Dear friends and neighbours,
It was with a heavy heart that I learned Old East Village Grocer is permanently closing its doors this weekend. I keep thinking about Danny, my friend and constituent, who loved working there. I’m going to miss seeing him and all the others when I would stop in for a visit. The local grocer was always a huge asset to our community.
I’ve been in touch with many of the small businesses in our community who are wondering how they’ll make it through this pandemic. I know I speak for all of us when I say that we want our local businesses to come out of this crisis thriving. But many tell me that after spending years building their businesses, they might also have to close up shop.
I heard from our small businesses that the government rent relief program is inaccessible and they are struggling with paying rent, that months of expenses are piling up with no incoming income insight, and that the lack of clarity on whether to open or stay closed has been overwhelming.
If it were up to me and my colleagues in the Official Opposition, small businesses in this province would have a 75 percent commercial rent subsidy, a utility payment freeze, a remote-work set up fund to help them with setting up online retail operations and equipment, auto insurance grace period for taxis and car-sharing drivers, and a designated emergency fund for small businesses and entrepreneurs who have faced historic barriers to accessing traditional capital.
If you are a small business owner, please let me know how you are managing and what further supports you need. I will continue to pressure the government to ensure your needs are reflected, including a ban on commercial evictions.
Together, we will get through this.
Sincerely, your MPP, Teresa Armstrong
The economy and reopening
In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the provincial government has extended the provincial Declaration of Emergency to June 30. They will be announcing details regarding phase 2 of re-opening early next week.
The Official Opposition continues to believe that more testing is needed to ensure we remain safe as we continue to reopen. We, in association with health experts, are calling on the government to ramp-up COVID-19 testing immediately with systematic testing for essential workers and people returning to work, all congregate care settings, plus mobile testing centres to start random community testing. Also, we need firm timelines with dates and benchmarks for testing workers, congregate settings and vulnerable communities.
We support a smart, evidence-driven regional re-opening plan, led by public health advice. The government should listen to regional public health officials and ensure that every region opens on the schedule that’s best for their health, and then their economy — not too quickly, and not being held back, putting people’s health and safety first.
We do not support the current one-size-fits-all approach to the COVID-19 pandemic because that does not respond to the reality in northern Ontario, and it doesn’t respond to the reality in hotspots, including the GTA, and Windsor-Essex.
The government needs to massively scale up testing and contrast tracing, make personal protective equipment available, and increase inspections. So far, this government has not done that.
As we enter the phases of reopening, specific questions about the interpretation of Ontario’s reopening strategy and London businesses, operations and facilities are best answered by the City Of London at 519- 661-2489 or by email at [email protected].
The government has put out a survey requesting feedback on the economic impacts of COVID-19. The submission deadline is June 12th. If you already have or are planning to submit feedback, please do let my office know. We’d also like to know what your feedback is so we can hold this government accountable.
This past week we have seen Black communities across the globe and their allies coming together to press for long-overdue systemic change. It’s time we listen to what Black communities and their leaders have been telling us for decades now. For far too long, governments have paid lip service to the pain of Black communities, while refusing to take the decisive action necessary to address and tear down anti-Black racism in our institutions.
This week, we echoed the call from Black health leaders in declaring anti-Black racism a public health crisis. As the Official Opposition leader, Andrea Horwath, said: “This call includes enhancing accountability infrastructure to address police violence, systemic bias and harm to Black communities, funding the Anti-Racism Directorate and empower it with a clear, targeted strategy to address anti-Black racism in all sectors, and funding organizations that are already doing this important work in communities across Ontario, by dedicating funds for the provision of culturally appropriate health and wellbeing supports within Black communities.”
We’ve also called for the immediate collection of race-based health data. According to health experts, lower income and racialized communities are at higher risk of getting COVID-19. In planning how to overcome this virus, collecting race-based health data is not a nice-to-have. It's a need-to-have.
Many of you have told me that you are growing worried about the effect the prolonged isolation is having on your loved one in care. We know the informal caregiving you regularly provided for your parent and grandparent is vital to keeping them healthy, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve been urging the Ontario government to provide a clear family visitation plan. For those with dementia and other complex care needs, family support is been critical to their well being.
I’ve urged the Ontario government to develop a clear plan that allows family members to be in touch with their loved ones in a way that also maintains the enhanced public health measures that keep long-term care residents safe and prevent the further spread of COVID in long-term care homes.
As many the management of more and more long-term care homes are being assumed by hospitals, we are urging this government to be more aggressive in the take over process. We are also demanding that the list of high-risk red category homes be released because families deserve to know this crucial information.
Earlier this week the provincial government announced that it will be suspending time-of-use hydro pricing starting June 1, 2020 - October 31, 2020. But it comes with a fee hike. The new rate is 12.8 cents a kilowatt hour, up from 10.1 cents per kilowatt hour.
With COVID-19 interventions leaving many municipalities across the province cash-strapped (London, for example, is facing a $23-33 million budget shortfall), my colleagues in the Official Opposition are have asked the province to step up and ensure municipalities have the emergency funds they need to run day cares, transit, public health units and more.
In welcome and necessary relief, the federal government announced that it will give municipalities quicker funding to help with capital infrastructure projects.
Schools, child care and summer camps
The Ontario government announced that schools will remain closed for the rest of this school year, an optional summer learning program will be launched for students who want to continue studying online. Plans for the reopening of schools in the 2020-2021 school year will be announced later this summer.
Licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs also remain closed. Planning is underway for the gradual reopening of child care centres when the province is ready to transition to Stage 2 of the framework.
Overnight camps will not be permitted. However, if public health indicators improve, the province will consider opening both indoor and outdoor summer day camps in July and August under strict health and safety measures.
Wearing a mask
The Ministry of Health is recommending that face coverings be worn on public transit and when physical distancing is a challenge, and released specific recommendations on how to choose, wear and care for appropriate face coverings. The Public Health Agency of Canada also recommends that masks be worn when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
I know people are worried about a relaxing of precautions in grocery stores and public places, which could put us all at risk. The virus is not behind us, in fact COVID-19 positive numbers are ticking upward again. We must not let down our guard. Our best defence against COVID-19 continues to be physical distancing and frequent hand-washing, as well as wearing masks especially when physical distancing is a challenge.
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 [email protected] to let me know and we’ll do our very best to help.
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 [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.
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.