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Bonfield's McLaren on declaring state of emergency: 'I would do it again'

'It is our belief we haven't had a COVID-19 case in the municipality so far. So, obviously, it's been a big success.'
bonfield town hall turl 2017
Bonfield Town Hall. File photo by Jeff Turl.

Facing the unknown ramifications of an international health crisis and determined to do everything in his power to help protect the citizens of the Town of Bonfield, Mayor Randy McLaren took the initiative and declared a local state of emergency, March 26.

See original story: Bonfield declares state of emergency

Looking back, McLaren says he has "absolutely no regrets," about the decision — with little precedent to work from — he and his staff made at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian soil.

McLaren adds, "So far, so good, it has worked well for us. It is our belief we haven't had a COVID-19 case in the municipality so far. So, obviously, it's been a big success. In my political career, I've learned it's far better to act sooner rather than later. I'd rather take the blame for jumping the gun on protecting people. I would do it again."

The Mayor feels declaring the local state of emergency relayed to Bonfield's residents the potentially serious effect the pandemic could have on the town — without inciting fear in its residents. Equally as important, the move signalled to an older, more vulnerable population that they were safe and would be protected.

"It gives us the flexibility to act promptly to any issues that arise related to the pandemic," he says. "Our emergency control group, which is triggered by the state of emergency, meets weekly to discuss strategies. We have discussed park usage, landfill sites, paying tax bills — everything that includes our citizenry interacting with the municipality and with each other."

In Bonfield, the decision was made early on to act swiftly says McLaren, and many neighbouring municipalities followed suit. 

"This situation, as it was unfolding, and if you flash back to March, we have the benefit of hindsight now to know that it can be reasonably controlled using social distancing and other measures," observes McLaren. "But, at that point in time, we didn't know that and it was paramount to bring public attention to the fact it was not business as usual."

Asked what the initial message to residents in March was meant to convey, McLaren responds, "We need to act differently and we need to do it right now."

The Township of Bonfield remains under a local state of emergency, as do 240 other municipalities, including many of Bonfield's neighbours notes McLaren. North Bay never did declare a local state of emergency. With the passing of Bill 195, many of the emergency measures have been migrated over from the initial provincial declaration of a state of emergency.

And, what of a second wave? McLaren says, if it comes, Bonfield will act accordingly. And, now the town has had a trial run.

Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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