Memo to Members
As the holiday season is upon us, and our virtual conference is behind us, I want to greet you once again and provide you with a short update as to what is happening as we head into the new year.
Safe restart/COVID Stimulus Program/2021 Budgets
On October 29, the provincial government announced $27.4 million in Safe Restart funding for municipalities. This success is a direct result of our collective advocacy, which was supported by two rounds of COVID impacts research with members. This morning, the province put out a news release indicating that members should be receiving their payments in the coming days. Today is also the last day to submit applications to the province’s COVID-19 Stimulus Program for Communities.
We know that it has been a challenging year. We know that you have already prepared or are preparing your 2021 budgets. MNL is here to support you in that process. While we cannot tell you how to allocate your funding, we ask that you plan wisely for the road ahead. As I have said before, we are not out of the woods yet. There are still many non-COVID related pressures that we all continue to face. Planning is key.
Over the coming months, we will be reaching out to our members for the 3rd round of our COVID financial impacts research work. We thank you in advance for your willingness to participate. This information continues to be important to any advocacy work we do now and into the future.
Holiday gatherings, travel and COVID
The past month has been trying for our province. Several of our member municipalities were and continue to be directly impacted by COVID cluster outbreaks. It is a reminder of how fragile everything still is and the importance of remaining vigilant. As leaders in our communities, we are always at the front line of communicating.
We must encourage residents in our communities to follow public health guidelines concerning holiday gatherings, as we need to limit our contacts during this COVID holiday season. Please ensure that travellers, rotational workers and their families are supported in following the guidelines, and please communicate to residents on the importance of kindness rather than suspicion and maliciousness at workplaces, at schools and in the community at large. People are stressed; they are tired, and many are frightened, still. Kindness and support today mean a better, safer tomorrow.
In her November 23 briefing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald acknowledged that close communication was happening with leaders in the COVID impacted municipalities. At that time, she extended an open invitation to municipal leaders to contact the public health team for advice and guidance should outbreaks occur within their communities. We see this as a positive sign on the strength of our sector’s relationship with the provincial public health team. Of course, the MNL team is always here to support you and our COVID email, firstname.lastname@example.org, is active and open. Email us with questions and/or concerns that you may have.
To support you and field any additional questions you may have, we are scheduling a pre-holiday member check-in for December 16 at 11 a.m. NST. We will have a representative from the Department of Health and Community Services available to answer questions.
We know that you are working hard. Keep it up. We will see the end of this pandemic.
The MNL board will meet virtually on December 12. This is our full first meeting since the virtual conference and in addition to our regular agenda, we will be meeting with Sister Elizabeth Davis and Dr. Patrick Parfrey, co-chairs of the Health Accord NL. The MNL staff continue to work on the issues that matter to our sector. The Regionalization Working Group, with representatives from MNL, PMA and ECCM, is meeting regularly. On December 9, MNL is meeting with our university partners and Minister Bennett on municipal drinking water. We will specifically be discussing the provincial drinking water action plan, which is noted in his mandate letter. We continue to do the important work on wastewater consultations and will be reaching out again to members on this soon.
As we head into the new year, our advocacy work on infrastructure and regionalization will continue. We have a municipal election coming up. You will hear more from MNL on this. We hope that you are taking note of the leaders in your community and encouraging them to run.
MNL is changing the way it does business. We are working stronger and more closely with partners on projects and initiatives that will benefit members. We are constantly improving our membership services because we want to provide you with the right tools and resources so that you can conduct municipal leadership – and oversee municipal business – in a way that makes sense for your municipality’s circumstances.
On that note, we are issuing membership fee invoices for the 2021 calendar year. Please expect them soon. This has been a challenging year financially for MNL and all non-profits, but we know it has been equally hard on you, so the fees are unchanged from last year. The MNL board and staff look forward to working with you and for you in the year ahead. There is a lot of work ahead.
In closing, I want to once again acknowledge your hard work. It’s been a difficult year. Your leadership has been outstanding; you are making a difference in your communities by keeping them safe.
Enjoy your holiday season. I hope that you can take advantage of some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
Thank you and happy holidays.
Sheila Fitzgerald, President
Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador