Today I joined a small group of MPPs at Queen’s Park to deal with new government legislation to extend the provincial state of emergency until May 12. The bill also made a few housekeeping changes, including formally adopting the six-month interest free period for OSAP holders.
While we supported the bill in order to extend the emergency order and combat the spread of COVID-19, our caucus used the opportunity to talk about what should have been in the government’s bill. We talked about the people who are falling through the cracks in the federal emergency supports, and who urgently need the province to step up and help them. We told stories of the small businesses in our communities who are struggling to survive and adapt to an economy where people have to stay at home. And we continued our call for immediate, urgent measures to curb the devastating infection rate in long term care and nursing homes.
In my role as Education Critic, I spoke about the impact of social isolation and remote distance learning on students, their families and on educators, all of whom are doing their best to maintain learning in an extremely challenging context.
I want to acknowledge that the steps we are all taking together - staying at home, physically distancing, being away from friends, families, and work - are not easy. These measures are tough - but we know that what we are doing is saving lives.
Even with these significant restrictions, Ontario lost 43 lives to the virus just since yesterday, bringing the death toll in the province to 360. Across the country there are now almost 27,000 confirmed cases, and to our south, Americans are reeling from 25,000 deaths - 10,000 in New York City alone. We absolutely need to stay the course, until we have either controlled the spread or a vaccine is available.
But that doesn’t mean we’re in it alone. I will keep pushing for tangible supports for all who are impacting by this pandemic. I’ll keep advocating for greater protections and fairer wages for the essential workers who are caring for the sick and vulnerable, keeping food on our tables and keeping the lights on at home. And I’ll keep sharing your concerns and ideas with the government so that we can get our local economy back on track as soon as it’s safe.
Join me, live on Facebook this thursday
At 6pm on April 16, I’ll be live on Facebook to talk about the provincial response to COVID-19 and answer your questions. To participate, like and follow my page on Facebook, and log in this Thursday at 6pm. You can send in your questions to MStiles-QP@ndp.on.ca (please add Facebook Live to the subject line). See you there!
Here are the some of the latest updates:
Schools remain closed beyond May 4
The Premier also announced today that schools will not be returning on May 4 as previously planned - but a new date has yet to be announced.
Government orders childcare centres to stop charging fees
Following advocacy from parents and the Opposition, the Ontario government is temporarily preventing child care centres from collecting payments from parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also ensuring that their child care spaces are protected. I have heard from a number of constituents who were being charged while not receiving care, and I’m pleased to see this will be stopped, but we also need government investment to ensure childcare providers don’t shut down.
New Personal Protective Equipment arrives
The government reports that over the last five days, more than 13 million surgical and procedural masks, 200,000 N95 respirator masks, and 38 ventilators have been delivered to Ontario's pandemic stockpile warehouses.
Long Term Care staffing update
For weeks, Doug Ford has refused to mandate an end to LTC staff working at multiple homes, which has contributed to the wildfire-like spread of COVID-19 in long-term care. Tonight, his government finally announced an order to deploy more staff to LTC homes, and limit LTC staff to working at one facility.
Precautions and enforcement for essential businesses
On April 8, the government announced plans to add more employment standards officers, issue health and safety guidance, and double the capacity of Ontario’s Health and Safety Call Centre to ensure essential workplaces are complying with physical distancing protocols, such as on construction sites and grocery stores.
This is a step in the right direction. I have heard many concerning reports from workers who don’t feel safe at work and shoppers who don’t feel safe visiting workplaces.
Reminder: Your Rights at Work
To know your rights as a worker, read the Ontario Government’s guide to refusing work as well as the Workers Health and Safety Centre’s guide for workers during COVID-19. The Workers' Action Centre is hosting free online workshops weekly on Thursdays at 7pm - sign up for the next one here. You can also call the Workers Action Centre at hotline at 416-531-0778 or 1-855-531-0778.