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Commentary: Will higher fines end the protests?

Residents should expect to see the anti-lockdown, anti-masking, anti-social distancing events continue
opinion

With the Kenney government vowing to do more to punish individuals and groups who defy COVID-19 safety rules, residents in this region will be watching closely to see if the tough new talk is backed by concrete action.

And with the viability of the health-care system and the lives of Albertans of all ages on the line, the stakes haven’t been higher at any time during the 14-month global pandemic.

Anti-lockdown protests have been occurring across the province for months, including large rallies in Olds, Carstairs, Didsbury and Sundre, and of course at the recent high-profile rodeo outside Bowden.``

Responding to a recent steep rise in infections and to the anti-lockdown events, the government has imposed new restrictions and doubled fines for violators.

For his part, Premier Jason Kenney says upping the fines to $2,000 will deter individuals who have been defying health rules.

“We will not permit our health-care system to be overwhelmed,” said Kenney. “We must not, and we will not force our doctors and nurses to decide who gets care and who doesn’t. And that is why we must act now to stop the spike.”

The official Opposition says the UCP government should be doing even more to target violators, including increasing fines to $3,600 for each offence.

“The vast majority of people living in this province are doing their part, they’re upholding the rule of law, and keeping themselves and their loved ones safe,” says NDP leader Rachel Notley. “We owe it to them to do more to stop those who refuse and thumb their noses at the public health orders.”

Yet is it realistic to believe that the thousands of individuals who have been carrying out anti-lockdown protests over the past many months – openly defying public health orders at every turn – will now quietly give up their campaign because fines have been marginally increased? No, it's not.

Residents should expect to see the anti-lockdown, anti-masking, anti-social distancing events continue across Alberta.

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan