Windsor looks to Ottawa to renew farm worker isolation site funding

·2 min read
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city is still waiting for word on more federal funding for the Isolation and Recovery Centre for agri-farm workers. The current funding is set to expire in March. (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city is still waiting for word on more federal funding for the Isolation and Recovery Centre for agri-farm workers. The current funding is set to expire in March. (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)

The City of Windsor is looking for the federal government to commit to further funding for the Windsor-Essex Isolation and Recovery Centre for agri-farm workers, but time is running out.

Temporary workers are expected to begin arriving in Windsor-Essex in mid-January in anticipation of the upcoming work season. And the current agreement will see federal funding for the 125-room isolation centre run out in March.

"The federal government are ... the ones who are inviting and processing applications, and bringing the folks here," Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said. "They play a role and have a responsibility to continue the funding for the Isolation and Recovery Centre, as long as this pandemic is live and changing like it is today."

Dilkens said the current approach, which sees workers isolate at the centre upon arrival in Essex County, needs to continue.

"We continue to bring temporary foreign workers into the country to provide the support to farmers in Essex County," he said. "I think everyone ... knows it's working."

"It's just a matter of getting the the signature on the dotted line, and the agreement to continue funding this particular operation."

That hadn't happened as of Tuesday, but Dilkens noted things can change very quickly.

Irek Kusmierczyk, the Liberal MP for Windsor-Tecumseh, said he's pushing the issue in Ottawa.

"The isolation and recovery centre is absolutely pivotal to our ability to manage COVID in this region, especially knowing that we have 10,000 temporary foreign workers that come to this area every single year," he said. "And so, I've had conversations with all five ministers that have their hand on this file over the last month."

Windsor-Essex EMS Captain Stacey Shepley also called for the extension of funding on Tuesday.

"This is a large, large population for our area," Shepley said. "If we don't have somewhere to isolate these individuals, this is going to continue to spread throughout our community."

"It's going to backlog the hospitals and it's going to lead to more crisis, to be quite honest."

The federal government announced $17.8 million in funding for the site in March, which was designed to keep it running for one year.

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