The majority of Calgary city councillors support increasing the fine for violating the city’s temporary COVID-19 face covering bylaw, however, the changes have yet to take effect.
Council voted 10 to four in favour of increasing the fine to $500, which is five times more than the current penalty of $100.
Councillors Jeromy Farkas, Joe Magliocca, Dianne Colley-Urquhart and Sean Chu were opposed.
To finalize the change, the bylaw needed to receive three readings with the final reading needing unanimous authorization.
Colley-Urquhart, who represents Ward 13, opposed the third and final reading and said law enforcement officials already have their hands full policing anti-mask protests and illegal gatherings, backed with provincial protocols and heavy fines.
“The police need to focus on enforcing these mass gatherings where all these people are not complying with the current health regulations,” Colley-Urquhart told Global News.
“I don’t want our police officers having to run down the street chasing after those few outliers who are not wearing a mask.”
Until the bylaw receives third reading, the fine will remain $100.
A third reading on the bylaw is expected to take place at the next meeting of council, which is on May 31, but Calgary’s mayor told reporters he may just call another meeting of council Monday night to finalize the fine increase.
Naheed Nenshi said the bylaw is meant for people defying the bylaw, and not those who may have forgotten to wear their mask.
“When you increase fines, people will think twice about willful defiance,” Naheed Nenshi said. “Remember, this is about willful defiance.”
The city’s temporary face covering bylaw was brought into effect in August 2020 as an additional measure to limit the spread of COVID-19. At the time, the fine for violating the bylaw was $50. The penalty was increased to $100 and the bylaw extended through the end of 2021 in December 2020.
According to city officials, 391 tickets have been issued to people for not wearing a mask since August, with of those tickets having been issued since April 29, 2021.
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