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Mask mandates won’t be extended at North Battleford city facilities

Vote was 5-2 against extending the mandate
Special meeting Feb 22
Five members of North Battleford council raise their hands to defeat a motion at Tuesday’s special meeting to extend the mask mandate at city facilities.

NORTH BATTLEFORD - The City of North Battleford will not be extending the mask mandates at their city facilities. 

At a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, the council had before it a proposed resolution from Councillor Bill Ironstand that called for the City of North Battleford to continue the requirement that all persons accessIng all city facilities wear a facemask from March 1, 2022 until March 31, 2022, at which time the resolution would be reviewed.

The city mask mandate would have replaced a provincial mask mandate due to expire Feb. 28. But the motion didn’t get enough votes at the special meeting. It fell by a 5-2 vote with only councillors Ironstand and Kent Lindgren voting in favour. All other members of council voted against, including Mayor David Gillan.

In support of his motion, Ironstand pointed to rising wastewater data for North Battleford and the hospitals being over-capacity, and noted the resolution was in line with the city’s Strategic Plan. He also praised the Dekker Centre for its decision to extend their mask mandate to the end of April.

He pointed to the 42 COVID-19 deaths reported last week by the province. "42 families don't have a loved one today," he said. 

Lindgren said he was “reluctantly” in favour, noting that COVID-19 had not gone away. "We are not even close to being through this," he said of the pandemic. "Now is not the time to ease up, as hard as it may be to make it through it."

For the remaining members of council, a major concern raised was the ability of the city’s staff to enforce the mask mandates at city facilities. City Manager Randy Patrick acknowledged enforcement by staff was "going to be a problem".

"We don't have the legislative authority that we had through the provincial acts. So therefore if someone comes in and refuses to wear masks, the thing that well do is ask them to leave and call the RCMP, and charge them with trespassing. And we assume that we're going to have some people just wanting to prove a point -- that will be a real issue for us." 

Councillor Len Taylor said he was in favor of a masking mandate, but ultimately voted against the resolution, saying "I don't think we can enforce this." He did, however, encourage people to continue to "wear their masks no matter what."

Mayor Gillan pointed to both the enforcement challenges and also noted the province is not providing legal protection for the city if they were to impose their own mask mandate. "This is uncharted waters for us and we don't have the provincial support legally." He also said society was now at the point of living with the virus.

"The cost now versus the benefit -- in my mind I can't seem to equate the benefit anywhere close to the cost."