Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley says Premier Jason Kenney needs to stop pandering to extremists and start supporting small businesses.
Notley wants the government to bring in more financial supports and to enable more enforcement of new COVID-19 rules that come into force on Monday.
She says the vaccine passport program introduced this week has caused mass confusion among Albertans, and businesses need immediate support to implement the new rules.
"The small business owners we've heard from say that 'we'll be working through the weekend' in the hopes of being able to be ready to implement a proof of vaccination protocol come Monday," Notley said Friday, speaking at Dicken's Pub in downtown Calgary.
"Some venues that host hundreds of patrons every day are desperately searching for additional staff to work at the front doors."
The government's passport system — officially called the restrictions exemption program — does not institute provincewide rules on establishments, but rather allows every business to decide for themselves whether to check customers' vaccine status or not.
Those who do screen for vaccinations or negative test results can operate as usual, while those who don't will be burdened with new restrictions.
Notley says new grants worth up to $25,000 are needed to help companies hire new staff in order to police the new rules.
"It is time for Jason Kenney to stop pandering to extremists and instead to start focusing on protecting front-line workers," she said.
In addition to the emergency funding, Notley is calling on the justice minister to extend enforcement powers of health orders to bylaw and peace officers.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said this week he was making the same request to the province as the city contemplates taking its own steps to rein in the fourth wave of the pandemic.
Those powers have been granted in the past in order to monitor pandemic responses but were rescinded when the previous wave broke.