Peggy Sattler MPP, London West

Government of Ontario
 

Hello Neighbour,

Today's announcement of a state of emergency in Ontario follows more than two weeks of news dominated by the so-called "freedom convoy" in Ottawa and Windsor. I recognize that we are all tired of the pandemic and weary of public health restrictions, but the occupation of our nation's capital and blockade of the Ambassador Bridge go far beyond peaceful protest. These actions have prevented patients from getting medical care, stopped the flow of goods on a vital commercial corridor, cut off supply chains, forced the shutdown of small businesses, halted manufacturing, brought city centres to a standstill, and left residents afraid to leave their homes.

The right to protest is an essential part of our democracy - I have attended many rallies and marches myself. But the threats, violence and symbols of hate that we have seen in these protests, with financial support pouring in from pro-Trump right-wing US donors, is absolutely unacceptable.

After emboldening the crisis with his initial response ("If people want to come down and protest, God bless 'em") and weeks of inaction and evasion (including a weekend spent snowmobiling in Muskoka), the premier finally responded today to the ongoing crisis. From the beginning, my colleagues and I have been calling for the government to use every tool at their disposal to end the unlawful occupation and stop the illegal blockade. We also reiterated our push for legislation to ban anti-public health demonstrations in designated safety zones around hospitals, schools, vaccine clinics and other health facilities. We will not stop pushing to use all available powers to stop these illegal, dangerous occupations.

It is important to keep in mind that despite their claims, the protestors do not represent the majority of Canadians - or even truckers, almost 90 percent of whom are vaccinated. That is why the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada have distanced themselves and their members from the convoy protests.

There also continues to be overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines. As of February 10, 2022, the Ontario Science Advisory Table reported 61.4 percent reduction in COVID cases among people who are vaccinated, an 83.9 percent reduction in hospitalization, and a 90.7 percent reduction in ICU admission. For those who question why vaccinated people are outnumbering the unvaccinated in hospital, a helpful visual explanation is shown in the graphic below.

Image provided by Marc Rummy

In London and across the province we are seeing a slow and gradual decline in COVID case counts and hospitalizations, which is substantiated by a decrease in COVID wastewater detection. The end of public health restrictions is in sight, but the fastest way to get there is to continue to book first, second and booster vaccinations, wear masks and avoid large gatherings. The long-overdue community distribution of Rapid Antigen Tests will also help people with symptoms identify whether they have COVID or not, so they can prevent spreading it to others.

With Queen's Park set to return on February 22, I welcome hearing your thoughts on the most important issues for our community. Please send me an email at [email protected], or give my office a call at 519-657-3120.

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]dp.on.ca. In-person meetings can be arranged by appointment only.

 
In this newsletter:
 

Rapid Antigen Tests Available

Rapid antigen tests will be distributed for free over the next eight weeks through pharmacy and grocery locations across the province, as well as through community partners in vulnerable communities. There are currently 79 participating locations listed in London, though stock may not be available at all locations. Click here for more information and to search for a location near you.

Participating retailers will receive additional supply each week, so if a location is out of stock, please check back with them. Please note that retailers have the ability to determine how tests are distributed, including through appointment bookings, at checkout or through online orders.

The Ontario COVID-19 Science Table recently released a report on the use of Rapid Antigen Tests during the Omicron wave. It said that Rapid Antigen Tests are less sensitive for the Omicron variant in nasal samples, especially in the first 1-2 days after infection. However, they can more reliably detect Omicron cases if individuals collect a combined oral-nasal sample by initially swabbing both cheeks, followed by the back of the tongue or throat, and then both nostrils.

 
Individuals eligible to receive a dose of COVID-19 vaccine can now visit the Western Fair Agriplex, Caradoc Community Centre, Earl Nichols Arena, or any Community Hub clinic, without booking in advance. The Middlesex-London Health Unit has both Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines available at all clinics. Those who would prefer to book an appointment can still do so at covidvaccinelm.ca.
 

Health Card Renewal Update

Many people in London West contacted me to raise concerns about the government's restricting online health card renewals to those with valid driver's licences. After a court ruling that this discriminated against Ontarians with disabilities, the government has indicated that Ontario Photo Cards can soon be used to renew health cards online.

Although no date has yet been set for the change to take effect, it is clearly a victory for the community and accessibility advocates. I will be pushing the government to speed up the changes to end the frustration and anxiety for people who do not have a driver’s license. This requirement was unnecessarily forcing people who don’t or can’t drive, including seniors and people with certain disabilities, to trudge through snow and ice during a pandemic to renew their health cards in person.

The Ontario government is also extending the requirement to renew health cards from February 28, 2022 until September 30, 2022. Ontarians can continue to use their expired health card, including a red and white health card, to access insured health care services, and health care providers can continue to accept expired health cards until the new deadline of September 30, 2022.

Other products, including licence plate stickers, driver's licences, Ontario Photo Cards, and accessible parking permits, will still need to be brought up to date by February 28, 2022. Click here to see all renewal requirements for documents extended due to COVID-19.

 

In recognition of Black History Month, I have been using social media to highlight the many significant contributions of London’s Black community. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to learn more about some of the inspiring individuals, organizations and events that deserve to be celebrated, not just in February, but year-round.

If you are interested in attending an event to honour Black History Month, the London Black History Coordinating Committee has compiled an online list and printable calendar of events in our community!

The Grand Theatre has also made re-broadcasts of three pieces by talented Black artists available for free online any time this month! You can watch here.

 

Fighting for Gig & Contract Workers

The government recently announced the formation of a working group on portable health benefits, but we won't find out their recommendations until after the June election. Millions of part-time, contract and gig workers across Ontario can’t afford dental or vision care for themselves or their families. These workers urgently need health benefits – not another committee to study them. All that was really promised is that the government will do absolutely nothing during their term in office about the millions of Ontarians without decent health benefits.

I have been fighting to make sure every worker is treated with dignity and can access the health care services they need. I will never give up on the best way to ensure people have benefits they can take from job to job, through universal social programs like dental care, vision and pharmacare. Health care should never be used a bargaining chip against worker rights.

If you are a gig or contract worker, please share your experience with me at [email protected]!

 

Government Reports

This week two new reports were released: the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) Budget Outlook Update and the report of the Housing Affordability Task Force.

The FAO found that the government is short-changing key areas like health care, education, and social services while squirrelling away billions for a not-yet-announced reason that will allow tax cuts for wealthy corporations. Between 2021 and 2024, the FAO calculated a whopping $9.03 billion funding shortfall in health care, another $717 million short in children’s and social services, and a $905 million shortfall in K-12 and post-secondary education. The government's refusal to invest where investments are needed has meant longer waits for care and services, a dire shortage of nurses and other health care workers, too few staff in our kids' schools, and a tougher slog to get through the punishing COVID waves.

The report of the government's hand-picked Housing Affordability Task Force makes 55 recommendations with a focus on increasing housing supply within existing residential boundaries. My colleagues and I have long called for zoning reform to increase density and spur the construction of thousands of missing middle homes within existing neighbourhoods. Building new homes is vital, so long as those homes meet the needs of Ontarians, not those of investors and speculators. At the same time, it is clear that increasing supply alone won't solve our housing crisis. The government must take on speculation — including introducing a speculation and vacancy tax on those who don't pay taxes in Ontario and increasing the Non-Resident Speculation Tax to 20 per cent, applied provincewide. It must tackle ever-rising rents by closing loopholes and barring landlords from raising the rent in-between tenants. It must build more affordable housing. A better housing plan includes our commitment to extending the life of 260,000 existing affordable homes and building at least 69,000 new affordable homes over the next decade, as well as our Housing First strategy to end chronic homelessness. Please let me know if you'd like to learn more about the housing plan I believe in!

 

Around London

Ontario ACORN is hosting a Tenants Rights Info Session on Tuesday, February 22 at 7pm to make sure tenants know their rights related to evictions, maintenance and repairs, and rent! They will discuss questions like 

  • Can tenants be evicted right now?
  • What repairs does your landlord still have to do during the most recent shutdown?
  • What do I do if I can’t pay my rent during COVID-19?
  • How does Bill 184 impact my rights?
You can find the event on Facebook or click here to register to attend.
 

The London & Middlesex Local Immigration Partnership and its partners invite everyone to join their  All Are Welcome Here virtual event on Monday, March 21 from 2pm–4pm,  in recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Participants will listen, learn and engage in interactive activities to better understand discrimination in our community and what we can do as individuals, organizations, and a community to combat it. This event will equip us to more effectively and actively make contributions to a more welcoming community. Click here to register.

 
The London Chamber of Commerce is now accepting nominations for the 2022 Business Achievement Awards. The awards recognize business excellence in a number of categories including Agribusiness, Business of the Year (Small, Medium & Large Company), Corporate Social Responsibility, Environmental Leadership, Excellence in Human Resources, Innovation, and Manufacturing. Nominations are due by May 6, 2022.
 

In the Media

 

COVID-19 Developments

  • The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) has announced that walk-ins are now allowed at all health unit vaccination clinics. Eligible residents may now get their COVID-19 vaccines at the Western Fair District Agriplex, Caradoc Community Centre, Earl Nichols Arena, or any Community Hub COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. Appointments can still be scheduled ahead of time at covidvaccinelm.ca for those who would prefer to book a time.
     
  • The Carling Heights Assessment Centre is now offering clinical assessments to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 if an individual requires an in-person assessment. The Centre is designed to see people with worsening COVID-19 symptoms, that cannot be monitored at home by a primary care provider. Those who feel their symptoms are worsening should contact their primary care provider, or call the Carling Clinic Assessment Centre, to book an appointment: 519-685-8500 ext. 72256. Appointments are required; the Clinical Assessment Centre cannot accommodate walk-ins.
     
  • The federal government has announced that they will extend benefits under the Local Lockdown Program (for organizations) and Worker Lockdown Benefit (for individuals) until March 12, 2022.
     
  • Extracurricular activities, including high-contact sports, choir and playing instruments, are once again permitted in schools, effective immediately. Participants are permitted to remove masks temporarily where required to enable participation.
     
  • The Ontario COVID-19 Science Table recently released a report on the use of Rapid Antigen Tests during the Omicron wave. It said that Rapid Antigen Tests are less sensitive for the Omicron variant in nasal samples, especially in the first 1-2 days after infection. However, they can more reliably detect Omicron cases if individuals collect a combined oral-nasal sample by initially swabbing both cheeks, followed by the back of the tongue or throat, and then both nostrils.
     
  • The province has lifted Directive 2 to allow the resumption of non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries and procedures in all hospitals. Earlier this month, the province had revised the directive to allow some clinical activities to resume, as well as surgeries in pediatric specialty hospitals.
     
  • 519covid.ca reports that the COVID-19 viral load detected in London wastewater is clearly declining, an important sign that infection rates are dropping locally. The current 7-day average is now similar to the third week in December.
     
  • The COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening tool was updated once again on February 7, 2022. The COVID-19 symptom list and decisions built within the screener have been updated to reflect the most current health and testing guidance.  
     

  • The provincial government has announced that restrictions in long-term care will be eased starting February 7. The changes would allow the maximum number of designated caregivers per resident to be increased along with the resumption of social outings. 
     
  • New modelling released by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table on February 1 and February 8 showed that Omicron cases have plateaued, but warned that hospitalizations (including ICUs) are expected to "remain at a prolonged peak, except under the most favourable assumptions." They also stressed that vaccination remains key to protecting people from severe outcomes, and that accelerating uptake of vaccines, including boosters, will reduce hospitalizations. 
     
  • Pfizer has applied to US regulators for approval of extra-low doses of the COVID vaccine for children under 5. They are expected to apply for approval through Health Canada soon. For now, the vaccine remains approved only for children 5 and up in Canada.
     
  • The National Advisory Committee on Immunization released updated guidance on the timing of COVID-19 vaccination for individuals previously infected with SARS-CoV-2. For people who received a booster dose in a shorter time frame, there are no safety concerns—the longer interval is suggested only to extend immunity. The new recommendations are as follows:
    • People who have experienced a COVID-19 infection before starting or completing their primary COVID-19 vaccine series may receive their next dose of vaccine eight weeks after their symptoms started, or after testing positive (if they experienced no symptoms).
    • People for whom a booster dose of vaccine is recommended, and who experienced a COVID-19 infection after a primary series, may receive a booster dose three months (90 days) after their symptoms started, or after testing positive.
    • Recognizing that not everyone with symptoms can get tested for COVID-19 right now, NACI suggests that the following may be considered to define a previous COVID-19 infection:

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.

  • Walk in or 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.