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Calgary mask fines increase, bylaw extended to Dec. 2021

Calgary city councillors voted to increase fines under the mandatory mask bylaw and extended it to December 2021.

Cases of COVID-19 continue to remain high in Calgary and Alberta, as new provincial measures are kicking in.  Over the weekend, Alberta tallied its most deaths in a day with 22. There were also more than 1,700 cases on Sunday.

The original mask bylaw amendment sought to boost fines from $50 to $100 and penalized repeat offenders over 12 months.  

Coun. Jyoti Gondek tacked on an additional amendment to extend the bylaw to December 2021. She also wanted to allow administration to continue to review the bylaw without coming back to council.

Coun. Ward Sutherland amended Coun. Gondek’s change to move the date to June 2021. He said that it’s no longer a temporary bylaw if it’s extended for one year. That amendment initially passed.

“I can’t support a full year. It’s no longer a temporary bylaw,” he said.

The worry around perception that the pandemic was over with vaccines worried Coun. Gondek.  

“I would like to reiterate that this is the most serious thing we’ve seen in society, let alone Calgary, in our lifetime,” said Coun. Gondek.

“So, if perception is that the face coverings bylaw is something that’s easy to remove because the vaccines fix everything, I prefer not to go down that road of perception. I’d like to stick with the fact that this is a serious pandemic.”

After the amendment passed, Coun. Gondek said she would no longer support the motion.

Coun. Shane Keating then backed out of his vote, and Sutherland’s amendment lost on a tie.

(Inside baseball stuff.)

On Nov. 20, Edmonton extended their bylaw to December 2021

Repeal of the Calgary temporary mask bylaw

City administration said that the bylaw could very easily be repealed through a typical process. Administration would present information and a recommendation and council would vote to repeal.

Factors that would go into the potential repeal would include:

– Local (COVID-19) metrics sufficiently low in Calgary

– Medical experts agree masks no longer required

– Safe, effective treatment

There was some concern that since the vaccine is coming that the June deadline would suffice. Vaccines will begin delivery in Alberta this week but will start with front line health workers. It’s believed that mass population vaccination will happen over the next six months.

“I want to remind folks, that while people will get inoculated as soon as tomorrow or the next day here in Alberta, that starts a six-week process,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“You get your first shot, you wait a month for your second shot and then a couple more weeks for the immunity to fully kick in.”

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry said they’re operating on a very data-driven approach to decision making.

“If you’ll go back to when we started to get nervous about the numbers, we were nervous at 50 cases per 100,000. We’re now at 461 cases per 100,000,” said Chief Henry.

“There are so many dynamics and so many moving parts at this, but CEMA does take this data-driven approach and we continue to work with every available expert that we can to make sure that we’re making the best recommendation for council.”

Specific targets needed: Coun. Farkas

Aside from voicing concern over changes allowing administration to not have to submit a formal COVID-19 mask bylaw report to council, Coun. Jeromy Farkas wanted specific data to drive repeal.

“Calgarians need to have hope. They need to understand the goalposts,” said Coun. Farkas.

“This bylaw needs to be founded on clear targets. If we have a traffic bylaw, it’s based on a certain speed limit. If we have a noise bylaw, it’s based on certain decibels. So this bylaw needs to be just the same; it needs to be data-driven, otherwise it’s just based on subjective opinion.”

Coun. Sean Chu also raised concern there was a redundancy in laws, the the province’s mask law superceding Calgary’s.

Administration said as long as the bylaws don’t conflict, it’s not a problem.