All visitors to municipal pools, libraries and rec centres should have to prove they’re fully vaccinated in order to gain entry, as should city employees who come in direct contact with the public, Coun. Kevin Klein says.
The Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood councillor is calling for a requirement to display provincial immunization cards at the door in an effort to ensure civic facilities can reopen without increasing the spread of COVID-19.
"The delta variant in the United States is increasing at an alarming pace… We’re starting to see other private-sector businesses require that people are double-vaccinated. I think that this is what we have to do as leaders to ensure that our economy can come back."
Klein is seeking to have such rules for staff, visitors and guests to all city-operated facilities, including city hall, in place by Aug. 9.
"There’s an awful lot of members of the public that would prefer to be in a place where everyone is double-vaccinated so they feel safe," he said Wednesday.
Provincial rules already reserve some privileges solely for Manitobans who are fully vaccinated, including attendance at Winnipeg Blue Bombers games, movie theatres, casinos, museums and galleries.
Klein expects few Winnipeggers would lose access to municipal buildings under this requirement, noting those who have a medical reason to not get vaccinated would be exempt.
"We’re really talking about... a (small percentage) of the population that doesn’t want to get a shot," he said.
Coun. Shawn Nason (Transcona) agreed: "If we’re going to meet with members of the public... there should be a requirement."
However, Nason said he’s not sure union and workplace policies would allow such a mandate.
Coun. Sherri Rollins, chairwoman of the protection and community services committee, stressed any new vaccination rule should be led by public health officials, not politicians.
She was also concerned Klein’s staff vaccination requirement could violate workplace agreements.
"His blanket policy... (would) be likely deemed illegal by our labour partners," said Rollins.
The push for a vaccination requirement comes as the city council building begins to slowly reopen. As of Wednesday, delegates could appear in-person at council or committee meetings, while council members could attend face-to-face appointments.
The leader of a key civic union also called for the city to let provincial public health officials determine any vaccination requirement.
Gord Delbridge, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500, stressed everyone should get vaccinated, but mandating that decision could raise concerns over workers’ privacy and their right to make personal health decisions.
Provincial public health officials are best suited to weigh such considerations, not the City of Winnipeg, he said.
"We have the provincial government guiding this direction. I can’t stress enough how important that is."
Christopher Adams, an adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, also expects the municipal government could be questioned if it opts to allow only vaccinated people to access the city council building.
"I think there will be some people who will feel excluded unjustly... Are we putting some barriers to certain parts of our population as a result of these extra hurdles?" said Adams, noting low-income people are over-represented among those who are not vaccinated.
"City hall is being reopened in accordance with provincial public health orders. There are currently no plans to institute vaccine passports in any city facilities," said a statement issued on behalf of Mayor Brian Bowman.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.