Most city councillors decided to curtail future discussion about Red Deer’s face-covering bylaw by allowing it to continue for as long as a provincial mask mandate is required.
Coun. Lawrence Lee decided it was time to stop “creating a divisive platform for people in our community” by periodically bringing up the municipal mask bylaw, whether it should be extended, and for how long.
Lee explained at Tuesday’s council meeting that whenever city council discusses face coverings, the City of Red Deer is inundated with letters and emails from both sides of the contentious issue.
Lee introduced an amendment that would preclude future council mask discussions by extending Red Deer’s face coverings bylaw for as long as the provincial one is deemed necessary.
He added it would also be too confusing for the public to have two different terms for a municipal and provincial mask bylaws.
And Lee noted the province has all the health experts. “Who are we to say” how long a mask mandate will be needed, he questioned.
The amendment was accepted by the majority of councillors — but went against an administrative recommendation to extend the municipal mask bylaw to Sept. 30.
Emergency operations centre director Karen Mann told council the provincial government gives municipalities little advanced notice of whatever actions they take on the pandemic front. Aligning the provincial mask mandate with provincial face-covering laws could leave city officials scrambling to get into compliance once the province’s mask mandate ends, she noted.
This was of concern to Mayor Tara Veer and Coun. Dianne Wyntjes, who did not support Lee ‘s amendment.
Coun. Tanya Handley and Vesna Higham questioned why a municipal mask mandate is necessary now since the province imposed its own face-covering rules a week after the city of Red Deer did. Handley noted a gap in health protocols to help protect against the spread of COVID-19 existed then, but no longer does.
Higham also called it redundant.
Coun. Frank Wong wondered about both of these bylaws after hearing only five local tickets for mask infractions were given out in the last six months.
But the majority of council finalized the extended municipal mask bylaw — pertaining to transit, public spaces and city facilities — on Tuesday.