As the critic for long-term care and home care, the tragedy unfolding in long-term care homes as a result of this pandemic has been a central focus of mine. But as I continue to advocate for the health and safety of our loved ones in long-term care, I want you to know that I do hear all your concerns.
I know many of you are feeling left behind. Especially students, seniors, low wage earners and those of you on social assistance who don’t qualify for the federal assistance programs. My colleagues and I have been pushing for provincial emergency funding since the beginning of the pandemic.
I’m hearing from small business owners who are wondering if they’ll make it through this. I’m hearing from families who done their part and stayed home and are now feeling the financial crunch. I’m hearing from folks worried about food security and wanting to open community gardens again. I’m continuing to raise all of these issues to the government while also proposing solutions.
If you share these concerns or others or if you want to share your ideas, please do get in contact with my office.
Some of you have reached out to my office and expressed how stressed and anxious you’ve been feeling lately. It’s understandable to be feeling that way. This is an unprecedented time. I thought I would share some tips to manage mental health from the Canadian Mental Health Association. Also here is a list of available resources through the province of Ontario: ontario.ca/page/find-mental-health-support
Here are this week’s new developments:
- Ontario appears to have avoided the worst-case pandemic scenario, with new projections suggesting the province saw the community spread of COVID-19 peak earlier than anticipated, which health officials attribute to vigilant social distancing measures — officials stressed that these measures must be continued for Ontario to eventually ease up and re-open the economy.
- The projections are far less promising when it comes to the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes and other congregate settings, where the curve continues its upswing — despite outbreaks impacting 127 long-term care facilities, the Ford government has failed to take appropriate action to mitigate the spread, says Andrea Horwath.
- General Motors announced that it will use part of its Oshawa plant to make masks for health care workers — a request that Oshawa MPP Jennifer French originally put to the government in a letter.
- Canada is bracing for potential shortages of critical drugs needed to treat COVID-patients, and has put a call out for new suppliers.
New federal government funding
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new fund for community organizations, and said businesses can start applying for the federal wage subsidy — companies can use the new CRA calculator to see what they qualify for —with so many small and medium-sized businesses floundering, the Official Opposition has been asking Ontario to step up and provide additional supports, including rent subsidies – we call it the "Save Main Street plan."
- Canada announced a new commercial rent subsidy program, to be funded jointly by the provinces – the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses said the program may rely too much on landlords to administer, and may not provide adequate support to hard-hit businesses. The Official Opposition warns that substantial gaps in the rent relief program will see many businesses unable to survive the pandemic.
- Canada is rolling out a package of supports to help students, who have been excluded from Canada’s emergency income program. The supports include a Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), and an incentive for students who volunteer in COVID-19 relief efforts
- Canada is boosting support for COVID-19 research, including clinical trials for a vaccine, and creating a task force to look into tests to identify antibodies to the virus. The World Health Organization has warned that immunity to the virus may not be clear-cut.
Provincial government updates
- At the same time as Ontario is launching a fund to help community organizations deliver food and other essentials to low-income seniors, the province is clawing back money from social assistance recipients.
- Municipalities across Canada are asking the federal government for an emergency funding boost of at least $10 billion, as cities and towns see their revenues plummet and their public health and social service costs spike — the provincial government has declined to say whether Ontario will change the rules to allow municipalities to run a deficit, and has failed to heed calls from the Official Opposition to throw municipalities a lifeline and provide financial support.
- The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) announced it will have to temporarily lay off about 1,200 workers in the coming weeks, the result of a greatly decreased ridership — the Official Opposition’s Transit critic responded with a call for the government to use its power to stop these transit layoffs, and give desperately needed financial support to municipalities.
- Ontario announced new measures to support residents and staff in vulnerable settings like homeless shelters and homes for adults with developmental disabilities — the Official Opposition has been calling on the government to immediately increase measures to save lives in vulnerable sites like shelters and long-term care homes, and to make a plan to ensure Ontarians with disabilities are no longer excluded from access to testing and treatment.
- Federal officials say it is up to each individual province to ramp up its COVID-19 testing and contact tracing — a key factor in opening up the economy. Yet Ontario continues to lag when it comes to testing.
COVID-19 across Ontario
- Canada’s urban Indigenous population say they feel excluded from the federal government’s COVID-19 response.
- The government of Ontario has said that it does not believe in collecting race-based data relating to COVID-19.
- An additional 101 health care workers have contracted COVID-19 — including 27 nursing home workers — bringing the total of confirmed health care worker cases to 1,368. The Official Opposition has been pushing the government to take long-overdue action to better protect workers and residents in long-term care.
- More than a third of patients in Canada admitted to hospital and ICUs due to COVID-19 are under the age of 60, a new report finds. Health officials are encouraging younger people not to dismiss the severity of the virus.
- The provincial government is asking the federal government to bring in the military to support five long-term care homes hit hard by COVID-19, though his long-term care minister refused to identify the five homes — my colleagues and I have been asking the government to take immediate action to save lives and stop the spread of the virus in long-term care homes.
- The Ontario Superior Court ruled in favour of The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) and its members working in long-term care facilities, ordering four long-term care homes to provide workers with PPE including N95 masks, and the right to wear them.
My colleagues and I are:
- Calling on the government to intervene with a host of measures in long-term care and other group home settings — the epicentre of the pandemic. We’re calling on the government to include taking over the management of long-term care homes most at risk, mandate that all workers limit to one facility — including temp agency workers — and raise wages for workers to $22 an hour.
- Fact-checking the dismissal of the importance of Ontario collecting race-based data.
- Calling out the Ford government for making money off the backs of the province’s most vulnerable, clacking back money from OW and ODSP recipients who are receiving support from the federal CERB benefit.
- Stressing that if the government doesn't immediately increase testing and provide safe places for people experiencing homelessness to isolate, shelters will become the next epicentre of the pandemic.
- Asking the government to immediately ramp up protective measures in correctional facilities — including more testing and making sure everyone has the PPE they need to prevent further crises like the one facing Brampton's Ontario Correctional Institute, where at least 60 inmates and eight workers have tested positive for COVID-19.
- Calling on the government to immediately make in-home testing available to people with disabilities.
- Calling for all long-term care facilities and other congregate care settings experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19 to be posted online — the call comes after at least 31 deaths were confirmed at a Pickering long-term care home that had reported just four deaths days before.
- Calling for all staff who work in congregate care settings to get the same deal that staff at a Markham assisted living home for adults with disabilities received.
- Fact-checking the government’s announcement that all students would receive an iPad. Only those whose school boards already had them available will receive them.
- With May 1 just around the corner, the Official Opposition is fighting for an 80% rent subsidy for renters, up to $2,500 a month. People can sign a petition in online in support of that.
Here are some things I’m hearing from you:
- Ontario drivers say they need immediate relief on their auto insurance premiums, something the government's approach falls far short of.
- People are raising concerns about the state of long-term care and seniors homes before COVID-19 — a problem my colleagues and I have been raising for years.
- Ongoing concerns about small businesses that are failing, with some facing eviction — through no fault of their own — because there is no provincial support in place for expenses like commercial rent.
Resources and Links:
- The City of London has an FAQ to help simplify what Londoners can and can’t do in light of COVID-19.
- LifeSpin put together this list of resources for folks in London.
- The Ontario Government has created a centralized COVID-19 page which can be found here.
- 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.