Chatham-Kent Council has voted to approve a vaccine policy for mayor and council, as well as citizen volunteer committees and boards.
This sets a deadline of October 18 and will apply to all members of council, as well as citizen volunteers, committees, and local boards.
“The Chatham-Kent policies that are being developed are not mandatory policies,” said Cathy Hofman, the general manager of corporate services. “They’re policies that offer an alternative to vaccination, that is testing.”
Hoffman told council the policy is balanced, has received “rigorous” consultation and is similar to neighbouring jurisdictions.
She pointed out some cities, such as London and Windsor, have stricter policies and are subject to exemptions that don’t provide a testing option.
The policy calls for councillors to be “fully vaccinated to attend municipal sites for the purposes of fulfilling their duties.”
Prior to the vote, council heard seven deputations relating to the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccination policy for council and committee members was approved in a 14-3 vote.
According to the report, in an effort to strike a balance between employees who get vaccinated and those who are either exempt or who refuse to get vaccinated, an alternative testing component has been provided. The policy also allows employees to be tested for COVID-19 every 72 hours – at their own expense rather than getting vaccinated.
“Employees who do not provide proof of full vaccination will be required to provide COVID-19 negative test results every 72 hours, conducted on their own time and at their own cost,” read the report.
In addition, the policy also applies to anyone appointed to council committees or who sits on a local board. This means any members who remain unvaccinated without an approved exemption or a negative test will not be allowed to access the municipal property for any activities related to fulfilling their duties or take their seat at in-person meetings.
Councillor Marjorie Crew said she views vaccines as a way to get out of the pandemic; therefore, she supports the policy.
“We can choose to be vaccinated, or we can choose to be tested, but we have to choose for the safety of our workplaces and our community,” said Crew.
Councillor Melissa Harrigan echoed the statement, saying it was a policy ensuring public spaces were safe.
“As public servants, both elected and employed, we have an obligation which is to serve our community and to keep our community safe,” stated Harrigan.
However, not every member of council was in favour of the policy.
East Kent Councillor Steve Pinsonneault, a volunteer firefighter in Thamesville, said he doesn’t believe employees should have to pay for their own tests. He added he knows of some firefighters who won’t get the vaccine or pay for the screening.
According to Fire Chief Chris Case, it isn’t clear how many individuals would be making that decision.
“It’s difficult to work out what the scale of the challenge would be,” said Case.
The council policy will apply to anyone entering a municipal building to serve on a committee or volunteer in a facility.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News