January 11, 2021 – Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) met yesterday to discuss their support for a safe return to in-person learning, COVID-19 issues being faced by municipalities, and to prepare for the upcoming provincial Housing Summit.
At the meeting, OBCM unanimously passed a motion encouraging the expansion of vaccination efforts for students and education workers, extending an offer of support to school boards and the province, within the well-defined role of a municipality, with the reopening of schools and the safe return to in-class learning on January 17th. The mayors are requesting that the province take every measure possible to keep all school staff, daycare staff, and all students safe as they head back in-person learning.
“Ontario’s students have spent more time out of class during the pandemic than any other jurisdiction in North America,” said Jeff Lehman, Chair of OBCM and Mayor of Barrie. “OBCM agrees with pediatric and health organizations that in-person learning is the preferred option. However, a January 17th return to school should be met with every possible measure to keep all school staff, daycare staff, and students safe.
Municipalities deliver many vital local services and have been at the forefront of supporting local communities throughout the pandemic. The Mayors discussed issues raised to them by their communities, including mental health and addictions supports, concerns around access to hospitals and ambulatory services, and return to work/school guidelines. OBCM looks forward to discussing these further at the next Caucus meeting, and to be able to raise them with the appropriate government officials.
The caucus also discussed matters pertaining to the upcoming Housing Summit on January 19th with Premier Doug Ford and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, where, along with other municipal organizations, will address housing affordability and look to identify further opportunities for collaboration.
WHEREAS Ontario’s students have spent more time learning ‘online’ and out of class during the pandemic (26 weeks and counting) than any other jurisdiction in North America, and;
WHEREAS OBCM Mayors agree that in-person learning is without a doubt the best for children, and they will continue to work with public health to encourage as many children and educators to get vaccinated as soon as possible so we can reopen our schools, and;
WHEREAS the mental, physical, and emotional health of our students is paramount as the pandemic enters a third year, and students, parents, teachers, and support staff continue to face unpredictability on the return to class;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT in keeping within the well-defined roles of municipalities, OBCM mayors encourage expansion of vaccination efforts for students and education workers and extend any other support to school boards and the province to help ensure the reopening of schools and a return to in-class learning on January 17th given that pediatric and health organizations and most parents recognize in class learning as the strongly preferred option for Ontario students;
AND THAT OBCM requests the province take every safety measure possible to keep safe all school staff, daycare staff, and students as in-person learning resumes.
About Ontario’s Big City Mayors
Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM), formerly known as the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario, includes mayors of 29 single and lower-tier cities with a population of 100,000 or more, who collectively represent nearly 70 per cent of Ontario’s population. OBCM advocates for issues and policies important to Ontario’s largest cities.
Mayor Jeff Lehman, Chair