We need to talk about the 4th wave

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021 | 2021 Election, Calgary, Politics

On Monday a group of City council hopefuls gathered to call on the current council to implement COVID-19 protocols to stem the fourth wave. I was invited to join them, but despite generally supporting their belief that action is needed, I declined because I didn’t feel there was a solid enough plan to directly support.

This is an important topic, and I want to share my thoughts as Council grapples with what to do next (if anything).

First, Unless otherwise mandated, I believe public health is the responsibility of the Province. In Alberta, municipalities have not been granted any authority over healthcare, leaving us without our own medical officer of health on staff. Therefore, decisions of this type must be made by the provincial government. I personally am not a public health expert and so don’t know what an appropriate response should be. I do know that without the Premier, Minister of Health or Chief Medical Officer of Health making any public comments for weeks, the question of whether we have anyone working on the file is a legitimate one.

In this information vacuum, some Calgarians are understandably worried. I would classify this as a failure of provincial leadership and I would lend my voice to all those Calgarians who believe decisions must be made, and soon.

Second, the City of Calgary should implement COVID-19 protocols only if they declare a state of local emergency. It is this process that allows for the City to mandate themselves to take action on a public health issue. We are clearly in a fourth wave of the pandemic even before children and post-secondary students return to school this week and next. Without action from the Province, and soon, I could see Calgary needing to enter a state of local emergency again very shortly.

Finally, how do we decide when there is a state of local emergency (and the City should take action) versus when it is a public health issue (and the Province should take action)? Which one do I think it is? These are not simple black and white questions and so the only solution is to have a council meeting to discuss it publicly. Regardless of whether you think the City should implement new COVID-19 protocols I am dismayed to see that the majority of our current Council members are not even willing to have that discussion in front of their constituents. I would classify this as a failure of municipal leadership. [Edit: Since writing this post I’m pleased to see a committee meeting has at least finally been scheduled.]

So to the provincial government, I say: get to work and make a public statement about what you are doing to stem the fourth wave. And to the current City Council, I say: get to work and get ready to have a discussion later this week about whether it is time to declare a local state of emergency should the province not act in the next couple of days.