Council doubles down on support for Dr. Chirico

·3 min read

There was no appetite at the West Nipissing council meeting Tuesday to support Parry Sound’s call for improved dialogue with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit.

Council had given Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health for the district, near-unanimous support at its last meeting and it didn’t waver despite mounting opposition to lockdowns.

“This is not the time to make this a political issue,” Councillor Chris Fisher, who noted that Chirico is taking “a lot of flak” already from various elected officials, groups and individuals.

Parry Sound’s resolution asked for a “more proactive approach to community outreach and communication” with both political and health leaders prior to making decisions.

There have also been several open letters from West Nipissing residents urging council to take a stand against the decisions Dr. Chirico and the province have been making.

Dave Lewington, for example, asked with no luck for the Health Unit to disclose its official order that closed down the snowmobile trails, outdoor rinks and toboggan hills, a move that was above and beyond the provincial framework for restrictions.

“Taxpayers deserve accountability,” Lewington, a member of the Northern Ontario Libertarian Caucus stated in correspondence to West Nipissing council dated March 2, which was too late for the meeting’s agenda. “We are counting on you as our elected officials to stand up for the taxpayers in our region.”

The Health Unit advised the snowmobile trails, outdoor rinks and hills could be used again last week.

Rejean Venne has published several open letters calling on West Nipissing council to get more involved in putting pressure on Dr. Chirico to base his decisions on the data at hand instead of projections and fears of spread.

Venne noted in his most recent piece that the North Bay Parry Sound District has fewer active cases per capita than other areas that have seen re-openings.

“Although being permitted to enter the “Grey Zone” on March 8th would be better than nothing, I think our council needs to request a full transition to the actual framework as well as requesting to be consulted on any future deviations from this framework,” Venne wrote.

Councillor Dan Roveda, West Nipissing’s representative on the Health Unit’s board of directors, said the issue should not even be discussed at this table.

“Dr. Chirico has been as open as he can be,” Roveda said.

Councillor Denis Senecal said the decisions being made by the Health Unit “follow science this far … Dr. Chirico has steered us straight so far, this is not the time to waver.”

Mayor Joanne Savage said she understand that business owners and individuals are anxious to hear what the update this Friday will be on the provincial “stay at home” orders for different areas.

“They don’t know how long they can continue to stay in lockdown,” she said, adding that said even West Nipissing’s emergency management team would prefer to have early information on what decisions are being made.

Earlier in the meeting, council discussed the limited financial options it could consider to help the municipalities business owners and residents.

“There’s not much we can do financially,” Savage said, prior to discussing a motion to consider a motion to grant deferral periods for payment of interim property tax bills.

Council agreed to give a 120-day deferral on the interim tax bills that would have required payments at the end of the month. And those who are already in arrears will be able to discuss their individual situations with staff to see what can be done on a case-by-case basis.

Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,