'If we have to, we will': Business closures on the table as city weighs restriction options
EDMONTON -- The City of Edmonton is exploring exactly what public health restrictions it could impose in the coming days, if the provincial government does not strengthen its own measures.
One option being looked at, beyond closure of city-operated facilities such as leisure centres, is regulation of non-essential businesses such as restaurants, bars and casinos.
“I want to be crystal clear,” said mayor Don Iveson, who added he’d be watching Monday’s provincial COVID-19 briefing closely, “We would see this as a last resort."
Iveson used in-person dining as an example of an activity that could be impacted, saying some hospitality businesses have asked for mandated closures in order to access federal aid packages. One thing the city is working to determine is whether a business would be eligible for those funds, if forcibly closed by a municipal bylaw.
“We'll have further announcements today or tomorrow potentially and so, hopefully, we won't need to act but I want to be crystal clear, if we have to, we will," said Iveson.
Restriction options will be discussed at a special city council meeting on Tuesday.
Iveson maintained he would prefer to see the provincial government introduce stronger restrictions and said he spoke with Premier Jason Kenney three times last week about that subject.
“I understand (the province is) taking a look at what additional measures and steps they may take in response to the numbers.”
Alberta’s COVID-19 case numbers have not decreased since provincial health measures were introduced nearly two weeks ago. Alberta added 3,500 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend and recorded 25 more deaths.
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There are limitations to what public health measures municipalities can introduce.
A clause in the Alberta Emergency Management Act, introduced in the spring, gives the provincial government power to quash municipal orders “with the stroke of a pen," said Iveson.
This is one reason the city has not reintroduced a local state of emergency. Bylaw changes or amendments made under the Municipal Government Act would not be subject to a provincial veto, according to the city.
“This is moving very fast,” said Iveson. “And it's really, to be honest, Plan B, because we would like the province to act within its authority to limit the opportunity for transmission in bars, restaurants, lounges casinos, and other potential transmission sites when the virus is clearly out of control right now in our community.”