Council Discusses By-Laws for Covid-19

Monday’s regular Council meeting was mostly about two proposed bylaws to increase enforcement of social distancing required for management of the Covid-19 pandemic in Cobourg. One by-law was to add penalties for not meeting the recommended separation and the other was to add additional by-law enforcement officers by re-deploying existing staff. Usually such initiatives are introduced at the Committee of the Whole meeting but these were first seen at this regular meeting so there was considerable debate. Town Clerk Brent Larmer explained that the by-law adding penalties was needed because the Province had a law banning groups of more than 5 but had only recommendations for social distancing.  More enforcement officers would be needed because of increased workload, partly because of this addition.

Proposed By-Law enforcing Social Distancing

The by-law proposed would mean that on Public Property (e.g. Parks) or in Public Spaces (e.g. supermarkets) – but not private homes – By-Law or Police Officers could hand-out tickets for failing to maintain a 2 metre social distance. Fines would be $300 for individuals or $600 for property owners.  The fine for obstructing an officer would also be $600 – that included refusing to provide ID to the officer.  It was intended that implementation would be preceded by a two week education period.  It was rationalized by Mayor Henderson that “we continue to get complaints that people are not observing social distancing” although other Councillors said that it appeared that Cobourg citizens were generally in fact being quite compliant.  Further, it was observed that the number of cases in Northumberland was low.  Adam Bureau was strongly against the idea and moved to table (kill) the motion to approve the by-law.  His motion passed and the By-Law to add penalties will not happen.

Proposed By-Law adding By-Law Enforcement officers.

Currently, by-law enforcement is done by one By-Law officer working 7 days on a nominal 35 hour week – plus Police officers.  He is clearly overloaded – not just with Covid-19 issues but also with other things like Fishing concerns. Town staff (Town Clerk Brent Larmer and Interim CAO Ian Davey) wanted to re-assign 3 employees: Carrie Richards, Pharren Wilson, and David Johnson. Their department and existing assignments were not named although it was said that they do have the required skills and would get training specific to their new role from Brent.  Initial reactions from Councillors were:

  • Since personnel matters were involved, a closed session was required and this needed notice so could not be at the current meeting (issue raised by Adam Bureau)
  • More time was needed to evaluate
  • Why not hire the full-time person approved in the budget (Suzanne Séguin)
  • Let’s schedule a special meeting (presumably closed session) on April 30 at 6:00 pm.

But staff strongly put forward that staff look after personnel assignments (and re-assignments) and that this only came to Council because any By-Law Officer needs Council approval.  In previous years, Staff recommendations on such appointments were approved with no debate.

In the end, Adam’s motion to amend the original motion and defer a decision was defeated – 4-3 – with only Adam, Suzanne and Emily in favour.  But then, surprise(!), a recorded vote on the original motion was approved unanimously.  That means three personnel will be re-assigned to help with by-law enforcement.  Brent conceded that this could extend past the end of the emergency.

Other Council News/Decisions

  • Council passed a motion from the Committee of the Whole to create by September 14 a “Flood Mitigation and Response Plan”. It will be an appendix to the Emergency Plan. Councillor Darling commented that “Citizens should not have false hope” and that “Sandbags will not help erosion”.
  • A GRCA letter recommending banning fishing was discussed.  Although municipalities do not have the authority to do this, they can do what Port Hope did and completely close relevant parks (such as Peace Park).  Since there no longer seems to be a problem in Cobourg (it’s apparently moved to Clarington), no action was taken.
  • A citizen’s letter wanting Council to ban recycling bins being left on front porches was “received for information purposes”.
  • A citizen’s letter asking that Cobourg Beach be fenced off was also “received for information purposes”.
  • A citizen’s letter asking that rights and freedoms be considered when mandating self-isolation was also “received for information purposes”.

Councillor Coordinator reports – news and highlights

  • Councillor Beatty – discretion is allowed and planning work can continue on major projects.
  • Councillor Chorley – The Ontario Pickle Ball Championship that was planned at the CC has been cancelled; Dredging has started and will deposit sand on the beach (as in previous years); Provincial Parks are closed until May 31.


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Keith Oliver
2 May 2020 11:59 am

To Mrs Anonymous and others overflowing with opinion as to how we should behave in this pandemic.
Firmly held opinion can be as deadly as the virus itself since little is known about its’ behanour, the testing that is being done is insufficient and Canada is short of PPE not to ment8on any relevant medications.
It was the second wave of the 1918 Spanish Flue in the Fall of that year that was the most lethal.
If being cautious if not conservative in this matter inserts me into the ranks of the hysterical as Mrs Anonymous states, I’ll wear that badge with pride!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
2 May 2020 1:27 pm

Exactly, Keith! Yesterday Mr. Ford announced loosening of restrictions in Ontario. Why? Hundreds of new cases are being reported each day. There is still a shortage of PPE. Masks are unavailable for general usage. Nursing homes are unchanged. There is no vaccine. There is no proven treatment. What has changed?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
2 May 2020 2:13 pm

I was at first shocked at the suggestion of businesses opening. Premier Ford had been quite clear as he was being pushed by what is termed as impatient people. However when I read of the type of businesses allowed to open I was reassured. Landscaping – often hired for private home care – they come in do the work often singley, billing is paid electronically. For larger they are in a large open area and in contact with no one. Myself I am very for, as I have stated in all my posts, social distancing and taking other precautions as directed by the Health authories. Some businesses do not appear to be a problem and I saw none on the list that proposed a problem for contact. It is whether the person in charge will continue to be strong enough not to bow the pressure and so far Premier Ford has stood strong. There are a lot of Ford haters so unfortunately the idea I present for discussion may be overshadowed instead of thought about with further input.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Observer
2 May 2020 2:47 pm

Yes, Observer, I see no particular problems with landscapers and such and we need to get people back to work. I will continue to distance to protect others and myself. However, I sense that the relaxations announced yesterday are a prelude to deciding that travel and much larger crowds without distancing — tourists on Cobourg’s beach, dinners with extended family, weddings, etc. — are acceptable.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
2 May 2020 7:08 pm

I believe the regulation will still be there but the people will perhaps neglect it such as the examples I gave of birthday and Easter gatherings here in Cobourg that were greeted with thumbs down instead of supportive comments reflecting people’s acceptance of these things even now – too bad.

Mrs. Anonymous
Reply to  Keith Oliver
2 May 2020 6:59 pm

Gee Keith, I’m sensing some hostility toward me in your post. Why you gotta be like that?😩

I posed some questions. Shouldn’t it be ok to pose questions? Even among epidemiologists throughout the world, the correct path is not clear. Depending how it plays out, and how quickly a safe vaccine is available, it may not be clear for a year or two.

Just like there are risks with keeping things open, there are very real risks keeping things closed. Neither option is without concern. I share your concern about the lack of PPE for health care workers. Truly this has been a failure of federal and provincial governments of all stripes over the years. For some reason Dr, Tam failed to follow her own advice given in a paper she authored after her experience with SARS.

Regarding the second wave of the Spanish Flu, Was the one particular North American outbreak not in large part attributed to a huge parade held in September of 1918? There were also sanitation issues in that time period, lack of antibiotics. I believe you are a historian of sorts so perhaps you could shed more light. To date, I have not heard that Doug Ford or any other western leader is advocating for large gatherings, such as the parade that was held in Philadelphia in 1918. Quite the opposite in fact.

Well there I go again “overflowing with opinion” again. Almost like we still have free speech in Canada.

30 April 2020 4:52 pm

Let’s stay safe, be safe, stay at home, remain that way as long as we can. Be good to all, Skype, zoom, read, enjoy your place, and be good to ourselves. This is a challenge. Men of God and law are scared. If needed, under new business, Cobourg council can govern accordingly. Bordeaux, wine growing region near La Garonne , France did well a long time ago, while everyone around them was dying just talking to their families… anyone aware of this ? they practiced distancing, never never let anybody new in their town. Nobody could believe their story! Learning how to cope, to hope, no ignorance, no hate. 🚷

30 April 2020 11:10 am

Read in the paper there are protests in Toronto and articles in the Toronto Sun from people pushing to re-open business. Myself I don’t think so. They propose everyone get a mask but how effective is the average mask as opposed to medical masks which are in short supply? Surprised so very few people have been able to put money away for a rainy day to ride this out. With rents as they are in Toronto some people would have a hard time having anything there for a rainy day but their seems to be a very large bulk of people that should have savings that apparently do not and even with the huge injections of relief cash are on their uppers already.

Reply to  Observer
30 April 2020 7:23 pm

I guess when nearly .50 Cents of every $$ goes to Taxes of one sort or another
there really is not much left Just look at the Taxes on a Ltr of Gas for you car
and tell me there isn’t to much tax

30 April 2020 10:41 am

So far Cobourg and Northumberland County have done well comparatively with low numbers of COVID-19 confirmed cases. It is disappointing the bill to increase penalties was tabled perhaps to disappear. Those that have not got it by now should have the fine increased. What would be their excuse for not following directive for endangering behaviours at this point? It would emphasize to everyone to continue to practice. Complacency is not a good idea. This virus is not going away and the threat of infection strongly remains.

Krakenberg Kathyrn
Reply to  Observer
30 April 2020 12:28 pm

I totally agree the fines need to be raised and in place. People are still having get together at their homes all over town. I see people complaining on social media that there are a bunch of cars at their neighbors and no one in site. There is also the fear of repercussions if the call it in. We been lucky so far. Strangers coming here to shop from out of town because lineups are too big in the city. It increases our chances of infection. People whining about not being able to go to the trailer or cottage. What is more important a trailers or people’s lives. The town needs to send a stern message that those breaking the rules will be fined.

Mrs. Anonymous
Reply to  Krakenberg Kathyrn
30 April 2020 5:53 pm

With all these alleged strangers coming to town to circulate through our parks and grocery shops spreading their out-of-town germs to us locals, Is there a reported uptick in positive cases, hospitalization and deaths?

Are grocery store employees and LCBO staff, who seem to be taking the brunt of the public interaction, dropping off like flies due to Corona vid 19 Or calling in sick more than normal?

Cottagers were told to stay away during the Easter holiday and reportedly headed out of the GTA anyways, some being nervy enough to stop at the local grocery store. Given this behaviour, does it not make one wonder why there has been no spike in the number of cases, hospitalization and deaths due to the infection of locals by these outsiders and their germs? It has been over 14 days since Easter; the generally accepted time any infection would show up so where is the big leap in hospitalization?

Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
30 April 2020 7:12 pm

How many tourists/cottagers visited Cobourg Mrs. Anonymous? There were reports on Muskoka/Bracebridge areas but I did not see any on Cobourg. Touring the downtown I noted the trailer park area shut down to the usual tourists – May is approaching – the season of tourists, perhaps you could compile the figures of infection and visitors for us then as I do not see an influx here. Although I did see crowded driveways at Easter where there were many cars and on street parking surrounding some houses. If the people visiting were not infected but were advised in home visiting was against the rules I don’t get your point.

Mrs. Anonymous
Reply to  Observer
30 April 2020 7:35 pm

My point is that people gathered (in small groups), travelled and shopped and there does not appear to be any additional infections due to their behaviour. This may suggest that some of these extreme social distancing rules and requests for by law officers are not accomplishing anything other than economic ruin and the normalization of a quasi police state.

This is not to suggest that isolation for compromised populations and regulations against large gatherings are not prudent, rather that a more measured response and less hysteria could be a better solution for Canadians.

Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
30 April 2020 7:39 pm

Don’t agree Mrs. Anonymous. Canada compared to other places has a lower rate of infected COVID-19 cases. A mere 50,000 apparently across the country. However as it is very infectious should social distancing and “all the other hysteria” be put aside just think how rapidly it will spread and become 100,000, 200,000, the sky is the limit. They are talking of opening up businesses very soon – think they are foolish – I plan to stick with home cooking and keeping social distancing as I don’t know what the next person is harbouring. I only have one life.

Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
30 April 2020 9:14 pm

If everyone shared your take on things then we would all be in trouble. I guess this is your answer

Reply to  Informed
30 April 2020 11:33 pm

Unfortunately Informed unless you name the person to whom you are addressing your comment just floats there. No one knows what you are talking about.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Observer
30 April 2020 1:25 pm

I don’t believe that the primary reason for rejection of the proposed bylaw was a possible increase in penalties. Rather the proposal was a very poorly worded bylaw that mentioned both “public spaces” and “private property” without clearly excluding private residences/businesses/yards, attempted to require providing identification contrary to established jurisprudence and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, contained no limitation of duration, gave a right of detention to a bylaw officer, etc.

Cobourg Lover
Reply to  Ken Strauss
30 April 2020 3:00 pm

Are you a Constitutional Lawyer? Have you ever practiced Municipal Law? Every ‘opinion’ you just wrote should be backed/supported with your professional resume instead of misleading the viewers of this blog that you have any idea of what you are talking about. The question was easy, does Council support or not support the protection of the health and well-being of its citizens and put teeth to a serious Public Health recommendation and lay fines when needed on Social distancing of 2 meters. Leave the legal terminology to the professionals/Staff and a court of law to determine what wording is best to use….

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Cobourg Lover
30 April 2020 3:44 pm

Cobourg Lover, did you actually read the proposed bylaw? I expect any bylaw to be clear to anyone with average reading comprehension. Do you agree with all of its provisions? If not, why do you favour it as written? I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV. However, much of what I wrote reflects the comments of a local criminal lawyer whom I respect. What is the basis for your criticism? As a nameless poster what are your credentials?

Reply to  Cobourg Lover
30 April 2020 4:05 pm

When I questioned Councillor AB, he suggested that the refence to “private” property was intended to mean “grocery stores, etc…” however the language was left vague which could allow for a different interpretation and implication. You don’t need to have practiced Municipal Law to understand the difference between intent and impact OR the law of unintended consequences.

Reply to  Rob
30 April 2020 7:17 pm

Rob, are you referring to Councillor AB or Councillor AB? 😜

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  Cobourg Lover
30 April 2020 8:31 pm

Sure glad you you aren’t a member of Council. All aspects should be investigated
and reviewed by legal counsel beforehand and not later.

Council made the right call.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
30 April 2020 3:56 pm

On Social Distancing states ” Further, it was observed that the number of cases in Northumberland was low. Adam Bureau was strongly against the idea and moved to table (kill) the motion to approve the by-law. His motion passed and the By-Law to add penalties will not happen.”
On By-law Enforcement hiring it states it was first deferred but was brought forward and the original motion was approved unanimously and passed. So three staff would be re-assigned to perform duties of by-law officers.

So we have more by-law officers but the fines and penalties will not be increased. Middle of the road decision – are we fore it or aginst it? The Social Distancing by-law was simply killed – so party on all you people that I have seen with birthday party signs and Easter gathering – apparently you are safe to spread the virus.

30 April 2020 9:44 am

More Enforcement Officers give me a Break 1- they don’t respond anyway , 2- they take little interest on the phone and redirect you to some other agency like the Ministry of labour , or Human wrights

30 April 2020 9:28 am

Big fines that people out of work can’t afford…more law enforcement officer to be put on the payroll or kept on the payroll…police can ask for ID.
I think this bunch in Cobourg are going overboard on this one…

Think “Police State” in the making…and how many cases of Covid -19 in Northumberland do we currently have??

A $25.00 fine would be adequate or is the town trying this out as another tax grab.

Old Sailor
30 April 2020 9:13 am

As the weather improves we may see more and more GTA families driving to their favorite free Park and beach – our Victoria Park. It would be a pity if we cannot control those visiting numbers and their activities/social distancing in the park and beach area. Wondering if the town has a plan for this?

Reply to  Old Sailor
30 April 2020 9:33 am

Sounds like a legitimate concern

Reply to  Old Sailor
30 April 2020 9:39 am

I agree Keep those carefree tourist away until all of this is over Fallow examples set by the Kawarthas and other communities like Peterborough , Lindsay , Bracebridge etc etc
The down town is closed anyway so we can’t claim/ say all of those tourist $$$ are being lost
On top of this why is No one talking about the food delivery and take out / home
services . Why do these providers not have to have all the staff and food handlers
tested . I understand the Virus can be transferred not only from person to person but on
surfaces such as bags and packaging not to mention the food it self
This was a requirement when Aids came out a few yrs ago Why not Now ??

Reply to  perplexed
30 April 2020 11:58 am


This is a world wide situation. It isn’t a STD but a virulent bacillus. Covid virus is mutating, launched into the air, visible under microscope, and its infection fixes itself under unknown conditions from man-to-man. This is our enemy, it isn’t a tourist with a passport issue!

There will be more waves of the malady to come. It is harmful, depopulates, gnaw your mental health and kills your economy. It does belong to the category of the pneumonic plague. Please read if interested in pestilential war zones, because you’re under attack.

Jim Thomas
Reply to  Johanne
1 May 2020 4:02 pm

It’s not a bacillus at all. Not even close.

Reply to  perplexed
2 May 2020 1:19 pm

The requirements for the AIDS epidemic by paramedics were absolutely not comparable to the COVID-19 pandemic. We did not use the same stringent protocols with AIDS patients. Not even close. Working on the front lines, I experienced first hand the procedures accepted at the time. The process was to wear gloves. That was it, no masking or gowning unless it was a confirmed case. We took the word of the patient or family member when they confirmed or denied the patient had AIDS. During the SARS era in Ontario treatment of SARS patients, full personal protective equipment (PPE) was worn by paramedics and medical staff. The PPE back then was nowhere near what PPE is today. Gloving was not universal for each patient as it is now.

Lynn Lynn
Reply to  Old Sailor
30 April 2020 9:58 am

Old sailor your right, we saw a lot of tourists last weekend on our afternoon walk . Taking pictures and groups having fun, Not distancing ., Sad that it can’t be right now.
As a community I am amazed how well we have been doing but adding tourists is a whole new germ pool. That shouldn’t be added at this time. Really think removing all the picnic tables still spread through the park area and storing them in with the other ones in the trailer park May be a good start.
If we are going to have rules they have to be enforced for the safety of us all, we sure don’t need this shut down to last any longer then it has too.

Reply to  Lynn Lynn
30 April 2020 10:21 am

How did you know they were tourists? I was walking downtown as well and noticed a few groups, but they were practicing social distancing. I’m not certain if they were tourists, I don’t know everyone in this town.

Reply to  Lynn Lynn
30 April 2020 10:40 am

Social distancing is only required with people who do not reside in the same residence…is it possible they lived together? We are very quick to draw conclusions…. by-law enforcement will be like herding cats.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Old Sailor
30 April 2020 1:24 pm
30 April 2020 8:31 am

Charge everyone who doesn’t follow rules for distancing and every other rule. We need to get back to semi normal

29 April 2020 4:19 pm

Tabling a motion does not necessarily mean to kill it, which is an American definition of table. In fact Council’s procedural rules identify the process a tabled motion can be brought back. Typically, after refinements. But sometimes the tabled motion does not come back.