The Government continues with a cautious approach to protect Ontarians by proactively responding to the rising COVID-19 cases and the new Omicron variant. As a result, it is extending the pause on lifting further indoor capacity restrictions where proof of vaccination is required, including food and drink establishments with dance facilities, until conditions stabilize. While we anticipated increased COVID-19 cases as colder weather forced more people indoors, the new variant is very concerning. Our prudent reopening has allowed Ontario to post one of the lowest case rates in the country, well below the national average. At the same time, ICU capacity remains stable. We can credit our high vaccination rate of 87.4 percent for those 12 and older for blunting the potentially dangerous symptoms. As of Monday, December 13, those 50 and over who have received their second dose of the vaccine at least six months ago can book a booster shot at www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine. Local details on clinic times and locations, including the latest vaccination information for our walk-in clinics for children and their parents, can be found at www.EOHU.ca or by calling 1-800-267-7120.
Meanwhile, our science table gathers the latest data on Omicron’s transmissibility, severity, and impact on the vaccine’s effectiveness. We must remain vigilant and ready to respond to the needs of this new virus of concern. As a result, we have invested an additional $1.8 billion this year to build more critical care capacity, add 3,100 beds, and reduce surgical and diagnostic imaging backlogs. As the Omicron situation evolves, please consult for the latest travel restrictions, including https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid#f.
During the last election campaign, our Government committed to supporting municipalities with their infrastructure deficits, and this week we delivered on another installment. The City of Cornwall and the Townships and Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry will collectively receive $9,464,450 to help build and repair local infrastructure. This 2022 funding more than doubles the 2021 allotment. It is part of the Government’s additional $1 billion investment to help build and repair roads, bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure in small, rural, and northern communities. The multi-year funding is being delivered through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) and will bring the Government’s total investment to nearly $2 billion over the next five years.
We ensure that workers remain safe and do not lose pay due to COVID-19 issues. Minister McNaughton announced the Government had extended the Worker Income Protection Benefit to July 31, 2022. The benefit has been well-received by Ontarians, with more than 235,000 taking time for vaccinations and waiting for test results when exhibiting symptoms. Under the plan, our Government reimburses employers up to three days to bridge the time required for the federal sick day plan to kick in. For more information, visit Worker Income Protection Benefit.
I was happy to learn of the new fundraising opportunities available for local Royal Canadian Legion branches and other community groups. New provincial regulations allow volunteer organizations to apply for a new free social gaming licence. Legion branches are a mainstay of small communities throughout Ontario, especially in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry. However, the pandemic has challenged their ability to hold events. This licence will go a long way toward helping Legions and other groups raise money that supports many worthy causes, including veterans and other community heroes. I encourage their representatives to apply at https://www.iagco.agco.ca/prod/pub/en/Login.aspx.
As always, stay safe and get vaccinated if you have not done so.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry