With the Alberta government retreating to step one of the COVID-19 restrictions, MLA for Drumheller-Stettler Nate Horner and MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Nathan Cooper with 14 other UCP MLAs have voiced their concern over province-wide restrictions.
The group of politicians signed a letter protesting the step back in restrictions.
“We believe that yesterday’s (April 6) announcement to move our province backwards, effectively abandoning the plan that Albertans have worked diligently over the past month is the wrong decision,” states the letter.
“We have heard from our constituents, and they want us to defend their livelihoods and freedoms as Albertans. For months we have raised these concerns at the highest level of governments, and unfortunately, the approach of the government has remained the same.”
“We just wanted to make our feelings heard, and show our constituents we are hearing their concerns,” Horner tells the Mail.
On Monday, April 12, Cooper, as Speaker of the House, apologized for signing the letter after premier Jason Kenney commented on the importance of the Speaker remaining neutral.
“In haste, I engaged on a matter of political discourse that may have raised questions about the impartiality of the chair. Upon quiet reflection, and given the benefit of time, I have regret for my error in judgment,” Cooper said in the legislature.
Horner has been vocal about the restrictions and feels that a regional approach would work better, especially in rural and remote areas where the numbers of COVID -19 cases have been low.
“It is an ongoing debate on how the province breaks down. We had the open and enhanced categories municipally in November, and they were broken down more if a municipality had high case numbers. That's an option, but that is not an option that Alberta Health is fond of. I think they think it is too regionally small, and there is too much travel between, it doesn't take into account natural flow of people in communities. The one thing that is nice, is they do have software and receive data in that way like it is on the maps, and that is available.”
He says there is strong rural representation in the Emergency Management Cabinet committee.
“The Premier’s office has said it will give it even more of a look. I was asked if maybe I would be part of a committee to give it even more of a look, but with the variants taking off, there is a real chance of even more restrictions in place in the province,” said Horner. “The regional approach works both ways. Maybe it is a targeted approach to apply restrictions in areas where it is getting out of control.”
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw addressed a question about the MLAs letter at her news conference on Tuesday, April 8.
"To me, what it means is people look around and perhaps haven’t been impacted by severe outcomes of COVID-19. In some ways that’s a measure of our collective success. We have been able to bend the curve down multiple times. Although we had severe pressure in our health care system in December, we have managed to keep it from overwhelming our capacity,” she said. “So I think the perspectives that are being shared are a reflection of how frustrated people are feeling in having to go into these measures again.”
“What I am certain about is that without public health measures, without bending our case counts down we will have a very significant impact in our health care system.”