By Justin Seward
Many local municipalities have gotten on board of sending an open letter to Premier Jason Kenney in hopes of seeing a regional approach for easing further restrictions in certain regions of the province with lower numbers.
Cypress County council approved Coun. Robin Kurpjuweit motion to send a letter to Edmonton on Feb. 2 .
“I think it would be appropriate to take this letter and add a component to it that encourages a regional approach to lifting restrictions,” said Kurpjuweit.
“Opening the economy is something that a lot of people would like to see — especially in the business community — and from a balanced approach. But I do believe that in order to potentially expedite for our region, it was warranted having a regional approach as a priority,” Kurpjuweit added.
“The South zone has really good low numbers and we’re being held to the same conditions and requirements that are being put out in Calgary and Edmonton.”
The County of Forty Mile sent a letter in support of a regional approach last week.
“Chantel (Timmons) has done quite a bit of the work and she drafted the letter and I think we were going to forward it right away to Edmonton and then just ratify (this) week at the council meeting,” said Steve Wikkerink, County of Forty Mile reeve.
Wikkerink said the province is saying they (the province) have to do something as they’re putting out all this stimulus money to try to and get the economy going.
“Well then why not let the regions of your province that have proven to be able to keep their numbers low, (and) let those parts of the province get opened and at least get some of the Alberta economy going. In my mind, don’t struggle that you’re not making any money because oil and gas is poor and yet on the other side, you’ve got parts of your province that wants to go back to work and start generating cash—which then goes back into the economy—and the government so far is stifling areas of the province that could be working again.”
Wikkerink suggested if the numbers are low to open the areas by counties and let businesses resume working.
Wikkerink said, “It was kind of indicated to us earlier that the squeaky wheel around Calgary kept everything closed. Well, it’s time that we become the squeaky wheel and let us open up and let the population start to socialize a bit more, let’s get the people that are locked in their homes out and feel better about themselves, feel better about society and let’s move forward.”
The Town of Redcliff had the letter on their Feb. 8 council meeting agenda.
“All I could do to the people that sent me emails was the same thing I’d tell you (Cypress Courier) is tomorrow (Feb. 4) is agenda (day) and I can make sure that it’s going to be a part of Monday night’s package and then as a council we’ll discuss it,” said Redcliff Mayor Dwight Kilpatrick.
“(With the) pros and cons, I think we’ll be doing it with feelings, not statistics. I think the outcome may be pre-written.”
Medicine Hat and District Chamber of Commerce president Marcus Campbell says a regional approach would be best, given where the region is at from a case count.
“We are in favour of a regional approach and we’ve been lobbying for that, as have other chambers across this province,” he said.
“We would like to see things reconsidered. However, we understand and we appreciate where the province is coming from. I think the scariest part is that the environment is significantly different today than it was in the spring of 2020 and this reopening procedure from the government is being closely watched. We need to get our region open, but we need to open our region safely and effectively without jeopardizing future outbreaks.”
Campbell confirmed that the Chamber has had support letters delivered through the Alberta Chamber of Commerce of asking the province to reassess the regional approach.
“I think the challenge is understanding an acceptance of the benchmark plan,” said Campbell.
“It’s a delicate balance between what the business community wants and perceives as to where we should be at versus what the province is trying to do for us.”
Campbell said, “There is an overwhelming desire for this regional approach and we’re hearing it on a regular basis.”