Calgary mask bylaw decision could come Monday

It would be the last major COVID-19 restriction to fall in Calgary and it could happen soon.

Council is set to discuss the future of Calgary's face covering bylaw at city hall on Monday. A vote could determine if mask rules remain in place as the summer continues.

Councillors seem split.

"I think there's ‘COVID-exhaustion’ out there," Ward 12 Coun. Shane Keating told CTV News. "So I think we've reached the stage now where those who are interested in getting the vaccines and moving forward have got it. So some are saying, 'Let's repeal this.'"

Some councillors, like Ward 5's George Chahal, are on the opposite side of the debate.

Chahal has already announced his intention to vote against repealing the bylaw and is encouraging his colleagues to do the same.

In a statement released Friday morning, Chahal said he believes council should hold the line "until we are certain the Delta variant threat is at bay."

Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek echoes his variant concerns.

"The most effective way for variants to come out is through unvaccinated people," Gondek said. "And we have a lot of those. We are going to be having some major events in the upcoming few weeks and there's going to be all kinds of people who are not vaccinated and also not masked. So I don't know what that holds for us."

The premier jokingly addressed those concerns Friday.

"There appear to be a bunch of experts on the Delta variant at city hall," Kenney said to laughter at the Calgary Petroleum Club. “I didn’t know there were so many epidemiologists in public life.”

Regardless of Monday's vote, masks will still be required while riding on transit and in taxis and ride-sharing vehicles. Certain health care settings will also still require a face covering.

Gondek is upset that the province "pushed" the decision on masks to the city after not implementing an Alberta-wide rule until December and after "not consulting" with municipalities on the reopening plan.

She believes the provincial government is hoping to see the municipal government struggle.

"The only thing consistent about this provincial government's handling of this pandemic is the incredible inconsistency between what we are supposed to do and what they are supposed to manage," she said.

Monday's discussion at city hall could go multiple ways.

Council could vote to repeal the bylaw, extend it or change the rules around it.

Keating and Gondek say they hope whatever is agreed upon will have clear parameters and won't lead to confused residents or heated debate.

The bylaw was originally implemented 11 months ago. It is, as of now, set to expire at the end of the year.

Canmore is the only other Alberta municipality with a current face covering bylaw. Council there will discuss its policy on Tuesday.