Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr joined 15 other UCP caucus members in signing an open letter to Albertans on April 7, stating their disagreement with the province’s decision to return to Step 1 of the reopening plan.
“In early 2021, Alberta’s government announced what we believed to be a clear path forward to reopen our province,” the letter said.
“It took the public health threat of COVID-19 seriously and provided a step-by-step plan to lift restrictions and restore confidence for our small businesses and communities.”
Alberta reverted back to Step 1 of its reopening plan on April 6, with Premier Jason Kenney citing rising case numbers in what is being called a third wave of COVID-19 cases, and now variants of concern.
On April 6, variant cases accounted for 42.6 per cent of the province’s overall active cases.
“We believe that … to move our province backwards, effectively abandoning the plan that Albertans had worked diligently over the past months to follow, is the wrong decision,” stated the 16 MLAs.
“We have heard from our constituents, and they want us to defend their livelihoods and freedoms as Albertans. For months, we have raised these concerns at the lights levels of government and unfortunately, the approach of the government has remained the same.”
The letter goes on to say that the group of MLAs is calling on their government colleagues to hear the plea of Albertans.
“After 13 painstaking months of COVID-19 public health restrictions, we do not support the additional restrictions imposed on Albertans (in returning to Step 1).”
This isn’t the first time in 2021 that Orr has spoken out about restrictions. He released a statement on March 2, advocating for a more regional approach to restrictions after the announcement of a scaled-back launch of Step 1 the day before.
“The easing of restrictions … did not meet the expectations of Albertans, based on the goalposts that had been previously communicated,” he said in the March 2 statement.
“Benchmarks that were clearly laid out previously were achieved — the goalposts were moved.”
As of April 12, the geospatial map on alberta.ca was reporting 118 active cases for Ponoka, including East Ponoka County, and 14 for Rimbey, which includes West Ponoka County and parts of Lacombe County.
According to Wolf Creek Public Schools, as of April 12, there were three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in relation to individuals at Ponoka Secondary Campus. Two of those are variants.
There was one active case related to Ponoka Elementary School.
Outbreaks were listed on alberta.ca for Ponoka Eye Care and St. Augustine School.
Alberta Health Services did not respond to inquiries about variant case numbers in Ponoka.
Maskwacis Health Services (MHS) reported 58 total active cases on April 12, 55 of which were variants.
“We are doing the best we can by following public health guidelines,” said Randy Littlechild, executive director of MHS.
“We are not doing anything different as far as prevention goes, just promoting testing and prevention info.”