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Edmonton exploring own proof-of-vaccination program after Alberta's cancelled

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Edmonton is looking at options to bring in a citywide proof-of-vaccination system after Alberta's premier cancelled the highly controversial Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) at midnight Wednesday.

Councillors unanimously voted Wednesday to have city staff research the issue, which includes an option for an "active screening program" for both city buildings and private businesses. The report is due back "as soon as possible."

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi asked Premier Jason Kenney not to cancel the REP, which required all Albertans to show a QR code for certain activities in non-essential businesses, such as eating in restaurants.

Sohi promised one week earlier that the city would explore all available options to keep Edmontonians safe. He argues that it is "too soon" to drop restrictions.

"Some voices will be emboldened by these changes, particularly those who have never believed in COVID," Sohi said Wednesday of the provincial announcement.

"Having a municipal REP program is not going to be as effective as the one we had with the province, but we want to explore those options to ensure that Edmontonians know that their city council is doing whatever it can…to protect them."

Sohi and Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek were told about the changes just 30 minutes before the public announcement, he said.

"We were absolutely excluded from any process or any consultation."

Kenney said Tuesday that the REP, which he introduced in September, had done its job in increasing vaccination rates but those increases have now slowed.

He argued that his plan to relax restrictions was a "careful and prudent" way to "move on from a widespread pandemic response, to get our lives back to normal."


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"We have initiated an immediate response. We are requiring active screening first thing this morning for symptoms at entrances to City facilities," City Manager Andre Corbould said.

Several councillors said they didn't understand why Kenney was relaxing restrictions right now. Although new case numbers and hospitalizations appeared to be falling, 1,623 Albertans were still in hospital with COVID-19 Tuesday, the fifth highest total of the pandemic.

"The only things I can see changing here are the trucker protest at Coutts, and the premier’s leadership review," Coun. Michael Janz said.

"Here we are in the Omicron wave, and we know that more variants are coming. So, does 'living with COVID' mean giving COVID a free ride so it has a chance to mutate further?" Coun. Aaron Paquette asked of an AHS official.

City administrators could not give councillors a certain answer on whether Edmonton can legally bring in its own REP without provincial approval.

"Going out on our own, there is a risk of a successful (court) challenge. But I can’t assess the level of risk at this point," said City Solicitor Michelle Plouffe.

Councillors also want Kenney's government to make available the recommendations made by Chief Medical Officer Of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Hinshaw has repeatedly said that she will not publicly disclose what measures she recommends to the province, and that politicians make final decisions on restrictions, not her.

Councillors asked COVID-19-related questions of an Alberta Health Services doctor and city managers for three hours Wednesday before passing their motion.

"I think this motion addresses the questions that we've been hearing from Edmontonians and communities and I think it addresses concerns around equity and evidence," Coun. Aaron Paquette said.

A city mask mandate will remain in place indefinitely.

Sohi said more information is expected on Friday.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson

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