City council makes masks mandatory at city-owned facilities as of Sept. 10

Prince Albert city council voted unanimously to make masks mandatory at all city-owned indoor facilities, including city transit, by Sept. 10.

The motion also instructs city administrators to consult with healthcare experts and prepare a plan to make vaccinations mandatory for all city employees and any members of the public who access city-owned facilities.

Council made the decision following a COVID update from medical health officer Dr. Khami Chokani, who said local healthcare workers feel “exhausted and defeated” because of the rising case numbers, and the refusal of so many residents to get vaccinated.

Mayor Greg Dionne brought forward the motion at Tuesday’s council meeting.

He said municipal politicians have grown frustrated with the province’s refusal to implement a province-wide mask ban.

“Coun. (Don) Cody and I were on a conference call (Tuesday) with the minister and all 16 mayors and SUMA, and it was made quite clear to them that (the cities) are not very happy that they have not taken action,” Dionne said during the meeting.

When asked how the new mask mandate will be enforced, Dionne told council bylaw officers and police would step in if necessary.

Tuesday’s motion included exceptions for players involved in indoor recreation activities and sports. Much of the debate focused on how strict or lenient those exclusion measures should be. Council decided on allowing those who are “competing” or “practicing” their sport or activity.

Communications manager Kiley Bear said it shouldn’t be a problem to let residents know about the ban, since Saskatoon and Regina have already implemented their own bans, which provided a road map for admin.

“There will be steps taken to ensure some of these nuances are clarified,” Bear told council.

Questions about mandatory vaccinations were also hotly debated. City administration will look into the issue and bring a report back to city council at the next executive committee meeting.

Several councillors said they preferred to have the provincial government take the lead on mandatory masks and vaccines, with Coun. Don Cody accusing the province of being scared of a small, vocal portion of their base.

Coun. Charlene Miller, who works in the healthcare industry, said the City needs to make their feelings known to the premier and health minister.

“Quite frankly, and I’m going to be quite blunt, I don’t really get paid enough to mandate these (policies),” Miller said during the meeting. “I believe it’s their job to do.”

Premier Scott Moe has said his government would support local businesses, event organizers or workplaces that make vaccines mandatory, but make it mandatory province wide.

Moe has encouraged residents to get vaccinated, but said the province has no plans to reinstate widespread public health measures.

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