By Stan Ashbee
A motion was passed unanimously during a regular Town of Taber council meeting held Apr. 12 that the town follows provincial guidelines in regards to mask wearing and follow the province’s direction — and the Town of Taber leaves its face covering bylaw in place until public health orders have been lifted by the province.
It was stated in a report submitted to council, on Nov. 30, 2020 council passed the Temporary Mandatory Face Coverings Bylaw 22-2020. “At that time, council considered this bylaw, along with municipal neighbours — the Municipal District of Taber, which also enacted a version of this bylaw.”
It was noted, the town has to follow the Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) guidelines and the town has no choice in the matter.
Coun. Carly Firth believes leaving the town’s bylaw in place, even though the public health order would supersede that, shows the Town of Taber’s support for public health guidelines.
It was also stated in a report submitted to council, the municipality received a petition that was submitted and addressed to town council from someone who identified as the co-founder and organizer of an Anti-COVID alliance. The petition’s purpose statement was to have the removal of Taber’s mandatory mask bylaw.
A motion was made for council to accept the CAO’s declaration to the Town of Taber council that the petition stating “the removal of Taber’s Mandatory Mask Bylaw” is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the Municipal Government Act (MGA), as it was not submitted within the 60-day limitation period provided under Section 233(2) of the MGA.
The motion passed unanimously.
Additionally, it was stated in the report to council, even if the petition had been received within the time period required by Section 233(2) of the MGA, the petition does not have a sufficient number of signatures to satisfy Section 223(2)(a) of the MGA.
Last Monday, members from the Anti-COVID Alliance group protested outside of the town’s Administration Building, in response to the petition rejected by council.
Town of Taber Mayor Andrew Prokop said the Anti-COVID Alliance group did make a request to town council through the petition to hopefully rescind the town’s temporary mask bylaw.
“We certainly looked at that, as far as the legality, which we are required to do under the MGA. It was sent to our legal team for consideration and there were 500 or so odd signatures. Bottom line was they needed 10 per cent minimum and they have to be all municipal adult residents — Town of Taber residents. Anybody that lives out of town, doesn’t fit for the requirement. There were a number of those out of town people that live out of town and/or maybe work in Taber. But, that’s not a part of what is legally required or allowed,” Prokop said.
“About 880 signatures would have been the minimum amount of signatures, assuming they’re all legitimate, accountable signatures that reside in the town,” Prokop added.
Another important aspect of the petition, was the timing of the submission of the petition by the group.
According to Prokop, the localized mandate went into effect around the end of November and the petition would have had to been received at the end of January.
“To have a petition that was validated and legal it would have to be a 60-day time limit,” said Prokop.
“We got that petition March 2 — a month overdue.”
“They just didn’t meet all the required criteria.”
Even if the town were to rescind the mask bylaw, Prokop noted, AHS’ provincial laws supersede any municipal bylaw.
“That’s where there’s some misunderstanding. That’s pretty key. It doesn’t matter what each division does or does not do,” Prokop said, adding the mask bylaw is now a provincial requirement. “Anywhere you go with the strict requirements laid out provincially across the board.”