Kingston City Council sat for another virtual meeting, holding meeting 13-2020 (agenda) on Tuesday, Apr. 8, 2020. Council kept a fairly light agenda, but still worked through topics around emergency orders enforcement, the Kingston Economic Development Corporation’s strategic plan, and a funding transfer in tourism.
Council’s first major topic of the evening was a transfer of up to $700,000 from the Municipal Accommodation Tax Development Fund to Tourism Kingston. This fund, which receives its money through the four per cent Municipal Accommodation Tax collected by hotels, motels and bed & breakfast accommodations in the city, is typically used for tourism marketing and product development. Conversation focused primarily around hope that marketing wouldn’t contradict the current health orders to not travel and focus instead on reminders of Kingston’s being ready once tourism re-opens, online options like museum virtual tours, and targeting local residents for things like food and in-home deliveries of activities. While transfers from this fund are normal, this one is being made as a result of current COVID-19 revenue decreases and was approved 10-3 with councillors Simon Chapelle, Jeff McLaren and Peter Stroud in opposition.
Council next worked through a new enforcement by-law, which comes into effect only during a declared emergency, such as the one declared by Mayor Paterson on Thursday, Mar. 26, 2020 and would enable local by-law officers and Kingston Police to enforce any local orders issued (provincial orders can already be enforced). While discussion circled primarily around the impacts during the current emergency, Brad Joyce, the Commissioner of Corporate Services pointed out that this by-law doesn’t end when the current emergency completes, but rather would remain on record for when the next emergency is declared for any reason. Declared orders, however, would lapse when the emergency is over. Standard fines for failing to comply, hindering an officer, or attempting to hinder an officer were set at $750 to match the Provincial fines, though minimum individual fines for violation of municipal orders during an emergency (such as the one currently in effect to not use park amenities) are $500 for a first offence and are capped at $10,000 for the first offence and $25,000 for subsequent offences. Business fines are set between $1,000 and $50,000. Councillors were focused on the current COVID-19 crisis and urged reasonable warnings and an increase in messaging about what isn’t allowed before fines are issued, which staff agreed was important and planned. These by-laws passed 11-2 (Counillors Chapelle and Stroud opposed) and while the administrative policy takes effect immediately, the enforcement of orders by-law will now move to the Chief Justice of Ontario for approval before they can be used.
The final large topic council discussed was a change in the timing requirements for the Kingston Economic Development Corporation strategic plan. Normally presented in the first year of a council term, Kingston EcDev was granted until May of 2020 to present their five-year plan. Council re-considered its previous motion from December 2019, and instead have asked the corporation to present its COVID-19 response plan by May 5, 2020 and its full strategic plan by the end of this year. This new timeline was approved by an 11-2 vote with Councillors Chapelle and Stroud in opposition.
Additional Discussion & Other Business
In addition to the above, council received a capital projects update which included $418,000 being returned to the development fund from projects that didn’t need their full funding, approved cooperative Information Systems and Technology (IS&T) purchasing through a shared marketplace and, and approved agreements for its Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate & Release program.
As the meeting moved to ‘Other Business’, the Mayor stopped the meeting to offer council’s thanks to front line workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Whether it’s our front line healthcare workers that are going to work each day putting themselves and their families at risk and taking care of those that need that care,” Paterson said.
“There’s so many other front line workers”, he added, “our transit drivers [and] grocery clerks [and] so many out there putting themselves at risk to keep our city running. We want to say thank you to each and every one of you for all of the great work that you do.”
Council also held up a number of signs during the Mayor’s thanks.
Most city meetings remain cancelled for the duration of the municipally declared emergency. Council is next scheduled to meet with its virtual format on Apr. 21, 2020.
Born and raised in Kingston, Tommy Vallier bleeds limestone. An avid council watcher since 2004, he first began reporting on municipal affairs in 2011, helping to modernize meetings and make them more accessible through social media and live video. When he isn’t focused on City Hall, he’s an avid gamer, theatre supporter, and Disney fan.