Dear friends and neighbours,
I spent most of this week in committee hearings for the government’s new bill, Bill 175, Connecting People to Home and Community Care. In committee, I was able to listen to folks across the province share their expertise and experience in home and community care. Spending those days listening to their testimonies confirmed for me that with this bill, this government is moving home and community care in the wrong direction.
Ontarians should be able to stay in their homes for as long as they want to. To do that, the home and community care sector needs to be fixed. These are the solutions that my colleagues and I are pushing for:
Proper investment in community programs
Significant increase staffing levels by paying living wages and offering full-time work
Getting profits out of care because publicly funded healthcare should be publicly delivered
Ensuring a minimum standard of care across the province
Instead Bill 175 increases privatization, bureaucracy, and the Cabinet's regulatory powers while decreasing accountability, labour protections and equity in service delivery. Ontarians shouldn’t have to get rushed into long-term care simply because successive governments have failed to invest in home and community care.
In these committee meetings and beyond I will keep fighting for the healthcare system that we all deserve.
Stage 2 in Ontario
A new slate of regions were green lit to proceed to Stage Two, which permits the reopening of businesses like restaurants, salons and shopping malls. Toronto, the Peel region and the Windsor-Essex region, where cases of COVID-19 are higher, are not yet allowed to move to Stage Two. London entered into Stage 2 last week.
Black Lives Matter London
Earlier this week I wrote a letter to the Solicitor General’s office to echo Black Lives Matter London’s call to significantly reform the SIU. There is much more work to be done until Black and Indigenous folks in Ontario feel safe and receive justice.
Federal government updates
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) will be extended by two months. Our federal counterparts in the opposition said the government should extend CERB by at least four months, plus create a long-term plan to repair Canada's employment insurance (EI) program, so that it better supports Canadians unable to work.
Contact tracing app
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced a new contact tracing smartphone app the government hopes will help quell the spread of COVID-19. The app should be available for download in Ontario July 2.
Close to 400,000 frontline workers in Ontario have not received the pandemic pay Premier Doug Ford promised them two months ago. For many weeks, the Official Opposition has been pressing the government to ensure workers receive their much-deserved raise immediately, and for those top-ups to be retroactive to the start of the pandemic.
Family visitation in long-term care homes, retirement homes and other residential care settings
As of June 18th, the Ontario government has allowed family members to visit their loved ones in care homes. After months of isolation in long-term care homes and retirement homes, many of you will get to see your loved ones. However, there are many of you who will have to wait longer.
I know that you are not just a visitor. You are essential to the health and well-being of your loved one. It's been hard on all of you being away from each other. And while you and I are grateful for the hardworking staff in these homes, we know it's not the same without you.
You and many staff members have told me that these visitation policies are unclear, ineffective and potentially dangerous. You should have been consulted.
These systems need to change and these changes begin with hearing directly from families, residents, and staff.
I want to hear from you. If you want share your views on how we improve visitation and caregiver policies, please send me an email: TArmstrong-QP@ndp.on.ca
Long-term care in Ontario
Official Opposition leader Andrea Horwath is demanding that Premier Doug Ford revoke the operating licenses for all eight retirement homes owned by the group responsible for Rosslyn Retirement Residence, where seniors have faced harrowing conditions, and 14 residents died of COVID-19. 63 residents and 20 staff were infected.
We have also been shocked that this government is considering protecting companies that operate long-term care facilities from civil liability, given that many of these companies have completely failed to protect seniors in their care.
This government, with support from the two other opposition parties, limited the commercial eviction ban, so that it only protects businesses eligible for the flawed and restrictive Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program – we have been fighting for months for a ban on all commercial evictions retroactive to the start of the pandemic.
Child care and schools
The government's failure to support child care centres in weathering the pandemic and safely reopening leaves the sector to face deficits, cut wages for ECEs and potential staff lay-offs.
Doctors from Toronto’s SickKids Hospital say children in Ontario should be able to return to school come September, though COVID-19 probably won’t be eliminated then. The doctors are helping to create guidelines on a safe reopening of schools. During yesterday’s Question Period, Education critic Marit Stiles asked how the government will help schools ensure they have the necessary precautions in place given that school board funding from the province remains long-overdue.
In addition to unveiling unclear plans of what the upcoming school year will look like, plans that leave school boards to do the heavy lifting and without additional funding to bolster the new health and safety measures, the government announced its per-student funding for the 2020-21 school year. It amounts to just $250 more per student which will by no means make up for the Premier’s class-size hikes and course cuts last year. It also fails to invest in what's needed for kids to catch up after months away from the classroom.
Resources available 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Living Life to the Full webinar series
A new webinar series by Canadian Mental Health Association will discuss the mental health impact of COVID-19.Webinars will be hosted weekly between June 12 and July 3, with topics related to loneliness, young adult mental health, older adult advocacy, and the mental health fallout of the pandemic.
- 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.