City council to weigh next steps for Calgary's mask bylaw
With timetable set for easing provincial restrictions, council has choices to make
City council will discuss during its meeting this week whether to pull, keep or alter Calgary's mask bylaw.
The bylaw requires face coverings to be worn in public indoor places as well as on public transportation including transit, taxis and ride shares.
The provincial government lifted its mask requirements for schools starting Feb. 14 and it intends to drop its Alberta-wide mask mandate on March 1.
Coun. Dan McLean suggests the city should fall into line with the province to ensure there's no confusion.
He intends to bring forward a notice of motion to lift the city's bylaw during the council meeting that starts Tuesday.
Mayor wants data
Mayor Jyoti Gondek is taking a wait and see approach.
She said council needs the COVID data which supports the provincial government's decision that it's safe to drop mask requirements.
"I think as municipalities, we deserve to know how those decisions are being made," said Gondek.
She's unhappy the province is not consulting with municipalities about the realities on the ground.
For example, there are differing COVID rates in different parts of the province and not all municipalities offer a public transit system like larger centres do.
"I'm pretty sure every municipality would say that they could offered some advice and some expertise into what to do about public transit, what to do with some of our civic-owned facilities," she said.
"It would have been great to have a conversation about what an overarching provincial mandate looks like."
Gondek said she's unsure which way council is leaning on the issue and she plans to listen to what her colleagues say they're hearing from Calgarians.
Premier has warning
Premier Jason Kenney again warned on Monday that municipalities choosing to keep their own rules might result in losing that power.
"We are looking at our options. We have not made a final decision. I think it's much better if the province, as we try to get life back to normal, has one simple and consistent policy on public health," said Kenney.
"Public health is not a primary responsibility of municipal governments. It is a primary responsibility of the province."
Kenney noted that city councils in Calgary and Edmonton decided against looking at maintaining a vaccine passport bylaw locally.
He suggested that his signalling an intent by the provincial government to take away that power from municipalities "played a role" in those decisions.
Maybe just city facilities
Another member of city council, Coun. Terry Wong, told reporters on Monday that he believes the city's mask bylaw should stay in place until March 1.
At that time, Wong suggests the bylaw may not be needed for private businesses, but the City of Calgary may want to keep mask requirements in place at its facilities and on public transit.
"Only because Calgary is not Lethbridge. We're not Medicine Hat or Fort McMurray. Calgary needs to understand how we protect the community here," said Wong.
"One size fits all is not necessarily applicable if the trends, the virus spread is different. If the trends of virus spread are higher in Calgary, I think we need to take responsibility for protecting our citizens."
City council will discuss what to do with the mask bylaw during its meeting, which starts Tuesday morning.
However, with a large agenda before it, it's possible the council meeting may extend into Wednesday.