BOW VALLEY – More than a week after signing an open letter opposing the new public health restrictions, Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin is standing against a third lockdown.
However, despite her opposition, she emphasized all Albertans need to follow the restrictions outlined by the province while also expressing concern on the effects being felt by business owners.
“By no means does my signing of this letter suggest we should not follow public health restrictions. In fact, right now it’s more important than ever that every person and every business comply and follow public health restrictions in place,” she said. “I think I can safely speak for pretty much everyone when I say we want to kick COVID-19 out of here and get past this as safely and quickly as possible.
“My stance remains the same, but I do not believe we need to go back and close restaurants, or shutdown many of these businesses a third time. I do want to be very clear that every Albertan does need to follow those restrictions that are in place and hopefully we can have our best summer.”
Rosin said she has heard from constituents daily throughout the pandemic on the financial effects. She said she’s worked with many businesses in helping advocate to receive and expand grant programs from the government, but many are struggling to keep their heads above water.
“I’ve had conversations with hundreds of businesses – I just had a few more this morning – who are really really on the brink of losing it all,” she said. “That’s been a consistent narrative for the past few months and when the most recent public health restrictions were announced, I heard almost instantly from a multitude of them that they were in dire straights and they were exasperated and unsure and concerned about their futures.”
Since the April 6 letter was issued, both Canmore and Banff councils have spoken up in opposition to their MLA's stance. Their communities – which are largely based on tourism businesses – have been among the hardest hit when it comes to unemployment numbers and rising positive cases.
At the Banff council meeting Monday, Mayor Karen Sorensen noted they were “supportive of the restrictions going back in place and we support science-based decisions.”
Sorensen highlighted she had heard from residents who were frustrated on Rosin’s stance, but also said “the province has been very attentive to the Bow Valley.”
Borrowman, speaking on behalf of Canmore council in a letter to Rosin, said the community and town council were “very concerned” of the rising positive cases.
“This is particularly worrisome as we come into what is usually the busy season for our tourism-based economy," he wrote.
When Kenney made the April 6 announcement for further restrictions, he noted there was likely to be pushback from members of his party, expressing any debate “be informed by facts.”
Two days after the letter, he said any member of the UCP caucus would be removed if breaking the public health restrictions.
“I made it very clear to my caucus this morning that while we accept a diversity of opinions and I totally respect the obligation of members to represent their constituents … the government caucus could not tolerate any member counselling people to engage in civil disobedience or to break public-health measures,” Kenney said.
None of the 17 letter signees are members of Kenney’s 22-person cabinet. Though it’s not uncommon for any party member across the country to express differing opinion, the internal dissent of this size is rare at provincial and federal politics.
In Ontario, MPP Roman Baber said the January provincial lockdown was “deadlier than COVID,” and was kicked out of the Doug Ford Progressive Conservative caucus. Ford also expelled Belinda Karahalios for voting against a law to extend pandemic emergency orders, which she did because she said it gave the government too much power.
Rachel Notley, the leader of the NDP opposition, said 17 UCP members were “being irresponsible, selfish and, quite frankly, they should be ashamed.”
Rosin said her job as an MLA is to represent and support those “who need help the most and those who are struggling the most in our society,” noting hundreds of hospitality-related businesses are the ones struggling.
“People right now who have no say in their destiny and no say in their fate and have had what should be in the realm of their control shift from their control is the small business community and hospitality community. And right now they need the most help they've ever needed probably since their history of opening their businesses.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 95 confirmed cases in the Banff and Lake Louise area, 211 in Rocky View County, 61 in Canmore and 13 in the MD of Bighorn, including parts of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. Nearby Cochrane also had 137 active cases.
The province reported 9,051 new cases over the week of April 6-12. As of Monday (April 12) there were 7,910 active cases of the variants of concern – along with 402 people in the hospital, 88 in intensive care and a total of 2,021 deaths since the pandemic began.
Alberta has seen 932,258 vaccines administered, with 177,560 fully vaccinated, and has 15,087 total active cases.
The restrictions that affect in-person dining, fitness studios and retail capacity, were made as COVID-19 cases in the province have surged once again, especially with different variants being found throughout Alberta. Several Canadian provinces have made strict public health restrictions, including lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.
The regulations reduced retail capacity to 15 per cent, stopped indoor dining at restaurants, but allow patio dining, takeout and curbside pickup. Indoor gatherings are still banned and outdoor gatherings are to have no more than 10 people.
On behalf of council, Borrowman said like Rosin, municipal elected officials have heard from residents both for and against the restrictions. However, the letter notes they’ve heard considerably more that “we are not doing enough to curb the spread.”
While people throughout the world are exhausted and businesses are once again threatened, “the continued support in this part of your constituency remains strong for the restrictions advised by the chief medical officer of health.”
Alberta Health Services also ran a temporary COVID-19 assessment site in Banff during the weekend as positive cases in the region have steadily climbed. The Town of Banff Emergency Coordination Centre has also been pushing for more vaccines to reach the Bow Valley as the popular tourism spot has continued to see visitors.
Rosin has been outspoken when it comes to public health restrictions.
A November newsletter said “the worst of the COVID-19 health pandemic” was over when the province was reporting record numbers of new cases.
During Christmas, she visited family in Saskatchewan when Albertans were supposed to restrict their travel because of the pandemic.
The rookie MLA declined multiple interview requests with the Outlook at the time and later confirmed to Mountain FM she had left the province, but did not breach regulations since she lives alone and was permitted to visit another household over the holidays.
She wrote a column for High Country News that questioned the public health impacts of restrictions for COVID-19, saying many western societies “gambled away their longstanding values of freedom and self-determination in surrender to fear and uncertainty” and surrendered their personal freedoms to the government.”
A Facebook post earlier in the year was also critical of the economic impacts to the province in attempts to curb the novel coronavirus’ spread.
Rosin was the deputy chair of the select special Public Health Act review committee that made recommendations for the province to consider last year for amendments to the act.
Canmore council ended their letter by asking Rosin to “make a determined effort to reach out to hear all perspectives in our community before taking such actions as refuting the need for continued caution in containing the virus.
“This is not a political issue but one of public health.”