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UPDATED: Red Deer MLA Jason Stephan calls for inquiry into COVID-19 restrictions economic costs

Government control and coercion produces fear and contention
Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan is calling for an inquiry into the cost of COVID-19 health restrictions. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is calling for a public inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on Albertans.

“There needs to be a public inquiry; a comprehensive, full cost analysis of COVID restrictions on Albertans,” said Stephan in a statement he made in the Alberta legislature on Tuesday.

“Truth is an antidote to fear; the more of it, the better,” he said. “Great leaders do not plant fear in the hearts of others; they speak the truth in love, inspiring the best in those they serve.

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Stephan reiterated the need for a review.

“I think it’s really important that we consider that. These restrictions, these measures, that were brought in they were wide-reaching and they had profound impacts.

“On such material things, we need to learn, we need to understand the cost of the restrictions.

“Whether or not its in the precise form of a public inquiry, or whether it’s done in a different way at the end of the day, I think it is really important that there is a full cost analysis of the cost of restrictions because that will help us be better with our decision making going forward.”

Stephan is not concerned that the inquiry may show some things could have been done better.

“My purpose in running was to try to do what’s right and let the consequences follow and I really believe that the best strategy for electoral success is doing what is right.

“On such a material thing we can’t be afraid of the fact that it may be the case that we did make mistakes.”

The government is already taking a look at how the pandemic was handled, including a panel that is looking at the impacts of health restrictions on children.

At Red Deer Public Market last weekend, Stephan said he heard from many in the community who were excited that restrictions were being eased.

Stephan has spoken out against government-ordered lockdowns and raised concerns about the impact of restrictions on children in the past. Stephan has two young adult sons and a teenage daughter.

In April, he was among dozen-plus United Conservative backbenchers who signed a letter publicly condemning a return to stricter health restrictions.

“We believe that yesterday’s announcement to move our province backwards, effectively abandoning the plan that Albertans had worked diligently over the past few months to follow, is the wrong decision,” the MLAs, including central Alberta MLAs Ron Orr, Lacombe-Ponoka; Nathan Cooper, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills and Nate Horner, Drumheller-Stettler had said in the letter.

“We have heard from our constituents, and they want us to defend their livelihoods and freedoms as Albertans.”

Stephan said he has received some positive comments, and no criticism so far, from other MLAs about his call for an inquiry.

While it will be harder to measure some impacts over others it is worth making the effort.

“It’s easy to measure a quantity of life, but quality of life is very important too, but it is harder to measure. And I think that the ability and the opportunity to evaluate a full-cost analysis, both from a quantitative and a qualitative sense, there’s a lot of value in that and it can help us better in our decision making.”

Stephan said he is not perfect and accepts that an inquiry may show mistakes are made, which is only to be expected.

“I am not really looking to condemn anyone. We are all imperfect,” he said. “Mistakes are valuable teachers and help us to be better going forward. It’s always important to evaluate and try and be better going forward, especially on such material things.”

Stephan faced criticism for travelling to Arizona last Christmas to visit his sister. He apologized for his “poor judgment” and resigned from the government Treasury Board.

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