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RMWB Council passes modified Face Covering Bylaw

Last Updated Oct 14, 2020 at 12:44 am MST

PHOTO. An overhead look at RMWB Council proceedings taken on Oct. 13, 2020. Supplied by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

Mayor and Councillors voted in favour the Face Covering Bylaw with amendments and exceptions.

It includes clauses relating to active case triggers, a directive for public transit, and a 30-day enforcement period.

RMWB Council met in-person and virtually on Oct. 13, 2020, at Syncrude Athletic Park Clubhouse.

All 11 members of the Council attended the meeting under modified public health guidelines from Alberta Health Services.

READ MORE: RMWB Council chambers to open with strict health measures in place

Mayor and Councillors first debated the Face Covering Bylaw on Sept. 14.

RELATED: Face Covering Bylaw on hold in RMWB as COVID-19 cases slow across Alberta

During the public hearing, the Municipality received 16 verbal submissions, 109 written submissions, and countless emails.

Kurt Stillwell from Legal Services provided an update on COVID-19 in the RMWB.

Stillwell said the spike in cases in the region coincided with the date of the September meeting.

CAO Jamie Doyle added enforcement of a mandatory mask bylaw would be difficult given challenges for Bylaw Services.

After RMWB Council discussed comparable bylaws in other jurisdictions of Alberta, Councillor Mike Allen put forward an amending motion.

A subsequent friendly amendment included a 30-day limit to the bylaw.

READ MORE: Health officers following safety rules means safe trick-or-treating possible

50 active cases are the threshold for inclusion on Alberta’s COVID-19 watch list.

RMWB Council voted 6 – 5 in favour of the amendment.

During the question period, Mayor Don Scott introduced an amendment calling for mask-wearing on public transportation.

The amendment makes an exception for vehicles for hire under its separate bylaw.

RMWB Council voted unanimously in favour of that amendment.

Mayor and Councillors called it a compromise and thanked residents for their input on what they said is a divisive issue.

Some maintained the region continue following the guidance from the chief medical officer of health, while others pointed at masking orders for children.

Most disagreed with the federal and provincial governments for offloading the decision on masks to municipalities.

RMWB Council passed the motion by a 7-4 margin, with Councillors Lalonde, McGrath, Murphy and Peddle opposed.

READ MORE: Wood Buffalo divided on mandatory masking issue

RMWB Council called for continued care and respect among residents in the RMWB.

Mandatory face coverings for all users of public transportation does come into effect.

Fort City Play World

RMWB awarded Fort City Play World a site-specific text amendment to the Land Use Bylaw as a “child care facility”.

Planning and Development and 11 different businesses in Gregoire offered their support.

RELATED: Indoor kids amusement park seeks child care facility designation from Council

Owner Sandra Russell said licensed daycares may register children for more than 12 consecutive weeks.

RMWB Council approved of the motion unanimously in both second and third readings.

Community Investment Program

Mayor and Councillors did vote down a notice of motion asking the administration to look at changes to the Community Investment Program policy.

Introduced by Councillor Jeff Peddle, he expressed concern for the RMWB’s ability to reach the 5:1 tax ratio during the economic climate.

If approved, the motion would direct the administration to investigate.

“Delegate Council’s approving authority to grant funding to non-profit organizations to Administration and include an appeal process for non-profit organizations to appeal to an administrative appeal panel not comprising of Council members.”

Liana Wheeldon of Arts Council Wood Buffalo and Luana Bussieres from St Aidan’s Society spoke in opposition of the motion.

They presented a letter signed by 20 executive directors representing the region’s non-profit sector who also opposed it.

While they understood Peddle’s concerns, Mayor and Councillors said its the Council which ultimately makes the decision on budgeting.

During budget sessions, non-profit organizations appeal to the RMWB Council for annual funding.

RMWB Council defeated the motion by a 10 – 1 margin.

The next RMWB Council meeting is Oct. 27, 2020.