Across the country, our health professionals have done a tremendous job vaccinating fellow Canadians, surpassing our southern neighbours this past weekend. But we need everyone’s cooperation to reach the fully vaccinated rate of 75 percent of those 12 years old and older to complete Step 3 and further open up our province. Our local health unit is asking for cooperation to meet our local goals. They are opening up their clinics to walk-in residents and asking anyone with appointments later in August or September to rebook one of the open appointments now available in the next few weeks. To book or advance your appointment for your first or second shot, please go to www.Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or call 1-888-999-6488 if you have a red and white OHIP card or need assistance. It’s easy, and this process automatically cancels your previous time when you accept a new appointment.
As we look around the world, we want to avoid the fourth wave that many countries are experiencing due to the more contagious new variants. While no vaccine achieves 100 percent success, the data reveals that less than one percent of COVID-19 patients in hospital ICU beds have been fully vaccinated. Medical experts agree that we need to get to what is referred to as herd immunity of approximately 90 percent to avoid overwhelming our health facilities and the resulting lockdown. I can’t emphasize more the necessity to be fully vaccinated, and we need your help.
The Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, David Piccini, announced Ontario’s new Youth Environment Council this week. The program provides opportunities for our youth to share their insights and ideas on climate change and other key environmental issues impacting the province’s future. Candidates must be in grades 9 to 12 as of the 2021 fall school year, have a passion for the environment, understand key climate-related issues and solutions in their regions, and work or volunteer experience with activities related to climate change and the environment. For anyone interested, please visit www.ontario.ca/YEC to learn more about the Ontario youth environment council and how to apply. Applications close August 4, 2021.
The province’s efforts to provide high-speed Internet for under-serviced and rural areas, such as Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, continues to gain traction. I am happy to see that more broadband infrastructure projects will be coming here as the government undertakes a new innovative procurement process this summer. This step builds on the $4 billion commitment to connecting every region by the end of 2025. Improved connectivity will make a world of difference in our ability to work, learn, run a business and improve the general quality of life as we tap into online health care and other services.
On a similar note, we are increasing our efforts to help small businesses by extending the very successful Digital Main Street program for another year. I encourage business owners and operators to visit https://digitalmainstreet.ca/ontariogrants/ for more details. The government is also lending new support to our agri-tourism businesses by launching the Winery Agri-Tourism COVID-19 Relief Initiative. This new program will assist businesses with on-site stores help them recover from a loss of revenue during the pandemic. Local wineries and cideries can expect to receive an application directly from Agricorp. Both programs have been allocated a budget of $10 million.
I also had the opportunity to welcome Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, to the riding on July 15. The minister met with our mental health practitioners in Cornwall, SDG, and Akwesasne to review our current status and future needs. While our government has substantially increased funding, more needs to be done to offset the impact of this pandemic.
In closing, remember to get your vaccination and be sure to continue precautionary measures as we look forward to a new normal.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry