Mandatory masks in Alberta will end one way or another after Jason Kenney moved to ban cities from hanging on to pandemic policy.
On the day Jason Kenney ended the provincial mask mandate, the Albertan Premier announced his government was introducing legislation to prevent lockdown mayors from undercutting provincial mask policy.
The change in legislation will see the Municipal Governments Act amended to prevent municipalities from imposing their own health measures, including mandatory masking.
“And that is why I’m announcing today that Alberta’s government will introduce into the legislature as soon as possible amendments to the Municipal Governments Act, which will remove the ability of municipalities to impose their own separate public health restrictions,” Kenney said during a press conference.
“And we are doing that because we need to move forward together. There has been too much division over the COVID era in our society. We need to do everything we can to put that division behind us, to not allow these lingering issues to be a divisive, political football.”
“And we certainly shouldn’t allow political science to be [a] substitute for public health science.”
Kenney’s announcement comes mainly in response to Edmonton mayor Amarjeet Sohi, who remains hellbent on keeping his citizens masked.
However, even without Kenney’s announcement, few believe that the mask mandate would be followed, given that the rest of Alberta is opening up.
As executive director of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association Puneeta McBryan explains, “We know compliance is going to be low, compliance has been low every time the city’s rules have been different from the province’s rules. And people are getting more agitated and aggressive in their interactions if they don’t want to wear a mask.”
In other words, no one’s buying it anymore and the mandate would crumble due to non-compliance.
Similarly, Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek led the charge to keep citizens masked, she was ultimately defeated in a vote to extend the requirements to March 31, and the city council decided to defer to the province on the issue. Thus, Calgarians are finally free to go barefaced again — no thanks to Jyoti.
“I am proud of our province and its people [for] reaching this milestone. The majority of Albertans came together to keep everyone safe, and this is the result we were working towards,” said Kenney in a news release.
“The pressure on our health-care system and the people it serves is lessening, and we can now move forward. As we safely get our lives back to normal, we can move forward toward Alberta’s great economic recovery.”
As per the news release, effective immediately, there are no limits on social gatherings, no capacity limits for businesses, no restrictions in schools, no vaccine passports, no curfew for businesses, no mandatory work-from-home-requirements, and no provincial mask mandate in most settings.
With that said, there are still a few places that will require masks, such as public transit, Alberta Health Services-operated and contracted facilities, and continuing care settings.
Yesterday, Kenney also addressed those who still have concerns about lifting pandemic restrictions and the idea that the pandemic isn’t over.
“I think we’re being realistic. We’ve taken a very careful and measured approach based on the data, not just here, but around the world,” Kenney said.
“We’ve seen places like England, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, other European countries, and US states hit earlier by Omicron, who have lifted all or almost all health restrictions weeks ago. And they’ve — with one or two exceptions — broadly, they’ve continued to see a downward trend in new cases, total active cases, and hospitalizations, which would suggest that our experience in Alberta is consistent with international trends.”