A handful of rural politicians have thrown their support behind a defiant Alberta business that broke COVID-19 rules.
Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski, Lac La Biche County Mayor Omer Moghrabi, and Greg Sawchuk, reeve of the M.D. of Bonnyville all had a sit-down lunch at Lakeland Grill in Bonneville Wednesday, going against public health orders.
The news did not sit well with Premier Jason Kenney.
“To see people in elected government positions encouraging a flagrant disregard of public health measures during a pandemic like this is totally irresponsible,” Kenney said during Friday’s provincial COVID-19 update.
‘This is not a joke’: Alberta premier on flagrant disregard of COVID-19 measures
Mayor Sobolewski said restaurants in his area have been hit hard and he was willing to risk a fine to make a point.
“Yes, I knew that we were breaking the rules, the businesses owners knew that they were breaking the rules but it was act of desperation.
“Let’s have restaurants open and have them follow the same rules or the protocols. If it has to be reservations only, they’re prepared to accept that,” Sobolewski said.
More and more rural restaurants across the province are breaking the law and opening dine-in service.
While Lakeland Grill only opened for two hours, its call to action came with the backing of local leaders.
With a municipal election looming this fall, political commentator Janet Brown says this was likely a strategic move.
“They probably all came to the conclusion that there is a bigger political upside for them to take this stand than there was a down side.”
While a bid for re-election is in the cards for Moghrabi and Sobolewski, they say their actions were not politically motivated.
“Definitely wasn’t a political move because it was very divisive. What I will do is what I think is right for our community,” Mayor Moghrabi said.
“Right or wrong, I think these small town mayors were making the same kind of political choice that every politician makes on day-to-day basis,” Brown said.
The mayors say despite their now notorious lunch, they do not encourage Albertans to break the health guidelines.
On Friday, the province announced a few restrictions would ease as of Feb. 8, including the one banning dine-in service at restaurants.
If they decide to reopen, Alberta restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes will have to adhere to the following guidelines:
- A maximum of six people per table and individuals must be from the same household or two close contacts for people living alone
- Contact information must be collected from one person of the dining party
- Liquor service must end at 10 p.m. and in-person dining must close by 11 p.m.
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