OLDS — Olds-Didsbury-Three HIlls MLA Nathan Cooper thanked the Town of Olds for moving quickly to remove the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) in municipal facilities but couldn't speculate on whether funding would be available in the province's soon-to-be released budget to recoup associated costs.
The REP was officially ended province-wide as of 12 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9. Premier Jason Kenney made that announcement on Feb. 8.
Under the REP, which came into effect Sept. 20 last year, Albertans were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter many businesses, facilities and venues.
The Town of Olds implemented the REP at the Sportsplex and the Aquatic Centre.
Community services director Doug Wagstaff noted that while the REP had been lifted, the mask mandate for adults remained in place until March 1.
Wagstaff said town representatives have been told to inform individuals of that requirement but that it’s up to those individuals to take responsibility for wearing – or not wearing a mask.
A mandatory requirement for children 12 and under to wear masks ended on Feb. 13 at 11:59 p.m.
The Town of Olds had hired a security firm to look after REP compliance with COVID restrictions.
Wagstaff said town officials submitted official notice that that contract was ending as of the end of last week and from then on, town staff would look after that responsibility.
“I’d like to extend my thank you for the town responding immediately to the lifting of the REP,” Cooper said during an appearance before Olds town council on Feb. 14.
Cooper conceded that the REP was controversial in various communities, both among opponents of the measure and proponents of it.
He called the lifting of restrictions a “return to normalcy.”
Coun. Heather Ryan noted it cost the Town of Olds a lot of money to implement and follow the REP. She asked Cooper if, in the Feb. 24 provincial budget, the government will be providing municipalities with money to offset those costs
"I don’t know the answer to that, if that is going to be included in the upcoming budget or not," Cooper said, adding he'd try to find out more information.
“This close to the budget, they get a little bit sensitive about announcing budget-related programs prior to budget, but I’ll certainly reach out and find out if they can provide us any sort of over-arching statement that might imply what would be in there.”
"Anything you can do to put a bug in somebody’s ear would be great,” Ryan said with a short laugh.