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Burlington City Council Calls Emergency Virtual Meeting Saturday to Discuss Additional Provincial COVID-19 Restrictions

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This morning, I called an emergency virtual City Council meeting in response to yesterday’s Provincial announcement. Section 22.7 of Bylaw 04-20 allows Council to hold a meeting without notice to deal with a situation related to the state of emergency.

The meeting lasted 3 hours and discussion was referred to our regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. At our Emergency Control Group meeting yesterday, after the Provincial announcement, we felt it was important to bring the discussion to Council and gain from all members their thoughts and feedback on the additional restrictions, and determine if any actions were needed quickly.

I am truly grateful to my Council colleagues and our City of Burlington staff who made time this weekend to meet and to staff who have been working diligently in the past several hours to bring the discussion to today’s Council meeting.

Today’s Council meeting has set us up for success on Tuesday, so that we can continue to make good decisions for our residents.

After today’s discussion, I’m at the point in asking the Province to reconsider the closures of parks. Leaving regulations in place that the public does not support or understand leaves our bylaw staff in an impossible situation. We need to appeal to the goodwill of our public and to do that there needs to be direct evidence in the decisions being made. We need to redouble out efforts in asking for paid sick leave and vaccinations in workplace. The measures have to match the evidence and spread. Today’s meeting and discussion was very much valued.

SOME ADDITIONAL CONTEXT FOR TODAY’S SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING

I also want to provide some additional context for the situation we are in, and purpose and urgency for me calling today’s special council meeting.

At a press conference that began at 4 p.m. yesterday, the Province announced new restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 that took effect this morning at 12:01 am. These include closing outdoor amenities, controlling travel, and adding police enforcement powers. Several of these measures have a direct impact on city services.

As the measures are now in effect, there is an expectation in the community that these measures will be likewise enforced immediately.

That creates urgency for council decision-making.

Two of the decisions we looked at today were whether or not to close park parking lots and washrooms to avoid large crowds in destination parks across the city, and to encourage people to stay in their own neighbourhoods for outdoor recreation.

Staff told us there are able to action these items very quickly, if directed by council, especially as we head into a weekend where people will be outside and expect us to ensure that the new regulations will be followed and enforced. As I noted above, after the hours of discussion, the majority of Council thought it best to refer things to Tuesday’s meeting to give staff more time to bring forward more information in a staff report and a recommendation.

The public may recall the decision-making framework developed by council and staff last year for what items require a council decision. Items that change a public service, carry a community or financial impact come to council, among others. These two items we are looking at fit squarely in that matrix.

An equally important purpose for calling council together is to share information with you about yesterday’s announcement and provide an opportunity for dialogue and questions of staff.

There is no question we are facing the worst health crisis we have seen in our times and we must lead our community through it by our decisions, our words, and our actions.

A summary from the Ontario Medical Association shows there was a record 4,812 confirmed cases of COVID reported in Ontario yesterday; the latest worst-case modelling says that number could rise to 30,000 a day and more than 2,000 patients in our ICUs by mid-May.

Earlier this week, our own hospital appealed to the community for help in continuing to follow health recommendations:

  • wear a mask inside and outside when physical distancing is a challenge;
  • only gather with members of your own household;
  • only go out for essential trips;
  • all to help slow the spread of COVID19 to avoid hospital capacity becoming overwhelmed.

To compare our situation today from a year ago consider:

Ontario Cases – New

20202021
April 154944,736960% higher
April 165144,812940% higher
April 17564TBC

Our residents are tired, anxious about their health, worried about when they can get a vaccine, and confused by the ever changing and at times seemingly contradictory array of regulations. They know measures are needed, and wonder if they are the right measures and whether they are going to be effective.

Since yesterday’s provincial announcement, I’ve heard serious concerns in our community and from fellow elected officials about the new restrictions particularly on outdoor amenities and police enforcement.

A prominent infectious diseases doctor and scientist, Isaac Bogoch, has questioned closing outdoor recreational spaces, and our own Dr. Dale Kalina from Joseph Brant Hospital said yesterday that “COVID is inside our borders and not out in parks.” Dr. Ian Preyra, an emergency doctor and Chief of Staff at Joseph Brant hospital said yesterday: “I have yet to intubate a COVID patient who had become infected from being in a playground.”

Our residents are similarly questioning these closures, at a time when so much has been taken away and outdoor exercise is a source of mental and physical health.

As we deliberate on how to respond to the provincial closure of outdoor amenities today we need to take all of this information into consideration.

Similarly, a growing number of community members and elected officials have questioned the additional powers given to police to arbitrarily stop vehicles or individuals on the street, ask for identification and the purpose of travel.

I share those concerns and earlier this morning reached out directly to our Chief of Police, Chair of the Police Board, and Regional Chair to discuss these issues further. This morning, Halton Police Chief Stephen Tanner said Halton police will not be randomly stopping vehicles — and I thank him for coming out with that message and clarity for our residents.

Our community is looking to us for clarity, for guidance and in some cases for advocacy on these matters, as we also try to understand what it means for delivery of city services. By meeting today, we have an opportunity to discuss these matters,  share information and perspectives with each other, so that we, in turn, can lead our community together through these difficult times.

Our staff are here to provide as much clarity on the regulations as we can at this time to equip you as council in your role as communicators and community leaders to your residents who will no doubt be reaching out to you with questions.

The only way that council can come together for an emergency briefing on COVID and to have this two-way dialogue is by calling a special council meeting, which I have done in respect of our shared responsibility to the community. Today’s meeting also provides an opportunity for residents to tune in and hear the same information.

Through our discussion we will have an opportunity to identify any outstanding issues and questions of staff to allow time in preparation for council next Tuesday.

I have asked that a COVID update and briefing be added to the agenda of the regularly scheduled council meeting next Tuesday at 1 p.m., so that we can receive any additional information and make any additional decisions that arise over the next few days, including any items that arise from today’s discussion.

Make no mistake, we are at a critical time in our province and country in battling COVID-19. Times of crisis require quick action, so please be prepared that in the near future there may be additional need for special council meetings so we can respond together with the urgency this crisis demands.

RELATED LINK:

PLEASE NOTE: To stay updated on what the City of Burlington is doing regarding COVID-19, please visit the dedicated pages burlington.ca/coronavirus (and subscribe) and bit.ly/mayormeedwardCOVID19updates, and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page — bit.ly/COVID19BurlingtonFAQ that are updated as new information becomes available.

A consolidated page for information and updates on the work of the provincial Ministers’ COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force is available at bit.ly/COVIDVaccineUpdates.

Halton Region has also created a dedicated COVID-19 Vaccine webpage at halton.ca/covidvaccines for up to date information on the status of our COVID19 vaccination program.

A Burlington COVID-19 Task Force has been created to help support our community through this unprecedented emergency — updates will be provided at burlington.ca/COVID19taskforce.

To report an incident of non-compliance with provincial emergency orders, please contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline: 905-825-4722.

We’ve also created a dedicated page to feature the local organizations and businesses that have inspired us during the COVID-19 pandemic by taking action to support our community in new and creative ways — head to bit.ly/covidwallofinspiration.

HELPFUL RESOURCES & RELATED LINKS:

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1 thought on “Burlington City Council Calls Emergency Virtual Meeting Saturday to Discuss Additional Provincial COVID-19 Restrictions”

  1. Please consider painting large circles 6 feet apart in Spencer Smith Park. This worked well in Toronto last summer to help people keep their family group a safe distance from others.
    If there are no empty circles then the park is full.
    Thank goodness the province reversed its stand on playgrounds.

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Marianne Meed Ward

Marianne Meed Ward

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

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