How did Council and City Administration miss the Regional Health data?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 14th, 2020



City Council has a cycle of meetings for each month.

They hold Standing Committee meetings at which there is usually vigorous debate on Staff Reports.

Then a Council meeting at which the results of the debate get approved (or not approved) which results in a bylaw that governs what we can and can’t do.

Sheila Jones - in group

While supported by good staff – these are the brains and executive capacity that keep the Emergency Coordinating Group ahead of major problems.

We are currently in a mode of government where the real power is in the hands of the Emergency Control Group. (Council is involved, heavily involved, but the ECG does have the power to call the shots.)

The Emergency Control Group was the result of a decision made by the province that required every municipality to create an emergency control group.

Each month Council gets a “Service Re-design” report in which the ECG sets out program changes and modifications.

On Thursday Council heard a report from the Parks and Recreation Department on the Community Winter 2021 Opportunities for Recreation Services.

In the Executive Summary of the report, Staff said “…there is still a degree of uncertainty regarding the spread of COVID-19…”.

Tim-Commisso-finger-up-hard-eyesThere was no comment from the City Manager on just what that “degree of uncertainty” was; there was mention of the costs involved in the proposals that were put forward.

There were ideas and proposals for Outdoor Skating,  Holiday Skates, Holiday Activation, and Winter Activation all with numbers attached setting out what it would cost and require in the way of staffing resources.

The Parks and Recreation people were asked to get more solid numbers on the costs. I suspect the Parks and Recreation people were a little taken aback at just how keen council seemed to be with most of their ideas.

That was Thursday.

On Friday the Province had taken a harder look at the numbers and moved all of Halton into a Red Zone, effective Monday (why the delay?) with a clear threat for a tough lock down later in the week.

It seemed as if Burlington City Council and the senior city administration people and the provincial leadership were singing from different hymn books.

City Manager Tim Commisso has some very smart people working with him – he frequently refers to his lead person on just what the province is doing and keeping him up to date on what is coming out of the Regional Public Health office saying that he couldn’t do his job without that person.

So here we were with Burlington sailing ahead with what sounded like good plan for giving the public things to do – the Santa traveling about the city on a fire truck was particularly neat –an innovative way to make up for the cancellation of the Santa Claus parade.

I couldn’t reconcile what Burlington was setting out to do with what the Province did on Friday.

I decided to look at the Regional Public Health data – something I now wish I had done much earlier.

Gazette resources are limited and I just didn’t keep a close eye on the data.

It was a shocker – there is a link below to the piece we published earlier today on what we learned.

The rolling average for the Region is 50 new infections each day with a positivity rate of 5: that is not a sustainable number.  The hospital cannot manage those levels.

The concern is this: Did the city manager not know about the Regional data? Was that information not passed along to him?

Council in memory

No mention of the Regional Health data from this bunch on Thursday

Did members of Council stop looking at the Regional data? Not one of them made any mention of what the Region was telling anyone who took the time to visit their site.

Don’t expect anyone to say much about the eyes being taken off the ball – but hopefully we can expect a different tone at the meeting of City Council on the 23rd.

We could be in a total lock down by then.

Related news story

Regional data

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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4 comments to How did Council and City Administration miss the Regional Health data?

  • Penny Hersh


    8 people have died of Covid 19 at Tansley Woods Retirement Residence. Why don’t you tell their families that we “should not be in the Red Zone”. Not everyone ends up in Joseph Brant Hospital, and our covid 19 cases are definitely on the uptick.

  • Why the delay? To give families and businesses time to prepare.and Dr. Williams time to figure out any additional measures needed for those like Halton who are on their way to lock down because city and region CEOs are not CEO material. They are politicians serving their career path interests. Rob Burton as Chair of the Health Services Committee and the members of that committee need to also take responsibility. The Control Group was brought in for short term emergencies not pandemics. Too few have been hanging on to too much power for too long without the appropriate skills to work through what is required of them when dealing with infectious disease. In other words they are all out of their depth and won’t admit it. Ford has never been afraid to admit he is not an infection control expert and always bows to the experts he has surrounded himself with as he should.

  • Sharon

    There is 1 Covid patient in Jo Brant. There is absolutely no reason Halton should be in the Red Zone or be headed for lock down. Who is paying the bills of these poor people that keep getting bounced out of work?
    So much for the pleading letter that Jane McKenna and the Mayors of Halton sent to Doug Ford doing any good.

  • Penny Hersh

    The different departments at City Hall seem to work in silos. One hand does not seem to know what the other is doing.

    One would think that before Parks and Recreation presented new ideas to Council, that both Parks and Recreation and Council would know what is happening with regard to Covid 19 in Burlington.

    Parks and Recreation with Council’s help have opened up facilities and Centres offering programs that are always being cancelled due to Covid 19. Most of all of the exercise classes that seniors registered for to start in November were cancelled prior to Burlington being put in the RED ZONE. There seems to be a big disconnect between City Staff and Council and the regional health data that is being published.

    To date 8 residents of Tansley Wood Retirement home have died of Covid 19, and 45 others have tested positive. Burlington may not be experiencing as many Covid patients as other regions, however, we have people coming from Peel, etc. to our city to eat in our open restaurants etc. This is how this virus is spread.

    When Councillors decide about fire pits in parks ( to toast marshmallows ) I have to wonder just what our councillors are doing to help residents weather this pandemic.