Blue Mountains council passes face-covering bylaw

·3 min read

Beginning Dec. 14, if you are not wearing a face covering in the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM), you could receive a fine.

Council has approved its proposed face-covering bylaw at a meeting held Monday.

The bylaw will require mandatory face coverings in all indoor and enclosed spaces accessible to the public in TBM.

The face-covering bylaw will mimic the provincial face-covering mandate and is expected to be enacted and come into effect on Dec. 14.

“Particularly in things like the exemptions, we have mirrored the provincial language,” said Will Thomson, director of legal services for the town.

The provincial legislation states businesses and organizations must ensure anyone located in an indoor area on their premises or in a work vehicle must wear a mask that covers their mouth, nose, and chin.

The intent of TBM’s municipal bylaw is to shift the obligation from the business owner to enforce wearing a face covering, to every individual person to the greatest extent possible.

Under the bylaw, municipal officers will be able to issue a minimum fine of $500 and a maximum fine not exceeding $10,000.

TBM council held a special committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 25, which allowed for public and council discussion.

Ultimately, the bylaw was carried unanimously at today's council meeting.

Council members also unanimously approved the hiring of two, six-month contract bylaw officers with an upper limit of $75,000, which was not included in the current budget.

“2020 has been a year unlike any other, in addition to the above responsibilities, our officers have taken on regulating and enforcing business closures during the first wave of the COVID-19; they have enforced crowds, social gatherings and large groups in our public spaces; they have been a constant presence on our beaches during the busy summer months; and have had an active role in ensuring responsible parking and use of our rural recreational resources,” state Thomson in a staff report.

TBM currently has four full-time municipal bylaw officers. Through the summer months, the bylaw department had been supplemented with five additional contract staff.

“Our officers have been an invaluable resource to our local and business community and have been a calming and reassuring presence as the face of the town since the start of the pandemic,” added Thomson.

The two new bylaw officers will be tasked with educating and enforcing all of the town’s bylaws, including but not limited to the new face-covering bylaw.

“It only takes one person to not follow the laws to create chaos,” said Deputy Mayor Rob Potter. “Sometimes we can't get an emergency vehicle or a snow plow through and so on. So, we need to be ahead of that game. We can't wait for the problems to happen.”

The TBM face-covering bylaw, including exemption and penalties, can be found in staff report FAF.20.201.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca