Dear friends and neighbours,
First and foremost, I hope everyone is keeping healthy and safe at home. During this unprecedented health crisis, we are all finding ourselves grappling with so many unknowns on a daily basis. My office is working very hard to field calls and emails to get some answers to your inquiries.
One thing is clear: we have so many unsung heroes that we need to be grateful for. Front-line health care workers, public health workers, and essential workers – from grocery clerks to pharmacists to truck drivers, all stepped up to keep our community going.
Let's all keep doing our part to help these heroes by stopping the spread of COVID-19. Practice physical distancing (2 metres minimum), wash your hands often and thoroughly, and please self-isolate if you feel unwell or have had any contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has shown symptoms. We are all in this together.
If you feel you can’t take these measures because you have to go to work or are worried about rent, etc, call our office so we can support you.
A lot has changed in the last week and many of you have contacted my office inquiring about a wide range of topics. I hope you can find some answers to your concerns below.
Teresa Armstrong, MPP London Fanshawe
Hydro time of use rates
After hearing from our constituents, my colleagues and I worked to ensure that eliminating hydro time of use rates was on the government’s radar for emergency policy decisions. As this is an important issue across the province, the NDP has been advocating for this since before the pandemic.
As a result of our collective pressure, the Government of Ontario is providing temporary 45-day emergency relief to support Ontarians impacted by the global COVID-19 outbreak. This change captures the majority of residential, small business and farm customers and will be in place for at least 45 days to provide relief to Ontarians working from home, in self-isolation and those who have lost jobs.
According to London Hydro, as of Tuesday, March 24, 2020, households, farms and small businesses who pay time-of-use electricity rates will be charged off-peak rates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For more information, see the Government of Ontario's press release here.
Last week, the Ministry of Attorney General announced that no new eviction orders will be issued until further notice in Ontario due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that Sheriff’s offices have been asked to postpone any scheduled enforcement of eviction orders currently set for this week. Thank you to everyone who wrote to me to call for this move.
Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath has called for an emergency bill to guarantee in law that no one can be evicted for any reason during the COVID-19 pandemic, nor punished for missing rent. You can find her full statement here.
If you are facing eviction in the midst of this pandemic, please contact my office.
According to the City of London’s website, the property tax payment deadline for the March interim installment remains March 31, 2020, however, residents not able to make a payment by the deadline will not be charged late penalties or interest in April or May on late payments. While these measures were approved for 60 days, Council has directed staff to report back with next steps on further options to assist taxpayers, including potential deferral of the next installment scheduled for June.
Visit here for more information.
Earlier this week, the government ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses for 14 days starting Tuesday March 24 at 11:59pm.
For more information on how this impacts your business, call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659. Help is available Monday - Sunday, 8:30am - 5:00pm.
If you do choose to remain open, I advise you to ensure you are implementing all the health and safety precautions necessary to keep yourself and your employees safe.
We are all in this together, and we will get through it together.
Yesterday, two major COVID-19 relief related financial announcements were made, provincial and federal.
Provincially, Ontario’s NDP believes that the financial statement leaves out help for people. We’re concerned that the provincial government’s financial statement lacks the direct financial assistance many Ontarians and small and medium-sized local businesses will need to get by during the COVID-19 crisis.
I’ve heard from many of you that you are worried. Many of you were already struggling to stay afloat before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now with your incomes cut and even eliminated, that worry has multiplied.
My colleagues and I will vote in favour of the financial statement bill, and allow it to pass immediately. But the province needs to do better to stop some people from finding themselves in dire financial straits, and preventing some businesses from going under.
Prior to the financial statement, NDP leader Andrea Horwath, my colleagues and I called for the provincial government to send $2,000 Ontario Emergency Income cheques to households experiencing unemployment or lost income during the COVID-19 crisis.
We’re urging the government to regroup, and put together a direct financial support package for people, and for small and medium-sized businesses. See here for our full statement.
The federal government also passed emergency legislation today that detailed a federal economic response plan. For more on the federal package see here or contact your local MP.
States of emergency
On March 17th the province declared a state of emergency. London followed suit on March 20th in order to take steps to limit the spread of the COVID-19.
As a result of this declaration and its associated orders, the following establishments are legally required to close immediately:
- All facilities providing indoor recreational programs;
- All public libraries;
- All private schools as defined in the Education Act;
- All licensed child care centres;
- All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery;
- All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies; and
- Concert venues.
Further, all organized public events of over fifty people are also prohibited, including parades and events and communal services within places of worship.
Residents are strongly encouraged to continue practicing physical distancing, regular hand washing and staying home, especially when sick.
Last week, my colleagues went back to the house to pass emergency legislation for workers who need to miss work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two bills were passed. The first is a change to the employment standards act which among other things gives people the right to take sick leave without risking their jobs.
Another bill was passed that allows city councils to count council members who join meetings electronically for quorum. Given the need to socially isolate this is a really important change to ensure that city councils won’t be blocked from meeting
Ontario’s NDP voted in favour of the bills because we support the job protection provision and the ban on required doctor’s notes. But they fall short of what is needed.
The NDP has been pushing for leave from work to be paid, not unpaid, along with other measures. We won’t give up on getting people the help they need.
Ultimately, the measures being agreed to are a small first step. To see our priorities regarding emergency legislation, click here.
Lastly, I have received countless emails from people in our community who are calling for the government to take real action to prevent the spread of this virus and to look out for those in need.
I want you to know that I hear your concerns and am working constructively with fellow MPPs in all parties to ensure that our province gets this right.
Here in London-Fanshawe, I want to extend my appreciation and thank my staff team for all the hard work they do to support our constituents. The community office is closed as we are all working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please contact our team by email at TArmstrong-CO@ndp.on.ca or phone 519-668-1104 and we’ll do our very best to help.
As this situation is changing constantly we respectfully ask your patience as new policies are announced and introduced. Full information and implementation will take time. As we get more information we will do our best to share it with constituents.
I’m proud to represent a community like ours, with so many people looking out for each other.
Take care, wash your hands, continue to look out for each other and let us know how you’re doing.
Your MPP, Teresa Armstrong
Resources and links
Middlesex-London Health Unit has opened two COVID-19 screening centres. For more on that and other public health information visit Middlesex-London Health Unit’s page here.
If you are interested in up-to-date information regarding Ontario Government announcements and programs I recommend monitoring the Ontario Newsroom.