Premier Jason Kenney said Alberta doesn’t have a province-wide mask mandate because he thinks rural Albertans would ignore it.
Kenney made the remarks on a Facebook Live Wednesday evening where he took questions from Albertans about the new COVID-19 safety measures announced by the province on Tuesday.
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When asked in a written question “why rural Albertans don’t need a mask mandate,” Kenney said about 90 per cent of Albertans are already under some sort of a mask mandate, brought in by municipalities.
He also said the majority of confirmed COVID-19 cases are in the Edmonton and Calgary areas.
“Imagine you’ve got a couple of guys working in a big barn way up in the MD of Opportunity, hundreds of kilometres from the closest COVID hot zone,” Kenney said.
“Do you really think those guys are going to put on a mask because I asked them to or I tell them to?”
“Do you think the RCMP are going to go out there and write a ticket if they’re not? I think we need to be a little realistic about this.”
“I think we continue to encourage mask wearing in crowded areas where people cannot physically distance, in work places where it makes sense, particularly in areas of high transmission, but that we not create a condition where there’s a backlash.”
Kenney also said that a rural MLA in the legislature told him that he’s noticed more people are wearing masks in the local rural grocery store.
“(He said) the percentage of people wearing masks has gone up increasingly over the past few weeks to about 50 per cent now. It wasn’t like that at all in the summer,” Kenney said.
“But he said, ‘You know a lot of these folks who are doing that now, they’d take it off the moment the government tells them to wear it.’
“Why would we do something that is counterproductive?”
Dr. Amy Tan is a family physician and an organizer for Masks4Canada.
She said Alberta’s lack of a province-wide mask mandate sets the wrong example.
Read more: COVID-19: Alberta is the only province without a mask mandate. What is the impact on public perception?
“We need to be led by science in this global pandemic,” Tan said.
“This is a public health emergency and the science is clear about mask mandates that they protect the people.”