Dear friends and neighbours,
This has been a hard week. I’m sure many of us were saddened and outraged to read the Canadian Armed Forces report about the five long-term care homes they’ve been assigned to. My heart broke while reading the inhumane conditions and treatment of residents and staff revealed in the report. I know many of you remain worried about your loved ones in care. I hear you.
That’s why last week I and the Official Opposition called for an independent and transparent public inquiry into long-term care. Unfortunately this government unanimously voted our motion down and opted for a government-controlled review.
I want you to know that we will continue to push for answers and justice.
My bill, Time to Care was originally scheduled for Second Reading his week. Because the pandemic has changed much of what we do in the legislature I’m still waiting to hear the finalized rescheduled date. It’s not hard to imagine how different the circumstances would be for our loved ones in long-term care if my bill had passed and all residents received a minimum of 4.1 hours of care. That being said, there is nothing stopping this government from passing my bill without having to go through Second Reading.
As always, thank you for continuing to do your part by washing your hands, maintaining social distance in public and staying indoors - especially now that the sun is brighter and the weather is warmer.
Here are this week’s new developments:
The federal government’s commercial rent relief program for small businesses opened this week. The program has been widely panned, with many business owners saying their landlords have refused to sign on.
In Ontario, business groups urged the Premier to issue a moratorium on commercial evictions, a call he's continuously refused. My colleagues and I again called on Ford to help stop struggling businesses from going under, and to adopt our plan to Save Main Street, which includes a 75 per cent commercial rent subsidy.
Frontline workers still haven't received the pandemic pay top-up that Ford promised some of them a month ago. According to a letter sent by a group of health care CEOs to the Premier, this failure has led to "extreme morale issues" for frontline staff and created conflict for employers.
The Official Opposition issued a statement calling the Premier’s failure to pay workers “unacceptable,” and reiterated the call for all frontline workers to get a pay raise. The wages must flow immediately, she said, and must be retroactive to the beginning of the crisis.
Earlier this week I spoke in the legislature about the concerns many of you have expressed to me about this program. I’ve heard from some of you who are off work recovering from COVID-19 and yet do not qualify for the pandemic pay because of the cut of date. I’m continuing to call on the government to acknowledge your service.
While Ontario's COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise, for over a week now, the province's testing numbers have fallen far short of the stated 20,000 per day test goal. We know that firm timelines and transparent benchmarks are needed in order to open Ontario businesses safely. My colleagues and I have spent weeks urging the government to take ownership for its low testing numbers and expand its strategy beyond assessment centres, including with mobile testing that goes directly to people.
Meanwhile, the Premier has changed his tune on the prospect of Ontario using a regional approach to ease restrictions on the economy, as data shows the Greater Toronto Area accounts for 65.8 per cent of the province’s COVID-19 cases. We are urging the government to immediately deploy additional resources to hot spots, including testing and contact tracing resources, PPE and financial supports.
Earlier this week, the Premier said that certain areas of the GTA are “lighting up like a Christmas tree” in terms of COVID-19 case numbers, but the government refuses to release the specific locations and details. “Can the premier explain how families are supposed to know whether they’re actually in any of these hot spots if the government refuses to share that information?” we asked Tuesday during Question Period.
- For those of you looking for more information about what is and isn't open yet this is the best resource to follow for updates: www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces
After months of horror stories coming out of long-term care, including the Canadian military’s disturbing report this week that detailed the harrowing conditions in five Ontario long-term care homes where soldiers have been deployed to give emergency support, the government initially said it will take over two private, for-profit long-term care facilities that are failing to protect residents against COVID-19. Since then, the province has said it will take over five long-term care homes, including four mentioned in the damning report.
The Official Opposition has urged the government to take over all homes failing to protect residents and staff. There are many more long-term care homes that should be put under the province's management. Ontario's Minister of Long Term Care has confirmed that 19 of the province’s long-term care homes are classified as “red,” meaning they are highest risk, but the Ford government refused to release that list. For weeks, my colleagues and I have been calling for Ontario to take over direct management of long-term care homes.
During Question Period this week, I and my colleagues questioned the government on claims it knew nothing about the harrowing conditions in long-term care facilities province-wide — despite incident reports, media reports, affidavits filed in legal cases and family members speaking out. It is shocking the military had to lift the veil on horrific conditions the government should have known about already. New statistic show that one in three long-term care residents to contract COVID-19 in Ontario has died. We want the government to commit to a full public inquiry into long-term care, instead of an internal government investigation.
We have repeatedly said for-profit corporations need to get out of long-term care, and be replaced by public, community-based care. My federal colleagues have also called on the government to outlaw for-profit long-term care facilities and create national standards under federal health law.
Canada has reached a deal with General Motors to produce 20 million face masks at their Oshawa plant in Durham Region, something MPP for Oshawa Jennifer French called for last month, asking the Premier to push GM to manufacture badly needed PPE in its mostly empty Oshawa assembly plant.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with global leaders today for a major United Nations summit aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
Trudeau says the government will look at bringing in 10 days of paid sick leave for workers – a policy my federal colleagues have been pushing for.
Canada announced funding for Indigenous communities to deal with the impact of COVID-19 and brace for a potential second wave.
Canada will look at possible family reunification for families separated by Canada-U.S. border closures.
Here are some other concerns my colleagues and I are working on, and solutions we’re pushing for:
In a virtual press conference with Andrea Horwath, two constituents from London-Fanshawe shared the horrifying experience their mother had in a long-term care home in London. I know they are not alone. I’ve heard similar horror stories from many of you. I’m sorry that the system you trusted to take care of your loved one is failing you. Please feel free to reach out to my office if you would like to share your experience.
In an op-ed published in today’s Ottawa Citizen, Andrea Horwath said the government must stamp out COVID-19 hotspots by ramping up inspections and having a hospital or public health authority take over every unsafe long-term care facility.
“… stories of residents with horrific bedsores, unseen falls and recurring infections have continued — and time and time again, the government of the day has sent thoughts and prayers, but never help.” – Andrea Horwath
Tenant Rights critic Suze Morrison said it's wrong for the Ford government to quietly ram through legislation that will make it easier for landlords to evict tenants, especially during a pandemic.
Education critic Marit Stiles said the new normal for our province’s public schools must take into account new funding needs, and ensure collaboration among educators, parents, students, experts and community and political leaders.
Municipal Affairs critic Jeff Burch will table a motion in the Legislature this week that would give emergency financial support to municipalities badly impacted by COVID-19. Burch's motion mirrors a proposal put forward by a coalition of Ontario's municipal leaders and frontline municipal workers.
Local medical officers of health have coordinated to put together a detailed metric that charts the path forward for a safe economic re-opening. We are urging this government to adopt it.
Once again, 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.
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.