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Council in Brief: March 27

Thunder Bay’s city council voted to give itself more power over the public library Monday, while also debating the city's work-from-home and COVID-19 vaccine policies.
Thunder Bay City Hall

THUNDER BAY – The most consequential decision made by city council Monday came as a surprise, as Coun. Trevor Giertuga found support for his unexpected push to give council more oversight over the Thunder Bay Public Library.

That decision, and approval of a permanent work-from-home policy for city staff, prompted lengthy discussions on Monday.

By contrast, council made other consequential decisions – like repealing the city’s COVID-19 vaccine policy, and a report on council pay and expenses – without any discussion at all.

Council gives itself more power over public library

In a surprise move, council voted to give itself more oversight over the Thunder Bay Public Library, adding a second councillor to the organization’s board of directors.

Council took the step while rejecting the library’s own requested governance changes.

The library had asked for approval to remove dedicated seats on its board for the English-language public and Catholic school boards.

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COVID-19 vaccine policy repealed

The city has repealed its COVID-19 vaccine policy, officially ending a requirement for staff to provide proof of vaccination, or submit to regular rapid testing.

Staff had already stopped enforcing the policy in September after consulting with the health unit.

Fully 97 per cent of city employees submitted proof of vaccination, while 61 submitted to testing, and five were suspended without pay for refusing to comply. All have now been reinstated.

Council approved administration’s recommendation to repeal the policy with no discussion.

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City reports council pay, expenses

The city has released its annual disclosure on remuneration and expenses for city councillors, as well as members of the public appointed by council to local boards and committees.

Councillors and appointees were paid just over $1 million in total last year, with just over 60 per cent of that paid by the city. That was down slightly from the year before, largely due to the early departure of former mayor Bill Mauro.

Council did not discuss the report Monday.

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Work from home policy here to stay

After beginning as a response to COVID-19 and being evaluated as a pilot program, a work from home policy is now a permanent reality for city staff.

Only a fraction of employees are eligible for the program, largely comprising administrative and professional staff.

The program has the potential to bring meaningful work-life benefits to those workers, however, while making the city a more attractive employer, administration stated.

Council voted unanimously to approve the policy on an ongoing basis Monday, after several councillors sought assurances the policy did not introduce significant new liability issues.  

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Ian Kaufman

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