Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie is toeing the party line regarding COVID-19 restrictions after the UCP government announced an end to the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) on Feb. 8.
In a statement, Guthrie doubled down on his party’s decision to end the REP, adding that he had opposed the measures from the beginning.
“I have been a vocal opponent of the REP since it was first proposed, so I am pleased to see the end of it,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie blamed the program for increasing social division among Albertans, saying continuing the program would only make things worse.
“Prolonging [REP’s] use would only further exacerbate social division and negative economic impacts for businesses,” Guthrie said.
Alberta’s decision to lift restrictions aligns with several other jurisdictions, including Saskatchewan, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. However, while many celebrated what Guthrie and the UCP hope will be a “return to normalcy,” some Albertans were less enthusiastic about the rapid end to the REP, including among them the immunocompromised. Guthrie addressed their concerns saying there would never be a time with “zero risk.”
“I appreciate that some may be feeling apprehensive about the plan to remove restrictions,” Guthrie said. “There is never going to be a scenario where there is zero risk; however, we have two additional years of data and information to draw from, additional treatment options are available and a population with significant protection.”
As the Alberta government prepares to lift many public health measures, many of Cochrane’s organizations are following suit – including the Town of Cochrane and Rocky View Schools.
Cochrane's corporate communications manager Kristin Huybrecht said some restrictions will be lifted while others remain in place.
“The town will definitely be lifting the restrictions specific to the REP that were previously in place at town facilities,” she said. “As per the Government of Alberta public health measures, we will continue to require the use of masks in indoor spaces including all town facilities.”
Huybrecht said the town plans to continue to follow the direction of Alberta Health Services.
Rocky View Schools was not included in the provincial REP, instead being governed by health measures set by the division’s operational plan. Tara de Weerd, the director of communications for Rocky View Schools, said the school division would be updating its health protocols in the coming days.
“Schools and families can expect further changes to the operational plan as we revisit our protocols based on changing government guidance, local context and circumstances within our schools and communities,” de Weerd said.