By MPP Jim McDonell
The second wave of COVID-19 continues to pose a concern for us locally and across the province. Public health experts, including Eastern Ontario Health Unit Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, are closely watching the stats. This week, the Ontario Government launched its Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework that takes a transparent, comprehensive approach to protect Ontarians’ health and safety while avoiding broader closures. These new procedures evaluate local conditions to categorize each public health unit region into one of five levels: prevent, protect, restrict, control and lockdown, determining the public health and workplace safety measures for those regions and workplaces.
This past week, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s territory was in the “Restrict” category. Our improving caseload has moved us to the “Protect” category as of November 6. These revised procedures provide additional transparency to a region’s current status, its progress, and identifies the restrictions that will be added or removed as a region’s case numbers change. While additional measures are necessary from time to time, the latest science still highlights that the best success is achieved when everyone social distances, wear masks, and hand-wash frequently.
Last week, we announced the latest round of the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF). The $12 million grant for Cornwall and the United Counties included an increase of over $300,000 and was announced in time for inclusion in the 2021 municipal budget. We listened to our partners when they told us that receiving the news in the fall would make budgeting much easier, and moved this announcement ahead of the typical spring timeframe of the previous Liberal Government.
Finance Minister Rod Phillips has released Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover — the next phase of a comprehensive action plan to respond to the serious health and economic impacts of COVID-19. It outlines a projected deficit of $38.5 billion for 2020-21, with a total of $45 billion in support over three years. It will make available the necessary health resources needed to protect people, deliver critical programs and tax measures to support individuals, families and job creators impacted by the virus, and lay the groundwork for a robust long-term economic recovery for the province.
Ontario’s COVID-19 health response is now a projected $15.2 billion, including more than $2.5 billion in additional funding to support hospital beds, address the surgical backlog, purchase additional influenza vaccines, and COVID-19 related expenses.
The government is also delivering an estimated $13.5 billion in total support for people and job creators, as part of Ontario’s Action Plan. This additional relief will ensure families, seniors, businesses and workers are supported through the second wave of COVID-19 and beyond. Programs include a $200 per child under age 12 and $250 for children and youth with special needs up to age 21 for parents to offset COVID expenses, and a new 25 percent Seniors’ Home Safety Tax Credit for eligible renovations of up to $10,000. The government is also providing an additional $1.8 billion in the Support for People and Jobs Fund over the next two years to remain responsive to emerging individual and business needs.
As part of our recovery plan, we are investing $4.8 billion in initiatives that will support jobs now, while removing barriers that would hold Ontario back from a strong recovery from COVID-19. Among the major initiatives proposed by the government are a reduction of job-killing electricity prices, reducing taxes on jobs, connecting unserved and underserved communities with a historic investment in broadband infrastructure, and providing workers with skills training — including those impacted by the pandemic, such as tourism and hospitality workers — to help them connect to jobs needing high-demand skills.
As always, I want to remind everyone to stay safe.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry