NDP attempt to ensure Alberta MLAs are vaccinated quashed at committee
An attempt to change Alberta’s legislature rules for COVID-19 vaccination by the official opposition to ensure every MLA is vaccinated was squashed by the UCP at a special committee meeting Monday.
On Monday, the NDP proposed at the legislature’s standing committee on members’ services that only proof of vaccination – in the form of the QR code vaccine passport – or medical exemption would need to be shown to gain entry to the chamber.
Under this proposed motion, brought forward by NDP MLA for Edmonton-South West Thomas Dang, the option to provide a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours would be eliminated.
House Leader Jason Nixon said on Oct. 5 that members of the legislative assembly have until Oct. 25 to get vaccinated or present a negative COVID-19 test every three days.
For Dang, ensuring every MLA was vaccinated would not only guarantee the legislature could continue to meet safely but send a signal to Albertans about the importance of being vaccinated.
“Members of the government should agree that we need to continue to lead by example, particularly so in such significant situations as this public health emergency,” Dang said.
“We’ve seen across this province businesses implement vaccine passport programs,” he added. “Here’s an opportunity for the government to actually lead by example.”
The NDP motion was defeated 5 to 4, with votes falling along party lines.
Jeremy Nixon, UCP MLA for Calgary-Klein, said the proposed NDP policy would create “a double standard” since under the Restrictions Exemption Program, negative test results are acceptable.
Additionally, Nixon said he thought the motion was problematic since it would restrict members of the legislature from accessing the chamber.
“Members are duly elected by their constituents to be in that chamber to be able to represent those constituents and vote,” Nixon added.
“For us to be putting forward a motion that would potentially restrict members from accessing the chamber because of their personal health decisions is quite concerning.”
In response, Dang said a vaccine-proof policy would be no different than other standing orders of the legislature like if a male member of the assembly was not wearing a tie they would be denied access to sit in the chamber.
Jasvir Deol, NDP MLA for Edmonton Mill Woods, added that if the government was serious about increasing vaccine uptake then it should have its own members be vaccinated and use the proof of vaccine system.
“This is simple,” he said. “By opposing this motion, the government is obviously once again demonstrating the mixed messaging that has been quite damaging to the province.”
The UCP previously said all their MLAs except for one have had at least a first dose of vaccine. The New Democrats have said all members of its caucus are vaccinated.
Nathan Neudorf, UCP MLA for Lethbridge-East, suggested the NDP motion goes above and beyond what Albertans are being expected to follow.
Neudorf added the current legislature COVID-19 vaccine policy is ideal since it provides several options, including showing negative test results, medical exemption, or proof of vaccination.
For him, that keeps MLAs and their staff safe “in a free and democratic way.”
“We do want consistency of regulation, we do want consistency of message to the people of Alberta which is,” he said, “that they can be double vaccinated and show that proof of vaccination or have a negative COVID test within 72 hours.”