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Orangeville Mandates Vaccine for Council, Board Members


Unless a valid exemption is provided, any unvaccinated Orangeville councillors will soon have their pay suspended, and the town will remove unvaccinated committee appointees from their positions.

Following similar directives from the Towns of Mono and Shelburne and the County of Dufferin, a COVID-19 vaccine mandate has been passed by Orangeville’s council. A mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy will apply to current and future members of the Town of Orangeville’s council, boards, and committees as of December 1, 2021. Unless an approved exemption is received, appointees on boards and committees will be removed if they are not vaccinated by the specified date. Furthermore, it was decided that councillors who are unvaccinated and do not have a valid exception will have their pay suspended as a proxy for dismissal, given that elected officials cannot be forcibly prevented from participating on council. The COVID-19 vaccine policy states that the town will work with members who receive exemptions to develop safe and appropriate accommodation plans. A separate COVID-19 vaccine policy, applicable to town staff, is expected to be presented to council in the near future.

On September 27, 2021, town staff submitted the COVID-19 vaccine policy to Orangeville council. Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh suggested that they follow the Town of Mono’s proposal of docking pay for elected officials who choose not to get vaccinated.

“I feel as leaders of this community we need to do something like that,” declared Deputy Mayor Macintosh. “We need to send a strong message, otherwise we’re going to be in this pandemic for the next twenty years.”

Councillor Todd Taylor agreed with Macintosh’s approach of suspending pay for councillors choosing to not get vaccinated.

“I do think we’re in a unique spot where we can be leaders and I’m willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one,” said Councillor Taylor. “I’d like to second the deputy mayor’s motion and look forward to passing it with some teeth.”

Orangeville’s COVID-19 vaccine policy for council members and appointees states that the town is committed to providing a safe working environment and protecting employees, volunteers, elected officials, and the public from COVID-19. The document says that vaccinations are considered to be fundamental to the protection of individuals and the community and consistent with the best available public health advice for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 and variants. Vaccines currently approved by Health Canada and acceptable to Orangeville’s policy are Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.

Councillor Grant Peters said that this policy might surprise committee members and wasn’t sure that the timelines were appropriate given that there were no immediate plans to go back to in-person meetings. Peters also raised concerns about a shortage of volunteers looking to fill committee positions.

“I wonder if the timeline on it, if it made sense to move it back a little bit to give members of the public who don’t have the same degree of accountability as council just a bit more time to absorb the policy and get vaccinated,” said Councillor Peters. “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, and sort of leave that other decision out of it.”

Councillor Debbie Sherwood said she too struggles with implementing a December 1 due date for vaccinations given the lack of in-person meetings. Sherwood also explained that she disagrees with the town’s proposed policy.

“Not that I’m anti-vax or pro-vaccination or whatever, I’m going to keep my personal thoughts about the vaccination to myself,” asserted Sherwood. “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.”

Town staff explained that the legal counsel provided was that if dates were put too far out, the sense of urgency might be lost. Moreover, it was said that the schedule provided in the COVID-19 vaccine policy offered sufficient time for members to get fully vaccinated according to Health Canada guidelines. Orangeville’s Chief Administrative Officer Ed Brennan explained that, in the end, it was up to council on how and whether the policy would be implemented, including whether to accommodate or remove unvaccinated committee members.

“If council is not feeling right with drawing a hard line in the sand, then they can direct staff to come up with alternative methods,” elucidated Brennan, who described an alternative procedure that could include rapid testing.

Deputy Mayor Macintosh shared that he doesn’t think, ‘for one second, that the taxpayers of Orangeville should be on the hook for paying any sort of testing for people that do not want to get a vaccination.’

According to Orangeville’s COVID-19 vaccine policy, ‘fully vaccinated’ is defined as fully immunized after 14 days has passed since receiving the second dose of a two-dose vaccine series or the first dose of a one-dose series. This definition may later grow to include any booster shots deemed required. Members’ current vaccination status is expected to be disclosed to the town’s human resources department by October 15, allowing time for immunizations, education, and accommodations to take place where appropriate. Those who are not fully vaccinated will have until November 30, 2021, to do so or have an approved accommodation plan in place. The policy pronounces those members intending to remain unvaccinated declare this in writing and submit it to the town by October 15, 2021. Proof of the first dose, or of a single-dose vaccine, must be submitted by October 25, with the second dose submitted by November 22. As previously mentioned, on December 1, 2021, appointees will be removed from boards, and elected officials will have their pay suspended if they choose not to be vaccinated or do not provide a valid exemption. At the September 27 council meeting, town staff explained that accommodation plans for those exempted from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine could include rapid testing requirements and participating in meetings virtually.

Orangeville’s COVID-19 vaccine policy describes how members and elected officials choosing not to be vaccinated or not disclose their vaccination status must complete an educational program approved by Orangeville by October 8, 2021. The stated purpose of this course is to ensure members are adequately informed about the COVID-19 vaccines and the risks associated with being unvaccinated. The learning components addressed by the mandatory educational program are how COVID-19 vaccines work, vaccine safety related to the development of COVID-19 vaccines, benefits and possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccination, and the risks of not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Councillor Sherwood asked CAO Brennan why council was not approving a vaccination policy for town staff to accompany the one for elected officials and appointees.  Brennan explained how the authority for such policies had been delegated to the role of CAO, that the staff vaccine policy is in its final stages of development, and that it will be distributed to councillors once complete. Councillor Sherwood expressed that she believes that council should approve the COVID-19 vaccine policy for town staff. Deputy Mayor Macintosh also communicated that he did not think one person should have authority over the town’s staff vaccination policy.

“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,” said Macintosh to the town’s CAO, affirming that he respects Brennan’s authority on the issue. The deputy mayor then highlighted that the public would want to know who had the final say on the contentious issue of staff vaccination policies.  “We’re going to say, ‘well we didn’t do it,’ and I just don’t think that’s a good answer.”

In a 6-1 vote, council resolved to pass the vaccination policy submitted by staff, amended to include suspending pay for unvaccinated councillors who do not have a valid exemption. As stated previously, Councillor Debbie Sherwood communicated that she disagreed with the policy before the vote occurred.

Before the meeting ended, a member of Orangeville’s homelessness committee, Margo Young, called in during the question period and expressed concerns with the decision process for the town’s COVID-19 vaccine policy. Young asked whether legal and human resources professionals were consulted and if council considered the impact on people’s livelihoods.

“It appears to me that it was very emotional,” said Young of the decision to implement to policy. “You just want to set this precedent and you’re out to get them without even taking their individual personal and private situations into consideration, I’m really shocked.”

Mayor Sandy Brown disagreed with Young, saying that accommodations will be made for those with valid exemptions and that town staff has consulted with public health, lawyers, and other municipalities.

“We are supportive of vaccinations,” announced Mayor Brown. “We feel that that’s the end of the pandemic when we get everybody vaccinated, so that’s the decision that we’ve taken.”

References – Orangeville Mandates Vaccine for Council, Board Members

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