Dear friends and neighbours,
This week, a Toronto Star investigation revealed that internal government documents showed how Ontario “watered down” its strategies to keep COVID-19 out of classrooms. Once again, the provincial government chose not to protect Ontario’s vulnerable, this time it was students and education workers. Once again, rather than investing in our community’s safety, the government chose the cheapest plan and put our kids at risk.
“The memo is one of several internal ministry documents related to Ontario’s back-to-school plan that show safety proposals that were either abandoned or dialed back. Taken together with other changes to the ministry’s guidance over the summer months, particularly around class sizes, critics say the province repeatedly moved the goal posts in its schools plan, loosening safety measures at a time when COVID rates in the community were low,” the article reads.
This explains why back in August, when I hosted an education telephone town hall, most of you felt the government did not do enough to protect our kids and felt unsafe sending them back to school.
That is why I will keep fighting to protect our London-Fanshawe community. Below I’ve included a list of actions the government can take today to ensure our kids and education workers are safe.
In the meantime I hope you were all able to enjoy a little bit of sunshine this week. Seeing the sun shining through my window always brightens up my day.
Schools in our region remain closed to in-person learning with both school boards confirming that the earliest possible return is Feb. 11th.
My Official Opposition colleagues and I continue to press the Premier to stop sitting on $12 BN in unspent COVID-19 contingency funds and start listening to the experts. Below is a list of actions the provincial government can take now to protect our communities and safely reopen schools:
- Develop a provincial school surveillance program
- Reduce class sizes
- Ensure all workers have paid sick leave
- Maintain job-protected leave and benefits for parents who have to stay home to care for their kids
- Keep the child care sector afloat with a boost in funding
- Fund more school buses to ensure physical distancing
- Make use of public infrastructure to support the re-opening of schools and daycares
- Ensure ongoing access to emergency child care for essential workers
- Bring together students, parents, education workers, unions and schools board in an advisory group to help guide COVID-19 recovery in schools
- Address the needs of students from Black, Indigenous and racialized communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19
As always, if you have any issues, questions or concerns pertaining to the content above, feel free to contact my office.
Paid sick days
Earlier this week the Premier maintained that he would not be mandating paid sick on the provincial level. His belief is that provincial sick days would duplicate the federal benefit. This stance has drawn widespread criticism as the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is not the same as legislated sick days.
The Ontario Federation of Labour has put together the infographic below to explain the difference:
London-Fanshawe is home to many essential workers who are caught between a rock and a hard place. Especially when during a pandemic, it should be simple to stay home if you are sick. While we continue this fight for paid sick days, the federal benefit, though imperfect, is available. More info can be found here.
As the provincial government did not provide enough vaccines to our community, the MLHU has had to temporarily suspend COVID-19 vaccinations at the Western Fair Agriplex. The last shot will be administered on Friday.
As outbreaks in long-term care homes across the province grow at alarming rates, I continue to urge the Premier and Minister Fullerton to act quickly to save lives. This government has lacked urgency in it’s response to the crisis unfolding in long-term care.
Recent findings by Ontario’s Science Table affirmed what the Official Opposition has been advocating for all along. Here’s what we’re calling for:
- Jan 30 target for vaccinating all LTC residents
- Canadian Armed Forces in hard-hit homes
- More testing
- Add 10K staff like BC & QC did
- Infection prevention/control experts in every home
Questions about enforcement:
London police say enforcement will be largely complaint-driven, or in instances where officers observe something against the rules that puts people at risk. They're assuring residents that they will not enter a home, pull over a vehicle, or stop a person on the street for the sole purpose of checking compliance with the order. The measure requires that Ontarians stay home except for essential activities like getting food or exercise.
Small business grants
The Province’s application portal for small business grants has finally opened. In case you missed it, the provincial government will be providing up to $20,000 for eligible businesses impacted by the shutdown.
Eligible small businesses include those that:
Were required to close or significantly restrict services due to the Provincewide Shutdown being imposed across the province effective 12:01 a.m. on December 26.
Have fewer than 100 employees at the enterprise level.
Have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019. New businesses established since April 2019 will also be eligible if they meet the other eligibility criteria.
You can find more details about the application process and eligibility here.
Please continue to reach out to my office with feedback, concerns and questions. Hearing from you is integral to how we push this government into much needed action. Email me at TArmstrong[email protected] to let me know and we’ll do our very best to help.
Resources in the community:
Addiction Services Thames Valley
ADSTV has launched a selection of Supportive Information Sessions online at adstv.ca. These recorded sessions and downloadable tools are based on ones previously offered nearly every weekday at their facility. ADSTV is also preparing to provide services in a face-to-face setting. Visit their website for updates.
Hydro bill assistance
Monday July 13th, eligible London Hydro customers who have fallen behind on their bills because of the pandemic can apply for the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program. For details on the program see: http://oeb.ca/CEAP To apply check: http://londonhydro.com on Monday
Online Tool to Find COVID-19 Financial Help
The Government of Canada has released a new web-based benefits finder tool to help people living in Canada determine which government benefits programs best meet their needs. The tool includes provincial benefit programs.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has launched Friendly Callers, a new outreach program that matches volunteers with seniors for a weekly check-in. If you, your parents, your neighbours, or any senior you know would like to participate in this program, call CMHA at 519-434-9191 ext. 2223 or email [email protected] Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Emergency Community Support Fund
Community service agencies can now apply for emergency funding through the Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF). These funds are for you to respond to COVID-19 in your community.
Canadian Mental Health Association
The Canadian Mental Health Association has put together a list of supports available in Ontario.
London Small Business webinars
The London Small Business Centre has compiled a collection of webinars covering a range of business topics. The webinars listed are offered by our local community, organizations throughout Ontario and beyond.
LifeSpin put together this list of resources for folks in London.
CLEO has a legal resource specifically for COVID-19 related issues.
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.