Albertan Premier Jason Kenney has ordered a ban on local mask laws in the Canadian province through the introduction of legislation to prevent pro-lockdown mayors from circumventing provincial health advisory.
The new amendments to the Municipal Governments Act will prevent municipalities from implementing their own public health measures.
Alberta previously lifted its mask mandate alongside nearly all COVID-19 health restrictions. Those in Calgary will only be required to wear face coverings in a few settings, including on public transit, Alberta Health Services facilities, and nursing homes, the Calgary Herald reported.
The move is a part of Alberta’s Phase 2 of its reopening plan, which lifts most mandates and health restrictions in the province.
“There may be people who have to take public transit who may be immunocompromised,” said Kenney, per Calgary Sun reporter Jason Herring, who reported that Edmonton continues to have a mask mandate in place. Calgary doesn't.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Kenney said that public health is a provincial, not municipal matter. He noted that the province was previously flexible in the pandemic, and says it’s important that the province “moves out of this” together.
The premier says he does not want a “patchwork of policies,” adding that there is no public health rationale for municipalities to have this power. Kenney said that he believes decisions made by municipalities are rooted in politics, not public health.
“And we are doing that because we need to move forward together. There has been too much division over the COVID era in our society. We need to do everything we can to put that division behind us, to not allow these lingering issues to be a divisive, political football,” he said.
“And we certainly shouldn’t allow political science to be [a] substitute for public health science,” he added.
Asked for the rationale in masking, which the CTV journalist called “an effective and minimally invasive intervention,” Kenney replied that the best intervention is vaccination. He said that mask mandates are an extraordinary measure that many find uncomfortable.
“I am proud of our province and its people on reaching this milestone. The majority of Albertans came together to keep everyone safe, and this is the result we were working towards. The pressure on our health-care system and the people it serves is lessening and we can now move forward. As we safely get our lives back to normal, we can move forward toward Alberta’s great economic recovery,” said Kenney in a press release.
“Thanks to the vaccination uptake in the province and the commitment of millions of Albertans these past two years, we are closing in on normal life. As we shift to an endemic response, I am confident that we can take the lessons we have learned through this pandemic to build an even more robust health-care system for our province’s future,” said Jason Copping, Alberta's minister of health.