Alberta will not bring in vaccine passports, premier says

Alberta will not be following the lead of Quebec and Manitoba on vaccine passports, says Premier Jason Kenney.

Quebec intends to bring in the passports, beginning in September, for anyone wanting to visit non-essential businesses in parts of the province where the COVID-19 rate is high.

Manitoba has been issuing proof-of-immunization cards to residents who are two weeks past their second shot.

“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that we will not facilitate or accept vaccine passports,” Kenney told reporters at the annual premier’s Calgary Stampede pancake breakfast on Monday.

“I believe they would in principle contravene the Health Information Act and also possibly the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”

Kenney, right, flips a pancake at the breakfast. The Stampede, which runs until July 18, is being watched closely as one of the first mass events in Canada since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Alberta was the first province to relax nearly all of its public health measures on July 1. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Kenney replied “yes” when asked whether Alberta would speak up if the federal government attempted to bring in the passports.

He noted that Alberta also amended its Public Health Act to remove a 100-year-old power allowing the government to force people to be inoculated.

“These folks who are concerned about mandatory vaccines have nothing to be concerned about,” he said.

Shadow of COVID-19 hangs over Stampede, breakfast

Hundreds of people attended the breakfast, but the shadow of COVID-19 hung over the event. Gone were lineups watching food being prepared on the grill. Instead, containers with pancakes and eggs already dished up were handed out.

The Calgary Stampede is being watched closely as one of the first big mass events in Canada since the pandemic began.

Kenney, right, greets a supporter at the Stampede breakfast. Gone were lineups watching food being prepared on the grill. Instead, containers with pancakes and eggs already dished up were handed out. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Alberta was the first province in Canada to relax nearly all of its public health measures on July 1, including its provincewide mask mandate and cap on gatherings. A City of Calgary vote shortly after removed a municipal mask bylaw just in time for the Stampede, which kicked off last Friday and runs to July 18.

New safety measures adopted by the Stampede include cutting daily attendance in half, sanitation stations for the public and enhanced cleaning throughout the grounds. Staff and volunteers are required to wear masks and get COVID-19 rapid tests. The chuckwagon races aren’t being held and the parade to kick off the Stampede is confined to the grounds without the public in attendance.

About a dozen protesters opposed to Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccination program and pandemic restrictions were at the breakfast, shouting slogans and waving signs. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The 18-plus party tent at the Stampede, called Nashville North, is believed to be the first major venue in Canada that won’t let patrons enter unless they show proof of having had at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot at least two weeks prior or get a negative rapid test result. Guests can get the test at the tent door or at an entrance to the Stampede grounds. On its opening night, thousands spent time in the Nashville North tent.

“Are you having a good Stampede? Are you happy Alberta is open for summer and that Alberta will be open for good?” Kenney asked the cheering crowd at Monday’s pancake breakfast.

“We’re proud to be hosting the first major event in Canada with the Stampede as we emerge from the pandemic.”

Protesters accused of ‘spreading misinformation’

There were also jeers and chants from about a dozen protesters opposed to Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccination program and the restrictions that were put in place during the height of the pandemic.

One sign had photos of Kenney and Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro with the words: “Alberta’s Most Wanted — For Crimes Against Humanity.”

Health Minister Tyler Shandro speaks to the media at the breakfast. One of the signs waved by the handful of protesters at the breakfast included photos of Kenney and Shandro with the words ‘Alberta’s Most Wanted — For Crimes Against Humanity.’ (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

“It’s unfortunate that we have a loud but very small minority who are spreading misinformation about the safety of vaccines. Let me be clear about this: These people are trying to spread fear and misinformation that could ultimately cost lives,” Kenney said.

Alberta has administered more than four million doses, said the premier, who added that about 700 people have experienced adverse effects that were mostly minor.

“We’ve had one death,” he said. “Every death is tragic, but it’s one death from a vaccine adverse outcome as opposed to 2,400 COVID-19 deaths.”

The premier said he would like to see 80 per cent of eligible Albertans receive the vaccine but estimated that about 10 per cent will refuse no matter what.

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