Pincher Creek town council held a special meeting Dec. 2 to vote on a proposed mandatory mask bylaw.
Temporary Mandatory Face Coverings Bylaw 1628-20 would require people to wear a face covering at all times while attending an indoor public space.
Multiple municipalities across Alberta currently enforce masking bylaws, including Lethbridge and Okotoks.
The bylaw exempts children under the age of two years, as well as anyone who is unable to wear a mask for medical reasons. People who are eating or drinking, exercising, and working alone or otherwise separated by a barrier are also exempt.
Individuals found violating the bylaw would be subject to a $100 fine.
Council had received a letter from the Associate Clinic last week requesting that the town consider a mandatory bylaw.
Though giving the town the ability to enforce the wearing of face coverings, the bylaw’s provisions were purposefully flexible.
“It is a temporary measure, so that if we discover that we need to make some changes in the future or whatever we would have an opportunity to do that,” said Coun. Brian McGillivray.
The bylaw was seen as a needed step in curbing the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the area.
“It takes the onus off of our businesses community and our citizens,” Coun. Scott Korbett said. “This is a decree from their government, not their own personal business.”
Should the region reach 10 active cases, stricter measures from the provincial government will apply further restrictions on individuals and businesses.
As of today, nine active cases have been confirmed in the Pincher Creek region.
Establishing a mask bylaw was supported as a way to limit spread of the virus as more people came to town during the winter tourist season. Coun. Sussanne O’Rourke, however, argued that limiting travel was the better solution.
“They’re more concerned with us getting visitors here, especially at the ski zone. Why are we worried about people coming in here? They shouldn’t be coming and visiting anyways,” she said. “I want to know how come all these people are more important than we are — why aren’t we putting a stop to that?”
Closing the region to outside visitors, she continued, would be better than mandating masks.
“They did it at Brocket. It’s coming from somewhere; we had nothing, and now all of a sudden we keep getting more and more people down here and now they’re more interested in making sure that we look good to outsiders rather than worrying about our own people here,” Coun. O’Rourke said. “They tell you to stay at your own home, to stay in your neighbourhood.”
Restricting travel, replied Mayor Don Anderberg, was unrealistic.
“Those people are free to travel anyway unless somebody puts a restriction on them, but I don’t think we can do that,” he said. “What else can we do? Just hope that without doing anything that things are going to get better? I don’t see it that way.”
Taking immediate action, he continued, was needed to keep the town from further restrictions that would hinder businesses and livelihoods.
“If we can keep the numbers down we can stay open for business, so it seems to be a win-win to me. If [the bylaw] is a negative thing, then if you can come up with a solution to keep those people that you don’t want here out of here then you should be stating it.”
No further comment was offered by Coun. O’Rourke.
The bylaw passed first and second reading with Coun. O’Rourke casting the only vote in opposition.
A unanimous vote from council was required for the bylaw to enter its third and final reading during the meeting. Since Coun. O’Rourke again cast the only dissenting vote, third reading for the bylaw was postponed to Friday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m.
Information on how to attend the next council meeting virtually is available online at http://bit.ly/PC_virtual. The draft bylaw can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/PCmask.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze