Edmonton drops mask mandate as province tables legislation to halt municipalities from creating them

Edmonton votes 8-5 to remove mask mandate

The Government of Alberta has taken the first step in preventing municipalities from making their own health bylaws, including mask and vaccine passport mandates. The UCP says Bill 4, the Municipal Government Amendment Act, 2022 would make narrowly-focused changes to the Municipal Government Act with respect to COVID-19 public health requirements.

mask mandateIf passed, any municipal bylaws requiring masks to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, or relating to COVID-19 vaccines, would need to be approved by the Minister of Municipal Affairs in consultation with Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

“We recognize the importance of local autonomy. That’s why the proposed changes will have no impact on the day-to-day operations of Alberta municipalities,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver. “As we move together toward a path to normal, Alberta needs one clear public health policy. The best way to do this is to make sure the rules are clear, specific and the same for all Albertans.”

Alberta’s NDP Opposition said the UCP’s legislation limiting municipalities’ ability to introduce public health measures overrides the decision-making power of democratically elected municipalities.

“These decisions should be made at the local level between democratically elected leaders and voters,” said NDP Municipal Affairs Critic Joe Ceci. “For a government that claims it’s a grassroots party and a Premier who even signed a grassroots guarantee, the UCP is launching a direct attack on local democracy and the wishes of Albertans.”

The NDP criticized that the government, who less than a year ago encouraged municipalities to implement their own public health restrictions due to diverse needs across the province, had reversed direction.

“This is the same government that constantly warns of federal government overreach. But now Premier Kenney and the UCP are doing the exact same thing they accuse Justin Trudeau of doing. The irony is not lost on me, nor is it lost on Albertans,” Ceci said.

The NDP were not alone in their criticism. Alberta Municipalities President and St/ Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said in a media release that her organization is concerned that the Government of Alberta is setting a troubling precedent by amending the MGA without prior consultation.  

“Alberta Municipalities appreciates that the provincial government kept the scope of these legislative amendments very narrow, but we continue to believe that the best public health decisions are those based on science and data, rather than on political differences and calculations,” Heron said in the statement, adding the organization would follow the debate on Bill 4 in the legislature with great interest.  

The City of Edmonton dropped its mask mandate earlier on Tuesday in an 8-5 vote.

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Bill 4: Municipal Government (Face Mask and Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination Bylaws) Amendment Act, 2022

story compiled by Stephen Dafoe

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