Kenney vows to change law to stop municipalities from imposing their own public health restrictions


“We need at this stage to have consistency, clarity and unity rather than confusion and division,” Kenney said

Publishing date:

Mar 01, 2022  •  12 hours ago  •  4 minute read  •  209 Comments

Premier Jason Kenney.
Premier Jason Kenney. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia file

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the government will take away the ability of municipalities to impose their own public health restrictions.

Kenney said at a Tuesday news conference in Red Deer the UCP government will introduce legislation as early as next week to amend the Municipal Government Act (MGA) in an effort to put public division over COVID-19 measures in the rearview mirror.

“We are concerned that a patchwork of separate policies across the province could just lead to greater division, confusion, enforcement difficulty with no compelling public health rationale,” Kenney said, adding he is concerned municipalities would make decisions based on politics rather than science.

The province lifted nearly all pandemic public health measures Tuesday, including its mask mandate in most settings, restrictions on capacity, liquor sales and working from home. However, in Edmonton, the municipal mask mandate still applies, requiring anyone two and older to wear a face covering in public indoor spaces. City council is set to meet next week to discuss it.


More On This Topic

  1. Edmonton city council added two triggers to the mask bylaw Monday, prompting a review by council within 30 days of the two triggers being met.

    Edmonton’s mask bylaw still in place, council review set for next week

  2. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

    ‘Puzzling and troubling’: Alberta Municipalities, Sohi push back against suggestion Kenney could intervene with municipal COVID-19 rules

While Kenney foreshadowed his intention to block municipalities from imposing their own health measures in a Facebook Live in early February, the move shows a complete shift in the province’s stance from early on in the pandemic, when Kenney said decisions are best made on the local level and that a one-size-fits-all provincial approach doesn’t make sense.

On Tuesday, Kenney said that was in the middle of the pandemic, but now the government has “every reason to believe” that Alberta is moving out of the pandemic.

“We need at this stage to have consistency, clarity and unity rather than confusion and division,” he said.

‘This is not about political scores’

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi condemned the move as an unacceptable overreach that could not only restrict the city’s ability to respond to future COVID-19 waves but any municipality’s ability to manage its own bylaws, from development plans to smoking bylaws.

“It is about time that provinces recognize us as an equal order of government and do not meddle into the affairs where we can make our own decisions,” said Sohi, adding the city has never been consulted prior to the removal of health measures.

Sohi noted that Edmonton’s mask bylaw exists because the province expected municipalities to pass their own local bylaws during the pandemic.

“We did that because we wanted to protect the well-being of Edmontonians, and we want to continue to do that. … This is not about grandstanding. This is not about political scores. This is about making good decisions based on the needs of local communities and listening to our health experts, listening to our citizens,” said Sohi, adding the city is considering a legal challenge.

Article content

🧵Today’s announcement by the Premier to take away local government’s ability to make our own decisions is deeply disappointing. The implications of such an overreach will go far beyond the mask bylaw. Here’s why 👇 #YEG #YEGcc

— Amarjeet Sohi (@AmarjeetSohiYEG) March 1, 2022

Alberta Municipalities president and St. Albert mayor Cathy Heron said in a statement the government’s approach was “heavy-handed and unnecessary,” the plan came after no consultation, and amending the law could set a dangerous precedent.

“If the provincial government can amend the MGA whenever a local government disagrees with it or wishes to take a different approach, then municipalities will have lost some of their autonomy, and some of their freedom to decide and act locally in the best interests of their residents and businesses,” said Heron.

“It seems like a short-term political calculation that could influence long-term governance decisions at the municipal level,” said Heron.

When asked whether forcing Edmonton city council to drop its mask mandate is a political decision, Kenney said he disagreed.

“This removes the issue from a potential kind of political virtue-signalling exercise by municipal councillors when this is not a matter properly within their jurisdiction,” said Kenney.

NDP Opposition municipal affairs critic Joe Ceci said at an unrelated news conference Tuesday the government decision is a unilateral move to “step all over municipalities,” and their authority to respond to local taxpayers and residents.

“I think that’s wrong and I think that a lot more respect and involvement and dialogue has to be taken with local governments,” Ceci said, noting the proposed changes to the MGA are a dramatic reversal from when the UCP leaned on cities to make public health decisions.

The province did not have a full COVID-19 report due to technical issues Tuesday, but estimated 500 new cases. There are 1,225 Albertans in hospital, including 80 in intensive care — an increase of one and decrease of three, respectively. On Monday, the province reported 9,188 active cases, a total of 1,435 new cases from Friday, and 14 more deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 3,912.

Article content

The premier reiterated that pressure on hospitals is easing and COVID-19 trends show the pandemic is subsiding in Alberta and other parts of the world.

“It is time for us to move forward,” said Kenney, pointing to the province’s vaccination rates. The latest provincial numbers show 81 per cent of all Albertans have one COVID-19 vaccine, 76 per cent have two, and 35 per cent have received a third booster. Among eligible Albertans five years of age or older, 86 have received one dose, 81 per cent have gotten two, and 38 per cent have gotten a booster.

“We cannot live forever in fear, and we are social beings. We are made to encounter one another, to see each other’s faces, to smile, to embrace our family and friends, to regain the social lives that have been so deeply impaired for the last two years,” said Kenney.

Kenney said he has asked Alberta Health Services to propose options to remove the health authority’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement for its employees, first imposed late last year, saying the rationale for proof of vaccination mandates no longer exists.

Edmonton Journal Headline News logo

Sign up to receive daily headline news from the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.

By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300

Read More


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here