‘No question that the return to school is a challenging but necessary activity’

Last Week at Queen’s Park

by MPP Jim McDonell 

Last week, teachers returned to school, joining local staff and administration to complete final preparations for the start of school. School boards will be utilizing the latest information and techniques to safeguard our students and staff. Last week’s federal government’s announcement added $381 million to the additional $900 million our government had already announced to support the new school year. There is no question that the return to school is a challenging but necessary activity. Under the direction of some of the best medical minds in the province, our government has put together a plan of virtual and in-class teaching to minimize the spread of this virus. While it is the most expensive per capita plan in Canada, there are no guarantees, as there are many internal and external impacts to deal with. As also for our previous front line workers, I applaud our educators for this next step in this stressful but rewarding endeavour.

The unprecedented global cooperation is accelerating the technology and knowledge of this virus. This latest information has been utilized in the preparation of our recent guide for public health, school boards, teachers, bus companies, and parents. The Operational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools has been developed to spot and isolate cases, help reduce its spread and avoid future outbreaks. It lays out the daily checks and recommended actions to be taken by each group if symptoms are detected, starting at home each morning before the child embarks to school. It is designed to spot and isolate cases, help reduce its spread and avoid future outbreaks. If a student contracts the virus, it identifies clear steps to be taken, including the isolation of the student(s), providing PPE to them and the attending staff, telling parents if a student or staff member has tested positive, and communicating simultaneously with public health, to determine if a class should be postponed or the school closed. Further measures could be taken as we continually evaluate the latest data in order to help stay ahead of this virus.

We also announced that more support is coming to improve the dental health of low-income seniors. The government will be enhancing dental clinics to help serve seniors by improving infrastructure at 78 locations across the province. Of special interest to our rural residents is the introduction of eight new mobile dental clinics. This will help to ensure that low-income seniors without reliable transportation can get their dental work right at their home. The $25 million that is being allocated for these improvements will be money well spent.

Since the very beginning of COVID-19, our government has called on landlords and tenants to come together and be reasonable with each other, and for the most part, we have seen great results. Every year, the government sets out the maximum allowable rent increases for the year to come in rent-controlled units. Those increases are modest and tied to inflation, and for 2021 it would have been 1.5%. But this year is not like every year, and we are announcing our intention to bring forward legislation this fall to stabilize rents in 2021 for Ontario’s 1.6 million rental households.

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