Oakville councillors pass mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy

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Published September 13, 2021 at 7:12 pm

Town council in Oakville voted unanimously on Monday to create a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.

At a special virtual meeting held Monday night (Sept. 13), Mayor Rob Burton and all councillors present voted to accept a staff report recommending the the policy, which was developed around the time the provincial government announced similar policies. The vote came after four delegations that spoke against the motion — two from presidents of union locals that represent municipal employees, and two from vaccine refusers.

The objections from both union locals revolved around how quickly the policy would be implemented.

Ward 5 Town Councillor Marc Grant acknowledged the “speed issue” but said that time is of the essence.

“I do regret that our city employees haven’t felt included in this, but as much as I’m disappointed with how fast we’ve done this, that we haven’t done enough consultation, if not now, when?” Grant said. “I will support this motion, because of how quickly things are moving with this pandemic.”

The motion was moved by Ward 4 Regional Coun. Allan Elgar, and seconded by Ward 5 Regional Coun. Jeff Knoll. Elgar noted that the Public Health Alliance of Canada earlier this month the rate of hospitalization from COVID-19 is 36 times higher for people who are unvaccinated compared to the fully vaccinated.

The same report, related by by Dr. Theresa Tam, said that the number of new cases is increasing among the unvaccinated at a rate 12 times higher than the rate for the fully vaccinated.

Both anti-vaccine delegators, including one named Katherine Lesiuk, claimed that vaccine mandates are unconstitutional and that the councillors would be held accountable.

When Ward 1 Regional Coun. Sean O’Meara asked Lesiuk about her medical qualifications Lesiuk said she was an engineer who works at 3M.

A search of the Professional Engineers of Ontario website did turn up any engineer with that surname. A LinkedIn search turned up a Katherine Lesiuk who has a sales position of key accounts manager at 3M and earned an electrical engineering degree from Ryerson University.

Following the delegations, O’Meara said that those concerns did not take space away from the potential health and safety issue of created by unvaccinated workers. O’Meara said it is simply good policy to require vaccination among those who interact with the public in a civic capacity.

“It was ‘me-me-me’ and ‘what about my rights?’ ” O’Meara said. “And nothing about society and the children who are too young to be vaccinated. Your rights end at where they violate the health and safety of somene else.

“It is a privilege to work in the public sector,” he added. “We have great public sector workers in Oakville, and it is a privilege to work there.”

The policy will apply to:

  • Visitors accessing town-operated facilities, services, events and programs;
  • All town employees;
  •  Members of Council;
  • Any individual/organization representing or acting on behalf of the town in any manner (including, but not limited to consultants, volunteers and board members);
  • Contractors; and
  • Tenants/licensees of town facilities.

The policy appears to have been crafted to allow any employees who have yet to get a jab a window of opportunity to do so. Chief administrative officer Jane Clocecy addressed those concerns before staff took their recorded vote.

“We would be looking at an unpaid leave of absence (for a vaccine refuser) and will work with those employees as much as we can to move them toward vaccination,” she said.

The staff report that council accept also states that rapid antigen testing “will be required for staff not yet fully vaccinated to enter the workplace for a five to six week period (starting mid to late September through to October 31).”

Municipal staff estimates this will cost Oakville around $100,000. A rapid antigen test costs $40.

Of the 600 new COVID-19 cases reported in Ontario on Monday, 475 were in unvaccinated people, which works out to 79.2 per cent of that total. Halton Region had 28 new cases.

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