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Penetanguishene council votes again, this time supports repealing Bill 124

‘If I had’ve voted, it would have moved forward,' says deputy mayor of previously defeated support for health-care workers in pandemic
Bill 124 protester
A protester holds up a sign denouncing Bill 124.

The end result is that, whether right or wrong, a full council had their chance to state their thoughts and to cast their vote.

Last month, Penetanguishene council narrowly defeated a motion brought forward by Coun. Jill St. Amant which would have supported opposition to controversial Bill 124 that enacts the Protecting A Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019.

St. Amant had requested that the council call on the Ontario government to immediately repeal the bill and its amendments, as a first step to ending the nursing shortage, and that pay levels for permanent and temporary nurses be reviewed by provincial health systems.

However, St. Amant was absent during the March meeting, as was seconder Mayor Doug Leroux. The motion was discussed, and with a majority of votes, the motion was not carried.

At the following regular meeting of council recently, Deputy Mayor Anita Dubeau brought forward a motion to reconsider.

“I chaired the meeting when this was brought forward last month, and I didn’t vote (on) that particular item… and I was disappointed with my result that I did not vote,” admitted Dubeau who asked for the reconsideration. “The vote was very close; if I had’ve voted, it would have moved forward.”

Despite technical difficulties plaguing the meeting overall, and through the juggling of municipal rules to re-engage the discussion, the full complement of council finally had their say.

Coun. Dan LaRose maintained his stance that it wasn’t whether anyone on council agreed or disagreed with the sentiment.

“I don’t think it is our job to deal with somebody else’s human resources issues; I think we would be absolutely horrified if somebody came to us and did it, so I would not like to do that to their employer,” LaRose reasoned.

While Coun. George Vadeboncoeur and Brian Cummings restated that they disagreed with Bill 124, but felt it was outside the municipal mandate to support repealing the provincial law. In particular, Vadeboncoeur expressed sympathy for many health professionals including those in his personal life, calling Bill 124 unfair and punitive.

Coun. Jessica Klug expressed support similar to the previous meeting, and St. Amant was able to address the motion for the first time.

“The reason this was brought forward in the first place is,” St. Amant began, “as a municipality, it is still our concern as to what is happening with many of our constituents and our workers, and the things that are happening in the area.

“And although it may not be our jurisdiction, I believe it is our fundamental duty to support, and to make sure that our message is out there as well, in that we do support our nurses and the others that are affected by Bill 124, and having the ability to negotiate in a free and open manner.

This time around, the majority voted in favour of the motion. In doing so, Penetanguishene council will call for the province to repeal Bill 124 and the complementary amendments to other legislations, as per the original motion last month.

The support became in-step with previous support by the neighbouring town of Midland, who quickly and unanimously carried a similarly-worded motion last month as well.

The formal motion addressing nursing shortages within local health systems request can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.