With many COVID-19 restrictions remaining in place across Alberta, including those enforcing the closure or limited opening of some businesses, the debate over what the Kenney government should or should not be doing in response to those defying the rules is becoming more heated by the day.
Business owners in many communities, both urban and rural, have started ignoring the closure orders, reopening their businesses and claiming that not doing so would result in bankruptcy.
Although some fines have been handed out, many business owners have chosen to keep their doors open come what may.
Whether the Kenney government is prepared to take much stronger measures against violators of public health orders remains an open question.
What is known is that letting some businesses remain open in defiance of the orders while expecting others to remain closed is untenable.
In announcing his new plan for gradual reopening, Kenney said, “This stepped approach will only work if Albertans continue to follow existing health measures and make good choices to keep our numbers trending down. It’s up to each one of us to maintain our vigilance.”
With many businesses now flouting those “existing health measures” mentioned by Kenney, it is now up to the premier himself to either use his authority to enforce the rules or not.
However, with some recent polls showing Kenney’s popularity plunging to among the lowest levels of any Canadian premier, are the political risks associated with enforcing the COVID measures something the UCP can afford to ignore?
More strongly enforcing the COVID closure rules could damage Kenney with some of his supporters, yet allowing the rules to be ignored feeds the opposition contention that the UCP is more concerned with politics than the health of Albertans.
The Kenney government has a choice to make regarding those defying COVID regulations – either more strongly enforce the existing regulations or put the rules aside.
Doing nothing will send an unmistakeable message that the restrictions aren’t worth the paper they are written on.
Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.