Lambton County council won’t reconsider mandatory masks

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A bid by Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley to have Lambton County councillors reconsider a mandatory mask bylaw has fallen flat.

In July, Bradley brought the issue to council as another measure to stop the spread of COVID-19 as ore businesses open up. It was defeated 13-4 with many municipal leaders saying it should be up to each municipality to decide. Others pointed out that Lambton’s medical officer of health had not recommended the move yet, saying there is not wide community transmission of the COVID-19 virus in the area.

Bradley returned to Sarnia, where councillors there agreed to a mandatory bylaw. It went into effect Friday.

The mayor also sent out an email to county councillors, which was also forwarded to local media, asking if anyone was willing to reconsider the issue. By Friday night, only one mayor said he would be in favour of looking at the move.

Enniskillen Township Mayor and Deputy Warden Kevin Marriott said Thursday that nothing had changed to change his mind about a mandatory mask bylaw. “Dr. (Sudit) Ranade says at this point he sees no reason to make it mandatory…If he came out tomorrow and changed his mind, I would say ‘yes, let’s reconsider.'”

Warwick Mayor Jackie Rombouts, who was attacked on social media after saying she didn’t support mandatory masking during the July county council meeting, says she will not vote for a mandatory mask bylaw.

“I would be perfectly happy being the only municipality in all of Canada not making people wear masks,” she says people should be free to make their own choice. Rombouts says she wears a mask, particularly in businesses like grocery stores where employees must wear the protective gear.

But Rombouts says 90 per cent of her decision not to pass a county-wide bylaw has been the fact the local medical officer of health is not recommending mandatory masking.

“He is the one we are supposed to be listening to as a council,” she says.

And Rombouts is furious that Sarnia’s mayor continues to push the issue and says Bradley has attacked her personally for her stand.

Sources say Sarnia’s mayor shouted down Rombouts during a weekly video conference meeting with Lambton County leaders and public health officials recently. He’s also been on local radio talking about his frustration that the county bylaw didn’t pass.

“Mike Bradley has been quite frankly bullying me and quite frankly every other councillor saying there is going to blood on our hands and we will live to regret it – like, come on Mike.”

In Petrolia, town council will consider whether to pass a mandatory mask bylaw on Aug. 10.

In Plympton-Wyoming, Mayor Lonny Napper says the issue has not come up yet but he would be infavour of the move.

St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold doesn’t see a need to revisit the idea at the county level, but he says St. Clair is looking into the possibility. And he says the township has encouraged businesses to implement their own rules if they think it is best.

“One of the things I have told folks is that any business can post the requirement for anyone entering their business to wear a mask if they want. Any bylaws I have read put the responsibility on the business owner to enforce mask wearing if there is a bylaw anyway or they get charged.”

Arnold adds Lambton Warden Bill Weber has written a letter to Premier Doug Ford suggesting the mandatory mask regulations should be passed by the province. He’s yet to hear a response to the letter.