Iveson: Mayors generally support stronger COVID-19 measures but cities’ ‘tool kit is limited’

Don Iveson said Tuesday Edmonton stands ready if stronger COVID-19 restrictions are required but said it’s difficult for any one city to make rule changes that would be effective. Measures need to be implemented at a metropolitan or regional scale to work well, he said, which would mean they would have to come from the province.

Iveson was asked about what measures cities could take to combat the spread.

“We would potentially have to go back into a state of local emergency and even powers that we have there are now subject to limitations and the ability of the province to countermand or rescind our orders,” Edmonton’s mayor said.

“Our tool kit is quite limited.

“If we were to shut business down or a portion of business down in Edmonton and drive demand out into the region, leading to outbreaks in the bedroom communities, then I think we’ve only made the problem worse,” he said.

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Read more: Coronavirus: Alberta government proposes amendments to emergency act

“That’s why this needs to be coordinated by the order of government having the strongest tools in the tool kit and the mandate and the resources and better evidence and… access to the epidemiological data themselves than the city.”

Click to play video 'Mayor Iveson on additional COVID-19 restrictions being considered for Edmonton' Mayor Iveson on additional COVID-19 restrictions being considered for Edmonton

Mayor Iveson on additional COVID-19 restrictions being considered for Edmonton – Oct 5, 2020

The city can — and likely will — extend its local face covering bylaw into next year, Iveson said. Other measures the city could take might include reducing capacity at recreation centres and other municipal buildings and going back to completely virtual meetings for city staff.

Read more: ‘Act now’: Trudeau urges provinces to strengthen coronavirus restrictions

Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadian provinces and territories to “do the right thing” and protect public health as coronavirus cases continue to surge across much of Canada.

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“We are seeing record spikes this morning across the country so we urge premiers and mayors to please do the right thing, act now to protect public health,” Trudeau said.

“I would hope that no leader in our country is easing public health vigilance because they feel pressured not to shut down businesses.”

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He added that is how “we end up going out of business and hurting the economy even more.”

“Beating COVID is the only way to protect our economy,” Trudeau said.

Canada is in the middle of a very “concerning” spike of coronavirus cases, with winter expected to bring “real challenges,” he said.

Manitoba announced tightened restrictions on Tuesday — forcing non-essential stores, gyms and places of worship to close and banning social gatherings in an effort to stop a spike in COVID-19 cases. Manitoba leads all other provinces in per-capita active cases.

READ MORE: All of Manitoba moving to Level Red Thursday, tough restrictions to be implemented

On Monday, provincial officials said Alberta had added 644 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the active number to 7,965. Seven additional people in the province have also died of the disease.

There were 192 people in hospital, with 39 in intensive care.

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Read more: No additional restrictions as Hinshaw announces 644 new cases of COVID-19, 7 new deaths

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said all options were being considered, but no new restrictions were announced for Alberta.

Click to play video '‘We really have to work together with Albertans’: Hinshaw discusses mandatory restrictions' ‘We really have to work together with Albertans’: Hinshaw discusses mandatory restrictions

‘We really have to work together with Albertans’: Hinshaw discusses mandatory restrictions

Premier Jason Kenney has said repeatedly the province must strike a balance between not overwhelming the health-care system and not decimating the economy.

“The premier has been very clear that his goal is to protect both lives and livelihoods,” Kenney’s spokesperson Christine Myatt told Global News on Tuesday.

READ MORE: ‘Canary in the coal mine’: Alberta doctors sound alarm on rising COVID-19 cases

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Kenney was asked Friday why more extreme measures like a lockdown similar to ones being seen in other jurisdictions isn’t being considered.

“Our goal is not to take COVID-19 to zero,” he said. “Our goal is to keep the spread under control so it does not overwhelm the health-care system without hammering our broader social, economic, mental and physical health.”

“We do not think it’s realistic — the cost to people’s lives and livelihoods of trying to go to zero until there’s a vaccine and we don’t know when that would be — would simply be unacceptable in our view.”

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COVID-19: Lockdown would be a ‘massive impact’ on Albertans’ financial stability, according to Kenney

Iveson has spoken to other Canadian mayors and says they’re all concerned about rising case numbers and hospitalization rates.

“I think generally the mayors have supported stronger measures, coming in from the orders of government, having the right jurisdiction, working from the right data, knowing that the federal government — and in many cases, cities too — have put measures in place to support the resiliency of business should stronger measures need to come into place,” he said.

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Read more: City of Edmonton announces new measures to address rise in COVID-19 cases

“We look to partner with all orders of government to meet the needs of Canadians to get through this pandemic and to ensure the resiliency of our economy.”

Iveson said there’s “a lot of gratitude” from Edmonton businesses for the federal government’s measures to support workers, including the wage subsidy and the rent subsidy programs.

Read more: Revamped coronavirus wage subsidy program might help more businesses, industry says

“The city stands ready to work to support business and vulnerable peoples and adjust our own operations,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, in order for them to be effective, they have to be implemented where the jurisdiction has the most impact, which is under provincial public health legislation.

“There’s a reason why health is delegated to provinces… it’s the right scale to make these decisions. I think the mayors would encourage the provinces to follow the evidence and enact the measures to protect business for the long-term and human beings and life in the short-term.

“I would just as soon have the medical officers of health make that call rather than these calls becoming political. But clearly, if additional action is required, mounting public pressure will lead to political action too, and I think that’s what we’re hearing from across the country.”

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— With files from Katie Dangerfield, Global News

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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