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Nenshi pleased with plan to reopen Alberta economy, but still has some questions

Last Updated May 1, 2020 at 4:41 pm MST

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi holds up the responses from Alberta's political parties to a survey about how they would address local issues. Friday, April 5th, 2019. (PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Calgary mayor Naheed Nenhsi is reacting to the news Alberta’s economy could start reopening by the middle of the month.

Speaking to Breakfast Television on CityTV, Nenshi says he’s happy there’s a plan in place but wonders if May 14 is too early.

“It’s important to remember that what the Premier said was it could be as early as May 14, depending on how things go.”

Overall, Nenshi is pleased with the strategy but some details have left him scratching his head.

“How come massage therapists are lumped in with tanning studios and not with physical therapists? There may be some changes on the margin, there’s some stuff on summer camps and daycares that I don’t understand,” says the mayor.

“By and large, I’m happy there’s a plan.”

On Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney announced a three-point relaunch strategy, with the first phase involving the re-opening of daycares, barbershops, and retail businesses.

RELATED: Alberta proposes to start reopening economy by mid-May

The government did stress Alberta schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year, something Nenshi says he’s pleased with.

“Childcare is really around people who are working essential services who are having trouble getting childcare and continuing their work. Schools are a bit more complicated because in a daycare you can have real restrictions on 15 people. You can do contact tracing if one kid is sick.”

The mayor also noted playgrounds and skateparks will remain closed as the province prepares to reopen. He doesn’t anticipate that will change anytime soon and it relies on the introduction of contact tracing to ensure infections don’t spread from these areas.

Later on Friday, Nenshi provided more details on the strategy and how the city is responding during a biweekly update on the local situation.

He said the plan is thoughtful, but once again it all relies on how people continue to act towards working to flatten the curve.

“Don’t circle May 14 on your calendar as ‘normal day’,” said Nenshi.

“The number of cases that we see going forward is entirely dependent on our own actions.”

When it comes to businesses, Nenshi said the permission from the province to reopen is not a requirement, and encourages any business owner who does not feel safe to stay closed.

He said there are supports available, with more assistance expected to come soon as well in the event operations are impacted for longer.

Also, even though some golf courses will be able to reopen on the weekend, the same can’t necessarily be said for public courses.

The city laid off a significant number of staff to help cut down on costs, so they may not be at the point where players can be accepted and also new measures have to be taken to ensure the courses are safe.

“We laid off ten per cent of our workforce. And the folks that we laid off and the folks that we didn’t hire seasonally are the folks who would be doing this work,” he said.

“From a very practical perspective, all that stuff needs to get done before we can open. It’s not happening over the weekend, we have to hire people.”

Nenshi added that a final decision could also lie with city administration, who may ultimately decide against opening up the public courses at all.

All this comes the day after the mayor and council were presented with details on how much the city is losing because of the pandemic and subsequent shutdown.

It’s anticipated the city could lose almost $300 million in the long-term and cutting services alone won’t fix the issues.

RELATED: City council receives grim picture of Calgary’s finances during pandemic

“We cannot cut to make that money up,” said Nenshi. “When you think about 75 per cent of our budget going to police, fire, roads and transit, it’s impossible to cut. Frankly, the provincial and federal governments are going to have to come in and give us a hand.”

Despite the grim financial outlook, Nenshi is confident the city will make it through these difficult times while still providing the essential services Calgarians need.