Skip to main content

Bowing to political pressure or pandemic data? Nearly half of UCP MLAs wants Alta. COVID-19 restrictions lifted


Almost half of United Conservative Party MLAs have released clear statements asking for a removal of Alberta's Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) or signalled their approval of easing COVID-19 public health measures.

That represents almost half of the entire UCP caucus, with members from across the province expressing the need for individual statements, signing collective letters, or sharing of messaging from the premier or cabinet ministers this year to end or lift some pandemic-related restrictions. The remaining MLAs did not respond to CTV's request for comment.

Doctors have indicated while they understand Albertans' frustration with public health measures, now is not time to lift them since the province still has 1,542 people in hospital and requires pandemic response units in Edmonton and Calgary.

Premier Jason Kenney announced Thursday that Albertans could expect to see a plan on how the province will begin to lift COVID-19 restrictions in the province early this week.

"As COVID changes, our response to it must change as well," Kenney said during a live address on Facebook last week.

"That is why early (this) week, Alberta will announce a firm date to end the Restrictions Exemptions Program and to do so in the very near future," the premier added.

"We will also lay out a simple, phased, plan to remove almost all public health restrictions later this month, as long as we see a trend of declining pressure on our hospitals."

Kenney made the comments a week after saying that the REP would likely be in place until the end of March and following "freedom convoy" protests in Edmonton and Calgary, and after blockades of Alberta's largest border crossing to the U.S.

"My position was clear, I have not, ever, supported the REP program," said MLA Shane Getson in a statement on Facebook on Friday. "REP will soon R.I.P. 

"The rational (sic) was to get higher vaccine uptake, slow the spread, allow business to have larger capacities, and of course to save the healthcare system," Getson said, adding the program got 90 per cent of Albertans aged older than 12 their first dose, kids have to wear masks, and families are "fighting with each other."

"This bizarre time needs to end," he said. "Getting rid of the exemption program will go a long way for that."

"I do not want to see measures in place a minute longer than they are necessary," said Demetrios Nicolaides, advanced education minister, on Facebook.

Other MLAs focused their concern with vaccine mandates for truckers needing to end, despite federal data indicating that vaccinations have had little impact on freight levels in Canada


While no details as to what the plan for easing restrictions or evidence underpinning the decision has been released as of publication, health law and policy expert Timothy Caulfield told CTV News he worries political pressure is driving the premier's decision.

"(My concern is) that this is driven by the controversies surrounding the protests we are seeing, not just in Alberta but across Canada, and that it's not being driven by the science and sensible public health decision-making," Caulfield said.

Caulfield said recent polling indicates the majority of Canadians and Albertans remain in support of vaccines and that peer-reviewed studies show positive impacts programs encouraging vaccination have.

"I understand that Albertans are frustrated," the Canadian Research Chair for health law and policy said.

"These loud voices are not necessarily a representation of what is really going on with Canadian citizens," he added. "Everyone wants the pandemic to end. "I am hopeful that we are going to be moving in that direction very soon. But let's do it based on science and not perhaps on the loudest voices."

He hopes the province announces a plan showing that the easing of restrictions is tied to a significant decrease in hospitalization rates and intensive care patients.


Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, told CTV News Edmonton that while Kenney faces pressure to lift pandemic mandates, doing so now could escalate further demonstrations.

"If you want the behaviour to continue, then giving into the demands that have been made is a guaranteed way to do so," she said.

For Williams, a decision by the province will likely include lifting some measures but not all COVID-19 restrictions — a move that won't satisfy many protesters.

"It is a grave concern that political rather than evidence-based considerations would determine health-care policy, particularly given the strain that is currently being placed on not just the health-care system but the health-care workers," Williams said.

"To concede to the right fringe of the party," Williams said, "that's not where the majority of Albertans are.

"There's no question the premier is very concerned about the upcoming leadership vote, and understandably so given what has recently happened to Erin O'Toole," she added.

The UCP MLAs who have made clear stances regarding the end of the REP or other public health measures includes:

  • Nathan Cooper (Speaker of the Legislative Assembly) - Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills
  • Tanya Fir (Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction) - Calgary-Peigan
  • Nate Horner (Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development) - Drumheller-Stettler
  • Jackie Lovely (parliamentary secretary to Associate Minister of Status of Women) - Camrose
  • Nathan Neudorf (parliamentary secretary to Minister of Environment) - Lethbridge-East
  • Demetrios Nicolaides (Minister of Advanced Education) - Calgary-Bow
  • Jason Nixon (Minister of Environment and Parks/House Leader) - Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
  • Ron Orr (Minister of Culture) - Lacombe-Ponoka
  • Travis Toews (Minister of Finance) - Grande Prairie-Wapiti
  • Searle Turton (parliamentary secretary to Minister of Energy) - Spruce Grove-Stony Plain
  • Dan Williams (parliamentary secretary to Minister of Culture) - Peace River
  • Tracy Allard - Grane Prairie
  • Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk - Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville
  • Devin Dreeshen - Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
  • Michaela Frey - Brooks-Medicine Hat
  • Shane Getson - Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland
  • Peter Guthrie - Airdrie-Cochrane
  • Matt Jones - Calgary-South East
  • Angela Pitt - Airdrie-East
  • Roger Reid - Livingstone-Macleod
  • Pat Rehn - Lesser Slave Lake
  • Garth Roswell - Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright
  • Joseph Schow - Cardston-Siksika
  • RJ Sigurdson - Highwood
  • Mark Smith - Drayton Valley-Devon
  • Jason Stephan - Red Deer-South
  • Glenn Van Dijken - Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock
  • Jordan Walker - Sherwood Park
  • Tony Yao - Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski and Kyra Markov Top Stories

Stay Connected