City Manager Tim Commisso - 'people are asking why the outdoor amenities are closed – this puts us in a very difficult position'

graphic community 3By Pepper Parr

April 20th, 2021



While it was a virtual meeting of city council one could ‘feel’ the concern and the anguish as city staff and city council wrestled with the problems and the very limited tools they had to work with.

Chart April 10 0 covid

What’s to understand – the facts were there for everyone to see – the province blew it in February and lives have been lost needlessly.

Last Friday at 1:00 pm the Science Table gave its advice to the province’s Chief Medical Health Officer. Slides with data that was pretty easy to understand were used to make the points needed to support the recommendations.

At 4:00 on that Friday the Premier took to the podium and issued a Stay at Home order. He gave police the authority to stop people at random to ask where they lived and where they were going. He also ordered the closing of public parks – that particular order was not as clear as it should have been.

The scientists, there are 120 of them, all volunteers, gagged. The Stay at Home order was a small part of what they recommended.

The people close to the thinking that goes into the decisions that get made were aghast. The public didn’t know it at the time but many were giving serious consideration to resigning.

Burlington’s Mayor Meed Ward called an Emergency meeting of city council for Saturday to look at the options. Staff spent time Friday night and early Saturday morning pulling together data that set out what the provincial recommendations meant to the city.

Three hours of debate ended up with nothing concrete but did produce a list of questions that needed answers for the regular meeting of city council that was to take place today, Tuesday. Between the Friday and Tuesday there was a lot of public debate across the province over the closing of parks.

Mental health for all was in poor shape. There was fear, worry, concern and doubt. While Burlington didn’t have infection figures that were off the wall, the variants of the Covid19 virus were known to move around quickly and do much more damage than the virus we had to deal with when the pandemic was declared.

The public consensus seemed to be that the parks could be open for use and had to be open if people were to have a place to go and get some exercise.

AB Apr 20

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna made the point rather well when he excitedly told his colleagues that he was flooded with phone calls – “people were stopping me on the street” he said and asking if the rule applied to football fields or the skate park. He added that there was no clear message and people were confused.

City manager Tim Commisso pointed out that people are asking why the outdoor amenities are closed – this puts us in a very difficult position. Executive Director Sheila Jones said “people are not willing to change their behaviour and we cannot enforce our way out of this”.

City Solicitor Nancy Shea Nicol pointed out that while many agree that some of the rules just didn’t make a lot of sense the fact is that the regulations are in place and until they are rescinded they are the law and have to be obeyed and enforced if necessary.

The city is required to take all steps necessary to ensure the health and safety of its citizens – actually doing that.

withdrawn notice

It looked pretty good at the Saturday Emergency of Council – by the time Council met on Tuesday it didn’t make any sense and was withdrawn.

On Saturday the city council set out instructed that were in the form of a recommendation to the Tuesday council. They were withdrawn in a rather dramatic fashion with the displayed of a GET THIS.

The very clear lack of leadership from the province was evident when Mayor Meed Ward told Council there was supposed to be a virtual meeting with the Premiers and the Mayors from across the province (imagine trying to organize an event like that) on Wednesday but it had been moved to Friday.

There was a sense that everyone was waiting for better number as we worked our way through the week. The Tuesday numbers were below 4000 (3723)- he hope being that they would drip quickly allowing the Premier to declare that he was doing the right thing and all we had to do was wait it out.

That didn’t jive with what the Science Table said last Friday. Dr. Adelstein Brown said that the numbers for the next two weeks are “baked in”.  The people who are going to end up in hospital acquired the virus a few days ago – and that it takes a bit of time for the disease to really hit a person.

Meed Ward in a mask

That was six feet – but that coffee shop isn’t open these days. Marianne Meed Ward in a coffee shop.

During the Council meeting on Tuesday Mayor Meed Ward spotted a statement from the Science Table on-line that said it was important to keep people safe and connected and “allow small groups to meet outside wearing masks and remaining six feet apart. The science table was speaking over the head of the Premier.

“We need your help” said the Mayor, ” to be patient;  we are all tired, frustrated and worried.”

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3 comments to City Manager Tim Commisso – ‘people are asking why the outdoor amenities are closed – this puts us in a very difficult position’

  • Sharon

    Gary Carr, MMW and Jane McKenna are all known to block people if they don’t like your comment.

  • Lynn Crosby

    Where is Halton indeed and where have they been? Peel’s MOH Dr. Loh has been a leader throughout the pandemic and Toronto is following suit. He followed medical advice and never wanted things to be further opened when unsafe. Why isn’t Halton also ordering businesses closed if they have five cases? Why does Halton Chair Gary Carr block citizens on Twitter, which has now become a running joke? Really so disappointed in Halton.

    Editor’s note: Portions of this comment were deleted – the assertion made could not be supported.

  • Owen Scop

    In the wake of the very vocal and very legitimate criticism of the provincial government’s mishandling of virtually everything ‘pandemic’, I think it worthwhile to remember how we came to this juncture. On June 8th, 2020 Premier Ford announced the transition out of lockdown to Phase 2 for certain municipalities. On the same day, a joint letter was sent to the Premier by the four mayors of Halton and the Regional Chair. The background as we know it today is that Mayor Rob Burton of Oakville called Premier Ford and asked him to loosen the restrictions on the Halton Municipalities, particularly those on businesses. The Premier asked Mayor Burton to send a letter jointly signed by the appropriate regional officials so that he could be seen to be responding to the call of local voice. Links one and two contain the joint letter and the associated media release.

    Accordingly Halton was moved into phase two. Over a relaxed Summer, cases started to climb and by mid-October we were firmly in the second wave of the pandemic with increased restrictions (a modified Phase 2) contemplated. On October 19th, 2020 – an open letter of advice was issued by Dr. Hamidah Meghani, the Halton Region Medical Officer Of Health. The link below is a copy of her sound and appropriate caution:

    Had we all observed Dr. Meghani’s and similar warnings, we may have lessened the second wave, had a normal Christmas and avoided the third wave altogether. However, the response to the Doctor was swift, calculated and well co-ordinated. On October 24th, 2020 a joint communique was sent to Dr. David Williams, the province’s Chief Medical Officer, signed by two of the MPPs representing the region, the Regional Chair, Mayor Meed Ward and Mayor Krantz. These politicians openly challenged the data on which the province was recommending a return to a stricter regimen and suggested a more “targeted” approach that would leave Halton more open, particularly its businesses. It was a forceful and determined pushback and a stinging repudiation of the counsel provided earlier by the Regional Medical Officer of Health. The link following contains the letter and associated news coverage.

    The point of all this is that we arrived where we are today not by accident and not by the singular lack of leadership by the provincial government. We are here today because the sound, appropriate and remarkably accurate advice of our medical professionals and scientists has been ignored by leaders at all levels of government. It has been politics over science, partisan showmanship over civic stewardship. Arguably, our Halton leaders never stepped up to the challenges that faced them and the remarkable opportunity they were given to stand tall. I commend the example of Peel’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Loh and the willingness of Toronto to follow his brave and direct example. Dr. Loh has repeatedly done what he believed to be necessary to protect the people of his constituency despite the confused and ineffective direction of the Premier. Where is Halton?