We have learned a lot about this virus over the past year. Like any virus, we know that it continues to survive and change by spreading to people without the antibodies to stop it. This past month has seen the area’s highest positivity rates since it first reached here last March. We know the new, more contagious variant is in Ontario, and while challenging to stop, it can be beaten if we remove its ability to spread. With our most vulnerable receiving their vaccinations, we need everyone’s commitment to take up the fight to seriously reduce our active cases to allow us to get our children back to school and open our small businesses. We all need to take personal responsibility and follow the essential practices of reducing transmission. Stay home unless you need to purchase food or essential items or to go to work. If you must go out, maintain two metres of separation and wear a mask.
Staying at home has taken on a new importance, as we must bring down our numbers to a safer level. Our health care system has become overloaded, requiring the cancellation of many procedures to maintain a minimum emergency capacity. We have seen places around the globe where people were turned away from their hospitals, and that is not where we want to go. After a year of long hours and very little time off, our emergency and front line workers are tired, and stress levels are high. Along with the vaccination rollout, these measures will allow our children to get back to school, our businesses to open again, and our lives to return to normal. On this front, I am pleased to report the government is investing an additional $1,690,700 to support further prevention and containment efforts in long-term care homes in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, as well as Glengarry-Prescott-Russell. The following is the breakdown our riding: Heartwood, $214,100; Dundas Manor, $184,800; St. Joseph’s, $97,000; Woodland Villa, $87,500; Sandfield Place, $71,700; Parisien Manor, $69,500; Lancaster Long Term Care, $67,000; Tsiionkwanonhsote, $47,000; Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge, $41,900. As well in North Glengarry, Maxville Manor is receiving $122,100 and The Palace, $89,900.
Life as your MPP has been far from normal during these times. People and organizations have adapted to the virtual meeting. This month, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) held its annual conference. As Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, I attended many of these virtual meetings with municipal representatives from across Ontario, personally chairing about a dozen of them. This was another opportunity for municipal leaders to express their needs and concerns to their provincial government and learn about the various programs available to weather this pandemic and put their municipality back on the road to recovery. We announced a number of investments to continue modernizing municipalities, upgrade municipal infrastructure, such as roads and drinking water systems, and to help agricultural and horticultural societies prepare for the upcoming events season.
Early on, we realized the need to encourage businesses, big and small, to transform their operations to get through this pandemic and quickly recover from its devastating impact. Our recent budget included $4.8 billion to support a robust long-term recovery that helps workers, employers, and communities get back on their feet while building the foundation for recovery and growth. One such program, the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, provides between $10,000 and $20,000 to eligible small businesses who have had to restrict their operations due to the Province-wide Shutdown, which helped stop the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases in Ontario. The program has already received over 48,000 applications and is available at www.Ontario.ca/COVIDsupport.
Our provincial vaccination program is progressing well, with Ontario administering almost 92% of the vaccines it received as of this past Thursday morning, second to Alberta at 94%. We received the disappointing news that Pfizer vaccines will be severely cut back over the next few weeks to allow for plant improvements in its Belgium plant. The company believes that it will be able to meet and exceed its end-of-March commitment. Premier Ford was particularly disappointed to hear that our previous reduction numbers were reduced to zero for the week, and diverted elsewhere. Despite the tough national news, I want to compliment our local Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, and his vaccination team for their progress, inoculating the staff and residents at twelve of our region’s sixteen long-term care homes. While the EOHU will not receive any supplies next week, they are still on track to complete the area’s homes by February 15.
In closing, please do not hesitate to call our office if you require assistance or wish to pass on an idea or advice that will help us get through this pandemic. Please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-support-people if you want to access one or more of many programs and services.
Remember to stay home, stay safe, and save lives.