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Battle lines drawn as Mississauga and Brampton fight it out over store openings

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Battle lines drawn as Mississauga and Brampton fight it out over store openings

A move by Mississauga to allow small businesses to open there, while those in Brampton remain closed, has been successful…but it may not change the status quo.

The complicated jockeying for jurisdictional leadership played out today (Dec. 3) at Peel Region where Mississauga councillors used their majority to push through a motion that requests the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) to make changes to current lockdown procedures.

Brought forward by Mississauga Ward 2 Councillor Karen Ras, the motion essentially asks MOH Dr. Lawrence Loh to lift the restrictions on small stores and businesses in Mississauga because of the lower number of COVID-19 cases. Mississauga councillors believe the sweeping Peel-wide lockdown is not fair to businesses in Mississauga that are paying the price for the high infection rate in Brampton.

With her motion, Ras believes Dr. Loh has the authority undertake a targeted approach to combating COVID-19 which would allow some businesses in Peel to open based on favourable health data.

The motion sparked heavy debate among councillors who were split on their viewpoints based on political boundaries as Brampton representatives opposed the move arguing it would further stigmatize and even appear to penalize businesses and residents in Brampton.

However, even though the motion passed, the decision to separate COVID policy based on municipal boundaries comes at Dr. Loh’s discretion and he believes the current approach to fighting the lockdown is correct. This was backed up by Regional Solicitor Patrick O’Connor who said that even though council can direct the MOH to take a different approach, it can’t force him to do so. As well, O’Connor pointed out the restrictions Peel face are ultimately at the direction of the Provincial government and that it is ultimately not within Dr. Loh’s authority to make changes.

Ras disagreed arguing the current Region-wide measures are destroying businesses everywhere.

“This motion gives Dr. Loh permission to make recommendations that we can strategically make slightly different decisions for Mississauga based on where we are at in the pandemic,” she said. “Why should we not be treated differently when there are opportunities in areas where there are very low cases to be able to let small businesses open. We need to give the doctor permission to make those recommendations on the individual municipalities rather than the whole.”

Ras said it is crucial for Mississauga to be allowed to have small businesses open, especially since we are faced with several more months of lockdown measures.

“Rather than kill all small business across Peel Region we at least can give some people a hope and a sense that maybe they can be successful and get through the next through months,” she said. “We need to give them something. If I can give them hope I will do that.”

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said politicians shouldn’t meddle in the public health decision making process and argued that current procedures are the right ones.

“I wouldn’t want us to be tying the hands of public health,” said Brown. “We don’t want to politicize public health decisions. I believe the MOH will make the right call. We don’t want to create a pathway that he must follow if that’s not necessarily the pathway he believes is based in the best public health advice.”

Other Brampton councillors agreed saying the region-wide approach is best as all businesses in Peel should battle the pandemic together.

Dr. Loh explained all decision making regarding the fight against the coronavirus is not based on geographic need, but rather is focused on health care and scientific need.

He also stressed that what Mississauga is asking for is already the practice of Peel’s health department.

“The health metrics for each individual municipality, as well as the Region as a whole, are always considered in any of the recommendations that I make,” Dr. Loh said adding health data is monitored on an ongoing basis, but he said he will consider the aspects of the motion that was approved and apply it if necessary.

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