Dufferin News Municipal Politics Shelburne

Shelburne Moves Towards Council & Staff Vaccine Policy


The Town of Shelburne is one step closer to establishing a COVID-19 vaccination policy for its staff and elected officials.

“This may not be popular in the eyes of some, but at the end of the day, it’s not a popularity contest as far as I’m concerned,” asserted Deputy Mayor Steve Anderson. “It’s about saving lives.”

At the September 13, 2021, council meeting for the Town of Shelburne, members resolved to have staff report back in November with draft COVID-19 vaccination policies for both councillors and municipal employees. The proposal follows Dufferin County Council passing a similar directive on September 9, 2021. Furthermore, Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum, Associate Medical Officer of Health for Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health, published an open letter recommending all employers in the region introduce COVID-19 vaccination policies within the workplace. Deputy Mayor Anderson brought forward the motion, having provided notice at the previous meeting

“We like to champion our healthcare workers and say how brave and strong they are and that we should listen to them and respect them,” told Deputy Mayor Anderson. “That should continue when one of our chief medical officers are saying, ‘Hey listen, this would be appropriate in the times that we’re living in.'”

Deputy Mayor Anderson explained the need for two separate policies for staff and elected officials.

“With municipal staff, if they refuse, there could potentially be some consequences if that’s what the municipality decides to do, but with elected officials? Well there’s not that same option,” stated Deputy Mayor Anderson. “We don’t have the ability to punish elected officials the same way the municipality would, if they so chose to do that.” 

Staff advised waiting until November to return with the draft COVID-19 vaccination policy to align with the one formed by Dufferin County. It is expected that Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health will be consulted in the development of the mandate. 

“I respect people have a right to make choices in their life, but at the same time, sometimes those choices affect other people in other ways,” pronounced Councillor Walter Benotto, who seconded the motion. “I’m getting into the seniors’ position right now, which is the more vulnerable position. I don’t need to get something from somebody because they’ve come to my door.”

Councillor Benotto highlighted the discovery of new COVID-19 variants and the number of unvaccinated people in the ICUs. He also raised points about the need for council to provide leadership and how he hopes the policy will relax concerns among staff.

“It is our responsibility as elected officials to lead by example, in both the safety of the public because we’re out in the public,” agreed Councillor Lynda Buffet. “But we also have to look at potential liability in the future if something was to happen, whether or not we would be involved in litigation as a result of that, so I strongly support this motion.”

Councillor Shane Hall expressed the need to be exact with language, specifically around the word ‘mandatory.’

“There are members within this community that are not able to be vaccinated based on health, etc., so I would certainly hope that an actual policy covers those other items that do truly require exceptions and ensure that it’s all-inclusive in that manner,” declared Councillor Hall. “I would just hope that the overall policy covers all of those aspects, not just ‘mandatory only, no other options.'”

Deputy Mayor Anderson agreed that the exceptions that Councillor Hall highlighted need to be considered. Councillor Kyle Fegan also supported Hall’s sentiments by saying other options, such as continuous testing, should be available for those who can’t or don’t want to be vaccinated.

“I’m speaking as somebody who is double vaccinated at this point, so I’m certainly be no means an ‘anti-vaxxer’,” affirmed Councillor Fegan. “But I do have concerns in regards to mandating people that they have to have this vaccine.” 

Councillor Benotto also maintained the need for the COVID-19 vaccination policy to encompass alternatives such as testing. He said he would like to see those who are unvaccinated be tested twice per week.

“Then the choice becomes whether the taxpayer pays for it, or whether the person themselves has to pay for those testings,” remarked Benotto.

Shelburne’s Mayor Wade Mills explained how he would be supporting the motion and that the motion was for staff to come back with a draft COVID-19 policy in November. He reiterated how council would have another opportunity to discuss the nuances brought up in further detail.

Council performed a recorded vote. All members except Councillor Lindsay Wegener were in favour of the motion. 

“As much as I can appreciate the science, I must remind you that there is science on both sides of this, by both scientists and medical officials,” proclaimed Councillor Wegener earlier in the meeting. “I cannot in good faith force anyone to take a medical procedure that they don’t want or they cannot have, in order to remain employed and provide for their livelihood and their families.”

“I am pro-choice when it come’s to one’s personal body, and their choice as to what is done with it,” contended Councillor Lindsay Wegener, “So I understand and I can empathize with everyone’s take on this and the fact that were are leaders, and we need to lead by example, but leading by example also sometimes requires us to stand up for those who would like to have the right to their own bodies, so that’s what I’m doing.”

At the beginning of the meeting, Shelburne council underwent a special education session that emphasized the importance of maintaining effective council member relations. Mayor Wade Mills noted how the instructors said it was appropriate for councils to have contested discussions, as long as it stays civil and does not get personal.

“I think what we’ve just witnessed here is a shining example of that,” said Mayor Mills, thanking his colleagues. “A lively debate, open to the public, transparent for everybody to see, but done in a civil way that’s respectful of each other’s opinions.” 

References – Shelburne Moves Towards Council & Staff Vaccine Policy

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