Edmonton city council opts against city-run vaccine passport program following pushback from businesses on enforcement concerns

Publishing date:

Feb 11, 2022  •  17 hours ago  •  3 minute read  •  6 Comments

The City of Edmonton won't introduce its own vaccine passport program following a vote by council Friday.
The City of Edmonton won’t introduce its own vaccine passport program following a vote by council Friday. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia, file

Edmonton will not move forward with its own COVID-19 vaccine passport program following concerns from businesses about compliance and enforcement capacity.


In an emotional meeting Friday afternoon, council voted not to move forward with a city-operated proof of vaccination requirement to replace the province’s Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) that was suddenly repealed Wednesday. Under the program, businesses were required to ask residents 12 and over for proof of vaccination or a negative test in order to operate at full capacity. This included restaurants, entertainment venues and recreation facilities.

But no changes were made to Edmonton’s mask mandate, meaning masks will continue to be required for those aged two and up in indoor public places despite the province’s impending changes for children 12 and under as of Monday. Schools, including post-secondary institutions, don’t fall under the city’s bylaw. The city’s rule remains in place indefinitely and is slated to be reviewed by council when active cases in Edmonton are below 100 per 100,000 people for 28 consecutive days.


Earlier this week, council unanimously requested draft bylaw options to implement its own vaccine requirement, but on Friday city manager Andre Corbould said a city-run program isn’t recommended because Edmonton businesses would be on their own in the region and it is no longer backed up by provincial measures.

City facilities will also no longer be checking for proof of vaccination, but a self-reported questionnaire will be given to patrons upon entrance. Anyone with visible COVID-19 symptoms will be asked to return home and isolate as per the provincial order.

Although council opted not to move forward with the program, many offered frustrations about the position the city was put in after the provincial changes were announced earlier this week without any consultation or time to prepare. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he understands the frustrations and fears of many Edmontonians about measures being lifted too early and the possibility for an uptick in cases as a result. But he said implementing a new vaccine passport program on its own would be difficult for the city to manage.


“We know that the Restrictions Exemption Program worked. It encouraged people to get vaccinated, it gave consumers the confidence to support local businesses while feeling safe and sadly that consumer confidence is now eroded,” Sohi said. “Unfortunately, a local Edmonton-alone REP program just won’t work as much as we wish it would. Having a municipal restrictions exemption program would create more uncertainty for businesses at a time when they’re looking for certainty. Municipalities don’t have the tools and the resources to enforce a program like this and the burden will fall on frontline, vulnerable workers who have already gone through enough.”

In an attempt to address the lack of consultation, council passed a motion Friday calling on the Alberta government to develop an engagement process with the city to discuss issues of mutual interest, including seeking input before lifting further COVID-19 protocols.


Edmonton’s Business Improvement Area (BIA) Council, representing more than 5,000 businesses across the city’s 13 BIA’s, sent a letter to city council Thursday afternoon in opposition to a new vaccine passport program. Council chairwoman Cherie Klassen said the new rule would put businesses in the direct line of fire without the city having enough enforcement tools to back them up. The provincial rule was different, Klassen said, because it applied across the board and Alberta Health Services had the authority to issue orders for those not following.

“Introducing an Edmonton-specific vaccine program would be an excessive burden to local businesses and there are no adequate resources to effectively enforce and monitor compliance,” Klassen wrote in the letter. “An overwhelming majority of Edmonton BIA businesses, particularly in the hardest-hit hospitality sector, have been clear and consistent that they are deeply concerned about what it will mean for their business and for their staff if they are required to enforce a vaccine passport system introduced at the municipal level.”

Council also voted for city officials to look into the option of purchasing and installing HEPA filters for air filtration in city-owned facilities. A report and projected costs will come forward to council as part of the spring budget discussions.



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