by Jim McDonell
QUEENS PARK — Let me first state how much I appreciate the patience and cooperation shown by our community as we deal with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), an unprecedented health situation. These are extraordinary times, requiring extraordinary measures to lessen the impact on our province and our country.
On Tuesday of this week, Premier Doug Ford issued a Declaration of Emergency for the province of Ontario. It requires the closure of public libraries, private schools, licensed child care centres, bars and restaurants (except takeout food and delivery), theatres, cinemas, and all facilities providing indoor recreational programs. As well, all organized public events of over fifty people are prohibited, including parades and communal services within places of worship. These regulations will remain in place until March 31, when they will be reassessed.
Businesses and organizations that provide essential services, such as grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, manufacturing and hardware supply facilities, and public transit will remain open. These establishments have been directed to implement public health directives that will protect staff and clients. We are also asking everyone to do their part to practise social distancing by maintaining a separation of at least six feet, and if you are returning to Canada from abroad, please self-isolate for 14 days.
This week, the Ontario government also convened an emergency sitting of the legislature on Thursday to pass two pieces of legislation to protect the jobs of employees, help keep store shelves stocked, and give municipal councils the flexibility to continue operations while maintaining social distance.
The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies) provides job-protected leave for employees who are in isolation or in quarantine due to COVID-19, and those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school, daycare closures or to care for other relatives. These measures are retroactive to January 25, the date the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario. The legislation will also make it clear employees cannot be required to show sick notes.
The Municipal Emergency Act will ensure that the delivery of goods to Ontario’s businesses and consumers are not impacted by municipal noise by-laws that may unintentionally impede such deliveries when they are most urgently needed. The legislation also gives municipalities the ability to conduct Council, local board, and committee meetings electronically when faced with local and province-wide emergencies, empowering the government’s municipal partners to respond quickly when in-person meetings cannot be held.
This week, the government allocated $304 million to combat the COVID-19 crisis, including $100 million to boost COVID-19 testing and screening abilities, $50 million for ensuring patients and health care workers have additional personal protective equipment, $25 million to support assessment workers get respite and child care, and $50 million for long-term care facilities screening and infection control. However, the government cannot fix this problem alone; we need your help. The provincial website, Ontario.ca/coronavirus, is available to provide the latest guidance. If you feel unwell (cough, fever, breathing difficulties), contact your healthcare provider, public health unit (613-933-1375 or firstname.lastname@example.org), or Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000).
My constituent office staff is available to help you through this health emergency. You can reach us at 613-933-6513 or 800-514-9660 or email me at Jim.McDonellco@pc.ola.org. In following with current guidelines, the constituency office will be closed to walk-in traffic until further notice.