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Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

Sylvan Lake’s Town Council has squashed the proposed face coverings bylaw at it’s first reading.

Over 100 people emailed or called the Town concerning the proposed bylaw prior to the Dec. 2 special meeting of Council. A small handful of people also attended the meeting in person to display their displeasure about a proposed mask bylaw.

One respondent, a high school student, was nearly in tears as she asked Council to not pass the bylaw, as many people just want to move on with a normal life without a mask on their face.

After reviewing the submissions and discussing the bylaw, Coun, Kendall Kloss’s motion “that Council approve First Reading to the Face Covering Bylaw mandating face coverings in Town owned and operated facilities” failed.

The motion was defeated in a four to three vote.

Coun. Tim Mearns also made the motion “that Council approve First Reading to the Face Covering Bylaw allowing for private businesses to register and receive bylaw enforcement through the Municipal Enforcement officers.” This motion also failed.

The consensus around the Council Chamber Wednesday was the Town does not have the ability to properly enforce the proposed bylaw.

When asked what would be set to the side by Sylvan Lake’s bylaw officers to enforce the bylaw, Ron Lebsack, director of protective services, said it would depend on the time of day.

“Something would be set aside to enforce this bylaw… Most likely what would be set aside is bylaw officers enforcing cleared sidewalks and unsightly homes,” Lebsack said, adding traffic enforcement may also take a backseat to the face covering bylaw, had it passed.

Without a bylaw in place, masks are not required at any Town-owned facility such as the NexSource Centre or the Community Centre.

The bylaw in question also proposed a program to allow businesses to “opt-in” to the bylaw, and be given support through bylaw officers.

The Town consulted with Brownlee LLP for legal advice when putting together the proposed bylaw, and while they agreed it was enforceable, Brownlee LLP did not recommend passing an “opt-in program.”

According to Brownlee, this bylaw would result in public confusions, be burdensome to administration and local businesses, would be challenging to enforce and could potentially pit businesses against one another.

“There is also a risk that giving businesses the choice will pit businesses (and members of the public) against one another; businesses that choose to register (or not to register) may be subject to public opposition, scorn or even protest; opposition that the business community may feel is more properly directed at government.

“If the rule is that all businesses must require masks then business has the ability to point to the bylaw and say they’re just following the rules imposed by Council,” Brownlee said.

Businesses are still able to put their own mask protocols in place, but will have to call RCMP under the Trespass Act if a customer is not following their rules.