Martin again questions need for continued local state of emergency

MAPLETON – Mayor Gregg Davidson says further discussion among Wellington County municipal leaders is needed before the local state of emergency can be lifted.

On March 23, 2020 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.

With the province ending its latest official state of emergency on Feb. 9, Mapleton councillor Michael Martin asked if it was time to consider lifting the local emergency status.

“Please don’t lump me in with any anti-lockdown type movement,” said Martin at the Feb. 24 council meeting.

However, he asked Mayor Gregg Davidson, “What’s your interpretation of what’s happening locally? The province has dropped its state of emergency.”

Davidson said he had been anticipating the issue arising since the most recent provincial emergency declaration was allowed to expire.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford initially declared a provincial state of emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act on March 17, 2020.

On July 24, the Reopening Ontario Act was passed bringing to an end the original state of emergency, although it left in place a number of emergency orders allowing for the closure of businesses and public facilities.

On Jan. 21, 2021, with COVID-19 case numbers rising rapidly, the province again declared a state of emergency, which has now been allowed to expire.

The mayor said he had discussed the issue with County of Wellington emergency manager Hurania Melgar “and she suggested county and member municipalities have a discussion about that, as we all declared together.

“Provincially we’re not currently under a state of emergency and locally we still are,” Davidson observed.

“The only worry I have for other municipalities is now that we’ve just passed a bylaw (creating a policy) on working from home, that’s okay for us, but the other municipalities might not have that.”

Davidson also questioned whether municipalities could continue to keep municipal buildings closed to the public without an emergency declaration in place, “because that has ramifications on what we can and cannot do.”

“That stuff is all pre-ordained by the colour coding that is coming from the province,” said Martin in reference to the system of provincial COVID-19 protocols currently in place.

“The colour coding is what sort of gives us our marching orders at this point, not the state of emergency.

“But fair enough, we’ll see what happens.”

Martin had previously questioned the need for a continued local state of emergency in May of 2020, with the first provincial emergency declaration still in force.

At that time, Davidson suggested the local declaration should be kept in place in case it factored into eligibility for future emergency funding from the province.

“When the province declares we’re no longer in (an emergency) that’s when we’re all done,” stated Davidson at the May 12 meeting.