Council could be pulled in two different directions on vaccinations, considering the motions presented by two councillors at the very first meeting of the new Red Deer city council on Monday.
Coun. Cindy Jefferies introduced a motion to extend the City of Red Deer’s mandatory staff vaccination policy to apply to council as well as city workers. Council should have to follow the same rules as city staff and “lead by example,” she explained.
But Coun. Victor Doreksen introduced another motion that instead seeks to pull the city’s mandatory vaccination policy for staff and replace it with other measures.
Doerksen said vaccinated and unvaccinated people can both spread COVID, so the city should look at other measures, perhaps more working from home, or introducing random COVID testing.
He also expressed concerns that the city might find itself short-staffed if a lot of staff quit rather than submit to mandatory vaccinations.
Although these two different notice of motions were presented at Monday’s council meeting, Red Deer’s Mayor Ken Johnston later said he doesn’t see it as a conflict.
Council members represent the different make-ups of the community, said Johnston, so “this is really an expression or the expectations of the community, but I do not in any way find this polarizing.”
Acting city manager Tara Lodewyk said she will present more information around both motions at the Nov. 15 meeting before councillors can vote on them.
Lodewyk did not want to respond to Doerksen’s suggestion that the city might have a staff exodus over the vaccine policy. “All I will say is that administration spent weeks and weeks researching and in due diligence, consulting with insurance experts and legal and health and safety experts” before introducing the mandatory vaccination policy for staff, she said.
Lodewyk previously explained that administration could not make the mandatory staff vaccination rules apply to council because a member of council would first have to introduce the motion, and then all of council would have to vote for it.
Jefferies put her motion forward because she had heard much public discontent over why council was subject to different rules than the rest of staff. She said she also personally felt it fair to expect elected city officials to abide by the same policies as city staff — and feels vaccinations are important so all of council can return to in-person meetings.
Jefferies believes she and Doerksen are approaching the same question — of how to best preserve public health— from “slightly different angles.” But Jefferies doesn’t think the approaches are divisive, even though how council votes on one motion might affect the outcome of the other.
Doerksen told supporters during his election campaign that he would not produce proof-of-vaccine and that his vaccine status in no way affects his ability to do his job as a councillor. He campaigned on the platform that people should make their own health care choices.