Alberta Politics
Alberta Labour Minister Jason Copping announcing the government’s vaccine leave legislation yesterday (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Legislature passes transitory vaccine leave legislation, a worthwhile Canadian Initiative, Alberta style!

Posted on April 22, 2021, 12:54 am
6 mins

Never let it be said the United Conservative Party has done nothing worthwhile during the two years it’s been in power in Alberta.

Late yesterday the Alberta Legislature passed a bill amending the Employment Standards Code “to ensure working Albertans can access up to three hours of paid, job-protected leave to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” as a government press release put it.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Denizens of the House on both sides of the aisle are said to have applauded this unusual, and probably unique, moment of bipartisanship. Making it all the more remarkable was the fact the Opposition NDP had pushed for the bill before the government made it its own idea. 

Even before the Legislature voted on Bill 71, the Employment Standards (COVID-19 Vaccination Leave) Amendment Act, 2021, the United Conservative Party signalled it intended to pass the legislation, going so far as to make it take effect as soon as it passed first reading.

Granted, Bill 71 is about as limited in scope as any law can be – applying for only a short time to one particular set of circumstances, a worldwide pandemic that is generally agreed upon to be a provincial, national and global emergency. So don’t expect it to carry over into other areas of business or labour law.

But it is the only legislation passed on the UCP’s watch that can be described as even faintly progressive, so it is almost certainly the last time anything like this will happen again as long as Jason Kenney remains Alberta’s premier.

Just the same, it is an achievement remarkable enough to deserve having a very short book written about it, or at least a PhD thesis at a small university somewhere far away from tidewater or even a large lake. It certainly should be celebrated – responsibly, of course, with at least two metres of distance from any other celebrant, plus with all the usual caveats concerning anything the UCP gets up to.

The law made through three readings in the Legislature last night in record time, just under half an hour, presumably before the UCP’s large anti-vaxx caucus had a chance to start to think about what they were really being asked to endorse.

“COVID vaccination leave will apply to all employees regardless of job status,” said the government’s news release, published before the bill was put before the Legislature. “There will be no requirement to have worked any length of time for an employer.”

Edmonton Chamber of Commerce President Janet Riopel (Photo: Edmonton Chamber of Commerce).

Using language carefully drafted not to trouble the quarter of the UCP caucus that views restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus with grave suspicion, the press release quoted Labour Minister Jason Copping observing that “by providing choice without consequence, we continue to protect the lives and livelihoods of all Albertans.” (Emphasis added.)

Mentioning choice, of course, makes the point that the government doesn’t really think anyone should actually feel any pressure to be vaccinated, no matter how bad COVID-19 gets. Mentioning lives and livelihoods repeats an election campaign slogan the UCP has been giving a test run.

Nevertheless, Premier Kenney himself cautiously declined to contribute any celebratory words to the modest effort.

Opposition Leader (and former NDP premier) Rachel Notley said the bill “will benefit hundreds of thousands of working Albertans because no one wants to log in to book their vaccine just to see that the only spots left are during their work hours, when they can’t otherwise afford to leave.” 

But she didn’t say it in the government press release, bipartisanship going only so far in Alberta nowadays.

Still, at the risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth, one wonders, how progressive is this little law?

Well, it’s not as progressive as the similar bill in New Democrat-run British Columbia, which additionally gives workers paid time off to get their loved ones to a vaccination clinic.

That may have been too much to ask of Alberta, but just the same the spokesperson for the local business set found little to like in what otherwise might have been a candidate to be internationally declared a worthwhile Canadian initiative.

Edmonton Chamber of Commerce President Janet Riopel complained in the pages of a local newspaper that the bill will mean – quelle horreur! – some additional costs for local businesses.

“We need Albertans to do their part,” Ms. Riopel grumped: “Get vaccinated as quickly as possible to ensure this mandate is worth the price businesses will pay.” (Emphasis added, of course.)

It’s a wonderment. Do these people have any idea what this kind of thing makes them sound like?

12 Comments to: Legislature passes transitory vaccine leave legislation, a worthwhile Canadian Initiative, Alberta style!

  1. Anonymous

    April 22nd, 2021

    Whatever good will gesture this might be by the UCP, it still doesn’t take away that the UCP has to deal with Alberta still being in the top spot in the nation for the per capita cases of Covid-19.

    • Neil Lore

      April 22nd, 2021

      One can only assume that their constituency either takes pride in this accomplishment, or thinks that covid is a conspiracy, you know, like the crazy idea that the world is round.

  2. Dave

    April 22nd, 2021

    Well some good news for once!

    Out of all the stress and strains of the last year, things have not always been handled well nor have good decisions been made at times. However, the sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the better off we all will be. Thus, this is what they call a “no brainer” – support everyone to ensure this happens as soon as possible.

    Its good to know that at least this once, everyone gets it. I’m sure there still will be challenges ahead, but at least we should take a moment to appreciate a day that turned out better than we might have expected.

  3. tom

    April 22nd, 2021

    Is Ms Riopel aware of the price paid by Cargill workers?

    • David Climenhaga

      April 22nd, 2021

      Exactly my point. DJC

    • Madness of Crowds

      April 22nd, 2021

      Humorously, Ms. Riopel lists among her skills on her Linked In entry, “Public Relations”.

  4. Jimmy

    April 22nd, 2021

    JK is in need of some positive press albeit small in the overall Covid 19 scenario. Thank you Mr. Kenney. It is however a gesture that is unlikely to garner ire from the large and seemingly growing groups of Covid deniers, antivaxxers, American styled so called freedom fighters, super spreaders and conspiracy theorists. Most of whom are voters.

    That did seem to be a rather petulant knee jerk comment from Ms. Riopel. Another example of the Pavlovian responses we have come to expect from chambers of commerce employees. Oh well, if it gets your name and picture in public awareness some small personal gains may accrue as unfortunately the notion of screwing workers whilst maximizing fat cats’ coffers appeals to many.

  5. Abs

    April 22nd, 2021

    It makes them sound pro-choice! Do I get a prize?

  6. Scotty on Denman

    April 22nd, 2021


    Following up a brutally sarcastic opener of the ‘will-wonders-never-cease’ variety, you’ve implied the UCP government is narrow-minded, tight-fisted, begrudging PoliProgoPhobes whose political parsimony might warrant a book, consistently intoned, of extreme brevity.

    Insinuation that a certain four-quintile, behavioural-development cohort in the UCP caucus is reliably slow on the uptake to whip the faintest of pesky [P-word] policies past them— provoking only a flick of an ear or a shivered haunch— is put with impressive deftness: it hardly needs mention this gang has probably missed its monthly anti-dummy vaccine. This flash of legislative enlightenment is so singular as to suggest they’ve probably missed it for quite a while now. On the other hand, it might be a point of conversion or even self-schooling.

    Otherwise they surely would have snapped their chain to ringing-tight at the faintest whiff that this expedited legislation might and, no doubt, will be abused by CERB-bums whose only reason to get a job is to get vaccinated and, then, straight back to their evil dole-pusher Justin “Blackface” Trudeau.

    The befuddling effect of words like “choice” have on The Troglodytic faction of the UCP caucus is revealingly treated, adroitly so that it suggests the party is worried enough about the next election, though two years hence, to be testing slogans like “living” and “life”—no doubt taking the time to avoid potential thematic conundrums with respect real choice. Could we ever be doubtful that this a party of pros?

    It is indeed a wonder whether these people know or acknowledge what this kind of legislation makes them look like. Normally they’re such cerebrally-retentive social constipatives. The suspicious are suspect. A significant report. Thnx.

  7. Bret Larson

    April 22nd, 2021

    How do you define progressive?

    If you mean providing the environment for fiscal stability and good tax balances from enhanced economic performance, you know the stuff that allows us to send on social contract stuff, well they have been doing that stuff all along.

    Which begs the question, how come the “spend more crowd” dont understand you need to make more to do so?

    Or is it progressive to dig a hole youll never make it out of?

    • Scotty on Denman

      April 23rd, 2021

      How you define “progressive” is a very good question.

      If you mean providing an environment for fiscal stability through emigration and decease from air and water pollution—depopulation and death approaching the most fiscally stable state possible—and a balance of taxes that extracts money from businesses and citizens and blows it on foolhardy pipeline speculation, and from economic performance enhanced by a declining industry which is the predominant source of public revenue since so many others have been cut —or don’t exist at all (like petroleum royalties and sales taxes) that allows other jurisdictions nearby in the region, hemisphere and world to spend on social contract stuff like hospitals, schools, police and firefighting, well that’s what the UCP has been calling “progressive” all along.

      Which begs the question: how come the spend less crows don’t get that you need to have a healthy society to make things happen—to progress from the Little House on the Prairie to modern and future life?

      Or is the UCP’s definition of “progressive” about digging a political hole it will never get out of?

      Very fiscally stable, excellent balance and enhancing, alright. Too bad so many Albertans—and, increasingly, expat Albertans— have to keep paying (or have paid but now don’t need to anymore) for all of it.


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