Letter: Setting the record straight on Billings’ declaration

A considered and unanimous decision of council

To the Expositor:

It is a very rare thing when I feel compelled to set the record straight in a newspaper editorial but I feel obligated to respond to an assumption regarding a declared state of emergency made by Billings Township in the May 6 issue.

What I would like to add clarity to is the line “A neighbouring municipality has declared a state of emergency, freely admitting it was not for any reasons of good government, but rather to show solidarity”

An emergency is defined under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act as a “situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise.”

Clearly this COVID-19 pandemic meets that criteria. When considering whether to declare an emergency, a positive response to one or more of the following criteria may indicate that a situation, whether actual or anticipated, warrants the declaration of an emergency.

Is the situation an extraordinary event requiring extraordinary measures?

Does the situation pose a danger of major proportions to life or property?

Is the event attracting significant media and or public interest?

Has there been a declaration of emergency by another level of government?

Are volunteers assisting?

There are many other considerations as well however all of the above were considered by the council of Billings Township on April 20 during a public virtual council meeting attended by a number of citizens and the press.

In addition, the Emergency Control Group for Billings also unanimously supported the calling of this declaration as did all members of council.

This was a decision for our municipality.

Further, I personally spoke to a number of mayors off of Manitoulin and received further input. On April 22 I declared the state of emergency as had 247 other municipalities and 70 First Nations across Ontario (by April 23) and yes, undeniably, that could and should be viewed as a collective sign of support for all of these communities.

I know that I am not alone when I say I could not find a good reason not to. The immediate protection this proactive declaration provides, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, is to declare volunteers as “workers” who are eligible for benefits if they become injured or ill as a result of the assistance they are providing.

This is significant and I highlighted that point at the April 20 public council meeting.

Billings, like virtually all other communities on Manitoulin, does have a group of volunteers to assist in a number of different ways as a direct result of the pandemic.

I can however totally agree with your editorial comment that we need to find a way to work collectively together for the safety of everyone and I am optimistic that this process has begun.

Respectfully submitted,

Ian Anderson

Mayor, Billings Township