Friday Focus: Serious REPercussions

The Friday Focus is a weekly blog post from Interim Leader John Roggeveen. It covers some of the pressing political issues of the week. 

This week the UCP announced their three-phased pandemic restrictions rollback plan. Phase one is being implemented immediately, and subsequent phases are tied to hospitalization numbers trending downwards. Removing restrictions in phases based on pre-established metrics is a positive. However, health experts have been quick to criticize the plan for moving too fast and implementing future stages too soon. 

The biggest failure of the rollback plan is its immediate cancellation of the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP). There is a need to gradually wind down restrictions as COVID-19 becomes more manageable. However, restrictions that impact the unvaccinated should be the last to go, not the first. Instead, the UCP has prioritized lifting a restriction on those most at risk to themselves and most likely to clog up our hospitals and healthcare system, preventing even the vaccinated from receiving critical health care. 

The abrupt lifting of the REP is also out of line with what we’re hearing from businesses and municipal leaders. The Calgary Chamber of commerce slammed the move, outlining how removing such a program undermines consumer confidence. The City of Edmonton is considering creating its own program to compensate for Kenney’s hastiness. All of this is made worse by the government speeding ahead without consulting stakeholders.

The REP’s removal also has long-term political consequences. For weeks now, Canadians have endured disruptive blockades. Those blockading the border are not promoting freedom. On the contrary, they are curtailing businesses’ abilities to operate and your freedom to access goods. The vaccine passport has been the most fiercely opposed restriction among this group. By unjustifiably prioritizing its rollback, the UCP is sending a clear message: 

Be loud. Be angry. Cause pain  That’s how you get the government to listen. 

That is no way to govern. Giving in to coercive behaviour creates a dangerous precedent. There is also a double standard at work here. As Indigenous leaders have rightfully pointed out, if Indigenous protesters orchestrated these blockades, the government would take swift action to end them.

We will need to learn to live with COVID-19. But we have to do so in an evidence-based way. We cannot create double standards or set dangerous precedents. We can get through this pandemic, but we must hold firm at least a little longer and not act prematurely to ensure we have the virus behind us.