Red Deer Transit drivers will not be enforcing mask wearing if council chooses to make it mandatory on buses.
“We would not be expecting bus drivers to take things into their own hands with the law. We wouldn’t do that,” said city manager Allan Seabrooke on Friday.
City council is debating a bylaw on Monday that would require mask wearing on public transit.
Also up for debate is a second option, which would extend mandatory mask regulations to all publicly accessible buildings and public vehicles, such as taxis, if the number of cases hits 25 per 100,000 people. Red Deer had only 10 active cases on Thursday.
Mask wearing is a hot topic, and some people are passionate in their belief that masks are unnecessary and infringe on their rights.
Seabrooke said to avoid the risk of confrontation, drivers would not turn away passengers without masks, although they would make riders aware of the new regulations, if council decides to go that route.
“All you do is just ask people to respect the rules. I think, for the most part, what we’ve experienced here in Red Deer is our cases are very manageable, and generally, Red Deerians are really protecting each other,” he said.
If mask regulations are passed, the city will roll out a public education campaign to ensure everyone is aware of the new rules, said Seabrooke.
“That’s always the best way: education and co-operation. Heavy-handed enforcement is not the way to go.”
If mandatory masking is in place, enforcement officers will be going about the community making spot checks and informing people about the bylaw.
In Edmonton, mask wearing on public transit has been required since the beginning of the month. However, the city has not called on transit drivers there to enforce the new policy either.
Steve Bradshaw, president of the union local that represents Edmonton and Red Deer transit workers, said there were concerns drivers would be put in a bad position if they were required to crack down on those not wearing masks.
“Frankly, when that sort of enforcement happens on a bus, it’s a recipe for confrontation,” said Bradshaw, who heads Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569.
“People feel quite strongly about it and they’re entitled to their opinions. Some go along with it. Others are more of a mind to say, ‘I’m going to defy this law and anybody who tells me otherwise is going to hear about it.’
“And where does it go from there (but) in the wrong direction.”
With that in mind, the union worked with Edmonton’s transit administration and all agreed that drivers will not be expected to enforce mask wearing.
“At this point, operators are complying with that expectation. They’re just leaving it alone and we’re getting fairly good compliance (with mask wearing).
“You’ll never get 100 per cent compliance, but at this point, operators are not getting into it.”