Transcript: Leading Ontario Cities Through COVID-19 | Aug 18, 2020

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses, a gray blazer over a white blouse, and a golden pendant necklace.

A caption on screen reads "Leading Ontario cities through COVID-19. Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says MUNICIPALITIES ACROSS ONTARIO EACH HAD BIG PLANS FOR THIS YEAR. THOSE MOSTLY CAME TO A SCREECHING HALT WHEN IT TURNED OUT THAT 2020 HAD DIFFERENT PLANS FOR EVERYONE IN THE FORM OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC. WHAT'S IT LIKE TO TURN ON A DIME AND LEAD AT THE LOCAL LEVEL DURING SUCH A CRISIS? LET'S FIND OUT. JOINING US NOW IN THE TOWN OF LASALLE, ONTARIO, WHICH NEIGHBOURS WINDSOR IN THE SOUTHWESTERN PART OF THE PROVINCE, MAYOR MARC BONDY...

Marc is in his late fifties, clean-shaven, with short white hair. He's wearing a white shirt and a blue tie.

Nam continues IN STRATFORD, MAYOR DAN MATHIESON...

Dan is in his early forties, clean-shaven, with short blond hair. He's wearing a gray suit and a checkered lavender shirt.

Nam continues AND IN BURLINGTON, MAYOR MARIANNE MEED WARD...

Marianne is in her forties, with long straight brown hair. She's wearing a plaid blazer and a red shirt.

Nam continues WELCOME TO YOU ALL.

Marianne says GREAT TO BE HERE.

Nam says WHAT'S BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF YOUR JOB IN LEADING YOUR COMMUNITIES DURING A PANDEMIC. MAYOR BONDY, I WOULD LIKE TO START WITH YOU.

The caption changes to "Marc Bondy. Mayor of Lasalle."

Marc says THE MOST CHALLENGING IS YOU'RE PUTTING OUT NEWS RELEASES, PUTTING OUT INFORMATION, AND THEN THEY'RE TRYING TO ASK YOU QUESTIONS IN RELATION TO WHAT YOU PUT OUT, AND FOR THEM, WE'RE 33,000 POPULATION, ROUGHLY, SO FOR THEM TO GET TO YOU, EMAIL, CELL PHONE, THEY HAVE ALWAYS ACCESS, AND THAT'S THE HARDEST PART, WHEN YOU PUT OUT ANY INFORMATION AND THEY HAVE QUESTIONS IN RELATION TO WHAT YOU PUT OUT, IT'S NOT A SIMPLE YES OR NO. SO A LOT OF QUESTIONS DO COME FORWARD. SO THE CHALLENGE HAS BEEN, HOW DO YOU MEET THE MASS OF PEOPLE? AND THAT'S BEEN SOCIAL MEDIA. YET THEN THEY START CONVERSING ON SOCIAL MEDIA ABOUT THE STATEMENT, WHICH THEY'VE TAKEN THE WRONG WAY, SO TO CORRECT THAT IS CHALLENGING.

Nam says MAYOR MATHIESON, WHAT'S BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF YOUR JOB DURING THIS PANDEMIC?

The caption changes to "Dan Mathieson. Mayor of Stratford."

Dan says FIRST OF ALL, THE COMMUNICATION HAS BEEN THE CHALLENGE. SECONDLY, IT COMES WITH PIVOTING ON A REGULAR BASIS. SOME OF THE THINGS WE ORIGINALLY THOUGHT WE COULD DO OR NOT DO, CHANGED ON THE HOUR IN THE FIRST COUPLE WEEKS. AND THEN AS WE SETTLED INTO SOME TYPE OF CADENCE, COMMUNICATION BECAME A CHALLENGE BECAUSE PEOPLE WERE THIRSTY ON THE HOUR FOR INFORMATION THEY GOT IN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS AND THEY WEREN'T COMFORTABLE WAITING TWO AND THREE DAYS OR FOUR DAYS FOR GOVERNMENT TO MAKE A DECISION. AND I THINK WHAT'S HAPPENED NOW, WE GOT INTO FATIGUE FOR A WHILE, AND PEOPLE REALLY GOT ANTSY TO GET OUT AND ABOUT. NOW THAT WE'VE BEEN IN PHASE THREE FOR FOUR WEEKS, IF NOT A LITTLE LONGER, WE HAVE PEOPLE FORGETTING SOME OF THE THINGS THAT GOT US TO PHASE THREE, SUCH AS SOCIAL DISTANCING, SO REDOUBLING OUR EFFORTS TO TRY TO CONTINUE TO EMPHASIZE THE NEED FOR VIGILANCE AROUND SOCIAL DISTANCING, HYGIENE, AND OF COURSE SOCIAL BUBBLES AS SUCH.

Nam says MAYOR MEED WARD, WHAT ABOUT YOU?

The caption changes to "Marianne Meed Ward. Mayor of Burlington."
Then, it changes again to "For more about Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference go to amo.on.ca or youtube.com/amolasvideos."

Marianne says THERE'S NO MANUAL FOR GOVERNING IN AN UNPRECEDENTED GLOBAL PANDEMIC. THE LAST TIME WE SAW THIS WAS 75 YEARS AGO, AND I DOUBT ANY OF US WERE AROUND BACK THEN (LAUGHING). ONE THING I DID LEARN AND I'M GRATEFUL TO THE STAFF AT THE CITY AND OUR RESIDENTS IS THAT IT'S MORE IMPORTANT TO ACT QUICKLY THAN TO GET IT RIGHT. IF YOU'RE ERRING ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION. AND SO WE'VE MADE... I CAN TELL YOU I'VE MADE A NUMBER OF MISTAKES IN THE PANDEMIC, BUT WE PIVOT. WE SAY, WELL, THAT'S NOT WHERE WE WANTED TO GO. NOW WE KNOW THAT. CHANGING, MOVING ON, AND ADMITTING THAT TO THE COMMUNITY. AND THAT HAS I THINK BUILT A LOT OF TRUST WITH THE COMMUNITY WHERE WE'VE SAID, WE'RE GOING TO ACT REALLY QUICKLY BASED ON WHAT WE THINK THE BEST RESPONSE IS TO KEEP PEOPLE HEALTHY, AND TO DATE, BURLINGTON IS THE LOWEST PER CAPITA IN THE ENTIRE GOLDEN HORSESHOE REGION. SO IT'S GOOD NEWS FOR OUR COMMUNITY.

Nam says WELL, JOB WELL DONE TO YOU, MAYOR.

Marianne says THANK YOU.

Dan says IF I COULD JUST FOLLOW UP. I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS MARIANNE SAID WAS REALLY IMPORTANT IS THAT PEOPLE ARE EXPECTING US TO MAKE DECISIONS AND THEY'RE NOT EXPECTING PERFECTION. I THINK WHAT IT'S ALLOWED US TO DO BECAUSE WE, LIKE EVERYBODY, HAD A PANDEMIC PLAN IN OUR EMERGENCY CONTROL STRATEGY BUT WHAT'S HAPPENED... NOT MUCH WAS COVERED IN THAT AND IT'S ALLOWED US TO MAKE DECISIONS WE NEVER WOULD HAVE MADE BEFORE. AND IT'S ALLOWED US TO CHANGE THE WAY WE DELIVER GOVERNMENT. WE NEVER COULD HAVE GOT THROUGH IT ANY OTHER WAY BECAUSE PEOPLE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN WILLING TO TRY THESE THINGS THAT TODAY THEY'RE WILLING TO DO DIFFERENTLY.

Nam says THAT'S INTERESTING. SO YOU THINK THERE'S BEEN A BIT OF A SILVER LINING TO THIS WHOLE THING?

Dan says ABSOLUTELY. A CRISIS IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE.

Nam says THE ECONOMIC FALLOUT FROM THIS PANDEMIC HAS BEEN MASSIVE AND ONE OF THE CHALLENGES YOU ALL HAVE FACED WHEN IT COMES TO MANAGING YOUR BUDGETS DURING THE PANDEMIC IS THAT YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO RUN DEFICITS. AND THE PANDEMIC HAS PROBABLY BROUGHT UP NEW EXPENSES AS WELL. WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST FISCAL CHALLENGES FACED BY YOUR MUNICIPALITIES AND HOW ARE EACH OF YOU DEALING WITH IT. MAYOR BONDY?

Marc says FROM A FINANCIAL IMPACT, WE STILL DON'T KNOW THE TOTAL BOTTOM LINE. BUT WE HAVE TO THROW A SHOUTOUT TO PREMIER FORD. HE WAS DOWN IN WINDSOR AREA AND THE SEVEN LOCAL MAYORS AS WELL AS DREW DILKENS MET WITH HIM ON THURSDAY. IRONICALLY ENOUGH, HE ANNOUNCED SOCIAL PACKAGES THAT WILL BE COMING TO EACH MUNICIPALITY, WHICH WILL HELP US OUT. AT THE END OF THE YEAR, AND WE'RE NOT THERE, OBVIOUSLY, WE'LL HAVE TO SEE HOW WE MADE OUT. WE'RE NOW STAGE 3, A LITTLE LATER THAN THE OTHER MUNICIPALITIES, BUT WE'RE MOVING FORWARD. ARENA'S ARE OPENING, THAT IS A REVENUE GENERATOR FOR US. WE'RE OKAY, WE'RE COPING WITH IT, BUT WHEN YOU'RE IN A CRISIS SITUATION YOU HAVEN'T SEEN, AS MAYOR MEED WARD STATED, 75 YEARS AGO I DEFINITELY WASN'T HERE. SO IT'S SOMETHING WE TAKE OUR TIME, TRY TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION. IT'S NOT ALWAYS THE POPULAR DECISION BUT IT'S THE RIGHT DECISION.

Nam says MAYOR MEED WARD, WHAT ABOUT YOU?

The caption changes to "Marianne Meed Ward, @MariannMeedWard."

Marianne says COSTS ARE UP AND REVENUE IS DOWN AND THAT'S THE WORST POSSIBLE PICTURE YOU CAN BE IN. WE ADDED MORE TRANSIT SERVICE TO ALLOW BE SAFELY SEPARATE FROM EACH OTHER. WE MADE TRANSIT FREE SO WE HAD NO REVENUE COMING IN AND THAT WAS DONE PURELY FOR PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY. WE CANCELLED OUR SPRING PROGRAMMING. WE'RE... WE NOW HAVE SUMMER PROGRAMMING AND FALL PROGRAMMING, BUT WE ARE... OUR NUMBERS ARE VERY, VERY LIMITED. WE HAVE ROUGHLY 500 OR SO KIDS ENROLLED IN OUR SUMMER PROGRAMMING BECAUSE OF THE LIMITS ON THE NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS AND THE COHORTS. WE WOULD GET UPWARDS OF 2,000 BEFORE. SO WE'RE RUNNING... AND WE HAVE TO PUT MORE STAFF ON. WE HAVE TO DO ADDITIONAL CLEANING. WE HAVE TO PROVIDE PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT. SO WE'RE CLOSE TO A MILLION DOLLARS NOW IN OUR COVID EXPENSES BUDGET THAT ARE JUST RELATED TO COVID. BY THE END OF THE YEAR, IF EVERYTHING WERE TO GO BACK TO NORMAL IN SEPTEMBER, WHICH IT WON'T, WE'RE 8 MILLION DOLLARS dollar REVENUE IN THE HOLE, AND FOR US THAT WOULD REPRESENT... IF WE HAD TO COVER THAT ENTIRELY THROUGH THE TAX BASE, THAT'S ABOUT A 6 percent TAX INCREASE IN ONE YEAR. SO OBVIOUSLY UNTENABLE. BUT WE ALSO HAVE REDUCED FACILITY FEE RENTALS. WE JUST DID THAT. WE'VE INCREASED OUR SUBSIDIES TO INDIVIDUALS TAKING PROGRAMS THROUGH THE CITY BECAUSE WE KNOW OUR RESIDENTS ARE HURTING. WE'VE ENHANCED SOME FUNDING FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES AS WELL. SO WE'RE DOING MORE FOR THE COMMUNITY WITH THE MONEY THAT WE HAVE, BUT WE ARE ALSO IN THAT DEFICIT... WELL, NOT A DEFICIT, BUT WE'LL HAVE TO... WE'RE VERY GRATEFUL, ACTUALLY, FOR THE MONEY FROM THE PROVINCE. IT WILL HELP US A LOT.

Nam says MAYOR MATHIESON, WHAT ABOUT YOU?

The caption changes to "Dani Mathieson, @Danmathieson."

Dan says SIMILAR TO THE CHALLENGES, STRATFORD IS A TOURISM DESTINATION AND NOT HAVING THE STRATFORD FESTIVAL THIS SEASON REPRESENTS 1.5 MILLION DOLLARS VISITORS THAT WON'T COME. THE THEATRE GENERATES 140 MILLION Dollars FOR OUR ECONOMY. NOT HAVING THEM HERE, NOT HAVING THE VISITORS HERE, COUPLED WITH MUCH LIKE MARIANNE HAD SAID, THE INCREASE IN BUS SERVICE WITH NO REVENUE, THE INCREASING COSTS FOR CLEANING ALL THOSE THINGS HAVE LEFT US WITH A SIMILAR 6 percent SHORTFALL IN REVENUE FOR THE YEAR, AND WITH THE MONEY WE RECEIVED LAST WEEK FROM THE PROVINCE, IT'LL TAKE A LARGE DENT OUT OF IT. BUT WE'RE STILL GOING TO BE SHORT. HERE IN STRATFORD WE LAID OFF A NUMBER OF FULL-TIME WORKERS FOR A PERIOD OF UP TO 60 DAYS EARLY ON. OUR MANAGEMENT TEAM ALL TOOK AN ACROSS-THE-BOARD PAY CUT, AS DID COUNCIL, AND WE HAVE USED VARIOUS WAYS LIKE THAT TO TRY TO FIND A WAY TO SHORTEN THE GAP IN OUR FISCAL CHALLENGE, AND WE ARE GETTING THERE. OUR LONG-TERM CONCERN IS WHAT DOES 2021 FINISH LIKE AND WHAT DOES 2022 LOOK LIKE?

Nam says I'M GOING TO BRING UP SOMETHING THAT'S A BIT CONTROVERSIAL, BUT I CAN'T PASS UP THIS OPPORTUNITY WHEN I HAVE ALL OF YOU HERE. SHOULD YOU BE ALLOWED TO RUN DEFICITS, CONSIDERING IT IS AN UNPRECEDENTED EVENT? MAYOR WARD?

Marianne says ACTUALLY NO. WE AT THE MUNICIPAL LEVEL ARE NOT LOOKING TO RUN DEFICITS. I SIT AROUND THE TABLE WITH THE ONTARIO BIG CITY MAYORS WHICH IS MUNICIPALITIES OVER 100,000 AND WE WERE UNITED IN SENDING THAT MESSAGE TO THE PROVINCE THAT THAT WAS NOT ONE OF THE TOOLS THAT WE WERE LOOKING FOR. IT HAS TO BE PAID BACK AT SOME POINT. AND SO WE, LIKE EVERY MUNICIPALITY, WE BUILD UP OUR RESERVES FOR A RAINY DAY, AND I SAY COVID IS THE RAINY DAY OF ALL RAINY DAYS. BUT EVEN WITH THAT, WE WERE TRYING TO LOOK AT GETTING OUR 8 MILLION DOLLARS DOWN TO ROUGHLY 4 MILLION DOLLARS THROUGH THE USE OF RESERVES, BUT THAT REALLY LEAVES YOU VULNERABLE. SO WE CAN'T DEPLETE THOSE RESERVES. AND THAT'S A GOOD WAY FOR MUNICIPALITIES TO FUND. SO IT'S LIKE A SAVINGS ACCOUNT AS OPPOSED TO RUNNING A DEFICIT. WE DO COLLECT IN OUR BASE BUDGET EVERY YEAR MONEY THAT GOES INTO WINTER CONTROL OR, YOU KNOW, WHATEVER... OUR PARKING FUND, TRANSIT FUND, INFRASTRUCTURE FUND, SO THAT WE CAN BE PREPARED. BUT THIS PANDEMIC HAS REALLY... REALLY THREATENS TO WIPE IT ALL OUT WITHOUT THE ASSISTANCE WE RECEIVE FROM THE PROVINCE. DEFICITS, NO, BUT PROPER MUNICIPAL FINANCING GOING FORWARD, YES.

Nam says MAYOR BONDY, WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Marc says I WOULD AGREE. I WOULDN'T ALLOW DEFICITS IF WE COULD VOTE ON IT, AND WE PLAN FOR THE FUTURE AND OUR RESERVES ARE HEALTHY. WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY. WE PLAN FOR TOMORROW, BUT WE DON'T WANT TO PAY TOMORROW. SO WE DO A BALANCED APPROACH WHERE WE'RE NOT GOING TO LET OUR FUTURE GENERATIONS PAY FOR THE DEBT TODAY. AND IT'S EASY FOR US TO PAY FOR THINGS AND THEN PAY IT LATER, BUT THAT'S NOT HOW WE PLAN. SO LUCKILY WE'RE A COMMUNITY THAT... ONE OF THE HIGHEST PER CAPITA MUNICIPALITIES IN ONTARIO. THE GROWTH HERE IS SECOND TO NONE, I BELIEVE, IN ONTARIO. SO WE HAVE A HEALTHY BUDGET AND I DON'T WANT TO GO INTO A DEFICIT IF WE DON'T HAVE TO AND I WOULD VOTE AGAINST IT IF THAT EVER CAME TO A VOTE.

Nam says MAYOR MATHIESON?

Dan says I AGREE WITH BOTH WHAT'S BEEN SAID BY MARC AND MARIANNE, BUT I WANT TO ADD A REASON WHY. THE PROVINCIAL AND FEDERAL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT HAVE THEIR TAXATION POWERS TIED TO GROWTH IN THE ECONOMY, AND MUNICIPALITIES DO NOT. AND I THINK TO HAVE DEBT PUT DOWN TO THE MUNICIPAL LEVEL THAT CAN BE ERASED WHEN ECONOMIC RECOVERY STARTS IS WRONG AND IT SHOULD GO TO THE FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL LEVELS IF NEED BE. THE TRANSFER, THE 7 BILLION Dollars WE JUST SAW FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO THE PROVINCE AND THE SUBSEQUENT TRANSFER TO MUNICIPALITIES IS A GREAT WAY TO HANDLE THIS. AND AS LONG AS THEY'RE IN SYNC WITH WHERE OUR COSTS ARE, AND IN THIS CASE THEY WERE WITH SOCIAL SERVICES, GENERAL OPERATION OF GOVERNMENT, AND TRANSIT AS THE MAJOR THREE EXPENSES ALONG WITH PUBLIC HEALTH, I THINK IT REFLECTS THAT THEY ARE AWARE OF WHERE THE COSTS ARE AND THEY ARE FUNDING US IN THE RIGHT AREAS.

Nam says I WANT TO...

Marianne says IF I COULD JUST JUMP IN THERE FOR A MINUTE? THE ANALYSIS HAS SHOWN THAT MUNICIPALITIES GET 9 CENTS, ROUGHLY, ON THE DOLLAR FOR ALL THE TAXES COLLECTED, AND YET WE'RE ON THE FRONT LINES OF DELIVERING ESSENTIAL SERVICES AND WE HAVE REALLY SEEN THAT THROUGH COVID-19, THAT WE ARE THE ONES THAT ARE ACTUALLY TASKED WITH KEEPING OUR PUBLIC HEALTHY AND SAFE. AND SO ONE OF THE SILVER LININGS THAT I THINK MAYOR MATHIESON TALKED ABOUT EARLIER IS WE NEED TO NEGOTIATE A NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT AND GET MORE OF THAT... MORE THAN 9 CENTS ON THE DOLLAR FOR OUR CITIES BECAUSE WE ARE THE CLOSEST LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT TO THE PEOPLE AND CERTAINLY NOW WE'RE SEEING THAT WE'RE DELIVERING THE ESSENTIAL SERVICES THAT WE NEED.

Nam says WINDSOR ESSEX COUNTY WAS THE LAST REGION IN THE PROVINCE TO ENTER STAGE 3. AS A BORDER TOWN, YOU'VE HAD UNIQUE CHALLENGES. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT FOR YOUR TOWN?

The caption changes to "Marc Bondy, @MarcBondy."

Marc says FOR OUR TOWN SPECIFICALLY, I THINK IN THE LAST TWO MONTHS WE DIDN'T HAVE ANY NEW CASES. SO OUR MUNICIPALITY IN AND OF ITSELF WAS FINE. BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT KINGSVILLE WITH THE AGRIFARM WORKERS, I FEEL FOR THEM. THEY CAME HERE, THEY DIDN'T HAVE THE DISEASE, AND THEY WERE INFECTED AFTER THEY CAME. SO THAT WAS A TOUGH SITUATION. AND THEN I THINK HILDA MCDONALD AND MAYOR SANTOS DID A GREAT JOB HANDLING THAT. BEING ON THE BORDER, WE HAVE A LOT OF NURSES THAT CROSS THE BORDER ON A DAILY BASIS. THAT WAS UNIQUE. AND WE WERE GETTING SOME COMPLAINTS FOR ESPECIALLY THE NURSES WHO WERE SLEEPING IN TRAILERS IN THEIR DRIVEWAYS BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T WANT TO BRING IT INTO THEIR HOME AND WE WERE GETTING COMPLAINTS ABOUT BY-LAW ENFORCEMENT. I SAID THAT'S NOT A BY-LAW WE'RE GOING TO ENFORCE. THESE PEOPLE ARE HELPING SAVE LIVES. YES, IT'S IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, BUT THEY'RE STILL GIVING OF THEMSELVES TO GO THERE AND PUT THEMSELVES IN HARM'S WAY. SO THAT'S ABOUT THE ONLY MINOR ISSUE THAT CAME UP. OTHER THAN THAT, WE'VE BEEN VERY LUCKY IN THIS MUNICIPALITY.

Nam says MAYOR MATHIESON, YOU MENTIONED THE STRATFORD FESTIVAL, MILLIONS OF TOURISTS COME INTO THE CITY, LOTS OF MONEY THAT YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO SEE THIS YEAR. WHAT STEPS ARE YOU TAKING TO PROTECT THE ARTS COMMUNITY GIVEN THE HUGE FINANCIAL HIT THAT THEY'VE TAKEN?

Dan says SO WHAT WE'VE TRIED TO DO IN THIS CASE IS TO MAKE SURE THAT THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY THAT HAS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF THE ARTS STAYS THERE, AND IN OTHER FORMS, WE'VE CONTINUED TO OFFER SUPPORT THROUGH OUR GRANT PROGRAM THAT THE CITY HAS HAD IN THE PAST. SO RIGHT NOW IN DOWNTOWN STRATFORD, WE HAVE BOARDWALKS EVERYWHERE. WE'RE DINING IN SPACE. THE STRATFORD SUMMER MUSIC HAS GONE TO A COMPLETELY FREE PROGRAM THIS SUMMER. WE HAVE LOOKED AT SUPPORTING OUR ART GALLERY, OUR MUSEUM. SO WE'VE TAKEN OUR GRANT PROGRAM AND TRIED TO EXTEND IT IN THAT WAY. AND WE'RE ALSO VERY MUCH BELIEVING THAT THE STRATFORD FESTIVAL, WHO IS WORKING AT THE FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL LEVEL, BECAUSE THEY GENERATE 65 MILLION DOLLARS OF TAXATION FOR THE TWO SENIOR LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT. THERE'S AN OBLIGATION FOR THEM AS AN INTERNATIONAL ARTS ORGANIZATION BASED IN ONTARIO AND CANADA TO GET SOME SUPPORT THROUGH THE FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS. AND WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT ONTARIO COUNCIL OF ARTS FUNDING, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT RECESSION RECOVERY. THERE ARE 3,000 JOBS DEPEND ON THE STRATFORD FESTIVAL AND THERE'S AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO GIVE THEM THE 8 MILLION DOLLARS THEY'VE ASKED FOR AND IN RETURN, THE FESTIVAL HAS ALSO SAID THEY'D GO OUT AND FUNDRAISE THE FURTHER 12 MILLION DOLLARS TO SUPPORT THE ORGANIZATION TO GET THROUGH THE PANDEMIC OVER THE NEXT 16 TO 24 MONTHS.

Nam says MAYOR MEED WARD, LAST YEAR MACLEANS MAGAZINE NAMED BURLINGTON THE BEST COMMUNITY TO LIVE IN CANADA OUT OF OVER 400 DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES, WHICH WAS A BIG DEAL FOR YOUR COMMUNITY. WE KEEP HEARING ABOUT PEOPLE GRIEVING, YOU KNOW, WE HAD YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WERE GRADUATING, NOT BEING ABLE TO ATTEND THEIR GRADUATION. THINGS HAVE CHANGED. FUNERALS, IF YOU LOSE A LOVED ONE, YOU'RE SAYING GOOD-BYE IN A DIFFERENT WAY. IF YOU'RE LEADING A CITY, HOW DO YOU NAVIGATE THAT COLLECTIVE GRIEF WITHIN THE COMMUNITY BECAUSE YOU HAD LOTS OF PLANS TO BUILD ON FROM WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CITY FROM LAST YEAR.

Marianne says THANK YOU FOR THAT REMINDER. WE'RE STILL NUMBER ONE IN CANADA. WE STILL HOLD THE TITLE. SO THAT'S GREAT. BUT YOU RAISE A REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT POINT, AND WE ARE, I WOULD SAY FOR ABOUT THE LAST MONTH, AND THIS IS A CHALLENGE FOR OUR COMMUNITY, THAT THE MOOD HAS BEEN VERY CHALLENGING, AND I THINK THAT'S THE EFFECT OF BEING LOCKED UP, YOU KNOW, THE EARLY LOCKDOWN OF THE COMMUNITY, THE EFFECTS OF THE FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTY THAT MANY PEOPLE FACE, AND WE KNOW IT'S TAKEN A SIGNIFICANT TOLL ON THE MENTAL HEALTH OF OUR COMMUNITY AND I'VE SEEN IT IN THE MOOD IN THE STREETS, IN SOME OF THE INBOX MESSAGES, EVEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA THAT I'VE SEEN, PEOPLE REALLY LASH OUT BECAUSE THEY'RE HURTING. AND SO WE ARE TRYING TO PROVIDE POSITIVE EXPERIENCES AND OUTLETS, CERTAINLY LIKE MANY MUNICIPALITIES WE OFFER VIRTUAL PROGRAMMING, WE HAD A VIRTUAL CANADA DAY. WE'RE LOOKING AT, YOU KNOW, VIRTUAL REMEMBRANCE DAY CELEBRATIONS OR CEREMONIES, AND WE CONTINUE, THOUGH, TO ALLOW PEOPLE, WHERE MERITED, TO EXPRESS WHAT THEY NEED TO GET THINGS OFF THEIR CHEST. SO THE BEST EXAMPLE OF THAT WOULD BE THE SOLIDARITY MARCH JUNE 4TH. WE HAD PROBABLY THE LARGEST MARCH IN THE GTA OUTSIDE OF TORONTO. THERE WERE CLOSE TO 10,000 YOUNG PEOPLE THAT TOOK TO OUR STREETS TO CALL FOR AN END TO RACISM, AND PARTICULARLY ANTI-BLACK RACISM, AND THE POLICE STOOD WITH THE MOVEMENT, WE STOOD WITH THE MOVEMENT, AND THAT WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC. SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT CONTROVERSIAL. BUT PEOPLE... WE HAD NO OUTBREAK AFTER THAT AND IT WAS AN IMPORTANT, YOU KNOW, IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT WHEN YOU'RE IN A PANDEMIC ESPECIALLY TO ALLOW THOSE MOMENTS AND EXPRESSIONS OF THINGS THAT TRANSCEND WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE PANDEMIC, TO SAY IT'S STILL IMPORTANT, IN FACT IT'S EXTRA IMPORTANT BECAUSE WE KNOW IN SOME AREAS THAT THE PANDEMIC HAS DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTED WOMEN AND PEOPLE OF COLOUR AND OUR BLACK AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF COLOUR COMMUNITY. SO THAT WAS AN IMPORTANT THING TO EMBRACE AND JUST KIND OF GO WITH IT. AND AGAIN I THINK SOMEBODY MENTIONED EARLIER, THERE WILL BE CRITICISM FOR EVERY DECISION YOU MAKE AND YOU JUST HAVE TO STEP OUT IN FAITH BELIEVING IT'S THE RIGHT ONE.

Nam says JUST TO BUILD ON WHAT YOU WERE SAYING MAYOR MEED WARD AND MAYOR BONDY AND MAYOR MATHIESON, WHAT STEPS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO MAKE SURE THE MOST VULNERABLE IN YOUR COMMUNITIES ARE TAKEN CARE OF. MAYOR BONDY, PLEASE?

Marc says GOOD POINT. BUT WE'RE NOT REALLY AFFECTED BY THAT. SINCE WE'RE A BEDROOM COMMUNITY, IF YOU WILL, TO THE CITY OF WINDSOR, WE'RE NOT... WE DON'T REALLY HAVE THAT VULNERABLE POPULATION, IF YOU WILL. WE HAVE A LOCAL POLICING, WE'RE THE ONLY MUNICIPALITY IN THE COUNTY THAT STILL HAS LOCAL POLICING AND THEY'RE REALLY IN TUNE WITH WHAT'S GOING ON. I SPEAK TO THE CHIEF WEEKLY. I'M THE CHAIR OF THE POLICE SERVICES BOARD. AND WE DON'T REALLY HAVE... WE HAVEN'T HAD ANY INSTANCES THAT I'VE BEEN MADE AWARE OF IN RELATION TO THE VULNERABLE POPULATION. WE'VE EXTENDED THE FOOD BANK. WE HAD THE MIRACLE DAY JUNE 27TH THAT BROUGHT IN THOUSANDS OF POUNDS, I THINK IT WAS AROUND 400,000 POUNDS OF FOOD. SO THAT HAS BEEN TAKEN CARE OF. BUT AS FAR AS ANYTHING ELSE, WE DON'T REALLY HAVE A VULNERABLE POPULATION OTHER THAN THE NEEDY FOR THE FOOD BANK.

Nam says MAYOR MATHIESON, WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Dan says SO WHAT WE DID IS WE TOOK A COUPLE OF THE MOTELS THAT WERE NOT BEING USED FOR THEATRE GUESTS, WE MADE SURE EVERYONE HAD HOUSING DURING THIS PERIOD. WE WORKED WITH OUR SENIORS AND THROUGH THE UNITED WAY AND VARIOUS ORGANIZATIONS THAT VOLUNTEERED, DEVELOPED A PROGRAM TO CHECK IN ON SENIORS AND THOSE WITH DISABILITIES OR IN NEED. WE ALSO HAD PEOPLE DOING GROCERY PICKUPS AND CHECKING IN ON THEM, SO THEY WOULD DO A SAFETY CHECK ON INDIVIDUALS. THEY'D ALSO PICK UP THEIR GROCERIES AND HAVE THEM DELIVERED. THEY WOULD TAKE PEOPLE TO AND FROM APPOINTMENTS WHERE NECESSARY. AND WE REALLY SET UP KIND OF A SOCIAL SAFETY NET IN CONJUNCTION WITH OUR SOCIAL SERVICES. AS IT RELATES TO VULNERABLE AND MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, WE DID SEE A RISE OF THAT DURING THE PANDEMIC WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY. THE STRATFORD POLICE SERVICE HAS A SOCIAL WORKER, A MENTAL HEALTH WORKER THAT RIDES WITH THEM ON A REGULAR BASIS. WE DID EXTEND THE HOURS FOR LONGER PERIODS SO THOSE INDIVIDUALS COULD RIDE WITH THE OFFICERS MORE OFTEN AND THEY WERE ON THE FRONT LINES WITH THEM, TRIAGING THE INDIVIDUALS WHEN WE ARRIVED AT CASES TO MAKE SURE WE WERE GETTING THEM THE RIGHT SUPPORTS THEY NEED SO THAT THEY DIDN'T FALL INTO THE JUSTICE SYSTEM AS MUCH AS THEY NEEDED TO BE DEALT WITH EITHER IN THE SOCIAL FRAMEWORK OR THE HEALTH NETWORK.

Nam says SCHOOL IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER. MAYOR MEED WARD, I'D LIKE TO START WITH YOU. ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS THIS MIGHT POSE TO YOUR MUNICIPALITY?

Marianne says I THINK WE'RE ALL CONCERNED, RIGHT? AGAIN, IT'S UNPRECEDENTED TIMES. AND WE KNOW THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THAT PEOPLE CAN DO IS KEEP YOUR DISTANCE OF 6 FEET AND EXERCISE PROPER HYGIENE AND WEAR A MASK, YOU KNOW? THAT'S BEEN ANOTHER VERY CONTROVERSIAL DECISION THAT WE, LIKE MOST MUNICIPALITIES, HAVE ASKED PEOPLE, PASSED A MANDATORY MASK BY-LAW. AND IT'S NOT... YOU KNOW, AND THE SCHOOLS GOING BACK IN HALTON REGION, IT IS THERE FOR SOME COHORTS BUT NOT ALL OF THEM. SO THE CONCERN I HEAR FROM PARENTS IS THE CLASS SIZES BECAUSE WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO MAINTAIN THAT PHYSICAL DISTANCING. AND EVEN IF, YOU KNOW, STATISTICALLY WE'VE SEEN THAT YOUTH ARE LESS SUSCEPTIBLE AND IF THEY DO GET COVID-19, THEY'RE MORE RESILIENT, THEY HAVE FAMILIES, THEY GO HOME TO FAMILIES. SOME OF THOSE FAMILIES ARE FRONT LINE WORKERS. SOME OF THOSE FAMILIES ARE IMMUNOCOMPROMISED, SO WHAT HAPPENS IN THE SCHOOL EFFECTS ALL OF US WHETHER OR NOT YOU HAVE KIDS IN THE SYSTEM.

Nam says MAYOR BONDY?

Marc says IT IS A CHALLENGE. WHAT WE'RE LEANING ON IS THE HEALTH PROFESSIONALS. WHAT COMES DOWN FROM THE PROVINCE AND OUR LOCAL HEALTH UNIT. I'VE TALKED TO PEOPLE ON THE BOARD AND THEY'RE SAYING WE'RE SPLIT. 50 percent OF THE POPULATION HAVE CONCERNS ABOUT SENDING THEIR CHILDREN TO SCHOOL, AND THE OTHER 50 WILL TAKE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES, AS MUCH AS THEY CAN, BUT THEY ARE SENDING THEIR CHILDREN TO SCHOOL. I HAVE THREE GRANDKIDS, TWO IN SCHOOL, AND THEY'LL BE GOING BACK TO SCHOOL, AND WE'LL DO WHATEVER WE CAN FROM A SAFETY POINT OF VIEW...

Nam says ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THEM GOING BACK?

Marc says I'M CONCERNED AS A GRANDFATHER FOR SURE. BUT KNOWING THE FAMILY AND THE PRECAUTIONS THEY'LL TAKE AND HOPEFULLY THEY'LL TEACH THE KIDS HOW DO YOU DO SOCIAL DISTANCING WHEN YOU'RE PLAYING AT RECESS AND WHATNOT, BUT ALL THAT MIGHT CHANGE. IT'S GOING TO BE DIFFERENT FOR THE CHILDREN. BUT I THINK FROM A MENTAL HEALTH POINT, I KNOW, ESPECIALLY MY OLDEST GRANDSON, HE NEEDS THAT. HE NEEDS... HE'S A VERY SOCIAL GUY. HE NEEDS HIS FRIENDS AT SCHOOL, AND YOU CAN SEE A CHANGE IN HIS BEHAVIOUR FROM NOT BEING IN SCHOOL. SO I THINK HOPEFULLY THERE'S NO LONG-TERM EFFECTS, BUT 20 YEARS FROM NOW, WE MAY LOOK BACK AND GO WE SHOULDA COULDA WOULDA, BUT THIS IS SOMETHING HOPEFULLY THEY DON'T HAVE TO GO THROUGH AGAIN.

Nam says AND MAYOR MATHIESON?

Dan says WELL, I'M CONCERNED. AFTER WE WORKED SO HARD AND DILIGENT ACROSS THE PROVINCE TO KEEP THE NUMBERS LOW, I BELIEVE THE SOCIAL ASPECT OF IT AND THE MENTAL HEALTH ASPECT IS IMPORTANT FOR STUDENTS. BUT I DO WORRY THAT KIDS, WHILE THEY'RE IN THE CLASSROOM OR IN OTHER SPACES, AFTER WE'VE TOLD THEM TO SOCIAL DISTANCE, MAYBE AREN'T GOING TO BE GOOD AT IT WHEN THEY GET BACK INTO THE SCHOOL. YOU KNOW, MAYOR MEED WARD LAID IT ALL OUT. YOU HAVE FAMILIES THAT ARE FRONT LINE WORKERS, EITHER THE PARENTS CAN BRING IT HOME OR THE STUDENTS CAN TAKE IT HOME FOR THEM. I THINK THE FIRST TWO OR THREE WEEKS OF THE SCHOOL YEAR IS GOING TO BE VERY TELLING FOR US AND WE NEED TO BE NIMBLE AND IF NECESSARY MAKE ALTERNATIVE ARRANGEMENTS QUICKLY AND THAT'S WHAT WE NEED TO DO. AND DILIGENCE AND VIGILANCE HAS GOT US THIS FAR AND WE CAN'T REST ON OUR LAURELS BECAUSE WE ARE OPENING UP TO A MAJOR OPPORTUNITY HERE FOR COMMUNITY SPREAD.

Nam says I THINK ON A PERSONAL LEVEL AND ON A COLLECTIVE LEVEL, THERE'S BEEN LOTS OF LESSONS FOR ALL OF US TO LEARN. I WANTED TO GET A LITTLE PERSONAL. WE ONLY HAVE THREE MINUTES LEFT, SO MAYBE 45 SECONDS FROM EACH OF YOU. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE HARDEST LESSON YOU'VE LEARNED ABOUT CITY LEADERSHIP AS A RESULT OF THE CHALLENGES PRESENTED BY THE PANDEMIC? MAYOR MEED WARD, I'LL START WITH YOU.

Marianne says WELL, I HAD A PRETTY THICK SKIN BEFORE FROM 20-ODD YEARS AS A JOURNALIST, BUT YOU NEED A THICKER SKIN. YOU CAN BE SURE THAT WHATEVER DECISION YOU MAKE ABOUT... ROUGHLY HALF THE FOLKS WILL AGREE WITH YOU AND HALF WON'T, AND AS I SAID, THE MOOD SOMETIMES IS PRETTY UPSET OUT THERE, AND SO JUST KEEPING YOUR SENSE OF HUMOUR, KEEPING OPTIMISM. BUT THE BRIGHT SIDE... AND I ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE... AND WE'RE ALL MORE RESILIENT THAN WE THINK WE ARE, WE CAN PIVOT AND MOVE MUCH MORE QUICKLY THAN WE EVER THOUGHT WE COULD AND I SEE SO MANY GOOD THINGS COMING OUT OF THIS PANDEMIC FOR MUNICIPALITIES, SO THERE IS A SILVER LINING THERE.

Nam says MAYOR BONDY?

Marc says I AGREE WITH THE THICK SKIN. THE SOCIAL MEDIA CAN ATTACK BECAUSE THEY DON'T SEE YOU. WE'RE TRYING TO BE VOCAL INASMUCH AS WE CAN SOCIAL DISTANCING, BUT WHEN YOU COMMUNICATE WITH THE... UNLESS YOU'RE DOING DAILY REPORTS AND WE'RE A SMALL MUNICIPALITY, THEY JUST THINK, WELL, WHAT HAPPENED? THEY'RE SLEEPING. AND WHEN I FIRST STARTED, WHEN YOU'RE DEALING WITH NEWS RELEASES FROM PREMIER FORD AND PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU, WE COULDN'T MAKE DECISIONS UNTIL THAT CAME OUT. SO WE LEARNT THAT OUR EOC TEAM, CHIEF SUTTON, WHO IS IN CHARGE, HE DID A GREAT JOB. IT'S A PANDEMIC THAT WE DIDN'T... WE WEREN'T PREPARED FOR, BUT OUR EMERGENCY TEAM CAME TOGETHER AND WE HAVE A GREAT, GREAT ADMINISTRATION TEAM HERE. SO IT IS A LESSON LEARNED AND HOPEFULLY WE DON'T HAVE TO USE THIS GOING INTO THE FUTURE BUT WE MAY APPLY THE LESSONS WE LEARNED ON A DIFFERENT SITUATION THAT MAY ARISE.

Nam says AND MAYOR MATHIESON, YOU HAVE ABOUT 20 SECONDS.

Dan says THICK SKIN IS SOMETHING WE ALL HAVE TO HAVE. BUT I'VE LEARNED LEADERSHIP IS... YOU HAVE TO REACH OUT TO PEOPLE AND TALK TO THEM. WHETHER IT'S COMMUNITY LEADERS WITHIN GROUPS, THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY, WITHIN CITY STAFF OR ORDINARY CITIZENS, EVERYBODY JUST WANTS TO KNOW THEIR ISSUE HAS BEEN HEARD AND THAT YOU'RE LISTENING AND THAT YOU'RE GOING TO TRY TO ACT ON IT. I THINK, IF ANYTHING, MOST PEOPLE HAVE DEVELOPED A SENSE OF RESILIENCY AROUND WHO THEY ARE BECAUSE THEY'VE HAD TO ADAPT ON THE FLY SO MUCH. AND I JUST HOPE WHEN WE LOOK BACK ON THIS FIVE YEARS FROM NOW WE SEE IT AS A TIME WHEN FAMILIES CAME TOGETHER AND COMMUNITIES GOT STRONGER.

The caption changes to "Producer: Preeti Bhuyan, @PreetiBhuyan."

Nam says WE APPRECIATE YOUR TIME AND WE WISH YOU CONTINUED SUCCESS IN YOUR COMMUNITIES. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR INSIGHTS THIS EVENING.

Marianne says THANK YOU.

Dan says THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Marc says THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

Watch: Leading Ontario Cities Through COVID-19