City council to debate increasing fines for Calgary mask bylaw

People wearing face masks are seen in downtown Calgary. Global News

Calgary city administration is recommending councillors approve an increase in fines for violating the mandatory face covering bylaw.

Currently, those caught violating the city’s mask bylaw face a fine of $50 for a first offence; businesses that fail to put up mandatory mask signage could also net a fine of $200.

According to documents included in Monday’s council agenda, administration is recommending “moderate increases” to fines for those not complying with the mask mandate in an effort to “strengthen deterrence and enforcement efforts.”

The proposed changes to the city’s mask bylaw include an increase in penalties for the first offence from $50 to $100, as well as escalating fines for repeat offences within a 12 month period. The fine would increase to $200 for a second offence, and tripled for a third one.

Failure to display mandatory mask signage would also see penalties rise for repeat offenders to $600.

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“I don’t think the proponents would mind me telling you that the person who made the amendment to change it from $100 to $50 now wants it to be much more than $100,” Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said Thursday. “I think it will be an interesting debate.”

The city’s mask bylaw has been in effect since August, and as of Dec. 7, city officials have received 1,900 complaints regarding masking concerns.

Council documents show that 23 violations have been handed out since the introduction of the mask mandate, with nearly half of those tickets issued in the weeks following a late November announcement from Justice Minister Kaycee Madu that enforcement powers would be extended to Level 2 peace officers across the province.

Nenshi said he’d like to find a way to give peace officers more flexibility in their enforcement of the mask mandate.

“Most of the time, [people say] ‘Well, I forgot it in the car,’ — well, go get it and you’re not going to get a ticket,” Nenshi said. “Maybe a $50 ticket for the first abuse with a steep increase afterwards, with an ability to write a really large ticket if people are really flagrantly abusive.”
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The mayor said the issue with the current fine structure is that it falls out of sync with new provincial health orders introduced to help curb a trend of rapidly rising COVID-19 cases across the province.

Since Nov. 24, when the first round of the most recent restrictions were announced, 11 tickets have been issued for violating the Public Health Act.

Fines for breaking provincial health rules can hit $1,000 along with a $200 victims’ fee.

City administration is also recommending the mandatory mask bylaw be extended for the time being.

According to the report, the bylaw will be amended or repealed when it is “appropriate.”