Happy May Day! May 1st is not only International Workers’ Day, in Ontario it’s First Responders’ Day. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t make the workers more valuable – it showed the world how valuable they have always been. Let’s make sure they get the wages and working conditions they’ve always deserved. And let’s make sure they’re never taken for granted again.
It is also Doctors’ Day. In a show of support for doctors, join me and turn on your cell phone flashlight and shine on your balcony, porch or window at 9:00 pm tonight.
This week, while delivering care packages with Jennifer Evans (from Seeds of Hope) to people experiencing homelessness, I came across a woman who had just been offered housing. She said it was the first time in one-and-half years that she had a key and a door for a place of her own. Kudos to Mayor Tory, Councillor Cressy and City Council for providing permanent housing for the homeless. I am advocating for more provincial funding to support the city’s work.
Do you have an old cell phone in a drawer? Seeds of Hope is looking for phones for the homeless. They need them so social workers and other caregivers can keep in touch. If you have a phone you can contribute, please email my office.
In the wake of the Nova Scotia shootings last week, the federal government has banned military-grade "assault-style" weapons. Any action that can help to prevent more mass shootings like the ones in Nova Scotia or on the Danforth two years ago is absolutely essential.
As a sign that we are working through the pandemic, the province unveiled plans for reopening the economy, although there is no timeline yet.
I hope you have been taking care, and I hope you have a good weekend!
Stay safe, we’re getting through this together!
COVID-19 Telephone Town Hall
Join me, Councillor Joe Cressy, MP Adam Vaughan, BIA Executive Director John Kiru and preventative health strategist Genevieve Gee for our Telephone Town Hall where we take your questions regarding government supports, small businesses, or the next steps in fighting the pandemic.
On Tuesday, May 5th at 7:15 p.m., simply dial 1-877-229-8493 and enter ID number 116507 to join the call. Questions can also be emailed in advance to [email protected].
Ontario’s Framework to Reopen the Economy:
- The Ontario Government released a 3-stage framework to reopen our province and has provided sector specific worker guidelines for employers to prepare to reopen their businesses. The Official Opposition has called on the government to provide clear rules, not simply guidelines, to ensure peoples' lives are not put at risk.
- Today, the Government announced the loosening of restrictions for some businesses on May 4th. These businesses include lawncare and landscaping, garden centres, curbside pickup, marinas and golf courses preparing for the season, car dealerships, construction related to schools, post-secondary, digital infrastructure, improving the delivery of goods and services, and more.
- Access to information is crucial during this pandemic. As the Ontario Government unveils plans to reopen Ontario's economy, I wrote a letter on behalf of the Official Opposition calling on the government to translate workplace safety guidelines into multiple languages for small business owners and employees.
- As Ontario contemplates reopening the economy, the Official Opposition is calling on the Labour Minister to strengthen protections for workers who refuse to do unsafe work -- as reported by the Toronto Star, over 200 workers fearful of contracting COVID-19 at their workplace filed work refusals, yet the Ministry of Labour has not upheld a single one.
- The C.D. Howe Institute says Canada has hit recession status.
- Though rent is due today, many residential tenants and their advocates, say Canada’s Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) simply won’t help them. I have been calling for an 80% rent subsidy and legislative protection from evictions.
- Many commercial tenants say Canada's commercial rent relief program will not actually help them, as their landlords are unwilling to adopt the new rent assistance measures. Restaurant owners are among the many businesses struggling to stay afloat right now, with some predicting that the ongoing stress and uncertainty will lead to closures even after restrictions are lifted. The Official Opposition has been calling for a major commercial rent relief program and has echoed calls from business owners. Our proposal of a 75% provincial rent subsidy would make sure direct payments go directly to tenants.
Help for Healthcare Workers:
- The Ontario Health Coalition has launched an online campaign today, calling on the government to fix Ontario's long-term care sector – their ask includes immediately improving access to PPE for health workers, and increasing wages and working conditions for staff, things we have also been urging the government to provide.
- The Ontario COVID-19 Mental Health Network is providing pro-bono, one-to-one tele-therapy for healthcare workers – including doctors, nurses and personal support workers (PSWs) – who have been impacted by COVID-19 in their workplace. Over 900 volunteer therapists – all licensed by CRPO, CPO, CSPO, ONA or OCSWSSW.
- The Ministry of Transportation is offering a new free 511 app which will provide truck drivers immediate access to the information they need to stay safe, fed and rested while delivering essential goods across the province during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The Official Opposition is calling out the government’s continued failure to mandate auto insurance companies to lower their rates during the pandemic, pointing out that all auto insurance rates in Ontario are approved by the provincial government. We have been calling on the government to mandate a three-month, 50% discount to auto insurance.
- We are calling on the government to announce emergency financial support for colleges and universities, as Mohawk College anticipates having to make $50 million in cuts as a result of COVID-19. I’ve also been advocating for more international student support as the majority of this group has been left ineligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit. I’ve also been hearing from graduate students across the province who are calling for tuition reduction due to limited access to research labs and minimal supervision from professors.
Hand Washing Stations:
- The City has opened hand-washing stations and washroom services for the homeless. These are needed as the shelters and respites are full, and with public washrooms closed, those who are homeless have no place to wash.
For the Community
- Food Drive for YMCA: YMCA of Greater Toronto will be hosting a food drive on Saturday, May 2, and Sunday, May 3 from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. at all nine of health and fitness centres. The West End YMCA will be open during these times to receive all non-perishable food items.
- Food Handler’s Certificate: Looking for a way to expand your skills and build your resume during lockdown? You can get a food handler's certificate at a variety of online sources. Check out the following links for different course options:
- COVID-19 Action: We are still calling for the government to take urgent actions to protect Ontarians with disabilities and ensure they get through the pandemic safely, including a plan to conduct in-home testing for people with disabilities, and ensuring home care workers have proper PPE.
- MS Society of Canada has a number of programs and resources available:
- The MS Society’s FAQs and webpage on COVID-19 and MS including Hear from Experts – MS & COVID-19 webinar series
- Disease-Modifying Treatment guidelines for COVID-19
- The MS Society’s Knowledge Network: Connects people with MS Navigators who can provide information on all aspects of life with MS and are available to assist anyone in Canada from 8 am to 8pm, Monday to Friday. MS Navigators can be contacted through:
The MS Society’s 1:1 Peer Support Program: This program is a telephone and internet-based program for individuals living with MS, and for caregivers and loved ones of people with MS.