Local councillors react to HRM’s vaccine mandate for employees

Councillor Lisa Blackburn in this 2017 photo (Healey file photo)

FALL RIVER/SACKVILLE/BEAVER BANK: Two of three local councillors questioned about the Halifax Regional Municipality’s (HRM) vaccine mandate for all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 believe it’s a way to ensure a safe workplace for all HRM employees.

Upper/Middle Sackville-Lucasville-Beaver Bank Councillor Lisa Blackburn; Sackville councillor Paul Russell; and Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley councillor Cathy Deagle Gammon were interviewed after HRM’s announcement last week that its employees all had to be vaccinated by Dec. 15.

“It’s also important to make sure our staff who work with vulnerable populations are vaccinated to keep the community as a whole safe,” said Blackburn. “I’m glad our unions are working together with HRM on this.”

Deagle Gammon said she supports a vaccination policy. She is double vaccinated.

“I believe it, to be the right way to go,” she said. “But I also understand that there are some people that for medical reasons or for personal reasons, are not going to vaccinate.

“The policy really needs to figure out how to address that and keep everybody safe.”

In other professions, reports are of people leaving their jobs who wish to not be vaccinated. Blackburn and Deagle Gammon both say they have no indication that will happen with HRM.

“I’ve haven’t seen any indication that employees will quit in droves as a result of this decision,” said Blackburn. “I would like to think our employees would do everything in their power to keep their co-workers and the public they work with as safe as possible.”

She also hopes HRM management would work with vaccine hesitant staff to help them feel more comfortable getting their shots.

Deagle Gammon said knowing a vaccine policy is coming may make a decision for some clearer.

“I do think, though, that sometimes when you know a policy is put in place, if somebody is thinking about, retiring or making a change, you know, it might be an impetus for somebody to make some personal decision,” she said.

Blackburn called it a “moral obligation” to put a vaccine policy in place. Deagle Gammon agreed.

“HRM is a large employer with worksites spread all over the municipality,” said Blackburn. “We have a moral obligation to keep our communities safe and our employees safe.

“Vaccines and masks are the best way to prevent the spread of Covid. It’s as simple as that.”

Russell took a more cautious approach when asked his thoughts on it then his two colleagues.

“I’m pleased that HRM will be coming out with a vaccination policy,” he said. “We haven’t seen it yet, even in confidence, so I can’t comment about it further at this time.”