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Kingston council passes motion to give officials ‘flexibility’ under coronavirus emergency orders

Click to play video: 'Kingston city council support some relaxed COVID-19 restrictions'
Kingston city council support some relaxed COVID-19 restrictions
Kingston city council held their regular meeting Tuesday night, all be it virtually. Several items were discussed including a motion to relax provincial guidelines on some non-essential services, specific to our region – Apr 22, 2020

A hotly contested motion to allow Kingston’s municipal government flexibility when it comes to emergency coronavirus measures passed at council Tuesday evening.

The motion, proposed by Trillium District Coun. Robert Kiley, aimed specifically to give local government and public health more control over restrictions placed on outdoor activities, like community gardens and walking trails.

READ MORE: Motion meant to allow for ‘strict physical distancing in the outdoors,’ Kingston councillor says

Kiley suggested council ask the province for “local flexibility to provincial orders, based on local public health units’ advice” in order for Kingstonians to access certain activities, like community gardens, “while continuing to implement physical distancing and other guidelines to ensure newly reopened community activities are places of safety and health for residents.”

Ahead of the meeting, Mayor Bryan Paterson said he was concerned about misinformation circulating about a motion on the agenda, many seemingly believing that the motion was meant to lift all provincial restrictions in the city.

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“The question before us is not when to lift these restrictions, but it is about how to plan to do it locally. The premier has referenced that different regions of the province are in a different position when it comes to COVID cases,” Paterson said in a video circulated on social media before the meeting.

Kiley told Global News the motion was not meant to reopen businesses, but to empower local public health officials to make decisions tailored to the regional coronavirus environment.

Kingston’s COVID-19 numbers have stayed relatively stable over the last several weeks, only seeing about 10 new cases in three weeks.

Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for KFL&A Public Health, spoke at the meeting, giving his approval for a phased reintroduction of essential services if Kingston’s numbers stay low.

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“Over time we need to balance the social, the economic needs of our community with the health needs of our community. And the longer we keep people isolated, the longer we keep people in their homes, I have concerns that there will be mental health and physical health issues,” Moore said at council on Tuesday.

Click to play video: 'City of Kingston closes parks and playgrounds in an effort to keep residents safe and healthy'
City of Kingston closes parks and playgrounds in an effort to keep residents safe and healthy

Moore told Global News earlier this week that he believes community gardens should be deemed essential, and when the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority closed all of its trails in late March, Moore suggested that outdoor spaces like these should also be reopened, considering Kingston’s COVID-19 transmission rates were low.

On Tuesday night, at the council meeting, the motion was discussed at length and passed, with only three councillors opposed.

City council is set to meet once more before May 12, when the current state of emergency is set to expire in Ontario.

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