Thank you to everyone who reached out over the past few days to share your thoughts about the proposed deactivation of the Face Covering Bylaw. While I know that not everyone will agree with my decision in this matter, I hope to provide my reasoning here.
One of my colleagues said it best when he said that council was given a “choice between two reasonable options.” I think that’s important to emphasize -- that the discussion at council was entirely reasoned and I respect my colleagues who would have preferred to proceed with more caution. As I said in my remarks today, I believe everyone at the table was there to make a decision in the best interest of residents of Edmonton.
My decision to support the deactivation of the bylaw was based on recommendation presented by City Administration, with supporting information from Alberta Health Services. Dr. Chris Sikora from AHS attended to answer technical questions, as he has with previous meetings since the beginning of the pandemic. My decision to support the deactivation was based on reasonable evidence that the recommendation was informed by public health authorities’ best advice, provided clarity to residents about what expectations were in the local area and were nimble enough to take quick action if needed. This is also consistent with what Dr. Sikora and Dr. Hinshaw have said publicly. I know that this change comes with concern for the safety of people in our community and fear that it may pre-empt what progress has been made on managing this disease. Those concerns and fears are justified, and something I asked about in questioning. The ability to respond to the changing conditions in Edmonton quickly is one of the reasons I supported administration’s recommendations.
Councillors often ask administration to give us their best advice. In turn, we are often asked to made decisions based on that information and advice given to us. I appreciate the submissions made by Edmontonians with their own research both in support of and against the recommendation, as well as the encouragement for Councillors to do their own research, but I would gently suggest elected officials are generalists and don’t have a background in public health or epidemiology.
I also hear a lot of concern that this is a rushed effort to get back to normal. While I can’t speak for other councillors, this was not a factor for me because I don’t think there is any “going back” to anything. The challenge in front of us is how we carry on with our lives in concert with a public health concern that is now being managed but may not disappear altogether.
Over the course of the pandemic, we did a pretty good job of watching out for each other. Of demonstrating kindness and grace, even when we had little left in ourselves to give. We must not lose this important quality in the coming months. Residents in our city will engage in public life however they feel comfortable -- and we should be patient and respectful of each other’s preferences to continue to wear a mask in public, physically distancing, and maintain good hand hygiene. We all need to do what makes us feel safest.
This wasn’t an ideological decision for me, nor was it based on my personal politics. Personally, I chose to get the vaccine and am now fully vaccinated. I am not eager to go to a big indoor event, and will likely continue to wear a mask when in close proximity to people outside my household in a confined setting. I will maintain good hand hygiene (I am already pretty vigilant about hand sanitizer) and maintain physical distance from others. The pandemic has taught us a valuable lesson about how to keep ourselves healthy going forward, and it’s a lesson worth taking forward.