Peggy Sattler MPP, London West

Government of Ontario
 

Hello Neighbour,

Schools in London West and across the province reopened this week. I know it hasn’t been easy for families and school staff, trying to prepare for reopening with conflicting information from the government and concerns about the effectiveness of the safety measures put in place. Parents told me that the rapid antigen tests promised to students were not available, and the masks provided to elementary students are too big. Local school boards are working hard to make the return a safe one, and I continue to call on the government to do everything necessary to keep schools safely open for in-person learning. Last week, my colleagues and I put forward recommendations, including restoring testing and reporting, that we believe will keep students in school for the rest of the year. 

How is your family dealing with the first week back to in-person learning? Please let me know what you think is needed to ensure the reopening is safe and sustainable.

There are some signs that the Omicron wave may be peaking, leading to the government's announcement of the gradual lifting of public health measures. Locally, the latest findings from a project that tracks the presence of coronavirus in London's sewage suggests that COVID-19 cases may be on the decline in London. Led by Western University researchers, the project takes samples on a tri-weekly basis from the city's five wastewater treatment plants. Last week, researchers found the first significant drop in viral load throughout the Omicron wave. This was backed by another sample collected on Sunday which suggests London is most likely past the peak of Omicron infections.

But even as businesses reopen, our hospitals and health care workers continue to struggle to keep up with COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions, and patients who need cancer surgery or other non-emergent procedures are still being forced to wait. We must do everything possible to keep schools open, and ensure that people get the health care they need without delay. If you are eligible and have not yet received your first, second or booster shot, please get vaccinated! The Middlesex-London Health Unit has made it easier than ever, with walk-in vaccinations now available at the Earl Nichols Recreation Centre.

If you are spending time outdoors this weekend, please remember that the Middlesex-London Health Unit has issued a cold weather alert, advising people to dress for the weather and cover exposed skin to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Warming centres will also be open in the City of London.

Stay safe and take care,

My community office is available to help with provincial programs and services by phone at 519-657-3120 or by email at [email protected] In-person meetings can be arranged by appointment only.

 
In this newsletter:
 

Lifting COVID-19 Restrictions

The provincial government has announced a phased approach to lifting public health measures over the coming weeks.

I am urging the government to make this reopening safer by ensuring every Ontario worker has paid sick days, restoring access to COVID testing, and expanding the vaccine certificate program to include more non-essential retail. These measures will help us ensure that schools stay open, surgeries resume as soon as possible, and we can all get back to normal activities sooner.

In the absence of any concerning trends in public health and health care indicators, these steps will be followed, with 21 days between each.

Effective January 31, 2022 at 12:01 a.m. Ontario will begin the process of gradually easing restrictions, while maintaining protective measures, including but not limited to:

  • Increasing social gathering limits to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
  • Increasing or maintaining capacity limits at 50 per cent in indoor public settings, including but not limited to:
    • Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities;
    • Retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies)
    • Shopping malls;
    • Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms;
    • Cinemas;
    • Meeting and event spaces;
    • Recreational amenities and amusement parks, including water parks;
    • Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and similar attractions; and
    • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments
    • Religious services, rites, or ceremonies.
  • Allowing spectator areas of facilities such as sporting events, concert venues and theatres to operate at 50 per cent seated capacity or 500 people, whichever is less.
  • Enhanced proof of vaccination, and other requirements would continue to apply in existing settings.

Effective February 21, 2022 Ontario will lift public health measures, including:

  • Increasing social gathering limits to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
  • Removing capacity limits in indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required, including but not limited to restaurants, indoor sports and recreational facilities, cinemas, as well as other settings that choose to opt-in to proof of vaccination requirements.
  • Permitting spectator capacity at sporting events, concert venues, and theatres at 50 per cent capacity.
  • Limiting capacity in most remaining indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is not required to the number of people that can maintain two metres of physical distance.
  • Indoor religious services, rites or ceremonies limited to the number that can maintain two metres of physical distance, with no limit if proof of vaccination is required.
  • Increasing indoor capacity limits to 25 per cent in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, wedding receptions in meeting or event spaces where there is dancing, as well as bathhouses and sex clubs.
  • Enhanced proof of vaccination, and other requirements would continue to apply in existing settings.

Effective March 14, 2022 Ontario will take additional steps to ease public health measures, including:

  • Lifting capacity limits in all indoor public settings. Proof of vaccination will be maintained in existing settings in addition to other regular measures.
  • Lifting remaining capacity limits on religious services, rites, or ceremonies.
  • Increase social gathering limits to 50 people indoors with no limits for outdoor gatherings.
To manage COVID-19 over the long-term, local and regional responses by public health units may be deployed based on local context and conditions.
 
The Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health has created resources to help Ontario's colleges and universities support students with mental health needs. If you’re a post-secondary student or staff, visit their website at campusmentalhealth.ca to find campus mental health resources and tools.
 

Housing Summit

Last week, a provincial Housing Summit brought municipalities together to discuss the urgent need for housing solutions in Ontario. Londoners are struggling to find homes they can afford, whether to purchase or rent, and it is taking a huge toll on our community. Despite housing costs skyrocketing for years, the government chose to cut funding to housing and municipalities in its last budget.

Here are five urgent actions we are calling for to address this crisis now:

  1. Stabilize rents by making it illegal for landlords to raise the rent in between tenants beyond provincial guideline increases.
     
  2. Introduce a speculation and vacancy tax on those who don’t pay taxes in Ontario and who own houses they don’t live in, plus increase the Non-Resident Speculation Tax to 20 per cent, and apply it province-wide. Right now, London is not even included.
     
  3. Change zoning rules so that multi-unit homes — like duplexes and townhouses — are allowed in all neighbourhoods.
     
  4. Allow municipalities to shift property taxes onto properties worth more than $2 million and shift the tax burden onto the most fortunate.
     
  5. Immediately commit to funding the building of at least 99,000 affordable housing and supportive housing units.
Contact me if you'd like to know more about our solutions for housing.
 
 
 

New Provincial Funding Available

  • Francophonie Canadienne Financial Support Program - Ontario and Québec are supporting projects and initiatives developed by Francophone organizations that contribute to life in French in Canada. The joint selection committee will consider projects from all sectors, but priority will be given to initiatives related to economic development, culture, education, and tourism. Applications must be submitted through the Government of Québec website (available in French only). The application period is from January 19 to February 16, 2022. Projects must be implemented between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023.
  • Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Competitiveness Program - This program will provide financial support to advanced manufacturing companies with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises that are creating jobs and investing in their own projects. Applications will open February 10.  

 
On Monday, January 24 at 2pm, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is hosting an online information session to help you understand your employment standards and occupational health and safety rights and obligations as they relate to COVID-19.

The session will be delivered in English by subject-matter experts who will answer frequently asked questions the ministry receives about COVID-19, such as:

  • What flexibility is there around changing hours of work?
  • Can an employee be fired if they refuse to go back to work due to a family obligation related to COVID-19?
  • Who is responsible for protecting workers against COVID-19 in the workplace?
  • Can a worker refuse to work if they feel unsafe due to COVID-19?
  • Can I take time off work to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Click here to register and submit questions in advance to [email protected]
 
 

Around London

This year, I will be hosting my London West Community Recognition Awards virtually on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.The awards celebrate the passion and commitment of London West volunteers who work tirelessly to make our community a better place. Click here to read about the 70 inspiring volunteers who have received a Community Recognition Award since 2017!

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create challenges for our community, I am proud of the efforts of the brave and compassionate volunteers who have stepped up over these last two years to support their fellow Londoners. They have nurtured the flame that COVID-19 threatened to blow out. The Community Recognition Awards are an opportunity to show our appreciation for their commitment and service.

I hope you will join me for a virtual celebration of some amazing Londoners!

Click Here to RSVP
If your organization would like to nominate an outstanding volunteer for a Community Recognition Award, please contact my community office at [email protected] or 519-657-3120.
 
The London Heritage Council is presenting the 10th Annual Heritage Fair on Thursday, February 17 at 7pm. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the Multicultural Policy in Canada. Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy, intended to preserve the cultural freedom of all individuals and provide recognition of the cultural contributions of diverse ethnic groups to Canadian society. The focus for the 2022 Heritage Fair is Multiculturalism in London: 50 Years Later, with a panel discussion on issues surrounding multiculturalism raised by Londoners. Join the event live on Facebook.
 
CMHA Middlesex is looking for volunteers for the Friendly Callers Senior Support Program. Volunteers provide supportive listening and links to local resources for older adults across London, Middlesex and Elgin that are at risk of loneliness and/or isolation. Services provided during the calls include supportive listening, advocacy, safety check-in, and connection to additional resources as needed. Volunteers work remotely and will need access to a reliable internet connection and phone line. Click here for more information about volunteering.

Individuals interested in accessing the Friendly Callers program for themselves or a loved one can call 519-434-9191 ext 2223 or fill out the Welcome Form.

 

COVID-19 Developments

  • Appointments are no longer required at the Earl Nichols Recreation Centre mass vaccination clinic.  Anyone 5 years of age or older can walk-in at the clinic, located at 799 Homeview Road, until one hour before closing each day. Those who would prefer an appointment can still book one at covidvaccinelm.ca
     
  • Changes have come recently to the MLHU Dashboard due to changes in COVID-19 testing guidelines and the effect of reduced testing on the data that has previously been posted. Hospitalization information has been added to the case status page, while the following have been removed from the Dashboard:
    • Cases by age (table)
    • Cases by exposure source and episode month (graph)
    • From the School and Childcare page:
      • Total number of cases (counter at top of page)
      • Schools with active COVID-19 cases (table)
      • Child care centres and agencies with active COVID-19 cases (table)
      • Camps with active COVID-19 cases (table)
      • Cases linked to K-12 schools (students, teachers, and staff) (graph)
         
  • Health Canada has authorized the use of Pfizer’s oral antiviral treatment, PAXLOVIDTM, to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in non-hospitalized adults who are at high risk of progressing to serious illness, including hospitalization or death. The Government of Canada has received an initial shipment of 30,400 treatment courses of the treatment, with 120,000 more expected to be delivered between now and the end of March. Ontario is expected to receive just over 10,000 courses of treatment for January. The Government of Canada is working closely with the provinces and territories to coordinate distribution of treatment courses across the country. The Government of Canada’s website provides additional product information for consumers and healthcare professionals, including what the medication is used for, what it does, when it should not be used, interactions with other medications, warnings and precautions, etc.

Everyone born in 2016 or earlier is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario, and everyone aged 18 and over is now eligible for a third booster dose.

  • Make an appointment at an MLHU mass vaccination clinic
    • Call the Boys & Girls Club transit services at 519-434-9119 (8am - 5:30pm, Monday to Friday) to book a ride if you have mobility issues and cannot get to a clinic yourself
    • You can also get vaccinated in your car at a mass clinic (call 226-289-3560 to book, 8am - 7:30pm, Monday - Friday)
  • Visit a walk-in pop-up clinic
  • Make an appointment at a participating pharmacy
  • If you cannot leave your home, arrange a vaccination at home (call 519-663-5317, 8am - 7:30pm, Monday - Friday)
For the most up-to-date information, please refer to linked sources and the COVID-19 information provided at the Middlesex-London Health Unit website, COVID-19.Ontario.ca, London.ca/covid-19, Canada.ca/coronavirus. You can also find a range of helpful resources on my website at peggysattler.ca/covid19resources.