INNISFAIL – Mayor Jean Barclay has introduced a notice of motion to all members of council that is intended to formalize the town’s position it will faithfully follow the provincial government’s lead on COVID-battling guidelines and restrictions.
The move also has a goal to blunt repeated attempts by COVID-restriction opponents presenting as delegations who have either repeatedly asked council to do away with the provincially-mandated restrictions or lobby on their behalf to have them removed.
“We have said over and over that we will follow provincial guidelines. We are compelled to do so. I am just hoping that this will formalize that process,” said Barclay. “(Delegations) come. We listen to them -- three times now. We tell them what our stance is but again they come back.
“No one is trying to shut anybody down or not allow them their free speech but at the same time I don’t know how else we can get our point across,” she said, adding administration has also sought legal advice on how to handle delegations that repeatedly come forward on the same subject. “We have said time and time again that we are going to follow the provincial public health policies and the ministerial orders that are in place, and they keep coming back and wanting us not to.”
Barclay gave council a preview of her notice of motion at the Agenda & Priorities meeting on Dec. 20. It will be presented to council and discussed at the next regular meeting on Jan. 10.
The motion asks that the Town of Innisfail to continue to comply with the Alberta government's COVID-19 health orders and that council not ask the province to lift facility restrictions.
Barclay noted there has been three delegation presentations at Innisfail town council since October, each of them vehemently against COVID restrictions.
She said council had a meeting the previous week with Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen about the planned resolution.
Barclay said by bringing a motion forward it gives every member of council an opportunity to speak, as well as formalizing the municipality’s stance on the issue.
“I think with the news coming out of parts of the country right now with what is going on it would be wise for council to formalize our stance on this one way or the other, or whether people wish to vote on this,” said Barclay. “We will see how council votes. Let every councillor have their say on this, and see where everybody stands and take a vote.
“As we know when council votes in favour or not in favour of something that is council’s stance on this particular issue,” she said.
On Dec. 20, the mayor invited the rest of council to comment on her introduction of the notice of motion but only Coun. Gavin Bates accepted Barclay’s invitation at this time.
“I have reflected on it for just under two years now. I guess I felt the (provincial) government has the expertise and authority, and to that end I am certainly going to support the motion,” said Bates.
As for whether her introducing the potentially emotionally-charged notice of motion was a test of leadership so early into her mandate, Barclay said it was more of an attempt to have all of council to have a say in a critically important issue for the entire community.
“I’m not saying that this is going to make the issue go away but we’re governing for the municipality,” said Barclay. “There’s people on one end of the spectrum that don’t want any restrictions and think COVID is not severe, or anything to worry about. There’s people at the other end of the spectrum that don’t want to leave their house, or who is maybe caring for someone who has cancer, or who is caring for the elderly in a senior’s facility, and they are very, very cautious.
“They (delegations) are asking us to do something that we don’t have the power to do,” said Barclay. “I guess that is what it comes down to.”