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Mandatory mask debate at council

Councillors ask if there should be a minimum number of cases to trigger a bylaw
20200906 Masks_HS
Athabasca town council debated a mandatory mask bylaw at their Sept. 1 meeting, choosing to wait and see if there was an outbreak. Heather Stocking/AA

ATHABASCA — Should masks be mandatory? That was the question posed and answered by Athabasca town councillors at their Sept. 1 meeting. 

Coun. John Traynor brought forth the discussion with concerns that some businesses are requiring masks while some are not and that with schools being back in session, COVID-19 could become more prevalent in the community. 

"If you go around town, you'll see some stores saying masks only for business purposes and some don't. And I'm just wondering what the ideas here in council would be regarding this because I feel like maybe with the schools and in the position that I'm in (as a teacher) and ... we have older people in our community and should we make it mandatory,” said Traynor. 

He noted that while the area had need seen the kinds of numbers of urban centres, he suggested a motion could be brought forward if a certain number of cases became active at the same time.

"If there's five people that get it, should we put it in place? Or should we have something ready? Like Plan B ready just in case there's an issue or a break out with the school,” he said. 

Mayor Colleen Powell said while she would prefer mandatory masks the problem is enforcement with only one bylaw officer. 

"I would prefer mandatory mask however, we have one bylaw officer, and it would have to be policed by the business owners and I'm not sure if they're really wanting to do that at this time,” Powell said. “But if we do have a problem, it's too late,” 

Coun. Dave Pacholok agreed with Powell saying once a bylaw is needed it may be too late to create one. 

“You're right, once it's too late, it's too late. The cow’s out and it's too late to close the gate so, you're wanting to be proactive. You want to be setting an example,” he said. 

The rest of council felt that people were being cautious and hoped there would be no need for a bylaw but were not completely denying the potential need, putting the onus on residents to do the right thing. 

“We have no way of enforcing it, not a chance. So, we have to rely on the citizens of our community to do the right thing and the majority will. People are starting to do this on their own anyway,” said Coun. Rob Balay. 

Heather Stocking, 

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