MAPLETON – While the province remains under a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some council members here are questioning the need for the township to do so.
“When do you see an end to this state of emergency or are you leaving it up to the province?” councillor Michael Martin asked at the May 12 Mapleton council meeting via video-conference.
Martin pointed out such actions usually last for a few days, perhaps a week.
“We’ve never had one in Mapleton that extended this length of time,” he noted.
On March 23, Wellington County and all seven of its member municipalities each declared a state of emergency in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The emergency declarations give Warden Kelly Linton the ability to make certain decisions that normally require full county council approval and also give each local mayor the same power over their own municipalities.
“I would argue that our state of emergency is pretty much symbolic anyway,” said Martin, noting there are no hospitals in the township that require emergency measures to be in place.
“We’re really looking at direction from the province,” said Mayor Gregg Davidson, who added he did not think any other Ontario municipalities have lifted emergency states at this point.
“We don’t want to be out of a state of emergency if something does come up that we have to re-invoke it,” Davidson stated.
“On the financial side of things, we don’t know what that’s going to look like down the road, if there’s going to be any funding come up from province.”
The mayor added, “If funding does come up and were in a state of emergency we can actually access it.”
Davidson concluded, “When the province declares we’re no longer in (an emergency) that’s when we’re all done.”
However, Davidson noted, council could make the decision to end the emergency status on a local basis – “That’s also allowed in the Municipal Act.”
Martin said, “The typical rationale for going into state of emergency is it allows mayor to make decision on the fly.
“I haven’t really seen any real need for that currently. Most of the decisions that we’ve made are all decisions that the CAO would have made anyway as the (administrative) head of the corporation.”
Martin pointed out the flexibility to hold council meetings electronically, as now permitted under provincial legislation, allows council to make decisions as a group when required.
“It seems a little bit bastardized to stay in a state of emergency just for funding,” Martin suggested.
Councillor Paul Douglas said, “I tend to agree with councillor Martin on the whole premise as well.”
“I see nothing wrong with it,” countered councillor Dennis Craven. “It does give you the authority to make decisions on the fly if it has to happen.”
Davidson said he and CAO Manny Baron “will have discussions and see what our provincial counterparts are thinking.”