Council for the Town of Lumsden met on Tuesday. During the open forum, they followed up on the recent Vaccine Administration Policy that the Town implemented on October 12th. It outlined the proof of vaccination (POV) or a negative covid test (NCT) requirements for staff, contractors, councillors, and the fire department.
The discussion expanded to the facilities that municipalities run in their towns.
I spoke with the Town of Lumsden Mayor Bryan Matheson, who said that arenas health management is a big issue with all municipalities. “The issue is with Lumsden, we don’t run the arena. Which is different than most municipalities.”
Matheson said the local arena is run well by the arena board. The board is responsible for the administration, which leaves the Town out of its management. However, he said, because there is a public health issue, the Town becomes reliant on them to make the decisions. “They have an understandably difficult task of, how do we enforce a policy we put in place when our staff is caretaking, is doing all sort of things for the arena, so who is going to stand at the door. So, putting a policy in place is very difficult in place for our arenas.”
Matheson said the issue at the arena carries over to the Centennial Hall, which the town controls. However, except for weddings and funerals, Matheson said the government said this is how it’s going to be, so no, they can’t put a mandate in requiring double vaccinations for events like that even though they’d like to.
Matheson gave an example that the fire department recently held an event and required proof of vaccination and didn’t allow some people in. Matheson said that’s how the Town would like to run their facilities, “but not everybody is interested in doing that especially for a wedding or a funeral.”
Matheson said that the provincial government’s policy’s exemptions had caused the council frustration.
“We would like the Provincial government to step up and show the leadership there. One of the big issues for council is where does our mandate begin and where does it end.”
Matheson said they haven’t known how to deal with the rentals in the facilities they have control over. “What can we do as a town council in terms of putting mandates on and how do we enforce them. So that’s really the issue for our council and for all councils throughout the province.”
Matheson said the Town is looking to the cities of Regina and Saskatoon to be trendsetters, and he said he is interested in how the City’s policies will handle enforcement. He said that because Lumsden is so closely connected to Regina, they would want similar policies.
Matheson said that while cases appear to be coming down, it’s a health crisis, and they are trying to be a part of the solution.
“We are trying to do not only what’s best for Lumsden and for the citizens of Lumsden but for the general public.”
Matheson said that it is very difficult to know their mandate when they are limited in size and authority.
“It’s pretty frustrating for smaller town councils and I think city councils as well to be making rules for public health when the government is ignoring the issue and I think that’s the way most of us think. They are simply not willing to make a stand. We are looking for some leadership and we don’t think we are getting much.”
We contacted the Ministry of Health for comment. They said, “Public Health Orders currently in place apply across the entire province. Municipalities must follow these orders but can create additional policies that extend to public facilities within their jurisdiction” They also said enforcement of municipal policies is up to the municipalities.
We spoke with the City of Regina Manager of Community and Recreation Programs, Bobbie Selinger. She said the City implemented the Provincial Public Health order on October 1st. “At our major recreation centres for visitors over 12 we did require proof of vaccination or a negative covid test. And that was related specifically to the fitness component to the public health order.” Selinger said children under 12 who participate in sport or recreation activities are exempt from the policy.
The City also required POV or NCT at community centres for fitness activities, City Hall to access the cafeteria, and arenas for ticketed sporting events.
Selinger said the City is expanding what they were already doing on a broader scale.
“As of November 1st, we will be expanding the requirements for a POV or a NCT to anyone over the age 12 at our arenas, at our major recreation centers, and that includes the Sportsplex the Northwest Leisure Centre, the Sandra Schmirler as well as the Neil Balkwill Centre and also, at our neighbourhood centres as well.” Selinger said there would only be a small number of exceptions for people to use the washroom or for health and safety purposes.
As far as how the City plans on handling enforcement, Selinger said they have a customer code of conduct policy in place. They also completed a risk assessment based on the location. Some locations, such as the arenas, will be using a security provider, and at other locations, they will be using City staff.
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times