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Durham’s Regional Chair talks about recent initiatives and the pandemic during chamber event

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

SCUGOG: Durham Regional Chair John Henry provided an update on regional initiatives during a virtual Scugog Chamber of Commerce event, on Friday, May 28th.

As it has been in Ontario for well over a year, the COVID-19 pandemic was a hot topic during the event.

“It’s been a challenging year for all of us in the Region. In the fight against COVID-19, we expanded vaccine eligibility criteria to cover more of our residents. Just recently, all adults and [people] 12 years of age and older are eligible to book their first dose, which is very encouraging news. Our continued efforts, so far, have resulted in the decline of new COVID-19 cases, while our total [vaccine] doses administered has increased significantly,” Chair Henry said.

The Regional Chair explained the way this pandemic has affected how the Region plans new initiatives.

“Every decision we make will require a Covid lens. Our priorities haven’t changed, their importance has only been amplified. [Meaning,] priorities such as, the importance of environmental sustainability, agriculture, social housing and supporting our local business sector to foster and continue economic success for our Region.”

Chair Henry encourages people to get their COVID-19 vaccine when they are eligible to receive it.

“If you haven’t [received] a vaccine, I urge you to get a vaccine,” he said, adding, “once everybody does that, [COVID-19] will be gone.”

He compared the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine to how Polio cases have been greatly reduced worldwide by the Polio vaccine. “We can do the same thing with [the COVID-19 vaccine]. We’re not out of this yet. We need to continue to work together; wear your mask, follow the rules, [and] listen to the medical officers of health. Hopefully, by [July 1st], we’ll be back to a more normal Durham Region and on our way to a total recovery,” Chair Henry explained.

Durham’s Regional Chair stressed there would be plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs, post-pandemic.

“As we get closer to the end of this [COVID-19] tunnel, there will be opportunities. The economy is ready to take off,” he said. Chair Henry explained how the Region is working towards equality for all people.

“The Region recently appointed Allison Hector-Alexander to lead our new office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In March, I joined Allison and our CAO Elaine Baxter-Trahair, along with panellists at a public town hall meeting about Anti-Black racism. It was a chance for open dialogue to better understand one another and create an anti-racist environment going forward. At the Region, we are taking measurable steps to address Anti-Black racism, diversity, equity and inclusion by creating a dedicated focus to anti-racism initiatives and key priorities across the entire Region.”

The Region of Durham created an Anti-Racism Task Force, as a committee of the Regional council.

Chair Henry emphasized the importance of broadband Internet infrastructure and getting residents connected to fast Internet. “The railroad of the future is broadband. The ability to move files and information is key. This is such a significant issue that it should be of national importance. There should be a national strategy to connect every person in this country to high-speed fibre [Internet],” he stressed.

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