Questions over who makes mask-wearing rules and should Alberta switch to a provincial police force will be tackled at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association conference this week.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes believes the provincial government should take a leadership role and determine the mask-wearing rules for all of Alberta, instead of foisting this divisive issue on each municipality to tackle in a piecemeal manner.
“As I’ve said from Day 1, the government picks and chooses what it wants municipalities to do,” said Wyntjes, who like other Red Deer city councillors, will attend a virtual conference of the association on Thursday and Friday.
Some cities — including Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Okotoks, St. Alberta, Banff and Canmore — have made mask-wearing mandatory in all public indoor places to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while other municipalities have not.
Red Deer city councillors received hundreds of emails for and against this issue. After a long discussion, the majority of councillors opted to revisit a mask bylaw if local cases of COVID-19 rise to higher levels.
Wyntjes believes protecting the public should be the government’s concern. “If there’s a way to prevent cases, I think we should do that.”
Coun. Buck Buchanan is interested in the AUMA discussion about whether it’s timely for Alberta to explore switching from the RCMP to a provincial police force.
The retired RCMP officer has aired some concerns about the national force. But Buchanan notes that switching to a provincial force would be expensive at a time when Alberta is in a recession because of a slowdown in the oil industry and the pandemic.
He said, “The costs of the conversion would be astronomical.”
Buchanan cites Surrey, B.C., which is in the midst of a problematic conversion. Surrey officials had assumed that about 40 per cent of its RCMP officers would stay on and take municipal police positions.
But in reality, the number has been about 10 per cent, said Buchanan — which leaves Surrey with the huge expense of recruiting or training new officers.
Concerns about jurisdiction and the co-ordination of police work will also arise if some Alberta municipalities continued running their own police forces, while the province has its own force, and the national RCMP was still working in the region, he added.