DIDSBURY - Members of the recently formed Mayors of South Central Alberta are scheduled to meet with area MLAs on Friday to discuss outstanding issues, including calls for regional lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, says Didsbury mayor Rhonda Hunter.
The mayors’ group includes mayors of Sundre, Olds, Innisfail, Carstairs and Didsbury as well as others in the area. MLAs invited to attend the meeting include Jason Nixon and Nathan Cooper.
Being held by teleconference, the meeting is being hosted by the Town of Olds.
Many rural municipalities, including Didsbury, have sent letters to the province calling for a regional approach to reopening.
Hunter says municipalities continue to wait for provincial government action, and that’s something she plans to bring up during Friday’s meeting.
“We have sent our letter and are waiting for a response,” she said.
Area MLAs “have heard the same message that we have” about the desire to reopen, she said.
“Ultimately the provincial government has the final say,” she said.
The Town of Didsbury sent a letter to the Kenney government in January.
“We don’t want to be divisive and we want to acknowledge that there are people who are sick and people who have lost lives and family members, but rural is different,” Hunter said at the time.
“We are not special, we are just different. Rural communities can operate with vast amounts of space and smaller businesses without a lot of gathering in huge numbers.
“Some of these decisions (regarding restrictions) appear to have been made arbitrarily. Our numbers in some rural areas are zero or two.”
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills UCP MLA Nathan Cooper says he has been urging the government to consider regional reopening.
“If there are places in the province that have zero cases they should be celebrated because they are obviously doing the fundamentals well and as a result I believe there should be less restrictions than places where there are 1,500 cases per 100,000,” Cooper said in January.
Other issues Hunter says she plans to bring up at Friday’s meeting include the impacts COVID restrictions are having on restaurants and retail stores.
“If nothing is open it is hard to bring in customers,” she said.
Restaurants are seeing large, unexpected increases in costs, she said.
“The rising cost of all these take-out supplies really have impacted them and they don’t want to pass it on to the customer because it is hard enough to be sure people are eating for a decent price,” she said.
Restrictions on indoor gatherings are also causing problems across the community, she said.
“How can we get our families back in our homes? That’s critical to a healthy, functioning community,” she said.
Another issue she plans to bring up is the impact the restrictions are having on community clubs and organizations and their ability to fundraise.