With the COVID-19 pandemic, leadership at all levels has had to react fast. After hearing from a concerned citizen, Orangeville Council did the same.
Orangeville Councillor Lisa Post presented a notice of motion at the town council meeting held on November 23, 2020. Post communicated that a local drive test examiner had reached out. The examiner was concerned with the number of testees coming from areas that have been designated within the province’s COVID-19 response framework as being in the ‘grey’ and ‘red’ zones. The councillor reported how drive tests are restricted within these areas as they are considered to be unsafe under public health guidelines.
According to Councillor Post, on Friday, all but one of the people that the Orangeville examiner dealt with was from a region under ‘lockdown’. The one exception was somebody who came from a municipality that had just entered ‘red’. This geographic mix is alleged to not be an anomaly.
Cross-regional access, Post outlines, is a necessity during normal circumstances. That being said, the councillor believes that given the pandemic, it is socially irresponsible. As described by Councillor Lisa Post, the Orangeville centre conducts 170-200 tests a day, with approximately 90% of the patrons not being from the area. Due to time sensitivity, fellow councillors were asked to support the motion and to have the requirement for notice waived.
In essence, the motion was to direct Orangeville town staff to write a letter to Premier Doug Ford, with copies being sent to Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones, Dufferin-Caledon MP Kyle Seeback, and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Medical Officer Dr. Nicola Mercer. The letter would contain a request to have drive tests restricted completely for those residing in locales under lockdown, and that cross-regional access be curbed until it is “deemed safe”.
Councillor Debbie Sherwood eagerly seconded Post’s motion. Mayor Sandy Brown announced that he had spoken to Dr. Mercer and claimed that she had expressed concern over the subject as well. He added that he had just received an e-mail from another drive test examiner, in addition to the one that contacted Councillor Lisa Post.
Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh revealed that he was surprised the examiners weren’t refusing to work due to unsafe conditions, as is their right. Councillor Post mentioned how there are indications that this seems to be occurring, but stated that a provincial framework is needed for the matter.
United Steelworkers Local 9511, the union representing those performing the drive tests, disclosed that Ministry of Labour investigators had recently attended various facilities to make assessments. When it comes to testing people residing in “grey-zones”, the inspectors consistently determined that the work is not likely to endanger the examiner. The purported logic behind this is that the safety protocols already implemented were suitable for a workplace where potential COVID-19 exposure was an identifiable hazard, which is meant to deal with any presence of the virus. Public health not placing constraints on driver examinations in the “non-grey-zones” was also cited as part of the rationale for the inspectors classifying the work as not likely to endanger. United Steelworkers points out that when tests were restricted by public health in the “grey-zones”, it was assumed to be over the safety of the driver and the examiner, as all the testing facilities have similar safety protocols. As of November 23rd, the union has not yet received clarification from Public Health Ontario on this apparent discrepancy.
Orangeville Council made a different call. The motion put forth by Councillor Post received unanimous support.
“I remember how excited I was when I was sixteen to get my license, but I hardly think it is an essential requirement that we continue this, at least for the next couple months until things start to trend down,” voiced Mayor Sandy Brown. “We’ve been really quite good at keeping COVID at bay in our area, and nobody is interested in having it visit us as it has in the GTA.”
References – Orangeville Council Wants Access to Drive Tests Limited
- Orangeville Town Council Meeting – November 23rd – Video
- Orangeville Town Council Meeting – November 23rd – Agenda
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