Town of HP will not declare COVID-19 state of emergency

Chris Clegg

South Peace News

Because there is no benefit to citizens, High Prairie town council decided last night [March 24] to not declare a state of emergency due to the COVD-19 pandemic.

Mayor Brian Panasiuk brought forth the matter and asked for council’s input in making a decision. Many citizens have wondered why the Town has not made the declaration, especially since neighbouring M.D. of Greenview did so March 23.

Panasiuk immediately moved to declare a state of emergency because motions must be made in the positive.

“I don’t agree with that and I’ll vote against it,” he said.

He explained he spoke to Municipal Affairs and asked the simple question, “What are we trying to solve?”

The only answer he received was that laws to enforce social distancing could be enforced more stringently.

“I don’t think we’re at that point yet,” said Panasiuk.

And, it is expected within days – perhaps even today – that the Government of Alberta is coming out with more severe penalties if people do not respect self isolation and social distancing.

Town CAO Brian Martinson read a statement from David LeBlanc, director of protective services for Northern Sunrise County, who spoke to legal advisors for the county on declaring a state of emergency.

“We do not recommend the municipality do so,” Martinson read.

“What would we gain from doing this?” asked Councillor Judy Stenhouse. “How would you enforce it [self isolation and social distancing]. I can’t see us enforcing that.”

“We’re not there yet,” Martinson agreed with Panasiuk.

“There are lots of people that think we should, lots of people that think we shouldn’t,” said Councillor Debbie Rose.

Martinson added if any municipality is functioning adequately, declaring a state of emergency is not needed.

Council realizes some people are not respecting the self isolation and social distancing.

“How much further can we take it?” asked Stenhouse. “It’s a behavioural problem. Council can’t solve that.”

Still, Rose favoured a more aggressive campaign to let people know as much information as possible.

“We have to do everything we can…we do our due diligence.”

Council did agree that Panasiuk post another video on the Town website and social media.

“I’m not saying it’s the be-all,” said Panasisuk.

But council agreed it was a step in the right direction.

And, as Councillor Michael Long earlier said, “You can’t

[legislate]

stupidity.”

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