Peggy Sattler MPP, London West

Government of Ontario
 

Hello Neighbour,

I hope you were able to get outside and enjoy the sunshine today, as we look forward to London moving to the Orange-Restrict level of the provincial reopening framework on Monday, March 1. After an incredibly challenging January and February, Londoners deserve thanks and recognition for limiting transmission and reducing cases in our community. The pandemic continues to take a toll on mental health and financial security, and I know how anxious everyone is to get through this. The next weeks will be critical, but by continuing to follow public health guidelines, we can keep up the progress.

Since my last newsletter, MPPs returned to Queen's Park and my colleagues and I immediately put forward nine urgent bills to deal with the impact of COVID-19 and prevent a third wave. Although the government said no to every one of them, we won't be giving up our push for an eviction ban, paid sick days, safer schools, improved small business supports, a permanent pay raise for PSWs and an equity strategy that recognizes and responds to the impacts of the pandemic on Black, Indigenous and racialized people in our community. 

On Monday, March 1 the legislature will vote on my own Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, which will deliver much-needed paid sick days to every worker in Ontario through their employer, with financial support from the government. There is a long and growing list of mayors, city councils, boards of health, medical officers of health, worker advocates, small business owners and more who are urging the province to enhance paid sick days so workers can stay home when they are sick and help stop the spread of COVID-19, including the Middlesex-London Health Unit and London City Council. Thank you to everyone who has been writing the Premier and contacting government MPPs to urge them to do the right thing for workers and for our communities, and vote yes to my bill. 

Take care and stay safe,

 

Although my community office is closed to in-person meetings, we remain available to help with provincial programs and services by phone at 519-657-3120 or by email at [email protected]


In this newsletter:
 

Paid Sick Days

Last week, MPPs debated my paid sick days bill, which proposes a legislated, made-in-Ontario program to enable workers to stay home if they are sick, without interruption or reduction of their pay, with employers reimbursed for paid sick days during the pandemic. You can watch the debate on my Facebook page or read the Hansard transcript

It will be months before there are enough Ontarians vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, and as the economy reopens, workplaces will continue to fuel transmission. We saw this during the second wave in December, when workplaces surged to become the most common site of COVID-19 outbreaks, surpassing even long-term care homes. If we can’t control workplace spread, we won't make it through the pandemic, especially with new highly contagious variants circulating throughout our communities.

The federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit forces workers to give up their salary in order to stay home and many workers simply cannot afford to do this. Evidence from Peel Region, where one in four workers went to work with COVID symptoms, shows that forcing workers to give up their pay in order to stay home or to get a COVID test puts all of us at risk. When going to work sick is the only option, workers can spread infection to co-workers and customers, and to families and communities.

My bill is not only good public health policy, it is good economic policy. Rising transmission rates can force the closure of small businesses, which are already hanging by a thread and are unlikely to survive another provincial lockdown. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce issued a statement when my bill was introduced in December, and Better Way Alliance of small business owners held a media conference to endorse it.   

The vote on my bill will take place on Monday March 1. Please visit my website to add your support or learn more about my bill.  

On the first day back in the legislature, I asked the government what it will take to give Ontario workers the paid sick days they need and deserve.

Vaccine Roll-Out

I have received many phone calls and emails from London West residents worried about when they will get a COVID-19 vaccine and how they will be notified. I will continue to share your feedback and suggestions as I push the government for more urgency and greater clarity.

Here is what we know:

The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) has a web page where you can see the latest updates on vaccine eligibility. Those who are currently eligible are being contacted directly - either by their health care employer, the long-term care or retirement home where they live, work or are an essential caregiver, or by MLHU. There is currently no way for other members of the public to sign up to be vaccinated.

MLHU will launch an online and phone system for booking vaccination appointments closer to when they are available to the public. Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, announced that eligibility will open up to adults by age group as follows (depending on vaccine availability):

  • March 15: 80 and older
  • April 15: 75 and older 
  • May 1: 70 and older
  • June 1: 65 and older
  • July 1: 60 and older

These are not the timelines anyone was expecting, nor what we were promised. Many were shocked to learn that vulnerable seniors over 80 have to wait until at least March 15, and that family doctors have been left out of the conversation. There is still no provincial online system or phone number to get an appointment.

Ontario continues to lag behind other provinces in vaccine distribution, with more unanswered questions this week about just how the general public will be able to register. This makes it even more important that the province get its plan in order to get shots in arms as quickly as possible.

It is possible that timelines could be accelerated as additional vaccines are approved and delivered. Astra-Zeneca has now joined the two other approved vaccines in use in Canada, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

There are currently two vaccine clinic locations in MLHU–one at the Western Fair District Agriplex in London and one at the Caradoc Community Centre in Mount Brydges. Work is underway to prepare the North London Optimist Community Centre and one ice pad at the Earl Nichols Recreation Centre to serve as additional vaccine clinics. These new clinics are expected to open during Phase 2 of the provincial vaccination roll-out.

It is encouraging to see plans finally starting to take shape, but please remember that it will be months until a significant number of people in our community are vaccinated. So please keep washing hands often, practicing distancing, and wearing a mask.

 

Around London

The Ontario Health Coalition will hold an online protest on their Facebook page on Wednesday, March 3 from 11am - 1pm.  Family members, essential care providers or front-line workers who would like to speak about the crisis in our long-term care system should email [email protected]
On March 3 from 6:30 - 9 pm, Junior Achievement South Western Ontario will host "Empowered Women" showcasing impactful female leaders and providing female-identifying high school students an opportunity to connect and explore through informative and interactive sessions, panels and more. Free to attend.

The London Environment Network has launched the Green London Now campaign, working toward a vision for London to be one of the greenest, most resilient cities in Canada. Visit their website to get involved and listen to their new podcast!

A group of organizations including Sisters of St Joseph, LCCEWA, the London Food Bank, Brescia, the London & District Labour Council and the Coalition to Empower Gender Equality are asking women to complete an online survey about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them at home and work.

Congratulations to London West residents Clayton MacNeil and Jennifer Pevler, who received a 2021 London Heritage Award for a Small Scale Restoration Project, recognizing their work on an early 20th Century brick house in Old South.
 

At Queen's Park

As your voice in Queen's Park, I have been fighting for solutions that will deliver what people in London need. Some of the bills and motions I supported in the past two weeks included
  • Bill 196 to establish an independent Seniors’ Advocate in Ontario
  • Bill 203 to protect the rights of essential caregivers in long-term care
  • Bill 244 to stop COVID evictions
  • Bill 252 to recognize housing as a human right in all provincial decisions
  • Motion 135 to implement an equity-based COVID-19 response strategy for disproportionally impacted communities
  • Motion 136 to provide assistance for small businesses not eligible for other supports
  • Motion 137 to establish a pandemic recovery school safety advisory group
  • Motion 139 to immediately increase the permanent pay of Ontario’s PSWs by $4/hr
  • Opposition Day Motion to grant the long-term commission's request to extend its mandate to December 31, 2021 and to immediately release all government documents requested by the Commission
Government MPPs blocked all of these proposals, but we will keep putting forward real solutions and fighting for them.
More than 8,000 London-area families have fallen behind on rent during the pandemic, and are at risk of losing their homes. When will the government recognize housing as a human right and protect tenants?
Boards of health, medical officers of heath, healthcare providers, mayors, city councils, workers and small business owners all understand that we need provincially legislated paid sick days. That is why they are calling for MPPs to pass Bill 239!
 

COVID-19 Developments

  • London and Middlesex County are moving to the Orange-Restrict level of Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Framework on Monday, March 1. Until then, the Middlesex-London region remains in the Red-Control level. Also on Monday, March 1, the "emergency brake" is being activated in Thunder Bay District Health Unit and Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit, moving these regions to Grey-Lockdown to interrupt rising case counts and help contain community spread. 
     
  • The Ontario government announced the Accelerated PSW Training Program, a tuition-free opportunity for 6,000 new students to complete PSW training in six months, rather than the typical eight months. After three months of coursework, and experiential learning in a clinical setting, students will complete the final three months in paid onsite training in a long-term care home or in a home and community care environment. Registration for the program will be available through the Ontario College Application Service and is expected to open in early March. This initiative to train more PSWs is welcome and long overdue, but it will not address the serious shortage of PSWs unless it is accompanied by improved working conditions and permanent wage increases.
     
  • The most recent projections from Ontario's COVID-19 Science Table, released on February 25, show that the spread of the virus has slowed, but that variants of concern continue to spread quickly and will likely make up 40% of all infections by the second week of March. This is expected to result in increased hospitalizations and ICU stays. The modelling paints a slightly more optimistic picture than projections released two weeks ago but was described as a "minefield” by Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, who is the co-chair of the Science Table. During a news conference at Queen’s Park. he noted that "the worst dangers are immediately in front of us. Case rates are already rising in some of the public health units again and the new variants of the virus are another serious hazard ahead of us.”
     
  • The hydro rate freeze in Ontario ended on February 23, and customers returned to normal rates. You can still choose whether to use Time-of-Use or Tiered Pricing by contacting London Hydro.
     
  • On February 18, the government extended all emergency orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) until at least March 21. These orders allow the province to implement rules on public gatherings, business closures and managing outbreaks in hospitals or long-term care homes. The full list of orders being extended by the Ontario government can be found here.
     
  • In-vehicle passenger road tests have resumed in most of Ontario, including Middlesex-London.
     
  • Western University students returning to residence over the next week are being advised to take an on-campus COVID-19 test “as a precautionary measure.
     
  • The province is expanding eligibility for the Main Street Relief Grant for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Small businesses with 2 to 19 employees in retail trade; accommodation and food services; repair and maintenance; personal and laundry services; gyms and yoga studios; and arts, entertainment, and recreation can now apply for up to $1,000 in financial support.  
     
  • The Thames Valley District School Board is planning to bring in voluntary diagnostic COVID-19 testing for students and staff at school, whether or not they show obvious symptoms of the disease.
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: [email protected]