A city scene on a sunny winter day. In the background, the stone backside of Halifax City Hall. In the foreground, a pedestrian wearing a three-quarter length winter jacket, red sneakers and a white N95-style mask walks on the sidewalk. Another pedestrian behind her, wearing a red toque and blue sneakers, mounts the sidewalk. A right-turning navy SUV drives through a crosswalk behind the man.
Halifax City Hall is seen from the corner of Barrington and Duke streets on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

Municipal employees who refused the COVID-19 vaccine will be back to work on Monday.

The move comes after Premier Tim Houston announced on Wednesday that all public health restrictions would be lifted on March 21, starting with the requirement to show proof of vaccine for “non-essential, discretionary events and activities” on Monday.

In a news release on Thursday, HRM said it’s following the province’s lead:

The municipality continues its practice of following the direction of Public Health regarding vaccination requirements, therefore effective Monday, February 28, the municipality’s Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, which applies to municipal employees, students, work placements and volunteers, will be rescinded. The municipality’s Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy for suppliers will also be rescinded as of February 28.

The municipality announced the policy in October after originally declining to mandate its employees to get the vaccine. In mid-December, HRM said 97% of employees were fully vaccinated or on track to be fully vaccinated by January 12.

It’s unclear how many of the fewer than 145 HRM employees who were unvaccinated at the time were actually laid off or fired. The Halifax Examiner asked the municipality on Thursday how many employees were off the job. Spokesperson Brynn Budden said she’d follow up with the numbers on Friday.*

The municipality also announced that as of Monday, proof of vaccination will no longer be required “to participate in recreation programming or to visit recreation and fitness centres.”

Masks will remain mandatory for now. The next in-person council meeting is scheduled for March 22.

*Update, February 25:

Budden replied: “There were 14 employees who were placed on unpaid leave due to non-compliance with the policy.”

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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