Peggy Sattler MPP, London West

Government of Ontario
 

Dear Neighbour,

In this final update for 2020, please accept my heartfelt best wishes for a happy, if quiet, holiday with your immediate family, as well as meaningful virtual connections with relatives and friends. For guidance and ideas on how to safely celebrate, it's worth checking out the holiday safety guides available from the Middlesex-London Health Unit and the government of Ontario. If you live alone, consider joining one other household for festive season gatherings.

As Ontario heads into a second provincewide lockdown beginning December 26, non-essential workplaces and small businesses will almost certainly face closures, reduced revenues, and layoffs. If you are able, please make an effort to shop local for curbside pickup or delivery to help struggling small businesses. There are also many individuals in our community who have been financially hard-hit by the pandemic and are already on the brink. If you have the means, year-end donations to organizations that support those who are vulnerable would be especially appreciated.

While the lockdown is essential to prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed, it is clear from the first wave that the lockdown itself will not stop the spread without supporting measures, including more staff and infection control specialists in long-term care homes, paid sick days for essential workers, isolation centres so people don’t unintentionally allow the virus to spread to their family members and roommates, and much more testing and contact tracing. As Ontarians do our part to wear masks, wash hands, and maintain physical distancing, it is unfortunate that we continue to await these critical public health supports from the government. We also await more help for businesses and people who lose income, as well as commercial and residential eviction bans.  
 
Despite the uncertainty of the weeks ahead, Londoners have shown that even in the most difficult of times, we pull together. Long before the vaccine, there were countless glimmers of hope amid the darkness of the pandemic—in the big and small acts of kindness displayed by Londoners, and in the care and dedication of the many front-line heroes who are keeping us healthy, keeping our children learning, and keeping our community fed. 

My community office remains available to assist you this week until 4:30pm on Wednesday, December 23. We will close for the holidays and reopen on Monday, January 4. If you or someone you know needs help during this period, access to many services, including counselling and crisis supports, is available by calling 211 or visiting 211ontario.ca. You can also find resources and supports on my website at peggysattler.ca/covid19resources.

After a year marked by anxiety, worry, and far too much grief, the arrival of a new year and at least two new vaccines offers the promise of hope and health for our community. It is nearly time to begin rebuilding, and I am looking forward to doing that work together. All my very best for a safe, happy and healthy 2021. 

Stay safe and take care,

 


In this newsletter:
 

Provincewide Shutdown

On December 26 at 12:01 am, Ontario will enter a provincewide shutdown, which will remain in effect in Southern Ontario until January 23, 2021.

Please visit the MLHU website for more information about restrictions during the shutdown, which will include the following:

  • Trips outside of the home should only be for essential reasons (work, school, groceries/pharmacy, health care, assisting vulnerable individuals or exercise and physical activity).
     
  • No indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household. Outdoor events and social gatherings of no more than 10 people are permitted when physical distancing can be maintained.
     
  • Remote work should happen in all industries to the greatest extent possible, and employers should enable and support workers to work remotely and accommodate household needs related to virtual education and dependent care.
In addition, all non-essential workplaces and businesses are required to close. Please refer to the shutdown document for full details, which include the following:
  • Restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments may offer take out, drive through, and delivery only—no indoor or or outdoor dine-in service.
     
  • Facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness activities are closed except for the sole use of high performance athletes. Some outdoor recreational amenities are open with restrictions, and with team sports not permitted.
     
  • Meeting and event spaces must be closed except for the provision of mental health and addictions support services with a maximum of 10 people in attendance, court and government services, social services and child care.
     
  • Most retail is permitted to be open for curbside pick-up or delivery only (in-person retail shopping not permitted) with some exceptions:
    • Supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, other retailers selling groceries, beer and wine and liquor stores, pharmacies and safety supply stores permitted to be open with restrictions
    • Outdoor markets and vehicle sales are permitted with restrictions
       
  • Personal care services, casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments must be closed.
     
  • Short term rentals (e.g. AirBnB) may only be provided to people in need of housing.
Lastly, the shutdown will include changes for school and child care in London:
  • Elementary students in publicly-funded schools will participate in remote learning from January 4 until January 8, and return to in-person learning on January 11.
     
  • Secondary students in publicly-funded schools will participate in remote learning from January 4 until January 25, and return to in-person learning on January 25.
     
  • Post-secondary institutions will open for virtual instruction only, with limited exceptions where in-person instruction is required and will be subject to restrictions.
     
  • All day camps for children will be closed.
     
  • Child care will remain open, but centres may not provide care to school-aged children during the week of January 4 - 8. Operators of before and after school programs required to close are prohibited from charging fees or otherwise penalizing families for that period.
     
  • An emergency child care program will be offered to certain eligible workers with children. See the shutdown documentation for more details.

The government's move to lock down the province comes after the Ontario Hospital Alliance called for an immediate, stronger and strictly-enforced lockdown, and Andrea Horwath urged the government to consider their proposal. ICU cases have been climbing toward potentially devastating levels, and more and more hospitals are forced to delay important, but non-urgent services. 
 

Long-Term Care

For many people living in long-term care or retirement homes, as well as their loved ones, this will be an especially difficult holiday season.

One thing we've learned this year is how desperately and urgently we need improvements to long-term care. Last week, the government released a report on long-term care staffing, but their plan does not deliver the urgent change that is necessary and absolutely possible. British Columbia hired and trained 7,000 health care workers before the second wave hit, and Quebec hired and trained 10,000 workers for long-term care homes.

Both provinces achieved that in just weeks, yet the Ontario government is still dabbling in half-measures, with a plan that stretches out to 2025. In addition, their plan fails to address one of the single biggest factors making it hard to attract and retain staff—the appallingly low wages and unstable work environment of the personal support workers who are the backbone of our long-term care and home care systems. 

The well-being of Ontario seniors depends on the government acting quickly. Our parents and grandparents have earned so much more than what our current government is willing to provide.

 

Students Deserve Safe Schools 

Today, the Premier announced shutdown measures in schools across Ontario, but when schools reopen, students and staff will return to the same problems that have existed since the Fall. Ontario families and education workers deserve a plan that is much more comprehensive than whether schools will be open or closed. It will be months before there is mass immunization. Until then, we need stronger protections for students and staff when they are at school.

Over 7,000 students and staff have contracted COVID-19, and more than a quarter of those cases were reported in the last two weeks before schools let out for the holiday. And we know that there are more unconfirmed cases. An asymptomatic COVID-19 school testing program at 30 schools uncovered 57 cases that may not have been identified otherwise.

Broad asymptomatic testing in schools, class sizes capped at 15, busses capped at 50 per cent capacity, and better ventilation in schools are just a few of the measures that could be implemented immediately to make our schools safer.

 

Construction Site Safety

Our community continues to mourn the loss of two young workers, Henry Harder and John Martens, who died in the tragedy at 555 Teeple Terrace on December 11. Our thoughts remain with the families of the victims and the workers who are still recovering from their injuries after this incident.

My London MPP colleagues and I join the Ontario Federation of Labour to call on Ontario’s Ministry of Labour to thoroughly investigate every aspect of this incident. The government must take action on the findings, and introduce necessary laws and regulations to better protect workers on construction sites. 

These families deserve answers, and to know that meaningful and immediate measures are being taken to ensure this never happens again. Nobody's job should put them in danger, and no worker should have to worry that they may not come home at the end of their shift.

 

No COVID Evictions

On December 8, before rising early at the government's direction, the legislature unanimously passed MPP Suze Morrison's motion to ban all residential evictions until Ontario has entered a post-pandemic recovery period, and to prohibit evictions for nonpayment during the pandemic. However, the Premier has chosen not to sign an executive order to put a stop to COVID evictions.

Since Ontario’s eviction moratorium was lifted in August, the Landlord and Tenant Board has fast-tracked thousands of eviction hearings, and it has been chaos for tenants. Tenants are not getting proper notice of hearings, they don’t have adequate access to legal aid, they are being refused translators, and in some cases, their evictions are being rubber-stamped in less than 60 seconds while they are still trying to understand the process.

As London's rents continue to rise, many tenants are not simply moving on to the next rental unit, they are becoming homeless or under-housed. With the province shut down for the next 28 days or longer, and the weather becoming colder, an end to COVID evictions is even more critical.

I encourage you to contact the Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to let them know your thoughts on residential evictions during a pandemic, with a copy to psattler-co@ndp.on.ca. 

I also want to remind tenants that most rent increases are not permitted in 2021. If you receive a rent increase notice, please don't hesitate to contact my community office for help determining whether you are required to pay the increased amount.

 

Around London

Thank you to everyone who joined me and my team to donate blood during Canadian Blood Services' Days of Giving!

If you can donate with us next time, join my team on the GiveBlood app or at blood.ca/PFL!


The Holiday Window Walk in downtown London offers a safe way to get out and enjoy decorated storefronts and whimsical audio stories. At each of eight participating locations, people can use their smartphone to scan a QR code and hear the audio that accompanies the visual display. For those who would prefer to stay home, the audio stories can also be accessed online. The walk will be available online and in storefront windows until the end of December.

London's first pop-up winter homeless shelter is being built in Carling Heights, and is expected to open soon. It will be staffed largely by volunteers and outreach staff through the Winter Interim Solution for Homelessness (WISH). Visit their website to learn more and volunteer.
 
 

COVID-19 Developments

Assessment Centre Holiday Hours

Oakridge Assessment Centre will be closed from December 25, 2020 until January 3, 2021. The Centre will re-open on Monday, January 4.

Carling Assessment Centre will be operating with reduced hours:
  • Friday, December 25 - 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm
  • December 26 to January 3 - 11:00 am to 7:00 pm 
The Centre will resume regular hours on Monday, January 4.

Appointments can be booked online at covidtestinglm.ca/online-booking.

People with accessibility issues or who do not have access to the internet can call 519-685-8500 ext.75503 to book an appointment. Individuals will be asked to leave a voicemail, and will get a call back within 2 business days. Telephone booking will be available from December 26 - January 3 between 10:15 am and 4:45 pm; telephone booking will not be available December 25.
  • The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has released new modelling that shows existing restrictions have not limited the spread of COVID-19 as much as needed, with projections that occupancy in Ontario’s ICUs will be above 300 by the new year. At that level, it becomes nearly impossible to provide any other health care in our hospitals. In the worst-case scenario, COVID-19 patient occupancy could surpass 1,500 by mid-January.
     
  • London Health Sciences Centre is responding to outbreaks in multiple units at both University Hospital and Victoria Hospital. The hospitals remain open.
     
  • London Health Sciences Centre and the Middlesex-London Health Unit will partner on a vaccination program to administer the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which is expected to be in London soon. A limited number of doses of the new vaccine will be administered at the Field Hospital at the Western Fair District Agriplex in the coming weeks. All requirements, including specialized technological infrastructure, are in place to begin administering doses of the vaccine once the initial shipment is received.
     
  • As of December 11, 2020, individuals requesting a COVID-19 test for international travel clearance are no longer eligible for a publicly funded COVID-19 test in Ontario, and will not be able to get tests at assessment centres in London or most pharmacies. Private labs may continue to offer testing for travel, and may charge a fee for the test.
     
  • In response to the discovery of a new, quickly-spreading variant of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom, Canada has suspended all flights from the UK to Canada until December 24 while Canadian officials work with the World Health Organization to understand the new variant.

The response to COVID-19 is evolving rapidly, so please refer to linked sources and the following websites for the most up-to-date information: 
Canada.ca/coronavirus 

You can also find a range of helpful resources on my website at peggysattler.ca/covid19resources.
 
 
Community Office
240 Commissioners Rd W, Unit 101
London, ON N6J 1Y1
Tel: 519-657-3120
Queen's Park Office
Room 359, Main Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A5
Tel: 416-325-6908
Email: psattler-qp@ndp.on.ca
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