Regional Mask Bylaw Remaining Despite Province Introducing Own Health Order

The regional mask bylaw is remaining in effect despite the province bringing in their own health order.

Wood Buffalo council voted on Tuesday to keep the measure in place until COVID-19 numbers drop under 50 active cases across the RMWB.

Councillor Sheila Lalonde was the only one against, while Councillors Verna Murphy and Jane Stroud were absent.

“Voting to support the bylaw, obviously, isn’t popular but the health of our residents comes before anything else in my opinion,” said Mayor Don Scott.

Under the bylaw, the RMWB has been focusing on educating people caught without a mask before issuing fines.

As of January 8, Wood Buffalo RCMP had investigated 13 complaints, however, no tickets were issued.

There are exemptions for those under the age of five, need help putting a mask on or have a physical or mental illness.

There are also exceptions for the entire public. This includes when eating, drinking, exercising, or leading/ attending a religious activity.

Most of the requirements under the bylaw and provincial health order overlap.

One of the major differences includes the age children must be to avoid wearing a mask with the province exempting those under the age of two.

When it comes to discrepancies, the officer overseeing the situation can decide whether to focus on the bylaw or health order.

According to Acting Director of Legal Services for the RMWB Chris Davis, only half of the bylaw enforcement officers have the authority to enforce the province’s restrictions, while everyone can enforce the bylaw.

Lalonde, who expressed her displeasure with masks during the meeting, noted having both in place is simply unneccesary.

“We want the Chief Medical Officer to do her job and to put in these rules then as a municipal government we should step back and let the province do their job.”

Councillor Jeff Peddle believes having both in place will be better in the short-term.

He argued removing the bylaw would just cause confusion around whether masks were no longer needed in the region.

“I think… hitting the news tomorrow that the municipality doesn’t require a face bylaw and then goes to the province… we’re only going to confuse people, make this a really really hard situation for people.”

The municipality also added Calgary and Edmonton have kept their bylaws in place, while Grande Prairie was removed theirs.

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