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Masks no longer mandatory in Edmonton as of July 1


Masks in public indoor spaces will no longer be necessary in Edmonton as of the province's full reopening on Canada Day, Edmonton councillors decided in a narrow vote on Friday.

The councillors voted 7-6 in favour of dropping the rule as of Stage 3 of the Alberta government's "Open for Summer" plan.

Mayor Don Iveson, Ward 4's Aaron Paquette, Ward 8's Ben Henderson, Ward 10's Michael Walters, Ward 1's Andrew Knack, and Ward 6's Scott McKeen all voted against the motion.

McKeen, representing the dense, inner-city community Oliver, noted he heard a lot of concern about dropping the rule from residents because, he speculated, it feels more threatening downtown than in the suburbs.

"In a place like Oliver, in order to live your life, it means getting the heck out of your apartment and out into some tighter spaces," he told his colleagues.

Henderson referenced a call from the Old Strathcona Business Association to keep the rule until public confidence was higher, so as to not impact local business.

"I think we are also putting the businesses in a difficult situation where a lot of businesses, for the continued protection of their staff, would like to keep masking still in place and are really worried if we don't have their back, it's going to be really hard to do and we're going to put them in conflict with their customers," he said.

Most councillors spoke of a nearly split reaction from their constituents. But a small majority decided to follow the medical advice presented to council and that upon which the provincial government is basing reopening.

Ward 2 Coun. Bev Esslinger commented, "I would encourage everyone to continue wearing their masks. I think I will. That's a recommendation, not a mandate."

Ward 9 Coun. Tim Cartmell voted in support of the motion on the belief the provincial government is best positioned, with a health ministry, of making these decisions.

"We should not be in the position of acting like a senate or a court of appeal," he argued. "It is time to transfer this decision, whether we support it or not, whether we believe what is being offered or not, whether we trust in the politicians or not, to transfer this back to the seat of government that should properly be judging and governing on these matters."


The amendment passed Friday would see the city's mandatory face coverings bylaw become effective again if the province were to backtrack to Stage 1 or 2 of reopening, or if the chief medical officer of health required face coverings in public places.

And, among the few public health orders to remain in place after July 1, the province will still require face coverings in settings like public transit and inside city-owned buildings.

The motion at Edmonton City Hall to deactivate the public health measure on Canada Day, in lockstep with the province's full reopening, was defeated by one vote on Tuesday. That day, council decided to hold a special debate and a third reading on the vote. The first two readings passed by a vote of 7-6, with only Coun. Aaron Paquette voting “no” to approve the third reading.

On Friday, he said he had heard of threats made against himself and his family over the debate. He asked for emotion to be removed from the conversation, and his colleagues echoed calls for discourse to remain respectful and thoughtful.

Paquette said he considered what would be the responsible, versus the popular, action to take.

"The problem is, the experts have told us what's reasonable. They haven't told us what's optimal," he commented, calling Alberta's COVID-19 track record "verifiably worse" than other provinces'.

"My concern is that who's put at risk. And of course, it's those who are most vulnerable. Those who depend on government to ensure their safety when other people are not going to be responsible for ensuring that safety."

Earlier in the week, St. Albert voted unanimously to lift local rules on Canada Day with the province. Also in the capital region, Fort Saskatchewan repealed on June 22 its own mandatory face coverings bylaw, which was superseded by provincial orders. Leduc suspended its mandatory face coverings bylaw in March, and Strathcona County let its rule expire in March, as well.

Calgary decided to delay making a decision on its mask bylaw until July 5 to allow more time for residents to get a second dose.

Edmonton began requiring masks in all public indoor spaces on Aug. 1, 2020. The Alberta government didn't make masks mandatory provincewide until December.

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

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