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Hilsinger wants Algoma released from provincewide lockdown

Ward 1 Coun. Paul Christian is demanding better Internet access for students and people working from home because of the coronavirus
2016-10-04 Buffy Sainte-Marie DMH-1
Donna Hilsinger. File photo by Donna Hopper/SooToday

The following are four resolutions on the agenda for Monday's City Council meeting.

In the first, Ward 3 Coun. Donna Hilsinger continues arguing, as she did at the last council meeting on May 25, that Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma should be allowed to develop their own schedule for emerging from provincial COVID-19 restrictions, even if other parts of Ontario aren't yet ready.

In the second, Ward 4 Coun. Rick Niro will push for provincial and federal relief for municipalities grappling with pandemic-spawned budget deficits.

Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Shoemaker will seek a coronavirus-related reduction in building permit fees and Ward 1's Paul Christian wants better Internet access for students and people working from home because of the coronavirus.

A presentation regarding Black Lives Matter is also planned.

Monday's City Council will be held by teleconference because of pandemic requirements.

It will be livestreamed on SooToday starting at 4:30 p.m.

Regional re-opening (COVID-19)

Mover: Coun. D. Hilsinger
Seconder: Coun. S. Hollingsworth

Whereas Ontario has for several months now been in the grips of a COVID-19 pandemic which has caused many Ontarians to be ill and has taken a terrible toll in lives lost, especially among our elderly citizens; and

Whereas on the advice of provincial public health officials significant lockdown orders were issued on a province-wide basis which brought about the closure of most businesses and many public spaces and facilities in an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus; and

Whereas while those measures did help to contain the spread of the virus and save lives here in the Sault and in Algoma generally, they also had the effect of putting many people out of work and placing many businesses and people under severe financial stress; and

Whereas acknowledging that the spread of the virus and its impact on people has been uneven across the province, with the Greater Toronto area facing much bigger challenges while communities like the Sault have seen relatively fewer of the potentially devastating effects of COVID-19; and

Whereas since the City of Sault Ste. Marie and District of Algoma generally have been relatively successful in containing the spread of the virus and limiting the strain on the health care system and as such have very positive results as measured against the indicators commonly suggested as a guide to re-opening; and

Whereas given that the continuation of the province-wide shutdown of businesses and other facilities and enterprises in Sault Ste. Marie will unnecessarily cause continued unemployment, financial hardship, damage to business and the economy and increased stress among citizens,

Now therefore be it resolved that:

  • the mayor be authorized to write to the chief medical officer of health for Algoma, the chief medical officer of health for Ontario, the member of provincial Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma, the minister of health for Ontario and the premier of Ontario expressing strong support for the implementation of a regional approach to reopening if communities can meet defined public health metrics and requesting that the City of Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District should be permitted to develop and implement such a reopening plan of its own
  • the letter convey to the recipients both a concern for other areas of the province harder hit than Sault Ste. Marie, but also a clear recognition of the fact that circumstances have fortunately been much better in our city, and that ongoing application of a province-wide shutdown approach will cause continued unnecessary economic and social disruption including high unemployment, financial hardship, business failure and social problems in Sault Ste. Marie whereas our own area’s reopening plan will give us an opportunity to get people back to work and see life return to at least a new normal for the people of our city and district
  • city staff be directed to develop, for discussion with the district medical officer of health and the community at large, a responsible re-opening plan, based on the Framework for Reopening the Province, which reflects the readiness of Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma District to reopen more rapidly and provides a framework within which this can be done safely and respecting public health requirements in areas such as child care, hospitality and public transportation, to report back to City Council as soon as possible

Financial assistance for municipalities (COVID-19)

Mover: Coun. R. Niro
Seconder: Councillor C. Gardi

Whereas the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted municipalities throughout Canada including our own community of Sault Ste. Marie; and

Whereas during this pandemic, the federal and provincial governments have rolled out numerous support programs for large and small businesses, employers, employees, seniors and students; and

Whereas the federal and provincial governments have provided billions of dollars in relief during this pandemic to these various groups through their support programs; and

Whereas despite repeated requests by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), to date there have been no announcements regarding relief funding to cope with municipal budget deficits created by the pandemic; and

Whereas the COVID-19 financial impact to the City of Sault Ste. Marie to May 31, 2020 is $1 million to the operating budget, and a further $2 million to the capital funding budget; and

Whereas if closures and other COVID-19 restrictions last into the fall our city's budget deficit can only increase; and

Whereas reopening City Services after COVID-19 may result in additional expenses as municipalities adhere to new restrictions of providing services;and

Whereas municipalities, including Sault Ste. Marie, have no freedom to run deficits, and the only primary means of collecting revenue to provide city services is through property taxation, facility rentals, and transit revenue; and

Whereas during COVID-19 the federal and provincial governments have done commendable work in getting through the health side of this pandemic, as well as providing financial relief to the various groups;

Now therefore be it resolved that the City of Sault Ste. Marie request that the federal and provincial governments extend emergency funding to municipalities to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 so that Sault Ste. Marie can continue to provide essential services without considering cuts in service or increases to the taxpayers who may have already been negatively impacted by COVID-19; and

Further be it resolved that copies of this resolution, along with a letter from Mayor Provenzano, be forwarded to: the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada; the Honourable Doug Ford, premier of Ontario; the Honourable Catherine McKenna, minister of infrastructure and communities; Terry Sheehan, MP City of Sault Ste. Marie; the Honourable Steve Clark, minister of municipal affairs and housing, the Honourable Ross Romano, minister of colleges and universities, MPP City of Sault Ste. Marie.

Waiving building permit fees

Mover: Councillor M. Shoemaker

Seconder: Councillor M. Scott

Whereas the economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to affect the local and global economy for many months beyond the return of the economy to relative normalcy; and

Whereas governments around the world, and at all levels across Canada are attempting to stimulate the economy into recovery for the benefit of their residents; and

Whereas the City of Sault Ste. Marie wishes to contribute to the stimulation of the local economy for the benefit of local residents and businesses;

Now therefore be it resolved that staff examine the impact of a reduction of up to 25 per cent in local building permit fees and make a recommendation on whether a reduction can be implemented, and a recommendation on the extent of any proposed reduction to spur or advance local developments that might not otherwise have been completed in 2020;

Further be it resolved that any proposed reduction expire as of December 31, 2020 and that staff report on any proposed reduction by July 2020

Broadband Internet access

Mover: Coun. P. Christian
Seconder: Coun. C. Gardi

Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our economy and our education system; and

Whereas a number of people have had to work from home and all of our students, at every level, have had to migrate to online learning from home; and

Whereas the transition from external workspace and education space to homework space and education space requires affordable access to the Internet and dependable, quality connectivity; and

Whereas it is clearly evident that not all parts of Sault Ste. Marie, or areas of the larger Algoma community where many people who work and learn in Sault Ste. Marie reside, have access to an affordable, dependable and quality Internet connection;

Now therefore be it resolved that Sault Ste. Marie City Council hereby calls on both the provincial and federal governments to prioritize an immediate investment in broadband infrastructure to ensure that all people and communities within Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma have access to affordable, dependable and quality Internet.

Further be it resolved that the city work with any interested community partners, specifically including the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, to lobby both the provincial and federal governments to make said investment.