Queen’s Park Update – June 5
by Jim McDonell
MPP for S-D-SG
It has been more than twelve weeks since Premier Doug Ford announced the Declaration of Emergency, giving the Ontario Legislature the tools needed to deal with Stopping the Spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week we were recalled to Queen’s Park to pass a resolution to extend the declaration until the end of June. The opposition called for a two-week extension, but considering the two days of debate time required to pass the resolution and the travel and expense, I believe that we struck a reasonable solution.
This extension does not rule out the advancement to Stage 2 of our reopening plan for the economy. We continue to consult with people on the impact of the restrictions and are working with organizations to identify safety practices that would allow additional areas to be reopened. The Chief Medical Officer of Health and our command table consider this feedback to develop the next steps. The reopening process expands the opportunity for additional contact, so it is important to continue our safety practices to reduce the chance of an uncontrolled spike in cases that could overwhelm our health care system. The experience earned by local entrepreneurs is of great value. Our office undertook a survey to gather this important feedback. If we have been unable to reach you and you wish to provide input, please complete our survey form at https://jimmcdonellmpp.ca/covid-19-information/covid-19-business-survey/.
As part of Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, our government announced it is investing $935 million more in hospitals this year, including $594 million to meet current and future demands for regular services. The four institutions that service Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry will receive an additional $4.77 million this year. It is important to note that this does not include COVID-19 related funding, as institutions are tracking these expenses separately for reimbursement.
The pandemic has highlighted a number of areas where the province and the country must target investment. The need to be able to work from home has exposed the deficiencies in our broadband network. Last year, the federal and provincial governments announced funding for projects to expand broadband and cellular service to unserved and underserved areas of Ontario, such as the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) project. This week, the Premier announced a further $150 million investment, which is expected to leverage up to $500 million for broadband expansion. Our government has also been reviewing the vast array of provincial regulations to eliminate unnecessary and expensive red tape that has been hindering our businesses in Ontario. We have identified several federal regulations that are obstructing broadband expansion in Ontario and are working with the federal government to address them. As the Premier has stated many times, we have some of the brightest minds in the world, and we must allow them to produce the goods and services that Ontarians need and deserve.
I want to thank everyone for their attention and increased vigilance in restricting the spread of this deadly virus. A special thank you to the front-line workers who go to work each day to keep our essential services and businesses open during these unprecedented times. We have come a long way, but we must be careful not to let our guard down, triggering an outbreak that would require the re-establishment of unwanted restrictions. The Premier announced that the province will be looking at a regional approach to reopen the economy, and areas with the virus under control will likely be considered first.
I want to remind everyone that an up-to-date list of all federal and provincial programs for individuals and businesses is available at http://covidsupports.ca/jimmcdonell. For those who need assistance, my office continues to be available at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-933-6513 (toll-free 1-800-514-9660).
And finally, remember, as much as you can, stay home and protect yourself and your loved ones.