Ontario Lifts Capacity Limits in Most Settings, Announces Next Steps for Reopening Plan
The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, has released A Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term, which outlines the province’s gradual approach to lifting remaining public health and workplace safety measures by March 2022.
Starting Monday, October 25 at 12:01 am, capacity limits will be lifted in the vast majority of settings where proof of vaccination are required:
- Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments
- Indoor areas of sports and recreational facilities such as gyms and where personal physical fitness trainers provide instruction
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments
- Indoor meeting and event spaces
Capacity limits will be lifted in other settings, if they choose to require proof of vaccination, including:
- Personal care services (e.g., barber shops, salons, body art)
- Indoor areas of museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions
- Indoor areas of amusement parks
- Indoor areas of fairs, rural exhibitions, festivals
- Indoor tour and guide services
- Boat tours
- Indoor areas of marinas and boating clubs
- Indoor clubhouses at outdoor recreational amenities
- Open house events provided by real estate agencies
- Indoor areas of photography studios and services
- Locations where a wedding, funeral or religious service or ceremony takes place
This will not apply to settings where people receive medical care, food from grocery stores and medical supplies.
The government also intends to allow for greater capacity at organized public events such as Remembrance Day ceremonies and Santa Claus parades with more details coming in the near future.
Starting November 15, the government plans to lift capacity limits in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including:
- Food or drink establishments with dance facilities (e.g., night clubs, wedding receptions in meeting/event spaces where there is dancing)
- Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs
Starting January 17, the government plans to gradually lift capacity limits where proof of vaccination is not required. Proof-of-vaccination requirements may also gradually be eased at this time.
By March 28, 2022, mask mandates and all remaining public health and workplace safety measures may be lifted.
The province expects to remove proof-of-vaccination requirements for all remaining settings, including meeting and event spaces, sporting events, concerts, theatres and cinemas, racing venues and commercial and film productions with studio audiences.
Canada’s Proof-of-Vaccination System for Travellers
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that provinces and territories will be moving forward with a standardized, national proof of vaccination system for domestic and international travel. The new national standard uses the provincial vaccine certificate as its framework.
Several provinces, including Ontario, that have already begun to roll out their own vaccine passports, will have their version of the Canadian document available by the end of November. The passport will be digital and feature a QR code that includes vaccination history and will have a specific Government of Canada marker in the top corner. Paper copies will also be accepted.
In every province or territory, page 1 will look like the Yukon sample shown above.
While provinces have taken the lead on standardizing the national document, the federal government promised $1 billion to pay for the work.
The government said the technology used prevents forgeries and tampering by detecting any changes to the document after it is issued. The only health information contained in the proof of vaccination will be the holder’s name and vaccine information, such as the type of vaccine, lot number, date of vaccination and the number of doses.
Starting October 30, anyone over the age of 12 who wishes to get on a plane or train in Canada will need to prove they are fully inoculated with a Health Canada approved vaccine. There will be a short transition period until November 30 to allow the unvaccinated to show a negative molecular COVID-19 test instead.
The Canadian vaccine passport does not guarantee entry to a foreign country. Travellers must still check international advisories to make sure their particular doses meet a country’s vaccination criteria.
Federal Government Replacing COVID Benefits with New Business Supports
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that new funding will be put in place to replace the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), which expire on October 23.
The federal government will spend $7.4 billion on two new programs providing COVID-19 supports for hard-hit businesses and workers which will take effect Sunday:
- The Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program is a wage and rent subsidy program for hotels, tour operators, travel agencies and restaurants with a subsidy of up to 75%.
- The Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program is a wage and rent subsidy program for other businesses that have faced deep losses with a subsidy rate of up to 50%.
Eligibility will be based on two factors: an employer’s revenue loss over 12 months during the pandemic and revenue loss in the month of application. The proposed subsidy rates for these programs will be available through to March 13, 2022, and will then decrease by half until expiry on May 7, 2022.
The government will be extending the following programs:
- Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit until May 7, 2022 and will increase the maximum duration of each benefit by two additional weeks.
- Canada Recovery Hiring Program until November 20, 2021 and will increase the subsidy rate to 50%. The government also plans to extend the program to May 7, 2022 through legislation and is looking to make further amendments to the programs through July 2, 2022.
The government also plans to introduce regulations to create the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit to provide $300 a week to workers who are subject to a lockdown, including those ineligible for employment insurance. The program will be available until May 7, 2022, with retroactive applications starting Sunday.
More than 25,000 Ontario small businesses went under in the first year of the pandemic before financial aid was offered. The aid offered by both the Ontario and Federal governments continue to exclude many businesses.
The recent Ontario Financial Advisory Report found that the Ontario government is sitting on over $5 billion in federal funding that was to be used to help small businesses, schools and health services. I continue to urge this government to provide more provincial funding to small businesses.
Labour Bill for Immigrant Workers
Labour Minister Monte McNaughton announced that the Ontario government is proposing legislation that would remove barriers facing foreign-trained professionals and tradespeople to find work in their chosen fields. The proposed changes would apply to some skilled trades and regulated professions outside of the healthcare sector.
Some of the proposed changes:
- Eliminate Canadian work experience requirements unless an exemption is granted based on demonstrated public health or safety risk
- Reduce duplication for official language proficiency testing
- Allow applicants to register faster when there are emergencies, such as a pandemic, that create an urgent need for certain professions or trades
- Ensure the licensing process is completed in a timely manner so foreign-trained immigrants can start working in careers that match their skills.
MPP Doly Begum, the NDP’s critic for Citizenship, Foreign Credentials and Immigration Services, commented, “This announcement falls short of what is needed to make it possible for internationally-trained immigrants to succeed in Ontario. It excludes all doctors, nurses and medical professionals. Ontario is experiencing a massive shortage of healthcare professionals, yet this announcement fails to address their concerns.”
Toronto Set to Reduce Small Business Taxes
Mayor John Tory announced that the City of Toronto will be recommending a small business tax subclass in 2022 to provide small businesses with tax relief.
The recommendation includes a 15% tax reduction to be applied to small businesses within the commercial tax class. The remaining properties in the commercial tax class will see a municipal property tax rate increase of 0.85% to fund the tax relief. Approximately 25,000 small businesses across Toronto will qualify for this reduction.
Qualified businesses fall under two categories:
Businesses located downtown, on the central waterfront, in designated growth centres or avenues in the City’s Official Plan
- properties must be classified within the commercial or new commercial tax class
- properties must have a Current Value Assessment (CVA) less than or equal to $7 million
- lots must be 7,500 sq. feet or less, or for commercial condos a gross floor area of 2,500 sq. feet or less
Businesses located anywhere else in the city
- properties must be classified within the commercial or new commercial tax class
- properties must have a CVA less than or equal to $1 million
No application is needed for this tax relief as all commercial properties will be assessed for their eligibility. Owners who feel their property should be included in the new tax subclass will be able to request reconsideration in an appeal process.
This tax will be revenue neutral for the City. The provincial government is expected to match the municipal tax rate reduction with a corresponding reduction in the business education tax for all eligible small business property owners.
Washroom Access for Delivery Workers
The Ontario government will be introducing legislation that will allow delivery workers to access bathrooms at businesses. The legislation, if passed, will apply to couriers, truck drivers, and food delivery workers and will only apply to businesses where workers are picking up or delivering items, and is not applicable to private residences.
These measures have come after consultations through the government’s Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee, but are a little too late. At the height of the pandemic, when the demand for deliveries increased, we heard from several delivery workers who ran into difficulty finding a business that would allow them access to the public washroom.
Waterfront Strategic Review Update
The City of Toronto has released a report on its Waterfront Strategic Review Update. The review includes a public consultation and engagement on what a renewed vision of the City’s 43 kilometers of waterfront would be. The report will be considered by the Executive Committee next week.
First Parliament Site Heading to Toronto Executive Committee
Two significant staff reports relating to the First Parliament Site (FPS) are heading to Executive Committee at Toronto Council. It is important for the Executive Committee to have letters and deputations from organizations and individuals with an interest in the future of the site.
The City of Toronto is currently in negotiations with Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario related to the expropriation of the FPS and their proposal for a transit-oriented community development on the site. The recommendations in these reports will have an impact on the ability of the City to advocate for the important civic features that were planned for the site.
The First Parliament Master Plan, which was finalized earlier this year, needs Council approval before it is official City policy. In the negotiations with Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario over the development of this site, it is crucial that a Council approved Master Plan be part of the official planning context.
Letters and requests to depute can be sent to [email protected].
This staff report answers a number of questions posed by Councillors Wong-Tam and Cressy and confirms that negotiations with the province are putting forward city priorities for the site based on the FP Master Plan.
It is important that decision makers recognize the 20-year history of trying to get the FPS into public ownership, including the various land swaps, library lands and the long-standing commitment to using the lands for much-needed parkland and open space.
PRESTO Announces Contactless Payment
PRESTO has announced a contactless payment pilot on the UP Express. Riders will be able to use their credit card, debit card, or mobile wallet on their phone or watch to instantly tap and pay for their ride. Following this pilot, PRESTO will expand its contactless payment to more transit agencies across the region in phases.
Vaccine Certificate QR Codes Available for Download
Ontario’s enhanced vaccine certificate with scannable QR code will be available for all vaccinated Ontarians to download. You can also call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 to have the enhanced vaccine certificate emailed or mailed to you.
The QR codes will be available for download over the next three days, based on an individual’s birth month:
- January to April: Friday, October 15 (12:00 am - 11:59 pm)
- May to August: Saturday, October 16 (12:00 am - 11:59 pm)
- September to December: Sunday, October 17 (12:00 am - 11:59 pm)
Starting Monday, October 18 at 6:00 am, the portal will be available to all vaccinated Ontarians.
How to download the certificate:
- If you have a green photo health card (expired cards are accepted), visit the COVID-19 Vaccination Portal here.
- If you have a red-and-white health card, call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 to have your enhanced vaccine certificate emailed or mailed to you.
- If you do not have an Ontario health card, contact your public health unit to have your identity verified and get a COVID ID. Once you receive an ID, call the phone number above.
- If you do not have access to a printer, you can have a copy printed for free at a local library or at a ServiceOntario location.
- If you received your first or second dose out of the province, you must contact that public health unit to record the information and receive an Ontario receipt.
Full details are available on the Ontario Health website here.
Verify Ontario App Available to Ontario Businesses
Ontario’s vaccine verification app for businesses, Verify Ontario, is now available for download on the Google and Apple app stores.
The app gives businesses and organizations the ability to scan the QR codes on province-issued vaccine certificates. After the code is scanned, a green checkmark will appear indicating a valid vaccine certificate, a red X for an invalid certificate or a yellow warning for a QR that cannot be read.
The enhanced vaccine certificate allows patrons to show businesses and organizations a QR code containing information on their vaccination status. The Verify Ontario app allows businesses and venues to scan the QR code in the enhanced vaccine certificate.
The QR code when scanned will not generate approval or a checkmark if the individual is not yet fully vaccinated.
The province says they are still working to integrate medical and clinical exemptions into vaccine certificates with QR codes. People who currently have a medical exemption can present a note from a medical doctor or registered nurse.
Ontarians still have the option of using paper vaccine receipts to prove their vaccination status. However, these receipts are no longer available for download from the province’s online portal.
The app is said to also scan most government-issued QR codes from British Columbia and Quebec. It does not request users’ specific locations or collect information linking visitors, businesses or locations together.
Capacity Limits Lifted for Large Venues
Last Friday, the province “quietly” announced that, effective Saturday, October 9, capacity limits would be lifted on the following venues:
- Concert venues, theatres and cinemas
- Spectator areas of facilities for sports and recreational fitness (would not include gyms, personal training)
- Meeting and event spaces (indoor meeting and event spaces will still need to limit capacity to the number that can maintain physical distancing)
- Horse racing tracks, car racing tracks, and other similar venues
- Commercial film and television productions with studio audiences
- Proof of vaccination is already required for these settings, and will remain in place
- Some outdoor settings with capacity below 20,000 will also have limits lifted
Capacity limits remain in effect for all other settings, including small businesses and restaurants that have been hardest hit during this pandemic.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has said that he would be supportive of lifting capacity limits in all settings that require proof of vaccination but he doesn’t want to do so until the full impact of the Thanksgiving weekend is clear.
I have a small business workgroup that I meet with regularly. After hearing their concerns, I wrote a letter asking the government why they are allowing full capacity at large venues and arenas, yet restaurants and small businesses continue to be restricted. If you are interested in joining our group, please email [email protected] and share with your contacts.
Some Ontario Hospitals Mandating Vaccines for Visitors
The University Health Network in Toronto announced it will require visitors to show proof of full vaccination starting October 22.
Vaccination is not required for people to be treated in hospital, including visitors for patients that are children, at the end of life, or in labour. There are exceptions for patients in the emergency department, or those who require a support person due to a language barrier or cognitive impairment.
With hospitals now allowing more visitors than in previous waves, the mandates provide an additional layer of protection that is needed around vulnerable patients.
The Ontario government has written a letter to hospital administrators soliciting their input on the idea of mandating vaccination for all healthcare workers. The current government currently requires all unvaccinated healthcare workers to participate in a rapid testing program, but it has not yet made vaccination mandatory.
The government’s delay in mandating vaccinations for long-term care workers caused devastating consequences. For months, we have been urging this government to protect all vulnerable Ontarians with vaccine mandates for all healthcare and education workers. No unvaccinated person should be inside a classroom, an ICU, an emergency room, or anywhere else in the health care and education system.
U.S. Borders to Reopen to Vaccinated Travellers November 8
Starting November 8, the United States will be reopening its borders to fully vaccinated travellers by air, land or passenger ferry. Air travellers will need to show proof of vaccination on arrival in the U.S. but will still need to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of boarding their flight. The same policy applies to air travellers coming to Canada from the U.S.
Non-essential travellers crossing at a land border will be required to show proof of vaccination or attest to their vaccination status upon request by a border agent. Unlike air travellers, they will not be required to show a negative COVID-19 test.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently working on a number of details, including what will be accepted as proof and which exceptions might be allowed.
The CDC also announced last week that the U.S. will now accept all vaccines approved or recognized for emergency use by the World Health Organization or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is important for Canadians who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot which is not yet approved by the FDA.
The Canadian government is working with the U.S. to recognize different vaccine strategies including mixed doses and extended intervals between shots.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health released new guidelines.
- Trick or treating should be done outdoors and interactions kept brief
- Consider incorporating a mask in the costume
- Face masks should be worn under costume masks
- Maintain physical distancing as much as possible
- Do not participate if feeling unwell
- Doorsteps should not be overcrowded
- Hand sanitizer should be used often, especially before and after handling treats
- Shouting should be avoided to reduce the spread of aerosols
Protection for Migratory Birds
This morning, I held a press conference at City Hall to speak on the motion I have submitted to the Ontario legislature calling on the government to integrate the Canadian Standards Association’s national standard for bird-friendly design into Ontario’s building code for all new construction. CP24 covered the event here: https://tinyurl.com/cp24birds
Migratory birds are vital to sustaining biodiversity in Ontario. Millions fly across the Great Lakes during the Fall and Spring migrations and while they are here, they spread seeds, pollinate plants, and keep insect populations under control. They help to maintain fertile soil, healthy wetlands and forests. However, windows that reflect the sky and the clouds can appear invisible to a moving bird, so they continue to fly at high speeds until they smack into the glass and fall to the ground.
(Left) Beautiful black and white warbler (Courtesy of Priya Ramsingh)
(Right) Warbler killed by hitting a window (Courtesy of Bird Safe Buildings)
Some survive the impact with a concussion. Some are rescued by compassionate people working with organizations like Never Collide and FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) Canada. Many do not survive the trauma. FLAP Canada states that over 25 million birds die through collisions with windows in Canada every year, including many bird species at risk. These deaths are largely preventable, but are costly for migratory birds already at risk of extinction from climate change.
Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act and Canada’s Species at Risk Act make it an offence to harm or kill birds due to window collisions, but governments have not enforced these laws. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has created a bird-friendly building design where inexpensive materials can be used on windows in new builds to prevent collisions. But developers aren’t incentivized to implement these measures unless it is required by law. Ensuring that all new construction uses bird-friendly window materials is a simple, proactive and inexpensive way to reduce fatal collisions and protect this vital wildlife, as well as our biodiversity. Their fate is our fate.
Bird collisions can be easily avoided by applying inexpensive treatments on windows
That is why I introduced the following Motion to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario this week:
That in the opinion of the House, the Ontario Government should protect migratory birds and Ontario’s biosphere by mandating the 2019 Canadian Standards Association Bird-Friendly Design standard for all new construction in the province.
This solution has had widespread support. Among others, Margaret Atwood, internationally renowned author and environmental activist, supports the motion and said, “Between 1 and 10 million migratory birds collide with windows in Toronto each year. Bird populations have decreased across Canada, and the number of bird species at risk increased from 47 to 86 between 2001 and 2014. MPP Chris Glover’s motion to change the Ontario building code to mandate bird safe buildings is an essential green policy for Ontario. Birds need our help!”
You can join and support this motion by signing our petition and sharing our posts on social media:
Feel free to tag @chrisglovermpp on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and use the hashtag #birdfriendlyOntario.
We need to take concrete, meaningful action to conserve our bird species and protect our environment for the coming decades. The Ford government must act now and enshrine in law the use of bird-friendly materials in all new buildings in Ontario.
Long-Term Care Vaccine Mandates and Staff Funding
- The Ontario government announced it will be mandating that all long-term care workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 15, after some unvaccinated staff infected residents. Staff includes in-home workers, support workers, students and volunteers. Those who do not have a medical exemption, and cannot show proof of vaccination, will not be allowed to enter a home to work.
The province’s minister of long-term care, Rod Phillips, said that 367 out of the 626 homes in Ontario have below a 90% staff immunization rate. He said that any gaps in staffing created by unvaccinated employees could be filled by mobile support teams and thousands of personal support workers who are about to graduate.
Ontario also recently announced that they will hire more than 4,000 long-term care workers by the end of the fiscal year. This is part of a plan to hire more workers in the sector with a goal of getting long-term care residents an average of four hours of direct care per day by 2025.
Throughout this pandemic, workers in long-term care have risked their lives and put in tireless hours caring for our most vulnerable seniors. Staff have been leaving the sector in droves, complaining of burnout, poor pay and unsafe working conditions.
There is no across-the-board mandate in place for health care workers, which means we’ll see unvaccinated PSWs leaving long-term care — where vaccines are required — to work in home care. Vaccination must be mandatory for all long-term care, all health care and all education workers. Anything less isn’t good enough.
Vaccine Mandates for Travellers, Public Servants, Military
- The Federal government announced that employees, members of the RCMP, and military staff will have to be vaccinated by the end of this month. Air and rail passengers will also have to be fully vaccinated in order to travel.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the mandates some of the strongest in the world and workers who are not fully vaccinated without an exemption or who fail to disclose their vaccination status by November 15 will be placed on unpaid administrative leave.
Travellers will have until the end of November to prove they are fully vaccinated, although they will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to travel by the end of October.
Province’s Override of Noise Bylaw Ends in Toronto
- Since April 2020, residents have been contacting our office with complaints of endless construction noise morning and night. After more than 18 months of immense community pressure, thousands of petitions signed, and multiple letters from our office, the Ford Government’s regulation 130/20 expires today, which means that:
Effective 12:01 am on October 7, 2021, construction noise is not permitted:
- 7:00 pm to 7:00 am the next day, until 9:00 am on Saturdays
- All day Sunday and statutory holidays
This is an improvement because, as you know, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario government overrode the City of Toronto’s noise bylaw and passed a regulation extending construction hours from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm, seven days a week (including statutory holidays). Construction related to the healthcare sector was permitted 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I, along with my fellow Toronto NDP MPPs, have raised concerns with the premier regarding the untenable increase in construction noise multiple times. In October 2020, MPP Jessica Bell and I tabled a motion calling on the government to immediately restore authority to municipalities to set their own construction noise bylaws.
I am thankful to all the community members who helped advocate and fight against the constant construction noise, but I am also thinking of the tenants and families whose sleep, mental health and physical health were impacted by never-ending noise as they worked remotely and self-isolated at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We can’t get that time back, but I do hope you are able to enjoy some peace and quiet moving forward.
Please don't hesitate to inform the City of Toronto by calling 311 if any construction companies/developers missed the memo and are not following the updated noise bylaw.
Toronto Council Extends Mask Bylaw
- The City of Toronto has approved extending the temporary mask bylaws and the COVID-19 amendments to residential apartment buildings until January 2022.
The COVID-19 amendments to Chapter 354, Apartment Buildings also require COVID-19 specific measures be taken in apartment buildings, including mandatory hand hygiene stations or hand sanitizer in common areas, closing non-essential common areas consistent with provincial restrictions, increasing cleaning and posting Toronto Public Health signage.
Optometrists Negotiations Update
- Since September 1st, all optometry appointments for people under 20 and over 65 have been unavailable for 35 days, even to people who have insurance. Children are struggling in school, or coping with eye pain and headaches. Some seniors are facing the loss of independence because they can’t get a new prescription.
The Ontario Association of Optometrists’ (OAO) has held a total of three meetings with the government including two mediation sessions, but talks quickly broke down. The Ministry of Health has proposed a one-time payment of $39 million as a “catch up” fee for the time they were left without an agreement and is proposing an 8.48% increase for exams (that would cover roughly $48 of the $75 exam).
We continue to call on this government to get back to the table and negotiate a fair deal with optometrists, and put proper funding in place for eye care. You can watch me raise the issue by sharing a petition signed by my constituents in the legislature here: https://twitter.com/ChrisGloverMPP/status/1446556666447765504?s=20
Rapid Testing in Schools
- The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, announced that Ontario will now offer rapid COVID-19 tests to some “high risk” schools and child-care settings. The decision came after the government halted parents, who initiated a rapid-testing program at their school, from accessing the tests that were designated for use for small businesses.
Rapid testing will be determined by local public health units based on key factors, including level of virus transmission, vaccination rate in the community, and the history of COVID-19 in a particular school or child-care facility. Many parents who have been fighting for rapid testing in schools will be anxiously waiting to see if their schools will be included in the roll out of this strategy. Parents are desperate to prevent the kind of disruptions and turmoil their kids went through last year.
Ontario families deserve equitable access to rapid testing in schools, and this announcement comes far later than it should have. Rapid antigen tests are a common sense tool to help identify cases early and prevent outbreaks. This government delayed action until parents were forced to take action themselves and then blocked their efforts by taking the tests away.
Free Menstrual Products in Schools
- Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that the government is partnering with Shoppers Drug Mart in a three-year deal that will provide Ontario students access to free menstrual products. Menstrual products and dispensers will be available in school washrooms this fall. School boards will be responsible in determining which schools the products will be distributed to based on local needs.
Today’s announcement is a victory for the students, organizations and school boards who have fought for years for governments to address the issue of period poverty and ensure no student ever faces embarrassment or misses school because of lack of access to menstrual products. This is an important step, but the government’s plan doesn’t go far enough. It fails to guarantee that all schools will get an adequate or dedicated supply of period products, and won’t give students sufficient choice, which is a critical factor in menstrual health and equity.
Credit goes to the initiative and courage of students like Maya Larrondo, a high school student who managed a “period locker” at her Toronto high school, and Hannah Legault, who ran the Red Box Project in Niagara; groups like Period Purse, Changing the Flow, Toronto Youth Cabinet and OSTA-AECO; as well as individual trustees and boards who have worked tirelessly to end the stigma around menstruation and end barriers to access for these crucial products.
WSIB Cutting Premium Rates to Employers
- Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton, announced that Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is cutting premium rates in 2022 by $168 million, bringing the total reduction in premiums since 2018 to $2.4 billion. In addition, the government is intending to introduce legislation that, if passed, would allow for a significant portion of the WSIB’s current reserve, currently valued at $6.1 billion, to be distributed to safe employers. This proposed change is said to assist employers cope with the impacts of COVID-19.
The Ontario government is also proposing to enable the WSIB to work with the Canada Revenue Agency to streamline remittances for businesses. This change would reduce administrative costs and burdens by giving businesses an efficient one-stop-shop for submitting payroll deductions.
NDP Workplace Safety critic Wayne Gates responded to the announcement saying, “In Ontario today, nearly half of injured workers are living in poverty. Despite the incredible hardship injured workers face every single day, this government is focused on sending the funds held by WSIB back to employers, instead of using them to support workers trying to rebuild their lives after a workplace injury.
Getting injured at work in Ontario can be devastating for workers and their families. An injury should not be a sentence to live in poverty, and yet this government continues to ignore the fact that for many workers that is the reality. WSIB funds should be used to help the workers who need it most.”
Ontario Tourism Recovery Program
- The province has confirmed the $100 million Ontario Tourism Recovery Program will launch in mid-October. The Tourism Recovery Program will support for-profit tourism businesses in the attraction, accommodation, and leisure travel sectors that help drive employment and visitors to their regions. Eligible businesses include hotels, inns, resorts, boat tours, ski hills, distilleries, hunting and fishing camps, airlines, motor coaches, live performance venues, cinemas, drive-in theatres, amusement parks, museums, and Indigenous attractions. Applications will open on October 13, 2021. Full details available here.
However, this is far from enough as the Government states that even meeting eligibility requirements does not guarantee funding. Applications will be assessed competitively using funding and assessment criteria. When I raised this issue in the legislature about businesses who are being left behind because they are not eligible for this support, the Government simply had no answer. They also could not confirm whether there would be another round of small business grants coming out soon, which means they still have no plans to support our small business owners and their employees.
I have a small business workgroup that I meet with regularly to raise these concerns. If you are interested in joining, please email [email protected] and share with your contacts.
Renewing Expired Provincial Documents
- The province has announced that it is ending the extension for expired Ontario documents including OHIP cards, driver’s licences, licence plate stickers, accessible parking permits and Ontario photo ID cards. The renewal date will depend on what type of licence you have. While renewal requirements were paused during the pandemic, anyone with expired documents must renew by February 28, 2022. Service Ontario has published a renewal schedule to help minimize service delays. Click here for more information.
FAO Releases Report for First Quarter Spending
The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released its Expenditure Monitor 2021-22: Q1 report. This report provides information on changes to the province’s 2021-22 spending plan and reviews actual spending by the government over the first quarter of the fiscal year (April 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021).
Key programs with below plan spending in the first quarter of 2021-22 include:
- In the health sector, the province did not spend any of the $2.7 billion COVID-19 Response transfer payment.
- In the ‘other programs’ sector, the province recorded a $554 million negative adjustment for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, to account for differences in the timing of the accrual expense and cash payments for the program, and reflects total cash spending for the grant, as of June 30, 2021, of $2.9 billion.
- In the children’s and social services sector, the programs with the lowest relative spending include the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan, Autism, Supportive Services, and Children’s Treatment and Rehabilitation Services.
- In the government’s 2021-22 First Quarter Finances, the Province announced that an additional $2.2 billion in unallocated funds would be made available through a new program called the Time-Limited COVID-19 Fund. This new program was not included in the government’s financial accounts by the end of the first quarter and the FAO expects the funds will be made available in the second quarter.
Ontario NDP Finance critic Catherine Fife said the report shows that this government underdelivered by a total of $2.6 billion in the first quarter of 2021, withholding $1 billion in funding for health care, $531 million in children and social services funding, and $33 million from post-secondary education. On top of that, the $2.7 billion in COVID-fighting money from the federal government hasn’t been touched.
It is irresponsible for this government to withhold COVID-fighting money, promised health care dollars, social services funding and funding to colleges and universities in the midst of a pandemic.
Ontario Place Public Feedback
- Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture, announced that the province is seeking public feedback on the redevelopment of Ontario Place and is launching an online survey and will be holding virtual public information sessions.
From a research perspective, the survey is very problematic. The first question announces that the decisions have been made – which means the government’s consultations are being done after the fact. Another question asks to rank the importance of the heritage buildings on the property – the Cinesphere, pods, etc. Bill Greaves of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario likens this to a question asking which fingers you would like removed.
The community organization Future of Ontario Place is hosting an event to generate public input into the future of this iconic site on Monday, September 6, 11 am - 4 pm. Link
Optometrists Withdraw OHIP-covered Services after Failed Negotiations with Province
- Ontario optometrists are set to withdraw provincially insured eye services starting today after a breakdown in talks with the provincial government over reimbursement of costs. That means people whose eye exams are currently covered by Ontario’s health plan – those aged 19 and under, 65 and older, and people with specific health conditions – will have their appointments cancelled and placed on waiting lists.
Provincially insured eye exams currently range from $42.50 to $47, with additional fees for other assessments. Optometrists have argued that they are absorbing about 45% of eye exam costs. This revenue would be going toward upgrading equipment or staff salaries. The government has offered an 8.48% increase for reimbursements and said it will be paying $39 million retroactively to account for increased costs of services.
Official Opposition Health Critic MPP France Gélinas, the entire NDP caucus and I have been working to bring the requests of Ontario’s optometrists to the attention of Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott. MPP Gélinas has had a number of conversations with the Minister of Health asking for fair negotiations and joined her NDP colleagues in reading petitions in the house. While the legislature was in session, a written question was submitted to the Minister, but unfortunately, it was met with a non-answer.
Ontario Extends Three Paid Sick Days to End of 2021
- The Ontario government says that it will extend its paid sick leave program, which was set to run until September 25, to December 31, due to the current rise in cases caused by the Delta variant.
The province introduced the program in April following a flood of calls from health experts to provide help to workers so that they would not have to choose between staying home if they are sick and being able to pay their bills. The program requires employers to provide employees with up to $200 of pay for up to three days if they have to miss work because of COVID-19. The government then reimburses employers through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
We continue to criticize this program as it simply does not go far enough since an infected person would be required to stay home at least 10 days.
City of Toronto and Province of Ontario Reach Agreement on Foundry Heritage Site
- The City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario have reached an agreement in principle regarding the provincially-owned Dominion Foundry Complex, a former industrial complex of four heritage buildings known as the Foundry Buildings located at 153-185 Eastern Ave.
The province has made a Cultural Heritage Evaluation Report and Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) public with its vision of redevelopment of the property. The province also shared details of the agreement with leaders of community groups and has committed to conserving the cultural heritage value of the property, while also providing for affordable housing, which supports the City’s Open Door Affordable Housing Program and the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan. The plan includes the retention of many features of the site and the demolition of others.
The St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association commenced a court application to stop the demolition of the heritage buildings earlier this year. The City was a party to the application and participated in the proceedings. Through those proceedings, a court order was obtained that prohibited further demolition of the site.
Ontario NDP Bring Forward Legislation for “Public Health Safety Zones”
- There have been an increasing number of complaints from Toronto business owners about pandemic-related protests from constituents. The Ontario NDP will introduce a bill that will create “public health safety zones” in an effort to deal with rising instances of harassment and organized protests toward businesses over COVID-19 vaccinations and protocols.
The size and distance of a safety zone would be a matter of regulation by the government should the bill pass, and there would be different requirements for different businesses. The legislation will continue to respect people’s right to protest, but will also allow a safe space for owners to operate their businesses.
Our small businesses have suffered enough throughout this pandemic and should be able to welcome customers back without having to deal with violent and disruptive protests.
Ontario and Toronto Sign SmartTrack Stations Agreement
- The Ontario government and the City of Toronto have signed a revised “Ontario-Toronto Agreement in Principle,” endorsing the SmartTrack Stations Program. The program will see five new stations along existing GO rail corridors.
Metrolinx is moving forward with the procurement to build four stations located at St. Clair-Old Weston, Finch-Kennedy, King-Liberty and Bloor-Lansdowne, with the final station – East Harbour – being delivered through Ontario’s Transit-Oriented Communities Program. All five stations are anticipated to be open and operational by 2026.
The King-Liberty station, located on the Kitchener GO line between Union and Bloor GO stations, will feature an enclosed pedestrian bridge connecting King Street and the High Line to the new platforms and a second pedestrian bridge connecting the new platforms to both Sudbury St. and Joe Shuster Way. I will continue to provide updates on this program.
Ontario Unveils Plans for Ontario Place
The Ontario government announced that it has chosen three private sector partners for the redevelopment of Ontario Place. Austrian resort developer Therme, Quebec outdoor recreation frim Écorécréo and U.S.-based concert promoter Live Nation were chosen out of the numerous companies that submitted proposals. The plans include the addition of a new outdoor adventure park, an indoor spa and waterpark, as well as a new concert venue that can host year-round events.
The Premier stated that the redevelopment “will not include casinos, it won’t include condos and the land will not be sold.”
Also part of the new plan will be new parks, promenades, trails and beaches along the public sites. The Cinesphere and pod complex will remain and is said to be integrated into the development. Trillium Park and the William G. Davis Trail will also remain.
The cost of the project remains unclear but officials said that the private sector developers will be contributing more than $500 million to the project. Public consultations will begin next month and continue into the fall with construction expected to begin in 2024 and be completed between 2027 and 2030.
While the news is relieving to many as it does not include casinos or a ferris wheel, the concern remains that this redevelopment was decided without robust public consultation. Ontario Place is owned by public taxpayers and I believe they must have a large say in the future of the site. I am also concerned about the largely piecemeal nature of breaking up Ontario Place and providing contracts to separate private companies, without an overarching vision.
I am working with Councillor Joe Cressy, Ontario Place for All, Future of Ontario Place and other community groups and members to protect Ontario Place’s accessibility and affordability to the general public, and ensure that the final plan will be one that benefits the people of this province.
- For over a year, I have been pushing the Ford government to put more funding towards affordable housing, and housing with wraparound supports for people suffering with mental health and addictions issues. I proposed an Ontario Homelessness Prevention Strategy, drafting legislation following recommendations from the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, the Co-operative Housing Federation of Ontario and the Canadian Mental Health Association to build at least 99,000 units of affordable, purpose-built housing over the next decade. We’ve also repeatedly called on the province to meet the City of Toronto’s funding requests to build 3,000 permanent affordable homes over the next 24 months.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives voted down my legislation this spring, and have taken no action to support the City of Toronto’s housing action plan, or resolve the growing homelessness issue in urban areas across Ontario. Instead, the Premier has cut homelessness prevention programs, reduced funding for affordable housing by $160 million, and cut $335 million from Ontario’s mental health budget. After Conservative Premier Mike Harris downloaded the responsibility of affordable housing to municipalities, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have taken adequate action to meet housing needs in Ontario, setting us up for the crisis we see today. Meanwhile, the cost of housing and rents have continued to rise over the last few decades, while wages have not risen at the same level.
This is the context in which the City of Toronto moved ahead with clearing multiple encampments over the last couple of months, most recently by clearing encampments at Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium. The fact is, people require permanent housing. They should not be living in parks. The encampments have had a negative effect on many residents and businesses located around them. This does not mean we vilify the people living in them; it means we must pressure the government for immediate solutions which also respect the human rights of the vulnerable people living in the parks. The City is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on elaborate police action, and this is not the solution we need. People will get further displaced, whereas what they really need is more stability in housing and support. We need a human rights-based approach to resolve homelessness.
Premier Ford’s silence on the homelessness issue is a major problem. Governments are failing to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents on all fronts, exacerbating the crisis. Encampments in parks are not a housing solution, but neither is police force and violence. We know the solutions. People need housing. Poverty is not a crime, and people experiencing homelessness are not criminals. They need support from the governments who have let them down. I will continue to advocate at the provincial level for the government to step in and take responsibility for this crisis we see on our streets. We need to build permanent, affordable and supportive housing.
In the meantime, I will continue to work with the Spadina-Fort York Community Care program to ensure our most vulnerable population has their basic needs met. If you are interested in assisting with our food program, or our vaccine program, please contact [email protected] . You can also share and sign our petitions that state that Everyone Deserves a Home, and the Ontario government has a responsibility to Stop Homelessness.
ServiceOntario Offering Digital Reminders
- The province has announced that Ontarians will now be able to sign up for digital reminders to renew their driver’s licence, licence plate stickers and health cards. Individuals can opt to receive reminders 30 and 60 days ahead of their renewal dates via email, text or voicemail. The system is said to have been put in place to ensure people are able to renew on time. Renewals can then be done online or you can book an in-person appointment through ServiceOntario’s online booking system.
FAO Report Shows Province Withheld $10.3 Billion
- A new report from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) shows the Ford government withheld $10.3 billion from Ontarians during the pandemic, including sitting on over $1 billion earmarked for long-term care and public health.
NDP Finance critic Catherine Fife said, “While our loved ones suffered in long-term care, businesses struggled through painfully long lockdowns, and the province could not keep up with things like contract tracing, the Ford government was held back billions of dollars that they refused to invest to help Ontarians.”
The FAO report shows that the government spent $10.3 billion less than promised last year. The FAO reported Ford withheld over $1 billion in health care funds during the pandemic, plus $368 million in funding for public health and $95 million for long-term care. Read the full report here.
Ford Government Announces Cabinet Shuffle
- On June 18, Premier Ford announced a significant cabinet shuffle. This shuffle includes a number of changes including the replacement of Minister of Long-Term Care, Merrilee Fullerton, with Rod Phillips, the former finance minister who was forced to resign last December for travelling to St. Barts while the rest of the province was told to stay at home. Merrilee Fullerton has been named the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
While there was no change made to the positions of key cabinet members Health Minister Christine Elliott, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Education Minister Stephen Lecce, other ministers have been removed altogether. Bill Walker, Jeff Yurek, Ernie Hardeman, Laurie Scott and John Yakabuski have lost their portfolios.
While there are a number of people changing positions, the budget for the year has already been determined and we are less than 12 months away from the next election, meaning much of this shuffle is about image rather than substance. Much of the policy has already been drafted, so this is largely being seen as a political move to raise the profile of BIPOC PC MPPs of a cabinet that was seen as “too white and too male”, and reduce the profile of rural MPPs who irked the Premier by urging him to reopen too early.
Here is the full list of changes:
- Jill Dunlop, MPP Simcoe North, Minister of Colleges and Universities
- Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, MPP Kanata-Carleton, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
- Parm Gill, MPP Milton, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism
- Rod Phillips, MPP Ajax, Minister of Long-Term Care
- Dave Piccini, MPP Northumberland-Peterborough South, Minister of Environment
- Greg Rickford, MPP Kenora-Rainy River, merged role as Minister of Northern Development, Mining, Natural Resources and Forestry, as well as Indigenous Affairs (This new ministry will focus on development potential and sustainability in the North while energy will transfer to a new separate ministry.)
- Todd Smith, MPP Bay of Quinte, Minister of Energy
- Ross Romano, MPP Sault Ste. Marie, Minister of Government and Consumer Services
- Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, MPP Brampton South, President of the Treasury Board
- Kinga Surma, MPP Etobicoke Centre, Minister of Infrastructure
- Lisa Thompson, MPP Huron Bruce, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
- Stan Cho, MPP Willowdale, Associate Minister of Transportation, reporting to Minister Mulroney
- Jane McKenna, MPP Burlington, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, reporting to Minister Fullerton.
- Nina Tangri, MPP Mississauga Streetsville, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape, reporting to Minister Fedeli
- Kaleed Rasheed, MPP Mississauga East-Cooksville, Associate Minister of Digital Government, reporting to Minister Bethlenfalvy
Ontario to Spend $10 Million to Investigate Residential Sites
- The Ontario government announced that it will provide $10 million over the next three years to investigate and help identify, protect and commemorate the residential school burial sites of Indigenous children across the province. Since the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, there have been calls across the country for action to be taken at other former residential schools across Canada to locate undisclosed burial sites. Archaeologists, historians and forensic specialists will be among those assisting with the painstaking work required.
Toronto has the largest Indigenous population in Ontario and the fourth largest in Canada, with more than 80,000 residents from Indigenous communities. Toronto’s Indigenous Affairs Office is focused on strengthening the City’s relationship with Indigenous communities and advance reconciliation. As many of us are settlers and immigrants to this land, there is much we can do in our personal lives to learn about this important issue
- Review the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report and 94 calls to action
- Register for the University of Alberta's free online course: Indigenous Canada
Support residential school survivors and their families:
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
- First Nations Child & Family Caring Society
- Indian Residential School Survivors Society
The City of Toronto also launched Indigenous Peoples Month at Toronto History Museums in June. Toronto History Museums will make available Indigenous histories, cuisine, arts and stories in collaboration with community partners. Indigenous Peoples Month programming at Toronto History Museums can be enjoyed in four parts: Shop, Explore, Feast and Watch. All performances and panels are free to the public but some events will require advance registration. More information is available at Toronto History Museums.
Statement on Rail Deck Park and Favouring Developers
- It has been well documented that the current government has made decisions that continually favour developers, rather than the people in this province. There have been many examples, from overriding the City of Toronto’s noise by-law leading to constant construction noise disturbing families early in the morning and late at night, to issuing dozens of Ministerial Zoning Orders, some for developers who are party donors and friends of the Premier. When it comes to Ontario Place, the government has listened to private proposals, but hasn’t consulted publically with the community in good faith.
Then there’s the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), an arms-length provincial quasi-judicial body that is difficult for members of the public to participate in, which picked a developer’s project to increase condo density and overruled the City’s planned Rail Deck Park which would have increased desperately needed public green space in our area. This tribunal is unelected and unaccountable and its decisions have historically sided with developers with high-priced lawyers rather than local constituents with concerns about their neighbourhood. It is long past time to reform LPAT and put development decisions back in the hands of residents.
I spoke in the legislature today to remind this government that their responsibility is to listen to the residents of this province, not their developer donors or lobbyists. Sign our petition calling on this government to respect local planning.
Future of CNE Under Threat
- Due to COVID-19, the CNE has been cancelled for summer 2021 and, as a result, is facing permanent closure due to the financial impacts of the pandemic. The CNE is a much-loved Toronto institution that holds special significance for many Ontarians young and old. The CNE attracts over 1.5 million visitors annually and provides 4700 jobs, primarily to youth, with 20% of summer jobs going to youth with special needs. It’s a major economic driver that generates $128 million in economic activity for Ontario each year. After 142 years, the CNE may close its gates forever— it’s non-profit model did not provide it with the financial ability to withstand the shutdowns during the pandemic.
Listen to my question regarding the CNE.
This week in Question Period, I called on this government to step in and provide the financial support needed to re-open the gates of Toronto’s beloved CNE in summer 2022 and beyond. Join me and sign our petition calling on the government to save the CNE!
Bill 282 and E-bikes
- Last Friday, a new bill was passed by the current government that could make most power-assisted bicycles, or e-bikes, illegal in Ontario. Called the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, or “MOMS” for short, the bill, which classifies e-bikes by wheel size and weight, would restrict e-bikes in Ontario to 50 kg and a wheel size of at least 35 mm wide (approximately one and a half inches) and 350 mm in diameter (approximately 14 inches). MOMS would make the vast majority of e-bikes that are currently on the road in Ontario illegal. It’s not clear if the intent of the bill is to ban e-bikes that don’t meet the specifications set out in the bill or if it’s just a mistake. Questions posed at committee to government MPPs and the Ministry of Transportation have gone unanswered. Many seniors, low-income individuals and others have come to rely on e-bikes as their primary mode of transport and are concerned about the bill.
Read my article in Now Magazine for more on this.
FoSTRA Seeking Members
Throughout Doug Ford's term as Premier, one constant has been that his actions have repeatedly favored developers rather than local communities. This has created a great deal of controversy, whether he was opening the Greenbelt for development, pushing through highway 413, or greatly increasing the number of Ministerial Zoning Orders to overrule local community voices, it was clear that residents needed to work together to oppose concerning action from the Ontario Government. This is why I helped bring together groups in the riding to lay the foundation for FOSTRA, to ensure Torontonians have a strong voice advocating for them in decisions that affect them.
- The Federation of South Toronto Residents Associations (FoSTRA) is a non-partisan federation of residents associations that collaborate to:
- help shape the creation of good public policies at all levels of government
- preserve and enhance the quality of life for Torontonians
- promote neighborhood identity and vitality
- ensure responsible and respectful development within its boundaries
FoSTRA’s boundaries are the same as the five downtown Wards – Wards 4, 9, 10, 13 – and the Ridings and Electoral Districts of Parkdale-High Park, Davenport, Spadina-Fort York, Toronto Centre plus Ward 11, and University-Rosedale south of Bloor Street.
FoSTRA has established itself as a federal non-profit, and is accepting membership requests for resident, community, neighbourhood, and tenants associations as well as housing co-ops to consider.
If you would like more information or an application form, please email: [email protected]