The Town of Bashaw council agreed they prefer citizens wear masks in public places during the COVID-19 pandemic, but won’t force anybody to do it.
The decision was made at the Nov. 26 regular meeting of council.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller stated the issue of a mandatory COVID-19 mask bylaw was on the agenda as the provincial government recently stiffened pandemic rules intended to combat the second wave currently striking many parts of Alberta.
Fuller asked councillors how they felt about mandatory masks but cautioned a town Bashaw’s size has limited resources for such a bylaw.
“A mask bylaw is only as good as our ability to enforce it,” said Fuller.
Fuller noted as of Nov. 26 the village office was asking people to wear masks when they come in, but of course it’s not mandatory.
Coun. Rosella Peterman noted Fuller’s point. “There’s no point in putting in a bylaw we can’t enforce,” said Peterman.
Peterman instead suggested the town put out an official statement encouraging people to wear masks in public places to protect both themselves and others from COVID-19.
Fuller stated there was at least one business in Bashaw that was requiring masks from customers or they would be turned away.
Coun. Lynn Schultz asked if the province was forcing people to wear masks. Fuller responded it appeared only Edmonton and Calgary have mandatory masks in place by order of the province, and Bashaw’s not included.
Certain areas with higher COVID-19 cases have enhanced status, meaning they are required to follow more rules.
Public Works foreman Murray Holroyd stated masks may not be required but they’re accepted as an effective deterrent.
“Highly recommended,” he said, when asked the importance of masks.
Mayor Penny Shantz asked whether businesses are allowed to require masks or not.
Fuller answered businesses, as of Nov. 26, can decide for themselves, a bylaw would require staff at businesses to wear them.
Coun. Darren Pearson stated at his business, staff are wearing masks but he would not require customers to wear them and wouldn’t ask customers to leave if they weren’t wearing a mask.
“How do you police it?” asked Pearson. “You’re always going to have naysayers anyway.”
Coun. Schultz stated people are already wearing masks, or avoiding them, as they wish.
Mayor Shantz stated she’d heard from a member of the public who was concerned the town may introduce a bylaw forcing people to wear masks, something this member of the public was opposed to.
Coun. Rob McDonald stated masks are quite a minor inconvenience and didn’t understand the opposition to them.
“That baffles me, how you can be opposed to masks,” said McDonald.
Councillors passed a motion that the Town of Bashaw encourage people to wear masks in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it was noted that the town wouldn’t make them mandatory.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter