The Town of Bonnyville is standing pat on enforcing masks within public spaces.
At a special council meeting Monday afternoon, Bonnyville town council discussed the possibility of adding a mandatory mask town bylaw in response to growing concerns from residents.
The Town decided in a motion to continue following the health directives from the chief medical officer and strongly encourage businesses to require patrons to wear masks, but it will not be a requirement.
The question of enforcement with only one peace officer at the town’s disposal came up as a stumbling block.
“I don’t know whether or not we will actually be able to undertake a mandatory mask just because of the size of our community,” said Mayor Gene Sobolewski in the meeting.
“Enforcement is going to be a bit of a nightmare and if enforcement is anything like it was in March and April during COVID days, without the assistance of the RCMP, I think it would be virtually impossible.
“But we basically need to try and undertake something because the cases in our area are still quite high. We still are an enhanced area. Something needs to be done,” he said.
However, council was largely in consensus to continue following the province’s lead.
Currently, staff members and visitors to town-ran facilities must wear a mask in public meetings.
“I was in conversation with the City of Cold Lake and also with the Town of St. Paul, which both have much higher numbers than we. Neither of them have a mask bylaw at this point and it’s important to remember that Alberta Health has not mandated the face-covering bylaw at this point,” said councillor Ray Prevost during the meeting.
“I think that the business community has probably a better handle on it than we do.”
Councillor Elisa Brosseau made the motion to continue following the recommendations from the chief medical officer while also encouraging businesses to have visitors mask up.
“I would be opposed to the Town enforcing a bylaw for mandatory masks. I think we’ve been doing a good job where social distancing is not possible, for example, at the C2. They’ve required mandatory masks and I think that’s a good thing and same with businesses,” said Brosseau.
CAO Bill Rogers said that businesses have the power to ask all patrons to wear masks and charge those who refuse with trespassing and the RCMP can assist with those calls.
The bylaw process would’ve required three readings and a chance for the public to have input before it would pass.
“In watching around town the last two or three days, you’re more likely to see people wear masks than not wear masks,” said councillor Brian McEvoy.
“We have a number of businesses on their own that have taken to posting their businesses as masks required. I strongly support sticking with the mandate from Alberta Health and encouraging businesses to follow the lead of the Town of Bonnyville and post their buildings as masks required.”
The M.D. of Bonnyville has been deemed an enhanced zone by the province because of the rise in COVID cases since Nov. 13.