Mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy adopted by Orangeville Council

September 30, 2021   ·   0 Comments

Town adopts COVID-19 vaccine policy

By Sam Odrowski

Council, board, and committee members within the Town of Orangeville must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 30 to avoid facing repercussions.

During Orangeville Council’s Monday (Sept. 27) meeting, a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy was approved 6-1, which will force members of Council, boards, and committees to disclose their vaccination status by Oct. 15.

Board and committee members who do not receive the vaccine by Nov. 30 will be removed for non-compliance.

Since Council members are duly elected and not employees of the Town, they cannot be terminated for refusing to disclose their vaccination status or get the vaccine, but the policy was amended with a 6-1 vote to eliminate their pay.

“I feel as leaders of this community… we need to send a strong message. Otherwise, we’re going to be in this pandemic for the next 20 years,” said Deputy Mayor Macintosh, who put forward the amendment. “We need to send a strong message and I think councillors not being paid if they don’t show proof of vaccination is the way to go.”

Coun. Todd Taylor said he’s in full support of Macintosh’s amendment to dock councillor’s pay.

“I’m willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one and I will do whatever it takes to ensure our communities safe and that I’m safe, and all of my coworkers are safe,” he remarked.

Accommodations will be made for those with a human rights or a medical exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine, while those without an exemption who refuse to receive it will be put through an educational program, hosted by the Town.

Coun. Debbie Sherwood, who was the sole vote against the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, said she’s not an “anti-vaxxer” and is double vaccinated herself but doesn’t feel the municipality has the authority to remove people for non-compliance.

“I don’t feel we have the right to tell somebody that they must put something in their body that they have chosen not to,” she said. “This isn’t about the jab. This is what we’re asking our committee members, our staff, our council to do to their body.”

Coun. Sherwood said she’s particularly concerned about the impact the vaccination policy will have on committee members, who are unpaid volunteers.

“I already know of two volunteers on two different committees that have already told me that they guess they’ll be leaving the committee in December because they don’t want to get the vaccination,” she noted.

“I’m very upset at the fact that I’m losing two very key contributing members… and that very much concerns me because we’re forcing them to do something that they in their own right, have the right to not do.”

Coun. Grant Peters also had concerns over the vaccination policy for committee members, as they continue to conduct meetings virtually.

“I think we know we already have a bit of a shortage when it comes to volunteers, specifically on the committees, and so I guess I’m just struggling with turning people away if they were able to still participate remotely and be productive members of a committee,” he said.

Town CAO Ed Brennan responded to Coun. Peters, noting Council has the ability to develop an accommodation plan or policy where committee members could attend meetings on a hybrid model and when in-person meetings resume, receive a rapid antigen test. He said that this cost, in most incidents, would be covered by the Town.

Deputy Mayor Macintosh followed Brennan’s comments by noting that he strongly disagrees with developing an accommodation policy.

“I don’t for one second think that the taxpayers of Orangeville should be on the hook for paying for any sort of testing for people that do not want to get a vaccination,” he charged.

When looking at the Town’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for staff, which is still forthcoming, Deputy Mayor Macintosh said he has an issue with Brennan writing it himself, under the CAO bylaw.

“I respect your authority on this issue, Mr. Brennan, but I don’t think one person should have authority on an issue like this,” he noted. “Supposing you’re an anti-vaxxer, you may not come up with a very good policy for staff, and obviously I’m not saying you are, but I think it should be a council [decision].”

Coun. Sherwood also took issue with Brennan having sole authority over the development of a Town staff vaccination policy, which is expected to be circulated by next week. She noted that Dufferin County Council passed their own staff vaccination policy and would prefer that Orangeville did the same.

“To me, if we have over 300 or 400 staff members, that should be a decision, a policy set by Council, not set by one senior manager,” said Coun. Sherwood.

She added that she hopes the Town is going to be consulting a labour lawyer when they start to terminate staff due to the new mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy.

“If we have staff that choose to not get vaccinated and they get dismissed, they’re going to come after us, they’re going to sue us, they’re going to get severances,” she said.

“Who is he to just arbitrarily open up the bank book at the expense of our taxpayers to dismiss employees, and who’s paying for it? Not him, not the Town of Orangeville – it will be the taxpayers of Orangeville.”

During the Monday night Council meeting a women called in during Question Period, who identified herself as Margo and said she’s a former senior human resources professional in government and finance of 30 years. She noted Council’s decisions surrounding their mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy is concerning and that existing documents such as employment contract laws, the Canadian Bill of Rights and Charter of Rights might impact their policy.

“Are you aware of the enormous financial impact to the taxpayer related to termination and the rehiring process? And most of all, are you aware of the impact to the individual’s livelihood without government support at a time when our community is trying to house and feed and provide for the homeless and vulnerable?” Margo charged. “It appears that you’ve made these decisions without the legal counsel outside the laws, so just wanted to bring that to your attention.”

Mayor Brown responded by saying the town has taken legal advice for the development of their policy as well as consulted many other municipalities and the Wellington­–Dufferin–Guelph Public Health Unit.

He added that Council feels that the end of the pandemic is when everybody gets vaccinated.

Currently 87 per cent of people 12+ in Ontario have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 81 per cent are fully vaccinated.

In terms of the Town’s vaccination policy, it does make reference to booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The policy states, “If additional booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are required, ensure subsequent doses are also submitted.”

The CDC recommends giving booster doses every six months to individuals over 65 or individuals over 18 with pre-existing health conditions. American President Joe Biden received his first booster shot on Monday (Sept. 27).

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.