Calgary city staff must be vaccinated or face regular testing

City workers who don't provide proof of vaccination will have to submit to testing at their own expense.

Calgary Herald 3 minute read October 7, 2021

City Hall in Calgary on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Dre Kwong/Postmedia

The city confirmed Wednesday that all employees must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption under the Alberta Human Rights Act.

The city’s official vaccination policy, which was first promised in early September, will include a month-long transition period to give employees time to become fully vaccinated.

Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 1, employees who aren’t fully vaccinated must attend a mandatory online education program about the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccinations, and participate in a rapid-testing program using home testing kits supplied by the city.

However, after Dec. 1, employees who are still unable to provide proof of vaccination must continue to provide regular test results from authorized vendors at their own expense and on their own time.

City manager David Duckworth confirmed to Postmedia last week that the city will be in a position to release the number of employees who are vaccinated sometime after the policy goes into effect on Nov. 1.

In a statement Wednesday, Duckworth said the city’s policy will protect employees while ensuring the continued delivery of city services.

“Vaccines are proven to be safe and effective to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This policy is intended to maximize vaccination rates among city employees,” Duckworth said. “With COVID-19 cases on the rise at an alarming rate, this is the responsible thing to do as public servants.”

The city’s plan is similar to the one announced by the Alberta government last week that requires provincial public service employees to be fully vaccinated or submit to regular testing. Provincial employees who refuse to get vaccinated will not be let go, but will be placed on unpaid leave if they do not want to be tested.

City employees who refuse to provide proof of vaccination or to submit to regular testing will also be placed on a leave of absence, the city said Wednesday, and could be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal.

In a tweet on Wednesday evening, the Calgary Police Service confirmed that sworn officers will also be subject to the vaccination policy alongside other municipal employees.

There had been questions about whether CPS would take the same approach to vaccination as other city departments since the conduct of sworn officers is governed under separate legislation.

Unions have been pushing the city to implement a policy that would apply to all employees and were opposed to a separate standard for police officers.

The city has struggled to settle on a policy for employees, with officials vacillating behind the scenes between a mandatory policy on vaccination and one that permitted rapid testing.

Other jurisdictions in Canada have taken a harder line on vaccinations.

The City of Toronto announced Wednesday that staff who aren’t able to provide proof of vaccination by Nov. 1 will be suspended without pay, and those who still aren’t vaccinated by Dec. 13 will be fired.