By Herald on December 4, 2020.
Lethbridge County council passed a Temporary Mandatory Face Covering bylaw by a vote of 5-2 during a special meeting on Friday.
Lethbridge County follows the example of the City of Lethbridge, the City of Medicine Hat, the MD of Taber and the Town of Taber in passing or reaffirming municipal temporary masking bylaws this past week. Only the Town of Coaldale in the immediate area declined to pass a mandatory masking bylaw at its own town council meeting for the second time during a special meeting earlier this week.
While there was some opposition to the motion during Friday’s Lethbridge County meeting, even those opposed, Councillors Steve Campbell and Klaas VanderVeen, acknowledged some likely benefits of masking. The two men simply did not feel the bylaw was enforceable unless the province and Premier Kenney came onboard by passing a mandatory masking law across the province instead of leaving it up to local governments to confront the issue.
Acknowledging the divisive nature of the debate surrounding mandatory masking, Coun. Tory Campbell sponsored and strongly championed the motion on council.
“I am very concerned as to where we are going regarding COVID in the province, and in the country, and even bigger than that,” he told The Herald after the vote. “I just don’t like how things are trending, and I don’t like how they have been trending. I think we are just at a point where there has been a void of leadership, and I think we as municipal leaders bear some of that responsibility– but also our provincial and federal leaders also share some of that responsibility.”
Campbell said he respects those who have expressed their opinions to him on both sides of the masking issue, but also felt Lethbridge County had made the best decision possible under the circumstances.
“I think it is extremely obvious there is going to be a segment of our population that was not going to be happy with us,” he stated. “And hopefully, in my view anyways, a segment of the population that saw we are trying to do the right thing … Having said that, it is an extremely hollow feeling to know you are trying to do the best thing, and at the same time you are letting some people down, and you know they are not happy. At the end of the day, you are trying to make the best decision with the best information you’ve got. I believe we did that.”
Reeve Lorne Hickey said increasing COVID cases in the county have really forced council’s hand on the issue.
“If you look at the total number of infections, people who have been diagnosed as positive for COVID, was a (big) factor,” he said. “If you consider our population in the county is barely over 10,000 people, and to have almost 350 people who are currently testing positive, it is kind of an alarming factor when you base it on the statistics provided from Alberta Health Services where they consider 50 people out of 100,000 to be a crucial area (for infections). I think that was probably a bigger factor than anything in our decision.”
Hickey said he hopes residents in the county begin to make greater efforts to prevent spread of the disease now that the bylaw has passed.
“We know this is tough for some people,” he acknowledged, “but council is just trying to do the best they can to prevent the spread of this. And hopefully everybody adheres to the practices being recommended both by Alberta Health Services and now with the mask bylaw. I hope they use them.”
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