CANMORE – With masks becoming mandatory for indoor public spaces in Canmore Friday (Aug. 7) at noon, the local MLA says she supports the efforts by municipalities to create bylaws for their individual communities.
Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin said it is not the responsibility of the provincial government to make masks mandatory in Alberta.
“I think it would be a massive overreach if the provincial government were to make a mandatory mask policy province-wide,” Rosin said. “I couldn’t support it.”
A province-wide mandate is not in the best interest of Albertans, she said, especially because rural Alberta has not seen the same number of active cases in comparison to urban settings in the province.
“A blanket policy mandating mandatory masks in these rural communities isn’t needed. Truthfully we would see revolt if the province tried to implement such a policy,” Rosin said. “It would not work for certain communities in our province.”
Because of this, Rosin said she supports municipalities making bylaws that best suit their community. By using bylaws, municipalities can create a tailor-made approach that works best for their residents.
Each area has different cultures and different situations when it comes to the COVID-19 virus.
“This is best left up to municipalities to do what best for their community,” Rosin said. “What works in one community may work on others, but it may not be necessary in others.”
Communities like the Town of Banff and the Hamlet of Bragg Creek have seen some residents raise concerns about tourists visiting from outside the area and not wearing masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, Rosin said it remains the personal choice of Albertans to wear a mask.
“It needs to be a personal choice and if people want to wear a mask and if they feel comfortable wearing the mask, I think we should be encouraging them to do so to keep themselves and the community safe,” Rosin said. “The provincial government does not need to come in with these sweeping policies mandating masks.”
Municipal officials in Canmore, however, spoke about their frustration of having to take on this responsibility after the provincial government refused to.
Mayor John Borrowman said the province has abdicated its responsiblity to manage public health, something municipalities are not equipped to do.
"Frankly, I am disappointed the provincial government abdicated its responsibility to mange public health and left this to communities," Borrowman said.
"Municipalities don't typically have the capacity or resources to manage public health issues and we see this playing out in a number of communities across the province. Councils are having to take this on and it is very challenging.
"But I really genuinely feel that we need to be doing all that we can to prevent another significant increase to COVID-19 cases."
Councillor Joanna McCallum agreed, saying since the beginning of the pandemic council has looked to the Chief Medical Officer of Health for direction on how to prevent the spread of the disease.
"We have definitely looked to [Dr. Deena Hinshaw] for guidance and she continues to tell us good hand hygeine and wearing masks when we cannot physically distance from others indoors are really the best way forward for us to work together and try to beat this virus," McCallum said, adding the medical evidence and recommendations have been changed frequently over the last five months.
"We have a really clear absence of leadership from our provincial government with regards to this matter ... and I would like to articulate how deeply disappointed I am."
Dr. Amy Tan, associate professor at the University of Alberta’s department of family medicine, was in front of council during its deliberations on the mandatory mask bylaw. She addressed the fact that as a tourist destination, Canmore sees visitors coming in and out of the community from areas that have higher rates of the virus and that puts residents at risk.
"Even if community transmission for your residents is low, it is much higher in Calgary, Edmonton and southern Alberta," she said. "When they come on the weekend, it adds to it."