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Edmonton mask mandate to expire July 1st

A 7-6 vote will end mandatory face coverings in Edmonton as of July 1st. Councillors Banga, Cartmell, Caterina, Dziadyk, Esslinger, Hamilton and Nickel voted in the affirmative; Mayor Don Iveson, Ward 4's Aaron Paquette, Ward 8's Ben Henderson, Ward 10's Michael Walters, Ward 1's Andrew Knack, and Ward 6's Scott McKeen all voted against the motion.

Certain councillors offered different opinions concerning how they voted. McKeen's district, which is densely populated, led him to be concerned about dropping the rule from residents because, he speculated, it feels more threatening downtown than in the suburbs.

"In a place like Oliver, in order to live your life, it means getting the heck out of your apartment and out into some tighter spaces," he told his colleagues. "I think we are also putting the businesses in a difficult situation where a lot of businesses, for the continued protection of their staff, would like to keep masking still in place and are really worried if we don't have their back, it's going to be really hard to do and we're going to put them in conflict with their customers."

Bev Esslinger in Ward 2 noted: "I would encourage everyone to continue wearing their masks. I think I will. That's a recommendation, not a mandate."

Tim Cartmell [Ward 9] voted in support of the motion, arguging that the provincial government is best positioned, with a health ministry, of making these decisions.

"We should not be in the position of acting like a senate or a court of appeal," he argued. "It is time to transfer this decision, whether we support it or not, whether we believe what is being offered or not, whether we trust in the politicians or not, to transfer this back to the seat of government that should properly be judging and governing on these matters."

Paquette said he balanced the responsible action against the popular in his vote. "The problem is, the experts have told us what's reasonable. They haven't told us what's optimal," he commented, calling Alberta's COVID-19 track record "verifiably worse" than other provinces' My concern is that who's put at risk. And of course, it's those who are most vulnerable. Those who depend on government to ensure their safety when other people are not going to be responsible for ensuring that safety."

Masks will still be required on transit, and in taxis, ride-sharing services, continuing care and acute care settings.

The mask mandate will expire as Stage 3 of the province’s Open for Summer plan begins, which also comes into effect July 1.

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