Masks mandatory in all Edmonton indoor public spaces starting Aug. 1
City council voted 10-3 to pass the mandatory mask bylaw
Face masks will be mandatory in all indoor public spaces starting Saturday, after city council passed a temporary bylaw.
The bylaw requires people to wear face coverings at all times while in indoor or enclosed public places or public vehicles.
It includes indoor spaces that are both public and privately owned.
At a news conference following Wednesday's vote, Mayor Don Iveson said it would have been better for the rule to come from the province but that it fell to the city to make the call.
"I think a consistent set of messages and rules and enforcement practices that came as public health orders would have served the public interest most effectively," Iveson said. "I increasingly felt uncomfortable waiting for a decision that did not, increasingly, seem to be forthcoming."
He said he hopes other municipalities in the Edmonton metropolitan region take similar steps soon to level the playing field for all area businesses, protecting both workers and customers.
"I can't make that happen, I can just ask politely," the mayor said.
Coun. Andrew Knack made the motion to pass the temporary bylaw.
"It's time for us to act," Knack said prior to the vote. The motion passed 10-3, with councillors Jon Dziadyk, Mike Nickel and Tony Caterina voting against it.
As debate got underway Wednesday morning, some members of council expressed apprehension that the bylaw was crafted in haste, and argued that waiting a few weeks to monitor how people respond to the city administration's new rule, which will require people to wear masks on public transit and at city-owned and operated facilities starting Saturday.
Some councillors wanted to wait and see what happens in Calgary, which has elected to adopt mandatory masking.
Dziadyk made a motion to push the debate on the bylaw to city council's Aug. 17 meeting. He said a gradual rollout of mandatory mask rules would be better, and that enforcing it now will backfire.
"Rushing this right now is going to have unintended consequences," he said. "I do think we need to see what's happening in Calgary for at least two weeks."
Nickel said that while he has no issue with mandating masks in city-owned facilities, he has "grave concerns" about overstepping when it comes to how private businesses operate, and in determining what qualifies as a public space.
City administrators have said that, broadly, the bylaw will apply to any space to which members of the public have unfettered access.
Nickel, Coun. Sarah Hamilton and Caterina voted in favour Dziadyk's referral motion, but it ultimately failed as other council members pushed back, arguing the risk of waiting is not something they were willing to do.
"It's a very minimal cost compared to a massive second wave that would devastate local business, which I will not support doing," said Coun. Aaron Paquette. "I don't think there's any justification for ignoring the science that we already have to wait a few more weeks while we fiddle."
People not wearing masks indoors could face fines of $100. Council members raised questions about the logistics and workload that would come with handing out those fines.
"How would the bylaw have the capacity to, in fact, take up this enforcement?" Hamilton asked.
City administrators said they will start with an education and awareness campaign, followed by warnings and use enforcement as a last resort. David Aitken, manager of community standards and neighbourhoods, said additional peace officers would become available to help with enforcement as the city winds down its shelter operations at the Expo Centre.
He said if things become "overwhelming," administrators and council will have to have further conversations about next steps.
There are some exceptions to the bylaw.
Children under the age of two, people exercising indoors or in a pool, and people unable to wear a face covering due to a mental or physical concern are among those who will not be ordered to comply.
As well, people eating and drinking in designated spaces or as part of a religious ceremony may remove their masks.
Schools, health-care facilities and daycare centres will also be exempt from the bylaw being discussed today as they fall under provincial jurisdiction.
The city had previously brought forward a rule that will require people to wear masks on public transit and at city-owned and operated facilities starting Saturday.
Interim city manager Adam Laughlin announced the measure at an emergency advisory committee meeting last week.
The face covering bylaw will expire on Dec. 31, 2020, unless council votes to extend it.
With files from Natasha Riebe