Through this pandemic, and now through a heinous series of murders in Nova Scotia, it is becoming more important that we support each other. For those who wish to join a national day of mourning for the people killed in Nova Scotia over the weekend, this Facebook group is providing updates, including where we can contribute to support families who have lost loved ones.
As the pandemic continues, the needs of our most vulnerable are becoming more apparent. Fort York Food Bank reports that people are walking from as far as the Beaches to get food. Our food banks need our support. See “How you can help” below.
I was visiting homeless encampments under the bridges and Gardiner on the weekend. The group Seeds of Hope is providing care for many, but with public spaces closed, there is no place for those who are sleeping outside to get warm or to wash. Shelters for the homeless could become the next epicentre of the pandemic. The lesson of the pandemic is that we are all in this together. Those who have been neglected for so long — seniors in long-term care, the homeless and those with disabilities — need government support now, and after, the pandemic.
On the other side of the coin, the government released numbers yesterday indicating that the physical distancing measures that we are taking are flattening the curve and saving lives. Whereas three weeks ago, the number of new COVID-19 cases was increasing by up to 40% on any given day, the increase now is around 6% per day.
We are working through this together. Stay strong!
- Ontario’s COVID-19 Model Projections: Ontario appears to have avoided the worst-case pandemic scenario, with new projections suggesting the province may be seeing 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. When making decisions based on data, it is important to consider all the nuances, which raises the importance of Ontario collecting race-based data.
- Teacher Unions: After months of hard-fought negotiations highlighted by rallies with thousands of teachers and education workers standing up for their rights, the Ontario government backtracked on their plans to increase class sizes and make online courses mandatory. Now, all major teacher unions in Ontario have agreements with the government. Thank you to all the teachers, parents, students and education workers who came together to protect Ontario’s schools and classrooms.
- Hydro Increase: The Ontario Energy Board has decided that a common area would not qualify for the Ontario Electricity Rebate, unless it has a demand of less than 50kW or uses less than 250,000 kWh a year.” This disqualifies 30% of the electricity accounts in multi-unit residential complexes from the Ontario Electricity Rebate. “Common area” accounts in multi-unit complexes are where the distributor directly meters the individual units and the “common area” account has its own meter. This means that many condo dwellers will not benefit from the announced price reduction, and instead may actually see rate increases. We believe that no one should be left out of the rebate during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Enbridge Pipeline: After significant opposition from the community, Enbridge will not be tearing up Queens Quay to replace their gas pipeline. Instead, Lake Shore Boulevard has been selected as the route for the project. Construction is scheduled to start in early 2021. Thank you to all our residents, businesses and community organizations for your efforts in pressuring for this decision.
- Earth Day: Earth Day is tomorrow (April 22) and it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the state of our environment. Oil prices are below zero for the first time in history — there has never been a better time to begin a transition to a green economy. Instead of spending billions of dollars to prop the oil industry, we could become global leaders in rebuilding a sustainable economic system. Here’s what we’re advocating for.
- Saving Main Street: Many small businesses in our community are at risk because of the pandemic. The federal government’s new fund for community organizations, should help. We are also advocating for the provincial government to adopt a “Save Main Street” plan. Our proposals include providing a 75% rent subsidy, up to $10,000 a month for three months for businesses that have a substantially lower income as a result of COVID-19, as well as a plan to work with other levels of government to immediately halt the collection of all payroll, property, sales, and income taxes from small and medium-sized business. We need to provide support now so once this pandemic is over, our small and medium-sized businesses can re-open to serve Ontarians.
- Rent: We continue to hear from tenants and small businesses about the need for provincial support to help cover rent. We are calling for a provincially-funded rent subsidy of up to $2,500 a month, for each of the next four months for those experiencing unemployment or lost income as a result of COVID-19. You can show your support by signing this petition calling for rent subsidies (which helps both renters and landlords) and this petition to make evictions illegal. In addition to the rent subsidy, we’ve been calling for direct emergency income support of $2000 as a provincial supplement to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit which doesn’t provide full coverage.
- Long-Term Care Homes: While Ontario’s overall community cases appear to be peaking, the projections are far less promising when it comes to the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes. Despite outbreaks impacting 127 long-term care facilities, the government has failed to take appropriate action to mitigate the spread. To be clear, this is not the fault of long-term care staff and personal support workers. They have been forced to work in extremely challenging environments taking care of our seniors for very little pay, giving them no choice but to take on multiple jobs. With long-term care and other group home settings becoming the epicentre of the pandemic, we’ve recommended comprehensive changes to long-term care homes, including additional testing for seniors and workers. The Province created new rules requiring staff to only work at one long-term care facility which will be coming into effect on April 22, but they also contain a giant loophole, allowing temp agency staff to continue to work at multiple locations. As a result of a staffing crisis, workers from temp agencies make up a significant part of long-term care staffing.
- Disabilities and COVID-19: ODSP and OW recipients are seeing their benefits reduced after applying for the CERB (see the Ontario Government’s approach to Social Assistance and CERB here). We strongly oppose this practice because we need to be providing more support during this pandemic, not reducing the funds people receive. The COVID-19 crisis has had an extreme impact on people with disabilities, who are already some of our most vulnerable to begin with. Read about the deep concerns that persons with different abilities have in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and show your support for their campaign to improve Ontario's triage protocol which leaves persons with disabilities behind.
- Social Assistance and Seniors: Ontario is launching a fund to help community organizations deliver food and other essentials to low-income seniors. This week the province will also be issuing the first doubled Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments. Individuals will receive up to $166 per month and couples will receive up to $332 per month. These will continue for six months for vulnerable seniors. In addition to taking immediate action to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes, we are calling for a comprehensive provincial plan to protect our seniors during this pandemic, including suspending medication dispensing fees and co-pays for Ontarians 65 and older and banning new or increased fees in long-term care, retirement homes and other settings supporting senior care.
- Homelessness and COVID-19: Another concern we’re working on is the threat of COVID-19 to the shelter system. My colleague MPP Rima Berns-McGown warns that shelters will become the next epicentre of the pandemic. Those experiencing homelessness don’t have a home that they can self-isolate in, and don’t always have the space to practice physical distancing — it truly is the responsibility of the Government to ensure everyone in this province is able to stay safe during this pandemic, and we must not leave those experiencing homelessness behind
- Auto Insurance: Ontario drivers say they need immediate relief on their auto insurance premiums. We’re calling for insurance relief through a 50% reduction in auto insurance costs as physical distancing has led to less driving and fewer accidents on the road, and drivers should see some of this benefit.
How you can help!
With increased pressure on food banks, today we are asking those who are able to contribute what you can:
Fort York Food Bank - 380 College Street, 416-203-3011
Daily Bread Food Bank - Donate money, or order food online and have it delivered to their warehouse at 191 Toronto Street.
Parkdale Food Bank - 1499 Queen Street West, 416-532-2375