By Cole Parkinson
As the pandemic has rolled well into 2021, the Town of Vauxhall is hoping to put a positive message out for residents in the region.
While there has been messaging sent out in the past by municipalities in the Taber area, the groups are once again hoping to provide some form of communication as COVID numbers continue to grow.
“If you recall, many months ago, Vauxhall, Taber and the M.D. of Taber got together and did COVID messaging. We have a meeting today (April 19) about doing that again. We have some really set guidelines on how we want to do it this time. Last time, everyone got to write their own thing, so we didn’t know what the other was writing. This time, we are going to work with staff on messaging,” explained Mayor Margaret Plumtree at town counci’s Apr. 19 meeting.
Back in November, the M.D., Town of Taber, Village of Barnwell and Town of Vauxhall put out a release urging people to follow guidelines and all safety measures issued by Alberta Health to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
This time around, they feel a different way of presenting their message will be better.
“We want to keep it fairly neutral. We don’t want to do any preaching or anything else,” added Plumtree.
“At this point in time, people have made their decision on where they stand with COVID and we won’t change anyone’s mind. The message we want to put forward is to be kind. In Vauxhall, we have a couple of businesses with staff that are getting abused. From Minister (Ric) McIver down, there is no support. I asked Minister McIver and he just said to tell our businesses and their staff to be patient. I thought well, we’re paying $21,006.32 (for policing) and we cannot get support for businesses that are getting abused on provincial regulations,” said Plumtree.
Another major factor the group wants to touch on is mental health during the pandemic. With frustration and continued restrictions in place, the municipalities want to urge citizens to stay on top of their mental health.
“We want to talk about mental health and the supports there. Martin Shields (Bow River MP) will join us, I’m not sure what his message will be and we thought Grant Hunter (Taber-Warner MLA and associate minister of Red Tape Reduction) would be the perfect one to share the provincial message, which has been to let people know when the vaccines are available and to book it. No forceful messaging and trying more on the information side of things,” continued Plumtree.
“People are just frustrated. It’s been a long time,” added Deputy Mayor Ray Coad.
The group of municipalities is hopeful Hunter will be able to add to vaccine roll-out in the province.
“There are basically two views to this, and I think the messaging has to be respectful and positive. That is what we all agreed to. That’s why if Grant is there, we want him to talk about the vaccine. I think the province has a good message right now and it’s that when it’s your opportunity, please book. It’s not saying you have to,” stated Plumtree.
While many on council were agreeable to getting more messaging out, it was questioned how much it would help at this stage of the pandemic and the fact pandemics were handled at a larger level than municipal government.
“I’m certainly not opposed to it but at the same time, I question what the point is because pandemics are handled at the provincial and federal level, not really at a local level. All the messaging is harmless, I’m just not sure it’s worth a whole lot of effort either,” said Coun. Richard Phillips.
“I think it’s just on a regional side, it’s please be kind to one another. Don’t go into stores and yell and curse at staff, they’re just following the regulations. For us, it’s that message,” replied Plumtree. “The idea is to be supportive of all levels of government in the messaging moving forward.”
While the message from the municipalities had largely focused on being positive and working together during the pandemic, a suggestion was brought up to encourage people to get vaccines in order to get life back to normal.
“Whether you think COVID is going to kill you or not, I think you’re crazy not to get it because I don’t see any other end to this,” stated Phillips. “I think the message should be strongly pro-vaccine. Those who think COVID is all a scam, the only way they are going to get their return to normal is for the majority of the population to get vaccinated. If you think it’s going to kill you, of course, you should get vaccinated. Whether or you like it or not, vaccines are the answer. The province is saying so, so I don’t know why we wouldn’t support that provincial message at a local level.”
“If we can get the majority of people vaccinated whether it’s because they want to or because they travel, I hope we get there,” added Plumtree, who also stated she would bring that suggestion to the meeting between the municipalities.