February 23, 2022

-Global News

Alberta’s largest and most northern county says it is no longer working with local businesses that have a mandatory vaccination policy — the latest in a series of anti-COVID moves by the municipality.

Mackenzie County said businesses that require employees, contractors or subcontractors to show proof of vaccination in workplaces or on work sites will not be hired to provide goods or services.

“Mackenzie County does not tolerate mandatory vaccination or any other discriminatory requirements for any employee,” a document outlining the latest policy says.

The county’s council approved the policy on Feb. 16.

A spokesperson for the county said in a letter that vaccine mandates violate personal rights and freedoms and will not be tolerated.

The memo by Byron Peters, the county’s interim chief administrative officer, said for companies that don’t have a mandatory vaccination policy, there are no changes to any existing or potential future relationship with the county.

“If you have an existing contract with the county to provide a service and you do have a mandatory vaccination policy in place, the terms of the existing contract will be honoured for the time being,” Peters said.

“However, your employees will not be permitted to enter Mackenzie County premises or job sites.

“All work must be completed remotely, or arrangements should be made to sub-contract the work to another company that does not have a mandatory vaccination policy in place.”

Peters said for future work, companies with mandatory vaccine policies will not be eligible to work for the county: “This ineligibility will be clearly stated on all future procurement documents prior to any bids closing or contracts being awarded.”

“We look forward to working with companies that share the values of Mackenzie County. Corporate use of coercion and intimidation towards employees to dictate personal health choices are inappropriate, and we will not work with companies that tolerate or promote such behavior.”

Provincial data shows the county has the lowest vaccination rate in Alberta.

Just over 38 per cent of its roughly 9,500 residents have had their first COVID-19 shot and just over 32 per cent have had a second.

Just a few months into the pandemic, Mackenzie County Reeve Josh Knelsen spoke out against the first wave of COVID-19 restrictions — saying they took too much of a toll on people who couldn’t work or socialize with family and friends.

Then in September 2020, Mackenzie County councillor Peter Braun shared a Facebook post calling on people to stop getting tested for COVID-19 because he did not believe knowing how many people are positive would help win the fight against the pandemic.