Local mayors lament letter advocating for vaccine passport in the Edmonton region

· The Pulse
By Nathan Fung
in the Regional Roundup
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Several mayors in the Edmonton region are speaking out about how an open letter advocating for a vaccine passport system was rolled out.

The letter was signed by 12 mayors and sent to the provincial government on Sept. 7, calling on Health Minister Tyler Shandro to introduce additional public health measures.

But since then, one mayor who didn't sign on has expressed frustration about how the initiative was organized. Three others said they didn't agree to the final version of the letter that was sent.

Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Gale Katchur was the only Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB) member to not sign it. She said she chose not to because she didn't get a chance to review it with city council, and that she saw no reason why the letter couldn't have waited for that to happen first.

"I was very disappointed on how it went forward," Katchur said. "It wasn't sanctioned under the EMRB, it wasn't sanctioned under anybody. This was basically mayors … that made the decision to go out and do this on their own."

While Katchur didn't sign, Leduc County Mayor Tanni Doblanko's signature does appear on the letter. However, she said she only agreed to an earlier version, which only requested more COVID-19 data and not for the implementation of a vaccine passport system.

"I take very seriously a misrepresentation of anything that has to do with our municipality," she told Taproot. "I believe we were truly, grossly misrepresented in that letter and we needed to make sure that people understand that there was a mix-up."

Devon Mayor Ray Ralph and Beaumont Mayor John Stewart gave similar statements to Postmedia, saying they only agreed to sign an earlier version of the letter asking for more data.

A photo of a vaccine passport.

Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Gale Katchur said she doesn't understand why the letter advocating for vaccine passports couldn't have waited for each mayor to discuss it with their respective councils. (@lucassfr/Unsplash)

Stony Plain Mayor William Choy said he coordinated the letter because he felt that the province hasn't done enough to address the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. He didn't go through the EMRB directly because he wanted mayors to sign on as concerned individuals, not in their capacities as mayors representing their respective councils, he explained. That is also why the letter bears no official letterhead.

"This is something that we don't have control over, we are just asking the government to provide a more unified approach throughout Alberta," Choy added.

Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc County, and Stony Plain haven't taken a formal stance on vaccine passports. Katchur said the issue hasn't been brought forward to council for discussion, while Doblanko said it's a provincial matter.

"It's really not our lane," Doblanko said. "Just like how we don't have a policy on immigration in Leduc County, it's just not what we deal with."

That's why Choy said it's even more important to call on the province to take more action.

"With the last three waves, the government's yo-yo pandemic response has not worked," he said. "The letter is to call out the government and ask them to lead from the front, instead of from the back."