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Calgary mostly approves face mask bylaw fine increase to $500

Fine increases are likely on the way in Calgary, as a procedural stumbling block is the lone hurdle left at city council.

In Monday’s combined meeting of council, members debated the increase of Calgary’s face mask bylaw fine from $100 to $500.

It comes a week after the province boosted powers for Alberta police and peace officers in dealing with repeat bylaw offenders. Pre-emptive court injunctions were issued in some extreme circumstances over the past week. That resulted in arrests.

“We believe this aligns with the province of Alberta is a recent announcement, reinforcing the importance of public health orders, and doubling fines for Public Health Act violations to $2,400,” said Kay Choi, with Calgary Community Standards.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart questioned whether the fine increase was necessary given the province’s new push for enforcement.

“I’m really having trouble supporting this,” she said.

“And I know that some of my colleagues will be disappointed in me as a health care professional for not supporting the $500 fines for not wearing a mask.”

She said she’d prefer Calgary police dedicate resources to the larger matters in helping bend the COVID-19 curve.

“I want them to focus on that rather than chasing people down the street for not wearing a mask, and then taking the time to write the ticket and then the ticket holder the court,” Coun. Colley-Urquhart said.

Shocked we’re in this situation: Coun. Farrell

Coun. Druh Farrell said he supports the increase because it’s another tool to show the city is taking it seriously.

“We’re not chasing people around the street. We have businesses that are having to hire extra security, sales people are being bullied, and this has become quite normal in the City of Calgary,” she said.

“I am shocked that we’re in this situation, frankly.”

Coun. Jeff Davison, who pushed to reduce the penalty when education was a priority, said that’s long passed.

“This is not about education. Period. Full stop,” Coun. Davison said.

“It’s about compliance, and in particular, it’s about people willfully, non compliant.”

The recommendation initially passed. When it came to the bylaw readings, it passed first reading and second. It needed unanimous consent to get to third reading where it becomes official.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart was opposed.  That sent it to another council future council meeting. Though, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said there’s a chance he may call another council meeting right after today’s gathering to address the issue.

We asked Calgarians: What are your thoughts on the increase in mask fines to $500?

(Some answers were edited for clarity.) Spencer Yu and Chloe MacEachern contributing to this story.

Ladis Lau

“That’s insane. Like the only reason why I wear a mask is because I’m forced to by my school right? I can’t afford $500, are you kidding me? I rarely wear this honestly but no, I don’t like it. I’m sorry. I just can’t afford $500 honestly. I can’t afford to waste $500 just because I’m not wearing a mask. It’s not cool. I’m kind of getting tired of wearing these in the first place so I think it’s a horrible idea.”

Laura Vickerson

“I’m fine with that. Yeah, yeah, absolutely fine. I think it needs to be enforced. I think the pandemic is very serious, and I think not enough has been done here in Alberta. And I think our mayor knows how serious it is, but our premier certainly doesn’t. So yeah, I think if people are breaking the rules, they should be fined. And it seems like people aren’t taking it seriously enough. So I see why they’re thinking about raising it.”

Richard Shores

“I think it’s probably a good idea, any kind of measures to promote people using masks so we can get through this I’m all for.”