OLDS — Mayor Judy Dahl is hopeful a solution will be found in the new year to heal the wounds in the community created by COVID restrictions – the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) in particular.
Under the REP, which came into effect in September, 2021, Albertans are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter many businesses, facilities and venues.
Dahl says if such a solution is found, it will have to come from a combination of the provincial government, the Town of Olds and local residents.
And she says while a vocal minority have protested REP and other restrictions in the community and in town council chambers, “silent” residents, who are likely vaccinated, have not.
"There’s the other side that are also the silent side that haven’t made a voice and I hope they don’t uprise, they’re patient people,” Dahl said during a year-end interview with The Albertan.
Dahl said the issue has had a “negative effect” on the town.
She expressed hope that a solution to heal the rift between those who are opposed to the REP and other restrictions and those such as the vaccinated who are able to access facilities will be found in 2022.
Dahl was asked if by the “silent side” she meant those who are vaccinated and can thus access facilities under the REP.
“I believe the silent people are the ones who are just – yes, I guess I could say that,” she said.
“But you know, like I said, we have 10,000 people that live here and we really haven’t reached out to that point yet because we’re still dealing with the province, and that’s our priority at this time.”
Dahl said ideally, there would already be a solution.
"But honestly, every municipality is different. And we’re different because of our facilities and the construction of our facilities; we’re different because of population,” she said.
“A lot of mayors that I’ve spoken to in my mayors’ south central meetings, we’ve got municipalities ranging from 3,000 (population) to 12,000. Every single one of them are dealing with different effects. So is there going to be a solution?
“I believe that if we continue down the road – and I believe that we’re at the place right now that we’re reconnecting with the province and reconnecting with our community – and my hope is that there will be (a solution to the REP issue).
“I certainly can’t say ‘yes’ because there’s too many different factors involved.”