by Jake Cardinal
(ANNews) – On May 29, 2020 the Albertan government announced their plan to distribute free non-medical masks to the majority of Albertan residents.
They plan to do this – in early June – by providing three major fast-food franchises 20 million masks and asking the restaurants to distribute them. So the next time you visit a Tim Horton’s, McDonald’s, or A&W ask for a free mask package. No purchase will be necessary to get the masks.
This plan is a part of Alberta’s relaunch strategy.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said, “This program will help Albertans get back to work and enjoy every-day activities safely as we all continue to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout our province.”
The decision to implement this plan is an odd one. Why not grocery stores or pharmacies instead of promoting fast-food that we know is linked to obesity and diabetes?
Shandro stated, “We chose this method, quite honestly, because these partners have access through these 600 sites to about 95 per cent of our population. These three partners are doing it without expense to the Alberta taxpayer.”
Other concerns over the distribution method were brought up by Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd. “There are Albertans who may not have vehicles, may not be as mobile, maybe their area doesn’t have access to one of these particular fast food retailers,” said Shepherd.
It also appears that the Indigenous and Metis populations have slipped through the cracks once again as no masks are planned to be given to any First Nations.
The Government of Alberta had this to say on their website: Government is also working with municipalities, First Nations communities, Metis Settlements and local agencies to distribute the non-medical masks to those who need them, such as people who depend on public transit.
Meanwhile, the billion-dollar franchises could not have been happier to participate in the blatant promotion.
Mike Hancock, chief operating officer of Tim Horton’s said, “Throughout the pandemic, the 1,500 Tim Hortons owners across Canada have been eagerly supporting their local communities and stepping up to answer calls for assistance. When we were asked by the Alberta government to help distribute masks through our drive-thrus we did not hesitate. We’re proud to have been asked to participate in this important program and do our part to help Alberta move forward on its relaunch strategy.”
The supply of masks however, will only be until supplies last. “This is not meant to provide Albertans with an unlimited supply,” Shandro said. “We’re encouraging people to source their own masks on an ongoing basis.”
In order to make sure as many people receive masks as possible, the Alberta Government went out of their way to instate an honour system. “Throughout the response to this pandemic, Albertans have shown us that they’re responsible. I think that’s why we’ve been more successful than many other large jurisdictions on this continent,” he said.
Alberta has approximately 7,057 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the third highest in all of Canada behind only Quebec and Ontario.
Jake Cardinal is a Local Initiatives Reporter for Alberta Native News.