Alberta introduces bill to extend COVID-related emergency labour, health rules

Alberta introduces bill to extend COVID-related emergency labour, health rules

EDMONTON — Alberta has introduced legislation to extend existing emergency health and labour rules tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says as case numbers fluctuate and new research emerges, long-term rules need to be in place once emergency ministerial orders lapse in August.

Shandro’s proposed legislation could extend existing orders, but with sunset clauses that could be in force as late as the end of next year.

The bill proposes changes to 15 acts across seven ministries.

Unpaid, job-protected leave tied to COVID-19 is to last another 14 months for anyone forced to isolate or who must provide care for someone as a direct result of the pandemic.

The bill also looks to extend the maximum time for temporary layoffs related to the health crisis to 180 days from 120.

It seeks to extend border screening measures already announced that require arriving travellers at Calgary and Edmonton airports to be assessed for COVID-19.

It would also keep restrictions on continuing-care centre staff from working in more than one place to prevent possible spread of the novel coronavirus between facilities.

Alberta currently has 30 active cases and 706 recovered cases at continuing care facilities, and 116 facility residents have died.

“Bill 24 will ensure that the intent of the ministerial orders put in place to respond to COVID-19 remain for as long as they’re needed,” Shandro said Thursday.

The legislation would also allow for remote signing and witnessing of estate and care documents through two-way video conferencing.

All current public health orders put in place by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, remain in place.

The Opposition NDP said the United Conservatives’ bill extends critical protections but falls short.

“I’m incredibly disappointed to see that this bill does not address the very real need for paid sick leave,” said labour critic Christina Gray.

“It’s something that is incredibly important to the working families in our province … as we continue to live under the chief medical officer of health’s guidelines that should you have any symptoms of illness, you need to stay home from work.”

The province reported 49 new COVID cases Thursday, bringing the number of total active cases to 489.

There was one more death, bringing that total to 152.

Alberta is well into the second phase of its economic relaunch. Most businesses and public facilities have been given the green light to reopen, subject to health restrictions. Restaurants, for example, cannot have more than six diners per table.

Public gatherings remain limited to no more than 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2020

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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