Oakville beginning to plan for pandemic recovery but cautions emergency measures are still in place

Fri, 24 Apr 2020

As the town’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is now in its seventh week, Town Council received an update from Acting CAO Jane Clohecy at the virtual Council meeting held online on April 23, 2020, on how the town is moving forward with critical services while planning for recovery. The town cautioned that this does not mean that emergency measures put in place by the province, the region and the town to slow the spread of COVID-19 would be lifted anytime soon.

“The town is now entering Phase 3 of its COVID-19 response plan and this includes opportunities to safely bring back additional services and begin recovery planning,” said Ms. Clohecy, adding that the town hopes that it can begin opening facilities in early July, but that is contingent on the continued success of physical distancing and isolation practices currently in place continuing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

To help with overall recovery plans, Mayor Burton along with Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward, Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette, Milton Mayor Gord Krantz formed the Halton Mayors Recovery Coordination Group.

“We’re working together to prepare for a successful transition to a post-COVID-19 future and recovery period,” said Mayor Burton. “We are stronger when we work together as a team.”

The third phase of the COVID-19 response looks at the six-week period running from early May to mid-June and includes planning for recovery by looking at ways to deliver services such as accepting and processing new planning, building and development applications online.

At a Special Meeting of Council held April 8, 2020, staff outlined the five phases of the town’s pandemic response. The first phase took place from March 13 to April 5. This phase saw facilities and programs shut down. The second phase which began on April 6 and runs through May 3 has seen the continuation of critical services, with full-time town staff working from home where possible.

The final two phases of the pandemic response include the ramp-up for the potential reopening of facilities and the implementation of recovery efforts over the balance of the year. The dates of when recovery might begin are contingent on the continued slowing of the spread of the virus and the province lifting its emergency orders and restrictions.

To continue to assist the community through the emergency order, Ms. Clohecy highlighted a number of mitigation actions the town has implemented. These include deferral of late tax payment penalties until June 30; offering free parking and free transit; and establishing the Mayor’s Economic Task Force to support local businesses. In addition, Council approved offering rent deferrals to tenants of town-owned buildings.

As with all municipal governments across Canada, COVID–19 has had a serious impact on town finances. Analysis to date indicates an estimated revenue shortfall of approximately $19 million for the year. To help mitigate this shortfall several steps have been taken or identified as potential actions including:

  • Focus on delivery of critical and essential services resulting in a reduction to operating costs, materials, supplies and purchased services
  • Deferring capital projects to ensure sufficient cash flow
  • Use of 2019 surplus reserve funds to help offset revenue shortfalls
  • Partnering with national, provincial, and regional organizations to seek financial support from federal and provincial governments including lobbying the federal government to provide urgent funding to assure the viability of public transit and aid transit operators in rebuilding ridership.

While the town may be looking ahead to a potential re-opening in early July, Ms. Clohecy stressed that current town restrictions remain in place to protect the public and slow the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of town facilities, parks and other communal outdoor spaces; physical distancing and anti-litter by-laws; and cancellation of public events.

In addition to this year’s Canada Day event, the town made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Children’s Festival and extend the cancellation of performances at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts through to July 3, 2020.

“The town continues to respond to direction provided by federal, provincial and regional public health officials. COVID-19 remains an ongoing health emergency and the town is continuing its focus on actions to curb the spread of this virus,” said Ms. Clohecy. “We thank residents for doing their part to help flatten the curve.”

Review the full agenda of the April 23, 2020, Council meeting. For up to date information on the town’s response to COVID-19, visit the COVID-19 page.