Calgary

Business group applauds Calgary's move to mandate masks for indoor spaces

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses says it's pleased with the way a forthcoming mask bylaw has been taking shape in Calgary.

Mayor questions province's decision not to require masks in schools

Shoppers wear masks as they line up at a mall in Laval on the third day of Quebec's mandatory mask order for all indoor public spaces. The CFIB says Calgary's proposed mask rules are on the right track. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses says it's pleased with the way a forthcoming mask bylaw has been taking shape in Calgary.

City council voted on Tuesday to make masks mandatory at indoor public spaces starting Aug. 1.

The bylaw, which will require people to wear a face covering over their mouth, nose and chin, would apply to all indoor public spaces in the city, like malls and grocery stores, and on Calgary Transit, in taxis and Ubers.

Annie Dormuth, the Alberta provincial affairs director for the CFIB, says she is glad the city adopted many of the CFIB's stipulations when drafting the bylaw, such as not penalizing businesses if people choose not to wear a mask.

"Very pleased to see that the city has listened to us has listened to business owners from the survey they conducted and have implemented early details of a bylaw that really is flexible for businesses and as well puts more onus on individuals and encourages them to wear the face mask," she said.

Dormuth says she hopes the city and province continue to provide free masks for people so no one is left out.

Council will discuss and vote on the final details of the new rules next Monday.

Dr. Amy Tan, one of the physicians behind the group Masks4Canada, says she is relieved Calgary went beyond simply mandating masks on public transit.

"I am thrilled at the courageous leadership," she said.

Tan says the new policy will be key to Alberta's ability to stem an ongoing surge in COVID-19 numbers.

The province reported 509 new cases over the past four days, and the total number of active cases sits at 1,193 — the highest the province has seen in more than two months. 

"It was kind of a perfect storm where I think it made the council decision easier or at least a sense of urgency that we have to take now.… I think it really keeps it concrete, that this is not an abstract risk," she said.

Tan is now setting her sights on schools, which are set to reopen in the fall under Alberta's school re-entry plan — but without a requirement for masks.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the plan includes cohorting classes where possible, implementing social distancing techniques, staggering breaks and class times as well as drop-off and pickup times and locations, and implementing assigned seating on school buses.

But Tan is not convinced that's good enough.

Hear what some Calgarians think about the new bylaw coming Aug. 1 as Dr. Amy Tan outlines why she thinks there needs to be more mandatory mask regulations in Alberta. 5:50

"With large class sizes, I can't envision that physical distancing will be able to be maintained," she said. "On top of the fact that kids, developmentally and naturally, want to seek out each other and touch each other."

Tan says she has already heard from concerned parents and teachers.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he's concerned, too. And if the province isn't willing to mandate masks in schools, perhaps the city will have to, he says.

'Certainly we need a better plan from the education minister. We need a better plan from the Government of Alberta, and if we don't have one, you know, the City of Calgary, we have to maintain people's safety — and if we have to step into the fray, we will," he said.

Masks4Canada sent letters to education ministers around the country and school boards this week calling for mandatory masks in schools.

With files from Colleen Underwood and Jennifer Lee

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