Skip to content

Municipal vaccine policy stands in West Nipissing

Policy returns to council to clarify that unvaccinated politicos can run for office
West Nipissing residents can run for council seats regardles of vaccination status, council clarifies / Stock photo from Shutterstock

Residents who have not received a Covid-19 vaccination can still run in future municipal elections, West Nipissing council clarified last night, but emphasized that its municipal vaccination policy still stands.

This means all municipal employees, volunteers, contractors, and councillors must demonstrate they have received their first vaccine dose by today, February 2nd, and be fully vaccinated by March 2nd.

See: West Nipissing council unites to pass vaccination policy

As for running for council, the chief administrative officer, Jay Barbeau said “there is absolutely no restraint or restriction on members of the public for submitting their candidacy to run for municipal office.”

The vaccine policy adopted by the municipality “is not a legislative requirement or a barrier to being a qualified candidate,” Barbeau said, adding “there is no authority in the municipality” to prevent a resident from running. Such criteria are drawn from the provincial government, not the municipality.

Currently, those criteria are outlined on the Elections Ontario website. One must be over 18 on election day, be a Canadian citizen, a resident of Ontario for at least six months before election day and must not be disqualified by the Legislative Assembly Act, which has no mention of vaccines or vaccinations.

Therefore, anyone can run, and with an empty council seat to fill, there may be an election in the upcoming months, unless council appoints.

See: Letter to the editor: West Nipissing should scrap vaccine policy for its employees

And yet the policy includes councillors in the list of those who must show proof of vaccination. Barbeau clarified why that is so.

He explained that “a councillor isn’t bound by the same rules as a staff member with respect to the policy. If a councillor is in total violation of a policy then it would go to the integrity commissioner.”

Since councillors are not staff, the municipality’s human resource department cannot make them take a leave, or in the worst-case scenario, fire them for not receiving a vaccine. However, if a councillor refuses to comply with the policy that demands all staff, volunteers, contractors, and councillors provide proof of vaccination—a policy they unanimously agreed to—a complaint could be made to the municipality’s integrity commissioner who would investigate the issue.

“The intent of including the councillors with respect to that is basically the spirit of ‘we’re all in this together and that we’re all participating,” Barbeau added. “But certainly, there are aspects of the enforceability of this that are different for councillors than for staff.”

As council members are not employees, “we cannot be disciplined in the same fashion,” Mayor Savage said, adding, “We need to comply with the policy, having the vaccination and the booster, that’s what the policy states.”

Barbeau clarified that the policy passed is still valid, and the municipality is expecting “all of our staff, volunteers, contractors and councillors to fully comply with this policy.”

He explained that if employees have difficulties adhering to the policy to speak with their supervisors.

“The policy stands,” Barbeau emphasized, “and we’re implementing the policy as it is.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering civic and diversity issues for BayToday. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
Read more

Reader Feedback