Calgary’s mayor says the province’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is doing long-term economic damage to Alberta and its reputation.
Naheed Nenshi told reporters Monday that five conventions that were booked for Calgary have been cancelled directly because of the government’s COVID policies.
The mayor says the conventions all cancelled after the government’s announcement in the summer about scrapping COVID testing, tracing and isolation rules.
That policy was later reversed and the restrictions stayed in place.
But Nenshi says the damage was already done and now Alberta’s surging case count — there were 18,395 active cases as of Monday, the highest count in the country — is jeopardizing the province’s future prosperity.
“I can tell you the No. 1 question that I get asked and my colleagues at Calgary Economic Development get asked is: Why would I move to Alberta with that provincial government?” he said.
“‘How in the world would I attract young people to want to live there when it’s so retrograde?’ And the premier and his cabinet have to come to terms with this and understand you’re doing long-term damage to the brand of Alberta.”
The province responded to Nenshi’s comments with an emailed statement from the department of Jobs, Economy and Innovation.
“Alberta has had consecutive months of job growth, including 20,000 jobs added in August alone, and has seen major international brands like mCloud, Infosys, and Mphasis choose Alberta, and Calgary in particular, for investment,” wrote spokesperson Justin Brattinga.
“The mayor needs to get his facts straight.”
Alberta’s COVID response has been guided by the best available evidence and the advice of public health professionals, including Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Brattinga said.
Nenshi said the province has abdicated its leadership, forcing businesses and institutions to step in. He noted, for example, that nine Alberta post-secondaries are choosing to not allow people on their campuses unless they’ve been vaccinated.
Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, told CBC News that she’s heard of instances where misgivings about Alberta’s COVID policies have hindered recruitment. She said corporate headhunters’ discussions with prospective professionals considering a move to Calgary are being terminated.
“I think what we’re seeing is that we’re not in step with other jurisdictions. And when you’re not in step with other jurisdictions, then you are going to feel the consequences of that,” she said.