Edmonton

Edmonton city council to debate making masks mandatory

Edmonton city council will meet Thursday to debate whether to make it mandatory for people to wear masks in indoor public places. 

The mayor called council's emergency advisory committee to reconvene 3 weeks early

City council has called on the Alberta government to make masks mandatory on a regional level. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Edmonton city council will meet Thursday to debate whether to make it mandatory for people to wear masks in indoor public places. 

Mayor Don Iveson called on councillors to attend an emergency advisory committee meeting on Thursday afternoon — the first one since July 2.

"I am hearing that many Edmontonians would like to see more mask usage, myself included, up to and including a mask mandate for public and some private indoor spaces," Iveson said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. 

The move follows Calgary city council's decision Wednesday to mandate face coverings in indoor public places.

Edmonton strongly encourages people to wear masks on public transit and in indoor spaces but so far has resisted mandating them. 

Iveson and interim city manager Adam Laughlin have said enforcing such a bylaw would be onerous on the city and discriminatory toward people with legitimate health reasons for not wearing them. 

They have also called for the Alberta government to make mask wearing a public health requirement on a provincial level. 

Iveson said council will discuss how neighbouring municipalities may be included in such a directive. 

Masks on transit

Coun. Andrew Knack said the evidence is clear that masks help curb the spread of COVID-19. 

"I would be hard-pressed to see why we wouldn't proceed at this stage." 

Many people refuse to take public transit because only 30 to 50 per cent of riders are wearing them, Knack said. 

"We are still hearing from far too many transit riders who said, 'Normally, I would be riding the bus but I am not riding the bus until you mandate masks.' "

Knack said he believes more people would start taking public transit again if masks were required, thus boosting transit fares and revenues again. 

Businesses that require their staff to wear masks seem to instill more confidence among their customers, he added. 

Coun. Jon Dziadyk suggested that Edmonton is heeding the health guidelines better than Calgary — which has had a jump in cases in the past few days. 

"There's been great compliance with hygiene, sanitization, physical distancing and respecting all the other rules put out by the province," Dziadyk said Wednesday. "I don't see why we'd go above and beyond what the province is asking for right now for the Edmonton zone." 

Dziadyk also argued that not everyone has access to masks and that the city should focus on providing more free masks. 

The city gave out 750,000 masks at transit stations between July 15 and July 17 as part of a provincial distribution plan.

The emergency advisory committee was next scheduled to meet Aug. 13.

@natashariebe

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