You may have to keep wearing that mask until the end of next year in Calgary, or face even bigger fines
Fines are going up for violations of city mandate, alongside big fines from province
Calgary's mandatory mask bylaw will be around until December 2021, unless it's repealed sooner.
The bylaw was first introduced in July.
Calgary city council voted Monday to extend the possible deadline for the temporary bylaw at the same time as approving an increase in fines — from $50 for a first offence to $100.
A second offence would cost $200 and third and subsequent violations would result in tickets of $300.
Provincial tickets for violating the mask health order start at $1,000 and can go as high as $100,000.
Whether a person is in violation of the provincial order or the municipal bylaw depends on the location of the offence and would be up to the discretion of the officer issuing the ticket and the nature of the violation.
Some councillors wondered why the bylaw, brought in months before the province introduced a mandatory mask bylaw in late November, was still necessary given the new Alberta rules. They were told the two can coexist.
Under the Alberta government rules, masks are mandatory across the province in all indoor workplaces and facilities outside the home, except when working alone in an office or a safely distanced cubicle or a barrier is in place, when in rental accommodations used solely as a private residence or in farm operations.
The city bylaw covers public buildings and transit.
Coun. Druh Farrell wondered why the city fines were so low given the potential deadly nature of the virus.
Kay Choi, manager of strategic services for the city, said that's why it's important to have both levels of fines.
"If there is an egregious violation to the mask order, enforcement officers have the opportunity, or can use, the $1,000 (provincial) minimum fine and that can go up to $100,000 and we think that's a big stick," she said.
"I think what very important is that this bylaw allows enforcement agencies an opportunity to use discretion and to scale their enforcement efforts."
Organizers of the anti-mask rallies that have been taking place in Calgary on weekends have received provincial fines for gatherings.
Council voted to ask administration for quarterly updates on the bylaw as the pandemic continues and vaccines trickle into the arms of citizens, but the extension of the bylaw means a vote won't be required every three months.
"If we're looking at people in Alberta being fully vaccinated by the fall, then obviously there will be no need for the bylaw at that time," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
"But the mask bylaw is probably one of the last things that will be eased in terms of restrictions because it's about preventing further spread. It's about being forward looking, and so I anticipate that we'll see it for a good chunk of 2021 at least."
Alberta plans to administer first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to 29,000 health-care workers by the end of December, the province's health minister said Monday.
Starting this week, 3,900 doses will go to ICU doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists and long-term care workers in a bid to keep both the workers and those under their care safe.
Meanwhile, sweeping new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 came into effect in Alberta on Sunday at 12 a.m., and are expected to be in place for at least four weeks.
Alberta reported 1,887 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and another 15 deaths. Across the province, 716 people are being treated in hospitals for the illness, including 136 in ICU beds.