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'I'm still concerned': Edmonton council votes down new mask bylaw for city buildings


Edmontonians will not have to start masking up in more places after a new bylaw failed at city hall on Tuesday.

By a vote of 8-5, councillors decided not to make masking mandatory in city-owned and operated facilities like city hall and rec centres.

Later Tuesday afternoon, councillors passed a transit-specific mask bylaw by a vote of 9-4, which aligns with provincial rules requiring masking on buses, LRTs and transit stations. Peace officers were then able to write tickets for violations, not just police.

Councillors scrapped the city's previous masking rules on March 8, the same day the provincial government tabled a bill to take away the power of all municipalities to require masking in public spaces that are not owned by local governments.

"I'm still concerned that the province moved too fast, too quick on removing COVID protections," Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said Tuesday.

"I've heard from a lot of constituents that just want us to line up with provincial guidelines…that's their jurisdiction, I heard that numerous times," Coun. Karen Principe argued.

Municipalities in Alberta do have some jurisdiction over health, and Premier Jason Kenney encouraged local councils to make decisions on masking earlier in the pandemic. Bill 4 seeks to limit those powers in relation to COVID-19 rules.

City councillors were presented with four options:

  • No new bylaw
  • Masks required on transit (aligning with province)
  • Masks required in city owned and operated buildings
  • Masks required on transit and city owned and operated buildings

The fourth option was defeated and the second was still approved.


City Manager Andre Corbould wanted the second option, so police are not the only people who can write tickets.

“I’ve been wearing a mask everywhere I go, and nobody’s yelled at me,” Corbould told council.

He estimated that roughly 30 per cent of people in rec centres were still wearing masks, even though it's no longer required.

Several councillors said the safety of staff was a consideration. Edmonton does not have enough peace officers to post at all city facilities to enforce the law and protect workers, Corbould said.

"I suspect 70 per cent of (patrons) are going to give our young people at the front doors a hard time. I can protect them, it's my job to protect them and we'll do our best, but there's some things you can't unhear," Corbould said of passing wider mask rules.

"We don't want to be bullied into a decision by aggressive behaviour of a small minority, but we also have an obligation to our staff," Sohi said. He voted against masking in city facilities.

Councillors Andrew Knack, Michael Janz, Ashley Salvador, Anne Stevenson and Jo-Anne Wright voted in favour of masking in more places.

The city recently surveyed more than 66,000 people and found that only 30 per cent wanted the previous indoor mask bylaw to remain, with 68 per cent wanting it gone and two per cent unsure.

That survey, however, was not limited to Edmonton residents and some councillors took issue with how it was conducted.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson Top Stories

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