I know that many of you are frustrated. We all share these sentiments and a while ago I said that trying to make sense of decisions made in this pandemic will only drive you more insane. We have tackled this pandemic over the past year with resilience, determination, respect and with the moral conduct that defines the character of those living here in Haldimand-Norfolk. That said, I can appreciate that everyone is nearing their breaking points.
We cannot control many of the decisions or choices made but we can embrace and celebrate the small successes along the way. Currently we are at approx. 25% of the overall population of HN vaccinated (at least 1 dose) and we should soon see groups over 60 be welcomed to the clinics. We are, as a percentage, ahead of most areas in Ontario. We are hoping that the Province will soon be able to furnish us with more vaccines, which will allow us to expand the sites into medical offices and pharmacies beyond what is available today. All in an effort to get to the finish line of vaccinating everyone who so chooses.
It is our understanding that the Province will once again take a further step to flatten the growing curve of COVID cases and will be issuing more orders this week. We continue to express the concerns of our business owners the impact that these decisions have on them and that we believe there are different approaches that could be taken to achieve the outcomes they are looking for but also balance the needs of our small businesses.
Caledonia Protest Update
As many of you would think, things may seem to be quiet on this, at least in terms of visibility. I can tell you that there are many still working and trying to move things forward. Recently on Six Nations there were a few deaths within the families of the Confederacy and so some meetings have been delayed. I recently had a phone conversation with the Premier and shared with him some thoughts on how he could, from the Provincial level, take a leadership role in this and not to wait for the Feds but to help us along with Six Nations in forcing the Feds to engage. While it is the Feds who ultimately will resolve the long standing claim, it is the Province and us locally, who can find shared successes. It is these successes for the broader communities that will push those who continue to aggravate rather than to build, those that serve the few rather than the greater good of all. I will be meeting with Chief Hill soon to discuss our next steps and how we can play a role in supporting him with his efforts to get Six Nations to buy into his leadership and his ability to make a difference.
Over the past couple of years, there have been occasions here in Haldimand where people felt the need to push an agenda publicly beyond it being a message. While we feel that all groups despite their religion or background, should have the right to exercise their freedoms, we also believe that those such as business owners have the same rights to enjoy the public space they share in a way that does not infringe on one another. We believe there is a line for all of us to adhere to and level of respect that is applied in our actions as to how they may affect those around us. When people, usually outsiders of our communities come with an agenda that crosses that line, we now have a bylaw that, with the aid of the OPP, we can enforce.
Many people and businesses asked for this and while it not black and white, it is better than what we had in the past. We are not targeting any particular group or culture, or sector but we are targeting the actions of any person or persons that cross that line and would only ask that you guide yourself like the many good people of this community and this bylaw will not been required.
Just recently we passed the 2021 budget for Haldimand. I cannot say enough about the strength of the staff working for you here in Haldimand. As Council we continue to put many pressures and demands on them and they continue to meet them and stay within the the budget parameters as prescribed. Our goal is to maintain increases with cost of living. A zero percent increase is not sustainable and you do not have to look far to see how well that works. We believe that a 2% annual increase is status quo and good financial planning. This year our increase comes in at 1.96%.
Many of you will see larger increases in your taxes but you understand that it is not the increase in taxes but the increase in your property assessment that may drive that number higher than you may expect. We all know in these times property values have increased substantially and so it my cause your taxes to move more than others. Aside from that I believe a 1.96% increase in a year with so many uncontrollable expenses and is a responsible and sensitive budget and in comparison to our peers, I would argue that it is better than most.
Mayor Ken Hewitt