Mayor won’t declare state of emergency without talking to province first

Prince Albert city council has passed new emergency measures that will make it easier to declare a municipal state of emergency, but according to Mayor Greg Dionne those powers might never be used.

Council passed two measures during Monday’s special council meeting, the second of which will allow the Mayor to activate a plan developed specifically for the COVID-19 pandemic by the City’s emergency planning committee.

However, Mayor Greg Dionne said they’re going to wait for provincial direction before going any further.

“We want to talk to the minister first, because the Province of Saskatchewan has a state of emergency, and we don’t want the two to clash,” Dionne said following Monday’s meeting. “We want them to harmonize together.”

Dionne added that he’s had daily discussions about the COVID-19 pandemic with both the provincial government and mayors from across the province.

As part of the state of emergency, city council would be allowed to borrow additional emergency funds to cover falling revenues or increased expenses. The borrowing must be done within 60 days of declaring a state of emergency.

City officials must receive outside approval from the provincial government and the Saskatchewan Municipal Board before they can start borrowing. However, council cannot seek that approval without Monday’s motion.

“It’s not that we want to make decisions like Regina—close this or do that. That isn’t it,” Dionne said. “It’s to work with the province in harmony with their state of emergency, (while) still taking care of the local interests of the City of PA.”

Council also passed a motion allowing city employees to stay home without obtaining a doctor’s note. The policy will remain in place for the next two weeks.

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski, who brought the motion forward, rejected calls to make the motion indefinite instead of limiting it to two weeks. Zurakowski said council can revisit the decision at a later date if they need to.

“Everything that I’ve read (says) that we are entering a critical phase right now, so we need to deal with it right now,” Zurakowski said. “If administration would like to bring this further at a future point, we can discuss this further after the two week period.”

The City of Prince Albert has some contracts in agreements where workers are required to bring doctor’s notes showing they are fit for duty. Those contracts and agreements will not be affected by the emergency two-week measure.

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