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Calgary mask mandate up for review in Monday’s council meeting

UPDATE: Council voted to repeal mask bylaw. It awaits third reading and signing.


Calgary city council will determine the future of their mask mandate today – will it stay, or will it go?

On June 21, councillors decided to bypass the anticipated July 1 Open for Summer date that coincided with the province. They cited uneven vaccination rates in Calgary and a much higher Delta variant in the city than in other parts of Alberta.

At that meeting of council, members were deadlocked, after Coun. Jeromy Farkas attempted to have the mask mandate repealed for July 1. It failed on a tie.

In the review today, councillors were to look at a series of health-related measures. The Calgary Zone had 470 COVID-19 cases as of July 2, according to provincial data. There were 70 people in hospital with 17 in intensive care.

At the time of the decision, there were 954 cases of COVID-19 in the Calgary Zone.

City of Calgary administration is recommending repealing the bylaw.

“Based on the continued decline of infection, hospitalization and positivity rates as well as the continued increase in uptake of second-dose vaccinations, Administration is recommending that the Temporary COVID-19 Face Coverings Bylaw be repealed and that the City Manager develop a face coverings policy for publicly accessible City properties,” city documents read.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney were at odds over potential confusion over the differing mask bylaw dates.

The mayor said there was no confusion. People weren’t “dumb,” and they could figure out that different locations had different mask mandates with different dates.

“In fact, I find it insulting when people say people will be confused. People aren’t dumb. They know what the rules are,” the mayor said at the time.

Just prior to the weekend, Premier Kenney suggested that Calgary city council appeared to be experts on the Delta variant.

Council, mayoral candidates wade in

Over the weekend, Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal, who is running again in the upcoming election, posted to Twitter that he would be voting against rescinding the bylaw.

He said he understood that the public health measures have been an frustrating inconvenience in our lives.

“But right now, Council should hold the line until we are certain the Delta variant threat is at bay,” he wrote.

Mayoral candidates are also pretty clear on their positions.

Coun. Farkas, who attempted the July 1 alignment with the province was in favour of rescinding the mask bylaw.  In that same debate, Coun. Jeff Davison also wanted it removed.

Both are in the race to be Calgary’s next mayor.

“We are capable of taking care of each other and are empathetic of each other’s needs and perspectives. There should be no shaming of masks going forward. If you want to wear a mask do so,” said Davison.

Candidate Brad Field also provided his position on the matter over the weekend.

“City council should align with the rest of the province and vote to swiftly rescind its sweeping mask bylaw and move on to the next stage of safely managing risk through personal choice,” Field said.

Coun. Jyoti Gondek, also running for mayor, voted to push the matter off to July 5, but hasn’t directly signaled her intention in Monday’s vote.

She did post this message to Twitter on Saturday.