The Kenney government’s decision to end almost all COVID restrictions starting on July 1 is a move fraught with uncertainties for every Alberta community.
Moving ahead of all other provinces and territories in Canada, the UCP government has made a decision that could put the province well in the lead in terms of restarting the economy at the tail-end of the pandemic.
On the other hand, if ending restrictions is followed by a large spike in new cases — particularly among the thousands and thousands of young Albertans who have not been vaccinated — it could create crushing new impacts on businesses, hospitals and schools.
For his part, Premier Kenney says ending restrictions under Stage 3 of his reopening plan is good for residents and businesses alike.
“We finally have the upper hand on this virus and can safely open up our province,” said Kenney. “Alberta isn’t just open for summer, but I believe it’ll be open for good.”
Health Minister Tyler Shandro also says the reopening will be safe and in everyone’s best interest.
“We are getting ready for what comes next, a return to a free and open province,” said Shandro. “We will say goodbye to the many mandatory restrictions.”
While other provinces are taking a more cautious approach to reopening, the UCP government, including area cabinet ministers Jason Nixon and Devin Dreeshen, is pushing restrictions aside and encouraging residents to get back to normal life.
If the reopening goes without too many hitches, and in particular if COVID infection rates remain on the decline going forward, the decision to end restrictions ahead of other jurisdictions will be a first-class political victory for the currently much-maligned Kenney government.
On the other hand, if the reopening leads to a fourth wave in the COVID crisis, with its potentially life-threatening dangers to non-vaccinated children and young people, then the UCP's decision to end restrictions on July 1 will be seen as an outstanding example of reckless mismanagement.
Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan