November 3, 2021
I think by now, we have all had enough of COVID-19. The provincial government has released its plan to lift restrictions, and while I’m not sure how you put an exact date on when it’s safe to completely lift all safety measures, I really am happy to work toward a finish line.

When lockdowns began, it felt like a sprint that quickly changed to a long distance run that morphed into a marathon. The problem was there was no finish line in sight. The impact of the pandemic on businesses, families, friends, loved ones and our collective health (both physically and mentally) was, and still is, significant.

Through the amazing work of the highly-dedicated Landscape Ontario COVID-19 Task Force, we have been able to keep our community up-to-date on the latest developments and resources. This group of volunteers has met more than 160 times and has produced an entire hub of resources.

As restrictions start to ease, it’s important to remember the advice of the task force: “Don’t let your guard down!” It’s easy to just drop all of the important health and safety procedures we’ve all implemented to keep our people safe. While there is light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel, we’re not out of it yet. Through our diligence in encouraging our teams to get fully vaccinated and implementing COVID-19 mitigation measures, it’s time to start thinking beyond this deadly pandemic.

One of the most frequent questions we’re getting now is if businesses may roll out a mandatory vaccination policy. While the answer is yes, it also comes with many caveats and warnings. I’m hearing that taking a hardline stance on mandatory vaccinations is where most business owners want to go, but that doesn’t come without challenges (and severance). Most employment lawyers and human resource professionals will advise to offer accommodations where possible (i.e. remote work and rapid antigen testing). 

At Landscape Ontario, we implemented a mandatory vaccination policy for all staff and rolled out a hybrid in-office and remote work program. It didn’t come without some wrinkles to iron out, but overall it’s working well. While we have mandated that all staff be fully vaccinated, we also know there are reasons why it may not be possible. Taking the advice of employment lawyers and HR professionals, we have made two accommodations available by special request: remote work where possible depending on the role within the organization; and frequent rapid antigen testing. The rapid antigen tests are available through your local chamber of commerce at no charge.

Staff have demonstrated throughout the pandemic they could be highly-productive and effective while working remotely. We have also observed that collaboration is at an all-time high when we meet in-person. While the office isn’t open to drop-in visitors yet, we are now back to the office and more effective than ever. 

Landscape Ontario Congress is on! The events team, led by Heather MacRae, is pushing forward and working through difficult logistical challenges to ensure we are all able to enjoy the Congress we all know and love. It won’t come without some compromise, as we do need to continue to adhere to public health guidelines.

Many chapters are starting to discuss in-person events and a few even held fall golf tournaments. I’m looking at you Windsor, Upper Canada and Golden Horseshoe Chapters! It was so heartwarming to see everyone enjoying each other’s company, in person.

The Landscape Ontario board of directors have met in-person twice — while offering a virtual option for those board members who were unable to physically attend. By offering a hybrid meeting option, we’re providing an opportunity to participate and engage in meetings that previously wasn’t possible. We’re planning an outdoor social event to be held at the LO home office on December 2. You, especially, are invited. More details will follow very soon.

We’re all looking forward to getting back to in-person meetings and events and hope to see you at the next chapter meeting or sector group meeting. I can’t wait to see you there!
Joe Salemi CAE
LO Deputy Executive Director and Director of Operations