‘Wrong direction’: 15 UCP MLAs question return to Step 1 of health measures in letter to Albertans

CALGARY — A group of 15 UCP MLAs have released a letter to Albertans saying they do not support the return to Step 1 of restrictions announced by Premier Jason Kenney on Tuesday.

“As MLAs, we are calling on our government colleagues to recognize the pleas of our constituents,” it reads in part.

“After 13 painstaking months of COVID-19 public health restrictions, we do not support the additional restrictions imposed on Albertans (Tuesday), and we will continue advocating for a transparent path forward that provides certainty to Alberta families, communities and businesses.”

The letter, signed by MLAs who represent ridings that are primarily rural, also says the province announced in early 2021, “what we believed to be a clear path forward to reopen our province,” and the announcement by Kenney, “is the wrong direction.”

Kenney announced on Tuesday a return to Step 1 of the province’s reopening plan, which means restaurants and pubs are closed to indoor dining as of noon Friday, however patios will be allowed, along with takeout service and curbside pickup.

Retail stores are reduced to 15 per cent of capacity, libraries are closed and gyms are reduced to one-on-one training only. Performance activities like singing and dancing are also not permitted.

Some restaurant owners have said they will not follow the new guidelines and plan to remain open after Friday.

Kenney said during his announcement he expected there could be some pushback from his caucus.

“I fully expect to hear some of those opinions publicly in the coming days, and I welcome that,” he said.

“I’ve always welcomed a wide-ranging debate on how best to rise to the challenge of this pandemic. I just ask that the debate be informed by facts. Alberta is a diverse province, and that includes diversity of opinion.”

Kenney added “it’s not surprising that Albertans elected officials also have diverse views on how best to handle the pandemic.”

“And I also know that in our society there has been a real polarization of views on how best to deal with the challenge of this pandemic,” he said.

“On the one hand, we have some people who want what are called hard lockdowns, and have one of those in a long-term basis. Others who believe that the threat is massive, exaggerated, and we should have few or no restrictions.

“But Alberta’s approach has been to find a sensible, safe middle ground, a common ground that you can unite most Albertans. Our goal from Day 1 has been to control viral spread, to prevent an overwhelm of our healthcare system to avoid large-scale preventable deaths, while minimizing the damaging effect of public health restrictions on the broader social and economic health of our society.”

The group of MLAs represent ridings across the province, including:

  • Micheala Glasgo, Brooks-Medicine Hat
  • Miranda Rosin, Banff-Kananaskis
  • Todd Loewen, Central Peace-Notley
  • Angela Pitt, Airdrie East
  • Drew Barnes, Cypress-Medicine Hat
  • Jason Stephen, Red Deer South
  • Tracy Allard, Grande Prairie
  • Roger Reid Livingston-McLeod
  • Nate Horner, Drumheller-Stettler
  • Nathan Cooper, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills
  • Glenn van Dijken, Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock
  • Ron Orr, Lacombe Ponoka
  • Dave Hanson, Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul
  • RJ Sigurdson, Highwood
  • Mark Smith, Drayton Valley-Devon

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