Dufferin News Mulmur Municipal Politics Shelburne

Mulmur Township Defers Establishing Vaccination Policy


The Township of Mulmur has indicated that it will not be joining other Dufferin County municipalities in developing a COVID-19 vaccination policy, at least for the time being.

On October 6, 2021, Mulmur Council considered adding a COVID-19 staff vaccination policy to its safety plan. Chief Administrative Officer Tracey Atkinson told how a survey had been distributed to the township office and public works staff regarding feeling safe in the workplace and whether there was interest in an employee vaccination policy.

“What we found is that 100% of the staff completing the survey were feeling safe,” shared Atkinson. “They believe that the current guidelines were sufficient that they were able to follow the health recommendations, and that the workplace was not high risk.”

CAO Atkinson described how there had been variation in the responses garnered from municipal staff, such as applicability and duration of a vaccine policy and consequences for noncompliance. It was said that the overall message received from the surveys was that Mulmur staff felt that a vaccine policy implemented in the municipality was currently unnecessary. CAO Atkinson explained that if the council were looking to incorporate a vaccination policy into the township’s health and safety plan, she would not recommend one that results in staff termination.

“We’ve had some turnover, we are very happy with our current complement, and I wouldn’t want to lose any of our staff,” stated Atkinson, who told how the municipality could accommodate those who choose not to be vaccinated, such as through rapid testing or working from home.

Councillors raised concerns around the liabilities and legalities of instituting a COVID vaccination policy, such as whether the township was allowed to ask for vaccination status. Councillor Ken Cufaro asked whether an explanation was given of why Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health chose to recommend employers implement a vaccination policy rather than order it, as the Chief Medical Officer of Health had done so with mandatory mask-wearing

“What I take from a recommendation is that you don’t need to do it,” declared Councillor Cufaro. “It’s not law, at least not by our health unit, so it’s entirely up to us as to whether or not we want to follow those guidelines.”

Councillor Cufaro suggested that if the township did get challenged for implementing a staff vaccination policy based on a recommendation, rather than following actual orders from the local public health unit or legislation from the province, they might be legally liable.

“I think we wait and see what they’re going to do next, because unless they’re going to issue an order, and they can certainly do that,” said Councillor Cufaro, “To fall back on a recommendation, you’re taking a risk.”

Councillor Patricia Clark and Mayor Janet Horner asked whether it was appropriate to wait on another governing body to act on the matter, particularly when it was unclear if that would occur. 

“Well, that begs the question, why not?” remarked Councillor Cufaro with regards to the lack of leadership from public health and the provincial and federal governments.

“Because they can kick it down the hill to us to have to try,” speculated Mayor Horner.

“Exactly,” proclaimed Councillor Cufaro. “So that means we end up with the liability, not them.” 

Upon the discussion’s conclusion, Mulmur council decided to direct staff to continuously update the safety plan as required, but that it not be updated to incorporate an employee vaccination policy.

“We’re definitely entering into an area, whereas staff, I can’t tell you where we’re going to end up,” said CAO Atkinson to council. “I haven’t seen any documents that give me certainty on what our rights are, our employees’ rights, and where we’re opening ourselves up to liability.”

Mulmur staff also revealed how council chambers would not be subject to the provincial ‘vaccine passport’ requirements during the discourse on vaccination policies. Council chambers are considered a workspace, not a meeting room. They, therefore, are not held to the province’s proof of vaccination requirements. The Wellington Advertiser reported how a recreation centre would be considered a workplace if a council were to hold meetings in such a facility, as currently done in the Municipality of Mapleton.

“So, wherever we take our council meeting … as we’re moving it each of those facilities will become a council chamber and it is not considered a meeting space, it’s considered a workspace,” Mapleton’s Mayor Gregg Davidson explained to the Wellington Advertiser.

Mulmur township staff also informed the council that the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that employers must pay for workers participating in a prescribed medical surveillance program or undergoes prescribed medical examinations or tests. This includes costs of the examinations and tests, reasonable travel costs associated with the procedures, in addition to any time involved with undergoing and travelling to the examination site. Council for the Town of Shelburne directed municipal staff to create a policy to have unvaccinated employees without valid exemptions cover testing costs themselves starting in 2022. Dufferin News is following the situation and will report updates as they come.

In related news, Dufferin County staff will soon be subject to a ‘vaccinate or terminate’ policy.

In September, County Council directed staff to consult with legal counsel and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health to develop a COVID-19 vaccination policy that would apply to staff. On October 7, 2021, the council held a special meeting where members discussed the legal advice they received and passed a motion to adopt a ‘vaccinate or terminate’ policy. Councillor Bob Currie, Mayor of Amaranth, and Councillor Philip Rentsch, Deputy Mayor of Grand Valley, voted against the resolution. Both councillors had objected to the development and implementation at the previous meeting. Later that day, Warden Darren White communicated that the policy is expected to be ratified and formalized at Dufferin County’s next council meeting on October 14, 2021. To note, both Mulmur’s Mayor Horner and Deputy Mayor Hawkins voted in favour of Dufferin County’s ‘vaccinate or terminate policy.’ 

Dufferin News is in the process of obtaining and verifying information shared by county councillors after the meeting and will update accordingly.

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