Calgary city council extends mask bylaw through 2021, increases fines

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Calgary extends mandatory mask bylaw, increases fines
WATCH: Calgary city council has extended the mandatory mask bylaw until December 2021. As Adam MacVicar reports, the cost of violating the bylaw has also gone up – Dec 14, 2020

Calgary city council has put some heft behind its mask bylaw, a day after Alberta’s deadliest day of this coronavirus pandemic.

Calgary’s mask bylaw will continue until the end of 2021, unless the pandemic circumstances like mass vaccination change, and lead administration or council to decide to amend or repeal the bylaw.

“If we’re looking at people in Alberta being fully vaccinated by the fall, then obviously there will be no need for the bylaw at that time,” Nenshi said Monday, noting he expects the bylaw to be in place through much of 2021.

“The mask bylaw is probably one of the last things that will be eased in terms of restrictions, because it’s about preventing further spread. It’s about being forward looking.”

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Repealing the bylaw would be a straightforward process of drafting a new bylaw to repeal the old one.

Fines under the bylaw have also gone up, from $50 per infraction to $100 for the first, $200 for the second and $300 for each infraction afterwards.

Nenshi said the $50 fine was first in place because being the first Alberta municipality putting such a mandate in place, they were unsure about compliance rate. But as the mayor, the chief of the Calgary Police Service and the city’s chief bylaw officer have said in the last couple of weeks, the time for education on mask-wearing has passed.

Click to play video: 'Nenshi asks COVID-19 protestors to ‘stop being so frickin’ self indulgent’'
Nenshi asks COVID-19 protestors to ‘stop being so frickin’ self indulgent’

“At this point, everybody’s got a mask, everybody knows the rules,” Nenshi said. “And so if you’re not wearing your mask, it’s not by mistake.”

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Council also streamlined the process for city officials to present the latest data supporting the mask mandate, only requiring quarterly briefings.

The motion Calgary City Council voted for on Dec. 14, 2020, to increase mask bylaw fines and extend the bylaw through 2021. City of Calgary

In a meticulous voting session, each part of the motion was voted on separately. Councillors Farkas, Magliocca and Chu voted against increasing fines and extending the bylaw. That trio of councillors also voted against the bylaw in its final readings.

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Farkas tried adding an amendment that would nullify the city’s bylaw since the province expanded its mask mandate on Dec. 8.

Council heard that the city’s mask bylaw layers over the province’s mask mandate and doesn’t create any conflict.

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“The provincial mask requirement expands reach to include all workplaces, including those that are not publicly accessible, where the municipal bylaw does not have jurisdiction,” Kay Choi, Calgary Community Standards manager, told council. “The provincial mask requirement also expands the number of enforcement agencies capable of taking enforcement action against individuals not wearing a face covering.”

“This gives our police officers and peace officers more tools, a bit more discretion on what kind of a ticket they write, if any,” the mayor said.

Farkas’ amendment was defeated 3-10, with only himself, Chu and Magliocca voting in favour.

Carrots and sticks

Penalties like fines are one way a government can encourage changes to behaviour, according to Dr. Peter Silverstone, a psychiatry professor at the University of Alberta.

“Helping people do the right thing often require both incentives and disincentives, or carrots and sticks, and that is true of masks and vaccinations,” Silverstone told Global News. “Sometimes these disincentives can be social… shaming or encouragement can be another one but they’re not that effective.

“Sometimes we need to go into other areas.”

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Silverstone suggested that rewarding positive behaviour can produce better results. But it would require asking a different line of questions.

“How can you reward people for not gathering? How can you reward people for wearing masks in public? I’m sure people can come up with creative ways of doing that.”

The U of A professor said a mix of “carrots and sticks” are needed for public policy.

“Certainly with children we know that rewards work better than punishments,” Silverstone said.

–with files from Heather Yourex-West, Global News

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