Peggy Sattler MPP, London West

Government of Ontario
 

Hello Neighbour,

Today Londoners received welcome news about the expansion of vaccination eligibility to those 70 years of age and older, followed closely by an announcement that the Middlesex-London Health Unit is moving back to the Red-Control level of the provincial COVID-19 Response Framework. In a month that saw thousands of Londoners getting vaccinated, we also experienced a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, with a spike of 181 cases just since Friday and more evidence of variants of concern. There are still far too many Londoners who are waiting to be vaccinated, frustrated and angry about not knowing when their turn will come. 

The dramatic increase in cases locally comes as provincial case counts continue to rise. Today Ontario reported a seven-day average of 2,094 cases, up from 1,599 one week ago, with a test positivity rate of 6.1 per cent. The province is preparing for a new report from the Science Advisory Table, showing that the variants have led to a doubling of hospital and intensive care admissions and driven the risk of death up by about 60 percent. The Ontario Hospital Association has warned that ICUs are on the verge of being overwhelmed, even as patients are being transferred out of the GTA, and hospitals face the prospect of doing the unthinkable, and invoking the triage protocol to determine who gets care.

At this point, the variants seem to be winning the race. But with the beginning of the end in sight, it is more important than ever that we remain vigilant in following public health advice to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

My colleagues and I in the Official Opposition will continue to call on the government to make the necessary investments so that health units can quickly and massively scale up efforts to get vaccines out to people as soon as doses are available. We need resources in place to remove barriers to accessing vaccines, such as paid time off for vaccinations, more mobile clinics, door-to-door teams delivering vaccines to housebound individuals, and user-friendly, multi-language booking systems. People need clarity and consistent information so that they know when and where to get their vaccine. Workers need a provincial program of paid sick days so they can get a COVID test without fearing that they will be forced to stay home and end up short for this month's rent.  

This week at Queen's Park, MPPs will be debating the government's 2021 budget. What's clear is that people need help to get to the other side of this pandemic, and hope for a future they can look forward to. We can not afford to let up on COVID-fighting efforts through cutting and shortchanging, taking away supports when people need them the most. At Queen's Park, we will keep pushing for the positive proposals that will prevent another lockdown and allow us to be able to enjoy the normal summer activities we yearn for.

You can read more about the budget below, and as always, I welcome your feedback.

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]ndp.on.ca.


In this newsletter:
 

COVID-19 Vaccine Booking System

If you are eligible, please book an appointment.
You must have an appointment to get a vaccine. If you arrive at a clinic without an appointment, you will be turned away.
Ontario has launched a provincial COVID-19 vaccine booking system. PLEASE NOTE: London and Middlesex County will continue to use its local booking system.
 
A coalition of mental health and addictions organizations has launched Everything Is Not Ok, a collaborative project to highlight the increased pressure on the system and call the government to action to tackle the mental health crisis in Ontario. They are calling for a fully-funded comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions strategy that provides consistent, faster, more transparent care, and easier access to care.

You can learn about the campaign at everythingisnotok.ca, and join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
 

Should Remote Learning Continue?

The Ontario government is considering legislation to make remote learning a permanent part of the public school system. The Globe and Mail obtained a confidential ministry document proposing to allow students to enroll in full-time synchronous remote learning beginning in September. The legislation would also require school boards to provide remote learning on snow days or in the event of other emergency school closures.

Emergency remote learning has been difficult for many students, and challenging for families. Surely what we’ve learned from this pandemic is that kids need to be in school, face-to-face with teachers and education workers, for their mental and emotional health and for their academic success as well. I am concerned that the government is looking for a cheaper way to meet its obligation to provide every child with an education instead of focusing on supporting school communities to recover from a difficult period and restore wellbeing.

If you have school-aged children, please let me know what will work best for family, and take a moment to fill out my short survey. You can also share your thoughts with me at [email protected]

 

Around London

Thank you to everyone who attended my Virtual Town Hall and asked important questions about our path through the pandemic and toward a strong recovery. And a huge thanks to my special guest, Western University nursing professor Abe Oudshoorn, who provided valuable insight on COVID-19 vaccinations. If you missed the town hall, you can still watch it on my Facebook page.

Many thanks to UNIFOR, including London West resident and President of Local 6005 Shinade Allder, for an informative and productive virtual meeting on 2021 budget priorities. 

I was honoured to participate in a Western University Students'​ Council event, "Cultivate: Women in Political Leadership," for an inspiring discussion with 25 impressive and ambitious young women!

The Architectural Conservancy Ontario – London Region & Heritage London Foundation have produced a video featuring the winners of the 14th annual London Heritage Awards and their projects.

Brescia and King’s university colleges and the Poverty Research Centre have released Resilience, a four part series about how women have been affected by and responded to the COVID 19 pandemic in London, Ontario.

The Hyde Park BIA is hosting its 2nd Annual Easter Scavenger Hunt, encouraging participants to visit 20 Hyde Park businesses for their chance to win one of three Easter baskets filled with goodies donated by Hyde Park businesses! 

Between now and April 6, visit participating shops to get an Easter egg sticker on your scavenger hunt passport. Once it's full, submit it to enter the draw! 

ACO London is offering up a monthly selection of their previous 46 Geranium Heritage House Tour booklets as self-guided walking tours! Their website will feature booklets from their past tours highlighting the heritage architecture and local history of our City's unique heritage neighbourhoods. Be sure to check back often, as they will cycle through different selections from the vault!

  • The London Endowment for Heritage Fund supports projects in London that conserve and promote awareness of our heritage in all the forms it takes. Applications are open until April 6, 2021.
     
  • Applications are now being accepted for City of London Council Advisory Committee vacancies. This is a great opportunity to make a difference in our community.
 

At Queen's Park

On March 24, the government tabled the 2021 Ontario budget. This should have been a budget that would offer people the hope and help that they need to pull through the pandemic and get on the pathway to a just and green recovery that includes everyone. 

It failed to do that. Instead, the budget shows a government already reaching for cuts when people need help the most—to the tune of $4.8B cut from provincial programs and services. Here are a few of the announcements included in the budget (read the full budget here). 

Education, Childcare and Post-Secondary
  • The COVID-19 child benefits will be doubled to $400 per child and $500 per child with special needs.
  • One‐time top‐up for CARE tax credit recipients equal to 20 percent of their 2021 credit entitlements.
  • No replenishment of school board reserves or commitment to extend COVID-19 funding for smaller class sizes and hiring more staff, which likely means teacher and other education workers laid off as a result.
  • School repair funding will remain at $1.4B this year, the bare minimum to keep schools operational, while the $16.3B backlog accrued over the last 16 years remains untouched.
  • Tuition freeze in the university sector is continued, with access to OSAP expanded for some students at Indigenous Institutions and those in micro-credit programs.
Small Business
  • Doubling of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments to eligible recipients. The government says that 120,000 small businesses will receive one additional payment between $10,000-$20,000 and will be automatically entitled to the second payment. Note this does not change the eligibility requirements which have kept a number of businesses from accessing these funds in the first place.
  • No extended tax deferral periods for businesses that were significantly impacted by the second shutdown or small business tax forgiveness
  • No insurance relief for businesses struggling to access P&C insurance due to lack of availability and/or skyrocketing rates
Housing
  • No new housing announcements were included in the budget, while almost 6,000 Londoners wait for social housing, London tenants struggle with rent arrears of $7.6M (second only to Toronto) and one-third of London tenants live in substandard units.
  • Investments in social housing will continue to decline as federal-provincial agreements expire.
  • The government is once again postponing the property tax reassessment process. Government will consult with municipalities about when to resume this reassessment process.
Environment and Climate Change
  • After significant cuts in the first year of the government, Environment Ministry funding is flatlined compared to previous years.
  • $3.9M over three years to enhance the provincial park experience by using technology and free day-use entry to parks Monday to Thursday, May 1 to September 2 this year.
  • $56.4M over four years for ”Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network” (OVIN) with few details.
  • No mention of combating climate change and no line item included for climate-change initiatives.
  • No restoration of Conservation Authorities or walk-back of Ministerial Zoning Orders.
Health & Long Term Care
  • There is no commitment to wage increases for underpaid, overworked Personal Support Workers beyond June 30 2021.
  • Despite the many deaths and failure to keep Long Term Care residents safe during the pandemic, the government continues to refuse to reinstate comprehensive Resident Quality Inspections in long-term care.
  • No commitment to phase out “for profit” LTC homes.
  • As announced previously, there will be an additional $933M over four years, for a total of $2.6B, to support building 30,000 new long‐term care beds.
  • Investing up to $246M over the next four years to improve living conditions in existing homes, including ensuring homes have air conditioning.
  • $4.9B over four years ($500M in 2021-22) to increase average daily direct care to 4 hours per day, and hire 27,000 positions including PSWs and nurses.
  • Some support to accelerate the training of PSWs and nurses for Long Term Care including a training program that is publicly funded and tuition‐free. There are also some new grants coming to attract more PSWs and nurses to Ontario.
Women
  • Creating a task force to advise the government on ways to “address the unique and disproportionate barriers women face, particularly in an economy that will look different after COVID.”
  • $18.2M over three years to address violence against First Nation, Inuit and Metis women and girls.
  • Other than some funding for job training and the increase in the CARE credit, there appears to be no strategy to deal with the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and women in the workforce.
  • Funding to assist survivors of domestic violence is being increased by $2.1M but that funding is over three years, and includes funding for other victims of violent crimes. This doesn’t even replace the funding that was cut for victims of crime and support for survivors in his first budgets.
Arts and Culture, Tourism
  • New Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant, which will provide an estimated $100M in one‐time payments of $10,000 to $20,000 to eligible small businesses.
  • Just $10M in additional funding for Ontario’s arts organizations with support from the Ontario Arts Council, at a time when our local arts organizations are barely getting by and facing an uncertain year ahead.
  • There is nothing in the budget for individual artists or folks working in the gig economy.
We will debate the budget this week, and I want to know what your priorities are. Take a minute to fill out my short survey and let me know what matters to you.
 

COVID-19 Developments

On Tuesday, March 30 at 12:01 am, the Middlesex-London Health Unit will move to the Red-Control level of the provincial reopening framework, and our area will be under stronger restrictions. The decision was made at the request of the MLHU Medical Officer of Health due to concerning trends in key indicators.

Some of the key differences between Red and our previous Orange designation include

  • Organized public events and social gatherings, where physical distancing can be maintained, are limited to 5 people indoors or 25 outdoors. Meeting and event spaces are limited to 10 people indoors.
  • Restaurants are limited to the lesser of approximately 50% of indoor dining area or 50 people indoors, and a capacity that allows physical distancing of 2 metres to be maintained outdoors.
  • Sports and recreation facilities are limited to 10 people in indoor areas with weights and exercise machines or in indoor classes and 25 people in outdoor classes. They must require reservations for entry.
  • Retail spaces are limited to 75% of capacity for grocery, convenience stores, and pharmacies, and 50% for most other retail. The capacity limit must be posted.
  • Cinemas except for drive-ins are closed.
You can find the full details here.

The Ministry of Health has released new guidance for Phase 2 prioritization of COVID-19 vaccinations. The March 23 update provides more details of who will be eligible, including the explicit inclusion of the following individuals:
  • up to one primary caregiver for those in the province's Highest-Risk Health Conditions group and for certain individuals in the High-Risk group
  • foodbank workers and volunteers 
  • wholesale and general goods workers 
  • restaurant staff
  • LCBO employees
  • veterinarians and their teams
The update also includes a more detailed Phase 2 sequencing, providing some indication when each group can expect to become eligible, depending on vaccine supply availability:

  • Those who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 can now book their vaccine appointment when eligible according to Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan.
     
  • The North London Optimist Community Centre (NLOCC) COVID-19 vaccination clinic is now open in London at 1345 Cheapside Street. This facility will have capacity for 2,000 shots per day, once adequate vaccine supply is available. 
     
  • The Middlesex-London Health Unit has reported that all three mass vaccination clinics in the London area are running well below capacity because of limited vaccine supply. The planned fourth site at Earl Nichols Arena is also delayed indefinitely.
     
  • The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has changed its guidelines for the use of the Oxford- AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to recommended it for adults over 65 while also recommending that it not be used in adults under 55 years of age at this time while rare cases of serious blood clots continue to be investigated. The premier has indicated that Ontario will follow this recommendation.
     
  • The Government of Canada has updated resources for people coming to Canada:
  • For regions in the Orange-Restrict and Red-Control levels, only members of the same household can share a table for indoor dining, with exceptions for patrons who live alone and caregivers.
     
  • The province had modified outdoor capacity limits for weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies held in regions in all levels of the framework to allow for the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance. This change does not apply to social gatherings associated with these services, such as receptions.
     
  • The province continues to expand the delivery channels available to administer COVID-19 vaccines, with approximately 1,500 pharmacies expected to be administering vaccines by the end of April. There are currently no participating pharmacies in Middlesex-London.
     
  • The temporary wage enhancement for temporary support workers and direct support workers in publicly funded home and community care, long-term care, public hospitals, and social services sectors has been extended until June 30, 2021. 
     
  • The Ministry of Health has released guidance for employers who want to make self-swap rapid antigen point-of-care testing available to employees on a voluntary basis.  
     
  • The Ontario government has extended all emergency orders under the Reopening Ontario Act until April 20.
 
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]