully vaccinated for COVID, but that policy is not yet fully formed.

Ahead of the province’s update, Nenshi blasted the provincial government on the deadliest day so far of Alberta’s fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.

“I have (worked with) six premiers, two prime ministers, I’ve worked with dozens of big city mayors — some of whom were embroiled in scandal and lots of trouble — and I have never seen a government this incompetent,” Nenshi said Wednesday afternoon.

“People are dying. Families are going through immeasurable grief and pain and this could’ve been avoided.”

Nenshi made the comments on the heels of news that the province was going to address Alberta’s deteriorating COVID-19 situation Wednesday night. Premier Jason Kenney is believed to have been in cabinet committee meetings to discuss a potential response as early as Wednesday morning or early afternoon.

The mayor said the city was waiting to hear what steps the province was taking before council discusses what additional measures could be implemented locally.

Alberta reported 1,609 new cases Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 18,421. Twenty-four new deaths were reported, bringing the province’s total deaths to 2,495 people.

The new deaths include two people in their 40s, one person in their 50s, two people in their 60s, eight people in their 70s and 11 people age 80 or older.

Nenshi said he’s worried that it will take a while for case numbers to come down. He said he visited Foothills hospital on Wednesday morning for an appointment and spoke to health-care workers.

“I heard an earful about how nervous they are about the capacity of the health-care system to manage,” said Nenshi.

“We really have to take strong action and we have no time to waste. We’ve wasted too much time already.”