EDMONTON – Alberta is adding more money and doubling fines to help businesses implement and enforce its version of a COVID-19 vaccine passport.
Small and medium-sized businesses that adopt the passport, known in Alberta as a restriction exemption, will get $2,000 to help set it up.
There will also be $1 million for businesses to access to help staff explain the passport program and deal with customers.
Amid reports that some staff are being harassed and abused over the program, the province is also doubling the fine to $4,000 for mistreating workers enforcing public health orders.
“We’ve heard instances of individuals that are not in favour of vaccinations, that aren’t in favour of providing that (proof of vaccination) ID, going in and harassing workers on the front line in small businesses across Alberta,” Doug Schweitzer, the minister of jobs, economy and innovation, said Thursday. “We want to send a strong signal that that type of behaviour will not be tolerated.”
Alberta introduced a form of vaccine passport last month and it has been cited as a contributor to the province getting more people vaccinated as it handles a surging fourth wave of COVID-19 cases.
Other provinces, such as Ontario, B.C. and Quebec, brought the passports in provincewide, stopping those who can’t show proof of vaccination or negative tests from using non-essential services such as bars, restaurants and going to mass-spectator sports events.
Alberta’s passport program is voluntary, but businesses that don’t sign on must comply with other restrictions, including sharply reduced customer capacity.
The province has more than 18,000 active COVID-19 infections, but metrics such as hospitalizations, cases and critical care patients have been either plateauing or receding slightly.
“That is good news, but it is still very early and those gains are very tentative,” said Premier Jason Kenney.