Council heard from 17 delegates for the city’s COVID-19 update, a majority speaking against the policy.
The report was presented by City Manager Chris Holden. Holden was given delegated authority in April 2020 by city council to make decisions to respond to COVID-19.
“Under the City Manager’s delegated authority, the powers may only be exercised if reasonably required to respond to the emergency and, if used, Council must be notified as soon as reasonably possible,” the city report explained.
A number of delegates took issue with Holden’s ability to make these decisions as an unelected official.
Holden responded by explaining that he takes his delegation of authority seriously and does not make decisions on his own.
“I make decisions on discussion and advice of council. I make decisions on discussion and consult with the medical professionals. And at the end of the day, I am accountable. I’m accountable to the mayor and the 10 councillors that are in this chair with me today,” Holden said before presenting the report.
The city has a targeted date of Nov. 15 to procure and implement devices needed “to ensure a positive experience for the public when accessing city facilities.”
The city had originally set a target date of Sept. 15 to require proof of vaccination for its employees.
Officials were also looking at Sept. 20 to require proof of vaccination for the public accessing indoor city facilities, with the understanding that the province would have a QR code system in place by mid-September.
Delegates were largely anti-vaccine and expressed concern about rights and freedoms regarding the policy.
Some accused the council of trying to “segregate” residents.
Other delegations shared concerns they would be unable to watch their children’s sporting events and other recreational activities.
The report said individuals who have not received the vaccine will be able to access city facilities by showing a negative COVID-19 test.
The report added that any policies implemented by the city are subject to an ongoing legal review.
“In Saskatchewan, decisions about proof of vaccination in businesses, organizations, post-secondary institutions and municipalities are being left to the individual owner or governance board. In other provinces throughout Canada, these decisions are being made at the provincial level.”
As for costs, the report explained that there are sufficient funds left over in the COVID-19 recovery reserve to offset the projected operational costs to implement the policy.
Council also heard from Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) president Tracy Zambory who said she was calling from her car parked on the side of the highway.
Zambory said it was important she speak to council and thanked them for the opportunity to do so.
As part of her presentation to council, Zambory read quotes from nurses on how they are feeling.
“It’s becoming difficult to participate in my own life. When I’m not working, I am sleeping. I am having anxiety attacks prior to going to work,” the quotes read.
Ward 5 Coun. John Findura put forward a motion to not require proof of vaccination or a negative test from the public, but to keep the policy in place for city workers.
The motion was defeated 9-to-2, with Coun. Findura and Ward 10 Coun. Landon Mohl voting in favour of it.
As of Wednesday, there are 224 patients with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan hospitals, including 40 patients receiving intensive care.
In Regina, there are 17 people receiving in-patient care and nine in the ICU.
Following the meeting, Mayor Sandra Masters pointed to the grim reality of COVID-19 in the province to support the move.
“Vaccines are safe, they are proven to reduce complications from COVID-19, the transmissibility of COVID, from death and hospitalization. So completely respect and honour people’s decision not to proceed with vaccinations,” Masters said.
“Given where we’re seeing our hospitalization rates go, vaccines are the way to protect those that can’t be vaccinated. Both children and the immunocompromised. And it’s the safest way that we can continue to operate relatively normally throughout society on a day-to-day basis.”
— with files from Connor O’Donovan and Moises Canales-LavigneView link »