By Nathaniel Tschupruk, October 7 2021—
Premier Jason Kenney recently announced a vaccine passport program titled the restrictions exemption program. This program allows eligible businesses to loosen pandemic restrictions if they check for either proof of vaccination or receive proof of a negative test within 72 hours.
This program has many similarities to other provinces’ vaccine passports, except for one major difference. The restrictions exemption program is optional, making it a business’s choice whether they enforce it. Now, in theory, this sounds like a good idea but I think it’s quite the opposite of a good idea, while still being useful for our province.
This pandemic has been super tough on businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry. When the news regarding the vaccine passport program broke, businesses were at first happy and many still are but there have been many caveats and issues with this program. Businesses having a choice, in this case, is an issue. There are businesses that will not implement this program, and who will instead decide to keep pandemic restrictions. Many people will instead flock to them, not only hurting businesses trying to do the right thing but also causing more spread in certain areas.
There is one benefit of implementing the program, however. Businesses that implement this program now have much fewer pandemic restrictions, which is good for business as they can have many more customers. Another issue I see is that there are still a large percentage of unvaccinated people in more rural communities. With the rapidly transmissible and spreadable Delta variant, these small communities may get bombarded with unvaccinated people who will then spread it to other unvaccinated people and overwhelm smaller rural hospitals or already overloaded urban hospitals.
Another problem that I find with this program, and the other businesses have found, is customer-related consequences for individual action. If you have something like mandatory masking across the province or mandatory isolation after getting COVID, that’s one thing because it’s not the fault of businesses enforcing it. But in this case, if a business is enforcing the vaccine passport program in Alberta, they’re doing it by choice by volunteering — so it is now their “fault” that causes hostility. There’s already one business in Langdon that has received threats due to them implementing the restrictions exemption program.
Threats in general are not okay, but this just shows the hostility towards businesses making their own choices — especially pandemic-related ones to protect their workers, their family and their friends. As this is an obvious problem, the City of Calgary has recently made it so that all businesses who are eligible for the exemption program must implement it which is helpful to the local businesses who were worried about pushback from patrons who are against vaccine passports.
I believe in vaccine passports and their usefulness as they help stop the spread of COVID-19. Vaccinated people are much less likely to spread COVID even with the new variants emerging. I do think that this restriction exemption program for nonessential businesses is definitely going to slow the spread of COVID, but I’m concerned about the long-term effects on businesses and the long-term effects on this province which has been in political turmoil for the last couple of years.
People don’t want to feel like they’re forced to make a choice, but this is a scenario where hospitals are full, where ICU’s are at their highest numbers and where dozens of people are dying each day. I don’t think anyone wants pandemic restrictions, I don’t think anyone wants vaccine passports and no one wants to have to show their ID every time they enter a restaurant or a bar. But it’s just what we have to do.
At the end of the day, until hospitals become a safe place and important surgeries are no longer delayed, the restriction exemption program is essential — until at least more Albertans are vaccinated and at least people feel safe and secure.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.