Edmonton-area mayors, businesses join Opposition's calls for Alberta vaccine passport

Edmonton's mayor is one of 11 from Alberta's capital region who have formally asked the province to reconsider its stance against a COVID-19 vaccine passport.

In a Tuesday letter to Health Minister Tyler Shandro, the group asked the government to put such a system in place.

The group cited a Leger survey which found support for the idea from 77 per cent of Alberta participants, and an uptick in vaccinations in other provinces with a passport program.

"We believe more is required to keep our citizens safe, to protect our health care system and to ensure we do not jeopardize our economic recovery," the letter read in part.

Edmonton's mayor said the indictment the letter carried should serve as a wake-up call for provincial leaders.

"I have never seen that group of people… as angry as I saw them about what's been happening in Alberta," Don Iveson recalled of meeting with his regional counterparts the previous week. "And the sense that – once again – local governments were going to have to step up into the breach."

It's a sentiment echoed by business owners who plan to ask customers for proof of vaccination.

"Ultimately, you're asking businesses to play politics," Andrew Obrecht, co-founder of YEG Cycle and YYC Cycle, told CTV News.

His 200 staff and customers will need to provide proof of vaccination starting Sept. 15.

It is a decision made with both community health but also their business in mind: The spin studios were fully closed for 10 months of the pandemic and operated at 20 per cent capacity for another five months.

Making the same decision weeks earlier, management at Edmonton concert venue The Starlite Room called it "break[ing] our own ground." At an Alberta NDP event on Tuesday, owner and operator Tyson Boyd said a vaccine passport is the "way forward." His business, and others with liquor licenses, were not allowed to sell alcohol past 10 p.m. as of Sept. 4.

When the provincial government announced the change, it also announced a $100 incentive to unvaccinated residents.

Arcadia Brewery's owner decided that day to require vaccination going forward.

"Rewarding the unvaccinated and punishing local businesses, that was just – I had to do something," Darren McGeown told CTV News Edmonton.

"We all realized that [the provincial government is] not going to take this step and it's like businesses like Fleisch and Starlite Room and myself that need to step up… We care about our customers, we care about our staff."

Fleisch was among the earliest, if not the first, to require vaccinations from indoor diners.

At his last press conference, Premier Jason Kenney said "we're not going to forcibly jab people's arms in this province." Instead, he asked unvaccinated people to limit their social interactions to a cohort.

According to data presented Friday, about 30 per cent of eligible Albertans have not been fully vaccinated. More than 80 per cent of all COVID-19 hospitalizations since July 1 have been unvaccinated people. Of the 114 ICU patients on Friday, 91 per cent were unvaccinated.

Iveson said, "I think that a passport mechanism provides a much more strong and relevant incentive, including for all of us who have already gotten vaccinated, to be able to support reopening of our economy than $100 payments to people who've held out so far."

The letter to Shandro was also signed by the mayors of Beaumont, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, St. Albert, Devon, Morinville, Leduc and Parkland, Sturgeon, Leduc and Strathcona counties.

The municipal leaders also asked the province to make its most recent public health measures consistent across the province and school districts, and provide access to the regional data it is basing decisions on.

"We are also calling on you and your government colleagues to provide greater leadership and stronger communication as we navigate the fourth wave. We need to understand the provincial plan and your priorities related to the pandemic."

Capital-region mayors ask province to implement vaccine passports by CTV News Edmonton on Scribd

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Touria Izri