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North Perth declares state of emergency due to COVID-19

North Perth Mayor Todd Kasenberg signing the state of emergency declaration on March 26. (Municipality of North Perth Photo)

LISTOWEL – North Perth has declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At 1:30 p.m. this afternoon (March 26), North Perth Mayor Todd Kasenberg made the declaration under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

“I am declaring a State of Emergency with reluctance. To this date, the response of our Municipality – governed by all of Council – has been exemplary, and there is virtually nothing that I would change about our approach to date,” said Kasenberg.

The mayor stated that the declaration was made to express solidarity with other Perth County municipalities and to reassure North Perth residents that the municipality is taking the pandemic seriously.

“The fact that I am so declaring – more to express solidarity with other Perth County municipalities and to reassure citizens that we are taking this seriously – actually conflicts with my inherent commitment to democracy and the belief that our Council and Corporation have delivered an effective platform for COVID-19 awareness and the containment of disease spread, all guided by Huron Perth Public Health Medical Officer of Health Dr. Miriam Klassen,” said Kasenberg.

Under a state of emergency, broad powers for resolution of the emergency are granted to the mayor alone, who may act without council approval for the duration of the emergency. Various policies and procedures have been suspended as a result, and the role of the Emergency Control Group is more prominent as they are advisors to the mayor in all matters related to the emergency.

Kasenberg stated that council and staff have been making decisions in relation to COVID-19 using advice from Dr. Klassen.

“All along, when Dr. Klassen has given advice, we have taken it, and we’ve been grateful for her remarkable leadership and fortitude in the face of this pandemic,” said Kasenberg. “But the one area that the Medical Officer of Health cannot conclusively advise on is taking the effort to declare a State of Emergency – because it applies to municipal continuity operations – and only the head of council can make that decision.”

The mayor stated that he took the time to consult with council and senior staff before making this declaration.

“At heart, I am committed to democracy, and have delayed action to get the advice of my peers. It has delayed our decision versus other Perth County municipalities – and if the public wishes to cast blame, I invite them to cast it on me for making sure that I heard the will of all our elected officials and key staff,” said Kasenberg.

Other expected benefits from this declaration include:

  • Raising awareness of the seriousness of COVID-19, and demonstrating to all residents that your municipality is taking this situation seriously and taking all threats deemed present by the Mayor that they are allowed to, by law, to protect the community from the threat;
  • Protecting volunteers from various litigation risks should volunteers be called upon to assist with measures that protect the community;
  • Ensuring the municipal organization can respond quickly to other unforeseen events should they arise;
  • Preserving the rights of the Municipality of North Perth for future compensation should it become available from other parties, including the Ontario and Canada.

“The COVID-19 pandemic must be taken seriously. I have been calling daily for rapid responses across our organization, which has worked with distinction. While I can always do more personally, I have been firmly involved in all of our decisions made with respect to COVID-19 to this date,” said Kasenberg. “I have communicated broadly with our community several times. Largely, in spite of this declared State of Emergency, all the actions the Municipality has undertaken, and our approach to this pandemic situation, will continue – there is almost nothing I would change about our response to this date.”

Kasenberg said he is grateful that there have been no identified cases in the community as of yet and is urging residents to socially distance and follow the recommendations from the Canadian and Ontario governments and Huron Perth Public Health.

“I look forward to surrendering these new powers as promptly as feasible – and will do so when medical guidance tells us that we may,” said Kasenberg.

Council will remain involved in all of its usual matters, said Kasenberg, with their next meeting set for April 6. This meeting will be done electronically.