Queen’s Park Update
By Jim McDonell
MPP Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry
Over the past two weeks, Ontario has experienced a 600 per cent increase in the more contagious Delta variant, initially discovered in India. Recent data reveals that it is significantly more resistant to a single dose of vaccine and has more severe health impacts. We are working with our medical experts to determine our next steps and the appropriate time to implement Step One of the Roadmap to Reopen Ontario. While they agreed that schools could be safely reopened for the final three weeks, they also predicted that the resulting increase in COVID-19 cases would require the pushback of our Reopening Plan.
As a result, our Government made the difficult decision to continue with remote learning for all elementary and secondary students across the province for the remainder of this school year. We have come too far to jeopardize our return to a more normal summer where our parks and recreation programs open for our youth, and our businesses can reopen for the public to enjoy. The more contagious variants are a wildcard, and we have seen other countries forced to return to a lockdown because of their resistance to a single vaccine dose. Our plan allows the province to continue its focus on accelerating COVID-19 vaccinations to support a safer summer and return to in-person learning in September. Please visit https://www.ontario.ca/reopening-ontario for complete details.
Earlier this week, our Government passed Motion 111 to extend the legislative authority under the Reopening Ontario Act to December 1st, 2021. The motion allows the minister to modify and relax public health measures safely and orderly as the situation improves. Of note, the Stay-At-Home order requiring Ontarians to remain at home except for the purposes set out in the order, such as exercise, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, or accessing health care services, is no longer in effect. However, all other existing measures will remain in place provincewide, including restrictions on gatherings, businesses, services, and activities, until we enter Step 1 of the reopening plan, expected on or before June 14th.
Meanwhile, our local case numbers continue to drop, with the seven-day rolling average below 20 for the first time in months. Vaccination efforts continue to expand and hit new milestones, exceeding 70 per cent of all adults in Ontario. The strong efforts of the EOHU vaccination team and steady vaccine supply have allowed them to book 18,000 appointments between June 1st and June 12th. On Monday, May 31st, residents 80 and over started to re-book appointments to move up their second dose if they wish, weeks ahead of the original forecast. As of 8:00 AM, Monday, June 7th, individuals turning ages 70 and over this year, as well as individuals who received their first dose of an mRNA vaccine on or before April 18, 2021, are also eligible to receive their second dose. Please visit www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine or by calling 1-888-999-6488 if you have a red and white OHIP card, need assistance, or wish to book multiple appointments.
This past Thursday, I was proud to have my private member’s Bill 208, An Act to Proclaim St. Andrew’s Day as Scottish Heritage Day in Ontario, receive Royal Assent. When we look at the contributions of Canadians, it is particularly striking to see the contributions from Scottish residents in our section of Eastern Ontario. Accomplishments include John Bethune’s establishment of the first Presbyterian Churches in Montreal and numerous locations in Eastern Ontario, and Bishop Alexander MacDonell’s establishment of many Catholic Churches across Ontario, the Glengarry Fencibles, a precursor to the SD&G Highlanders, and his role as a catalyst for the immigration of tens of thousands of Scottish settlers in Ontario.
He, along with Rev. Bethune, played significant roles in the War of 1812. Other notable achievements include David Thomson mapping much of Western Canada; John McDonell became the first Speaker of the first Legislature of Upper Canada; John MacDonell led the Canadian forces at the Battle of Queenston Heights. Also, John Sandfield MacDonald was the first Premier of Ontario, and John McIntosh discovered the McIntosh apple, just to name a few. The diverse makeup of Canada has been our strength and has fostered significant international contributions.
Remember to maintain personal spacing, wear a mask, and stay home, except to pick up essential items.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry