Following the Alberta government’s Sept. 3 announcement reinstating mask mandates in indoor public spaces, a $100 incentive for vaccinations, and 10 p.m. liquor sale curfews, a local member of the United Conservative Party (UCP) caucus has spoken out in opposition to the party’s stance.
Peter Guthrie, MLA for Airdrie-Cochrane, issued a letter to his constituents on Sept. 7, apologizing to his constituents for not meeting their expectations of an “open for good” scenario in light of increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
In the letter, Guthrie opposed what he deemed a "disparaging and accusatory” tone coming from the government toward unvaccinated individuals.
“I am vaccinated and believe vaccination to be an effective measure to protect Albertans from the virus,” read Guthrie's letter. “I also support the rights of individuals to choose for themselves, have control over their bodies, and have the right to maintain privacy in personal health matters.
“With pressure mounting on the healthcare system and believing vaccines to be the solution, it is expected the government would exercise tolerance for all perspectives as it looks for ways to encourage vaccine uptake and protect the safety of Albertans.”
He added the overwhelming of the public health-care system and its present inability to react to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic should be the sole focus of the Province, rather than “accusing individuals who are unvaccinated.”
Guthrie also criticized proposed vaccination passports and vaccination mandates, stating both would serve to limit access to services and isolate individuals, while also providing a false sense of security to those who are vaccinated.
Duane Bratt, a professor of political science at Mount Royal University and a frequent political commenter in the Alberta media, said while Guthrie’s letter was aimed at his constituents and was not intended to be a direct attack on Premier Jason Kenney or the UCP, the wording stood strongly against the premier.
“It shows the problems that Kenney is having,” Bratt said. “His announcement – the $100 incentive program, the mask mandates, and the alcohol sales – did not go over well, and this public letter, I think, is a reflection of that.
“The difference is, [Guthrie] is taking a different tack than most of the critics of Kenney’s policies are.”
Bratt added that Guthrie’s letter seems out of character for the politician, as he has previously been known to toe the party line regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think [Guthrie] is taking heat from his constituents, because they [were] promised open for summer, open forever, and now there’s a crackdown,” he said. “But, I don’t think [Guthrie] thought this through enough that he was all of a sudden going to raise attention across the province because it was a criticism of Jason Kenney.”
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