The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) council wants to craft its own face-covering bylaw to allow for local enforcement - and fines.
“What is concerning and why I think we need this bylaw is that I have received several emails from people who are concerned that specific businesses in town are not requiring employees to wear masks at all times when they're in the public space, which is in direct contradiction of the medical officer of health’s order,” said TBM Mayor Alar Soever.
“It would be better if we had a bylaw, then we could deal with those kinds of complaints, where there are business owners that are not complying. We can deal with them here at the local level, and make sure that our community is safe,” he continued.
In September, Grey County considered issuing a county-wide bylaw on face coverings but later shelved the idea citing it would be too difficult to enforce and that the bylaw may put a strain on the lower-tier municipalities' bylaw staff.
Grey County decided it would continue to rely on the order issued by the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) with Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU) instead.
Dr. Ian Arra, MOH for GBHU issued an order on Sept. 10 that required face coverings in indoor public places.
The MOH order is set to expire on Oct. 9, and yesterday Arra announced that the MOH order will not be renewed since the province has passed mask legislation to cover all of Ontario.
The new provincial regulation was announced on Friday and requires mandatory face coverings in all public indoor settings.
The updated provincial regulations are available at Ontario Regulation 364/20: Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.
“The provincial regulations are similar to the Grey Bruce Order. The main differences between the two are that: The person responsible for the business organization "shall ensure" compliance. Ensuring compliance is a higher expectation than the Grey Bruce Order that required "best efforts",” Arra stated in a press release.
TBM councillor Rob Sampson presented a notice of motion to council earlier this week, and if council supports it, TBM could establish its own face-covering bylaw.
“We have a very strong, reliable and efficient bylaw department, and I think we can rely upon them to help us enforce this. As Dr. Arra has said, we can't let our guard down and maybe this is one step we should take that would help us in doing that,” Sampson said.
TBM council members also discussed including a clause in the new bylaw in regards to limitations on social gatherings.
“Enforcement would only be required on very few occasions, but it's nice to have that tool in our toolbox,” Soever added.
The official motion to craft a face-covering bylaw will be presented at the next TBM committee of the whole meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 20.
“When we draft any bylaw, we are careful to make sure that it doesn't conflict with the provincial regulation. And that, it won’t require constant amendments,” said Will Thomson director of legal services for TBM.
The bylaw is expected to be drafted in consultation with the medical officer of health and the municipality’s legal services team.