Lacombe City Council approved the first and second reading of Bylaw 483 which would make face masks mandatory in the city. The third reading is scheduled for Dec. 14 and the public is invited to attend and share their opinions.
The bylaw would be an extension of the provincial mandate that is currently operating in Edmonton and Calgary. This means the bylaw would require people in Lacombe to wear a face mask in any indoor space open to the public.
Council was somewhat divided on the issue at Monday nights meeting but tried to put personal feelings aside and decide from a strictly political point of view.
One concern that came up repeatedly during the discussion was the city’s ability to enforce the bylaw. According to the bylaw document there would be a $1000 fine for those not wearing a mask in public and city bylaw officers would need to enforce it not local police. In order for a ticket to be issued, the person who is not wearing a mask would need to remain at the scene after enforcement is called and then resist education and still not comply with the city bylaw officer.
“I could see it occurring but it would be in isolated cases,” said Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Goudy.
“The key thing to note here is that unless those cases resulted in a disruption of the public peace, Lacombe Police Service would not be involved.”
Councillor Cora Hoekstra began the second reading by asking council why the City of Lacombe should be any different from surrounding municipalities such as Blackfalds and Red Deer who already have similar bylaws in place.
“I would like to challenge us to say why do we have to be different? What will be the difference for Lacombe if we do not pass this bylaw?” asked Hoekstra.
This started a discussion where each council member was able to share their perspective and opinion and it was ultimately decided that the first and second readings would pass.
Mayor Grant Creasey, who attended virtually, was opposed to the bylaw and felt citizens should have the right to choose whether they want to wear one or not.
“I think that they [masks] have their place and I value that we have a choice in Lacombe,”said Creasey.
“From what I’ve witnessed in our community people are, for the most part, very responsible.”
On the other side Councillor Jonathan Jacobson was in favour of the new bylaw and was the one who suggested it be on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.
“If it makes those people who are definitely medically at-risk … if all it does is give them a little more peace of mind when they are out walking around to know that their local government cares about them … that to me is a decision worth making,” said Jacobson.
Deputy Mayor Thalia Hibbs stated she felt council needed to hear more from the public before a decsion could be made.
“I am going to vote in favour of second reading only because I want the public to have a chance to weigh in before this goes to third reading,” said Hibbs.
The city has already received 100 emails to their newly created email account specifically for public feedback on the purposed bylaw. Council said the emails are divided with about 67 per cent against madatory masks and 33 per cent in favour of them.
The City of Lacombe currently has 47 active COVID-19 cases while Lacombe County has 63. The third and final reading of Bylaw 483 is scheduled for Dec. 14 at 5 p.m. and will be conducted virtually to allow for the public to attend safely.
In the meantime council is asking Lacombe residents to email their opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org .