October 26th, 2021

As COVID numbers appear to be rising again, are you in favour or opposed to a City masking bylaw?


By Lethbridge Herald on October 12, 2021.

John Middleton-Hope
Council
“Masking is about not only protecting you, but also about protecting others. It is not about taking away someone’s rights, I believe we have a moral responsibility to follow health guidelines to reduce risk to the most vulnerable. Washing our hands, wearing masks in public, getting vaccinated and producing vaccine verification are small concessions to make to keep our fellow citizens and businesses safe and open.”


Dale Leier
Council
“The Provincial Government has the mandate and the resources to govern public health, and the obvious risks that COVID-19 and its variants present, there shouldn’t be need for additional municipal laws in this regard. Unfortunately, our education system seems to have left some gaps in the public’s ability to make sound decisions under the stresses of a pandemic. Therefore, if necessary, I would vote in favour of a mask bylaw for reasons of necessity rather than symbolic.”


Davey Wiggers
Council
“Public Health is the exclusive domain of the provincial government. That the province allowed municipalities to pass bylaws mandating public health measures, does not mean that it was right to do so in my opinion. City Council taking the position, and the Provincial Government abdicating its responsibility, was in my view a dereliction of duty on the part of the Province, and a profound overreach by the City. Neither City Police, nor commissioners had any legal authority to enforce public health measures without a mandate from the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Province. That mandate can not be brought forth without a decision by the Alberta Health Minister. Council ought to have put in force a mandatory mask policy for all City buildings, and encouraged city businesses to follow suit. Following that Council ought to have communicated to the Health Minister that they mandate a provincial public health restriction, in collaboration with other municipalities and/or the AUMA if possible. No, I would vote against any resolution looking to put in place a new mandatory mask bylaw, instead imploring the mover to amend the motion to pressure the Province to take action instead.”


Mark Campbell
Council
“It was important to implement the mask bylaw and I would do it again if the numbers continued to rise and the experts in the field make that suggestion. The most important way out of the pandemic is still for everyone to get vaccinated.”


Belinda Crowson
Council
“Several factors were part of my decision to support a masking bylaw and the same factors would be part of any future decision I might make. The first factor is Council’s responsibility to do its utmost to keep the population safe. This is an essential role of Council.
The second is whether or not masks would be an effective mechanism to keep people safe during this pandemic. As soon as it became apparent through scientific research that COVID-19 spread through droplets and aerosols, it became evident that masks were essential as part of the series of measures used in decreasing spread of the virus (along with minimizing interactions, staying home when sick, proper hygiene, improved ventilation and more).
Once it was evident that masks played a role in preventing spread, the third factor became whether or not mandating would increase mask use. Time and again history shows that mandating increases uptake of use. Recently, we have seen how people are going for vaccinations when the restriction program was brought in. This is to be expected. Similar results were found when seat belts laws were brought in and there were ‘marked increases in seat belt use in countries with changes in legislation.’ Smoking laws also caused people to change their behaviours. For public safety, in the middle of a pandemic, the masking bylaw was the appropriate choice at that time.”


Bill Ginther
Council
“As much as I dislike the wearing of masks and my feeling that it infringes on personal rights, I also see the devastating effects of COVID and feel strongly that wearing a mask is a minor inconvenience to assist in reducing the spread of the virus.”


Kelti Baird
Council
“The masking bylaw problem is particularly prickly for a number of reasons. Technically, public health orders should come from provincial bodies such as Alberta Health and the Health Minister. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I do recognize that there was a lack of common-sense policy from the province when it came to dealing with a public health hazard. Essentially, through inaction, the province passed the proverbial buck to cities to make decisions regarding public health. This is out of jurisdiction for City Councils, and is not something a City Council should be forced to make a decision on if adequate leadership is in place at the provincial level. However, given the extraordinary circumstances of the last two years, I applaud the previous Council for their leadership in putting public health first and supported their masking bylaw. As a business owner, it was a relief to our staff, who were already enforcing in-house masking policies, that a bylaw was in place, and it reduced negative interactions in our business. Given the extraordinary circumstances, which we will likely see again in future, I would vote to re-implement local masking requirements provided that adequate leadership from provincial or federal bodies, was lacking. The health of our community must be a priority, especially in extraordinary times.”


Nick Paladino
Council
“My thoughts regarding the masking bylaw is that it shouldn’t have been a local issue in the first place. The provincial masking mandate ought to have been enough and rules would have been consistent across the entire province. The provincial government should have made that clear from the outset. Bringing individual municipalities in to the mix only caused confusion and conflict in some areas.  
Furthermore, the City doesn’t have the staff that would be required for consistent enforcement. Good municipal policy is to never pass a bylaw you can’t enforce. So, no I would not vote to implement one again.”


Tim VanderBeek
Council
“One of the great challenges of being on City Council is that sometimes you have to make hard decisions. Decisions where no matter what you do you are going to upset one group of people and there is nothing you can do about it. In that case you can only do what you believe is for the greater good and the masking bylaw is just such a case. It saddens me because it is turning neighbour against neighbour and I can understand the positions of both those for and those against it. In that case I can only fall back on what I believe and the principles by which I try to live. I believe that the Lord helps those that help themselves. That He allowed the creation of the vaccine and masks to be used in just such a situation and it would be going against His plan to not use them. I also believe that people have free will but have to accept the consequences of their actions. I understand that many do not want the State to dictate what is happening to their body, and this possibility frightens me more than you can know, but in this case, I believe that the public good outweighs the negatives. Masks are not invasive and I don’t have a problem with them. I would support the bylaw. I would rather face my Maker telling Him I tried to do something to save lives rather than saying I did nothing.”


Harold Pereverseff
Council
“The City of Lethbridge ‘Masking Bylaw’ (Bylaw 6239) was in concert with the Provincial mandate on masking. Realistically, the Bylaw in Lethbridge was weakly enforced and thus the effectiveness is questionable. Furthermore, there were no set guidelines surrounding the masking, some chose to wear the masks not covering the nose, and therefore senseless, others wore ‘balaclava’ style that was entirely open on the bottom, others wore transparent ‘face shields’. Are masks in general actually protecting us and are the masks and their usage aiding or is it just a show? Other than residents being told that they had to wear masks, there was little to no education on masking, types of masks to wear and how to handle mask wearing and changing. Should the question of mask wearing come before City Council again, I would vote in accordance with Provincial and/or Federal mandate regarding this matter.”


Stephen Mogdan
Mayor
“Leaders lead. Sometimes that’s easier, sometimes more difficult. But when we’re facing difficulties, that’s when we especially need people to lead. A masking bylaw is exactly the type of circumstance when difficult choices must be made. Those choices are difficult because, back when Lethbridge city council passed its masking bylaw, all of this was novel and foreign. We’re not used to wearing masks. We’re not used to grappling with a global viral pandemic. We’re not used to our health care system facing overload. We’re not used to not having the proper information on which to base our decisions. It’s also difficult because it’s a significant intrusion into our personal freedom. It is – and it shouldn’t be maintained longer than necessary to overcome the danger at hand. But our personal freedoms have always been subject to the requirements of the greater community. In this case, that calculation seems more challenging, perhaps because of the discomfort of wearing a mask. Perhaps because of the ‘invisibility’ of COVID. But it is, at the end of the day, a temporary step we can all take to try to keep ourselves and our neighbours safe. Leaders care about their community, not about their base. They must be prepared to do what they need to do to keep their community safe. They must be prepared to do so without the blessing of other levels of government. I pledge, as mayor, to protect the residents of Lethbridge.”


Rajko Dodic
Council
“I am in favour of a mask bylaw and I want  to commend those members of current City Council who voted to implement the first municipal mask bylaw awhile back. At the time they did so, they had received significant pushback from the Province to not do so and, in fact, the Conservative MLA for Lethbridge had written a letter to City Council to that effect which letter was read out during a Council Meeting. Since the Municipal Government Act requires local governments to act in the best interests of citizens vis a vis their safety and health, I though it inappropriate for the Province to wade into the issue. At the time the bylaw was enacted, the Covid case numbers in Lethbridge were minimal but that quickly changed and, fairly soon, we were in a deadly wave of the disease. The Province eventually caught up with Lethbridge’s vision and a few months or so later they also concluded that masking curtailed the spread of the disease and enacted a Provincial mask mandate. Since there is a Provincial masking law presently in effect, there is no need for the City to pass a parallel bylaw but if the Province repeals their current masking law and Covid is still present in Lethbridge when that occurs, I would support a bylaw reinstating the requirement for masking and other safety measures. We always have to remember that wearing a mask protects not only those wearing it but also those they come into contact with. Thus, it truly is looking after your neighbours’ well being when you wear your mask.”


Ryan Wolfe
Council
“Living through COVID has been very hard on Lethbridge residents and businesses. Current COVID restrictions have been mandated by the Province for the most part. This is frustrating as we all want life to be back to normal. Looking to the future, assuming there were no Provincial orders…what would I do? It is very difficult to predict the future…under what circumstances would we as a city need to look at a mask mandate in the absence of provincial guidelines? If there comes a time when the city is considering taking our own actions then we would need to consult with local health care professionals to get their input and advice. We would need to identify the reasons and justifications for a new mask mandate and we would need to have a clear exit strategy as to when the policy would be cancelled. Being able to find concrete answers to these questions would determine how I would vote at that time.”


Jerry Firth
Council
“I support the mask bylaw because I care about my loved ones, as we all do. And extending this care to the community, why I think this bylaw is important is for the following reasons.
COVID-19, like all infectious diseases, does not discriminate and it affects people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without significant health concerns. However, those with compromised immune systems are much more likely to be severely impacted by the affects of the virus. The major challenge with COVID-19 is how it has overwhelmed health systems. The virus is spread when small liquid particles from an infected person’s mouth or nose are breathed in by another person when they are near each other, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face, and is more likely to spread in crowded indoor spaces. Because of how COVID-19 spreads, masks are used as an important measure as part of a comprehensive approach to quell transmissions. Mask bylaws have been implemented in communities around the world, especially in highly affected regions, to help in suppressing the spread of COVID-19 and relieve the pressures on health systems. The science is clear, that to move through the pandemic masks are a vital part of the approach to get there. Importantly, it should be consistent and until an immunity has moved across the larger part of the population.”



Jenn Schmidt-Rempel
Council
“Public health care falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial government. A mandatory mask requirement is currently in place province wide. Regarding any future city mask bylaw, under Section 7(1)(a) of the Municipal Government Act, ‘A council may pass bylaws for municipal purposes respecting … the safety, health and welfare of people and the protection of people and property…’ Passing a bylaw would depend upon the information and data presented, and the actions of the provincial government. It would also require the City of Lethbridge to have enough bylaw officers to enforce and respond to any bylaw complaints. I’m committed to advocating for public health care supports for all people in our city. This includes holding our provincial and federal governments accountable and ensuring that our city and region are receiving appropriate and necessary funding, supports, and information for all health care services. Our residents shouldn’t suffer because they can’t receive the care or services they need here, at home, or because there’s a delay in receiving and accessing services (learn more at jennschmidtrempel.ca). There’s no question it’s been a rough couple of years, and we have a lot of work to do. We must start setting ourselves up for success and recovery, and look forward to what we want our city’s future to be. Working together we can do that; we can move forward.”


Wally Schenk
Council
“In regards to the city masking bylaw, I do believe that it was the right decision to implement it. I believe it is one of our greatest allies to fight the spread of COVID and I would vote to implement it again. I think it is a great benefit to help keep our businesses open and help to re-strengthen our economy.”


Bridget Mearns
Mayor
“As I recall, the Temporary Face Covering bylaw was put in place due to concerns with rising COVID rates in the province and with no decisive direction coming from the provincial government, they felt for the safety, health and welfare of Lethbridge citizens and businesses it was important to provide clear direction in the City. They did this at a time when the numbers were low, to keep them low. A week or so later the provincial government mandated masks province wide. Vaccines were not yet available. Public health is the mandate of the province. Decisions affecting public health should be based on the best medical advice from the Chief Medical Officer. It is her job to ‘provide public health expertise to support health surveillance, population health and disease control initiatives on issues of public health importance’. The province needs to provide clear and decisive direction. Every decision must be made with the best information available at the time. In the event of increasing local outbreaks or an overwhelmed medical system, every effort should be made to advocate for our community’s best interest with the province. If the province fails or abdicates this duty, it falls to the Mayor and City Council to consider the welfare of its citizens. I encourage all Lethbridge citizens to follow public health measures like masking, be patient and get vaccinated, if possible. We will have to learn to live with this virus but no one should have to unnecessarily die from it.” 


Darcy Logan
Council
“The masking bylaw came at a critical time of uncertainty and worry; I believe it was the right decision for council to make based on the information they had. The implementation of any future masking bylaws would need to be made after consultation with health experts and stakeholders. Ideally, these types of public health decisions should be mandated by the province, rather than the municipality; but sometimes a lack of provincial leadership forces a municipality to make hard choices. The public interest and public good should be prioritized over individualism or selfishness. This is especially urgent as our healthcare system is being overrun.”


Blaine Hyggen
Mayor
“Firstly, hindsight is always 20/20, and it’s easy to sit back and say that we should have closed our borders far sooner, and that vaccines should have been delivered earlier and so on. I’m not a doctor, but certainly I’ve been discussing the situation with several people in the community that are, including our AHS representatives during the course of the pandemic. As many of you know, my wife Jen is a Registered Nurse at Chinook Regional Hospital and I’m of course concerned as any husband would be about their spouse’s safety as a front line emergency healthcare professional. My sense of it is that when dealing with issues like healthcare, I’m going to listen to the experts in virology, in transmission and pathology. What I don’t think is helpful, is to have mixed messages. We need to have a unified message that the public understands, and is willing to accept. Healthcare is a Provincial responsibility and I will (as I do in all healthcare matters) look to the advice of the qualified experts. When it comes to masks AND other restrictions I believe that we need to have a consistent and unified message from the healthcare experts as directed by the Chief Medical Officer of the Government of Alberta.”


Ryan Parker
Council
“At the beginning of the pandemic, when there was rising numbers, little information about the virus was available. While there was no provincial mask mandate in place, City Council acted in the best interest of the citizens and put a mask bylaw in place. However, there was no criteria for the bylaw as to when it would be repealed and there were no key performance indicators or milestones that were identified to provide any closure on this bylaw. Additionally, there was no realistic means of enforcing this bylaw. This is why I felt it was so important for the Provincial Government to take the lead role in giving municipalities’ direction. Public health falls under the mandate of the Provincial Government and once they implemented the mandatory mask mandate, we need to adhere to their rules and their judgement. The province is privy to more pandemic information than the local government and has the expertise required to make pandemic decisions of this nature. If Alberta Heath (AHS) gives direction and initiates any health order/mandates, Lethbridge City Council must follow suit for the health and safety of the community. When done correctly masking like all other COVID safety measures plays a major role stopping the spread the spread of COVID-19.”


Ryan Lepko
Council
“Never trust anyone who says, ‘experts say…’. A couple years ago, I had health issues. Saw two different specialists. One recommended an invasive form of treatment. The other did not. What is a guy who has no clinical experience at all to do? Same issue with this. ‘Experts’ like NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, and whom the world was initially getting guidance from it seemed, was on record previously and in the initial start of the pandemic, that masks were pointless. Political leaders were all saying the same thing. Then something changed. Masks were all of a sudden the most important thing, and this messaging was echoed repeatedly by Public Health Officers. Some, who have more letters after their name than I, have maintained and credibly argued masks are pointless or provide limited protection. If anything, may increase risk due to a false feeling of safety. So getting back to my point. What is a person supposed to do with this mixed messaging? Inconsistent messaging and often illogical applications on when and where to wear it, have made us tilt our head like a dog deep in thought. I will not convince anybody what I believe, but I do believe people have the right to think and make decisions themselves. I would not have voted masks as a city wide requirement as you can decide what you feel is right for you.”


Shelby J. MacLeod
Council
“I understand and support the City’s current masking bylaw. We all must come together to stop the transmission/spread of this monster Delta virus. I also understand how frustrating it is be mandated to wear a mask – rights/freedoms. A face mask is only when entering a workplace, sporting facility, restaurant, public building or wherever it’s posted masks required. It’s about healthy people in our community and everyone’s lung safety.  Every person has four choices: A; Stay home. B; wear the mask as required when indoors or as required. C; suffer the possible health risks of not wearing a mask, and get Covid. If you or a loved one become ill, you risk being hospitalized or worse.  Which leads to final choice D, ignoring the mask is not worth experiencing lung, heart or pneumonia complication, or even death. We all make choices every day; and choice D is no option, it is a consequence. Please don’t push back on the mask wearing issue. Watch the Global TV story on Bernie Cook. He barely survived intensive care and being on a ventilator…all because of Covid complications. For your personal safety, your loved ones and those around you, don’t learn the hard lesson. Listen to Bernie, get vaccinated, embrace the masking bylaw. Wear the mask to save your life from lung damage and preserve your health and wellness.”


Jeffrey Carlson
Council
“The safety and security of our community, our residents, and our visitors is the top priority of Council, and we are duty-bound under the Municipal Government Act of Alberta to act to promote the welfare or interests of the municipality. Even when certain actions are under the jurisdiction of other orders of government, we can and should act to protect our community. As the pandemic was threatening to overwhelm our health care system, the medical community recommended mask wearing (among other measures) as one way to lower transmission of Covid and protect the vulnerable. While our Provincial Government was slow to act, municipalities like ours acted swiftly to implement measures like mandatory face coverings to protect people. I am confident our actions were appropriate and effective, and if necessary, I will always act in the best interests of our community. As our numbers of Covid infections continue to rise and again threaten to overwhelm our healthcare system, I implore everyone to continue to follow the medical experts’ advice; wear a mask, wash your hands, practise social distancing, and get vaccinated if possible. Please.”


Marissa Black
Council
“Masking has been shown to reduce the transmission of airborne particles. Given that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness contracted from contact with airborne particulates – droplets or aerosols – I am fully in favour of masking bylaws. I believe it is the minimum we can do to keep those who are unable to be vaccinated, such as children, elderly, and immunocompromised individuals, safe. High risk individuals deserve to be able to access the services they need without fear of contracting a serious illness. Until a time when everyone can be safely vaccinated or case numbers are at a sufficiently low number for an extended period of time I am in favour of continuing masking bylaws. I believe it is our best chance at protecting everyone from this virus.”


Ben Christensen
Council
“I believe that a municipal government should take measures to protect public safety that are the least intrusive possible. While masking has not been as effective as we had initially viewed it, it did lower case counts and minimize spread. Presently if asked to vote on the mandatory masking bylaw I would vote this way: When the prior masking bylaws were introduced the vaccine was not readily available and masking was the most sensible option to curb the spread. We are now in a position where much of the supply for vaccines are readily available and the complications with the vaccines now overcome. The province has pushed for widespread vaccination to help reduce the spread. With the availability of vaccines, and the introduction of vaccine passports, which were not previously available, I’d opt against mandatory masking and instead vote in favour of a bylaw that requires those voluntarily choosing not to vaccinate to wear masks in lieu of that decision.
This allows for fairness to those who have chosen to protect public safety and get vaccinated, while requiring those who have not done so an alternative that still protects public safety. This would be my vote, rather than mandatory masking for all. A balanced bylaw that considers new measures and prior ones and establishes a balanced outcome that continues to protect public safety while minimizing the impact on everyone. Especially those who have chosen to get vaccinated to help lower the spread.”


Zachary Hampton
Council
“Currently, the provincial government has used their authority to place a mandatory masking order across the province, as is their right to do. Therefore, since their order is already in effect, I would vote against passing a new masking bylaw. As for our previous masking bylaw, similar logic applies. The province oversees public health and makes decisions based on the recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, who has plenty of data available to her. While there have been serious and valid questions about the provincial government’s pandemic management, the authority to place measures still falls to them. I would be hesitant to pass any bylaw that goes against the province’s recommendations in an area of their jurisdiction.”

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