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Queen’s Park Update – January 28, 2022

MPP Jim McDonell

As contagious disease experts expected, the hospitalizations and ICU occupancy is levelling off and slowly retreating. The modified Stage Two measures and our high vaccination rates have blunted the spread to manageable levels. As a result, the government is following through on its plan to partially lift restrictions starting January 31, when indoor public settings will increase to 50 percent capacity for many public spaces. Enhanced proof of vaccination and other requirements will continue to apply in existing settings. For details are available at    https://covid-19.ontario.ca/public-health-measures

Long-term care bed shortages have been evident for over a decade, evident by our party’s commitment to building 30,000 new beds in the 2011 election campaign. The previous government’s inaction resulted in the net new addition of only 611, resulting in a current waitlist of more than 38,000 residents. Our government released its plan to fix the LTC problem, built around three pillars: improving staffing and care; strengthening accountability, enforcement, and transparency; and building modern, safe, comfortable homes for our seniors. I was happy to join our Minister of Long-Term Care, Paul Calandra, to announce the latest new projects in Cornwall and Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, bringing the total to seven new projects adding 333 new beds and 627 upgraded beds. The Lancaster Long Term Care Residence and Sandfield Place will be replaced with two modern 128-bed facilities, part of the over 21,000 net new beds and 16,000 upgraded beds in the $6.4 billion development pipeline. Construction is slated for spring and fall 2023.

In-class learning is underway in our local schools, utilizing various resources, from masking to vaccine clinics, to keep students and staff safe during in-person learning as the province stabilizes the COVID-19 caseload. Approximately 400 school-focused vaccination clinics have already been held across Ontario, with another 184 scheduled by the end of January to support safe and convenient access for students and staff. In addition, the EOHU has scheduled three vaccine clinics: January 29 at Seaway District High School, February 6 at Char-Lan District High School, and February 12 at St. Lawrence Secondary School. These efforts are supported by $1.6 billion in resources available to school boards to respond to COVID-19.

This past week, I was happy to participate in this year’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association’s (ROMA) virtual conference. I took part in 24 delegations, including seven representing our region. The conference followed on the heels of the Rural Housing Roundtable held last weekend, where the Premier and provincial and municipal representatives explored innovative solutions to increase housing supply and affordability. In addition, the conference tackled other issues, including new conservation authority regulations, reducing poverty and homelessness, community safety, health and well-being, improving high-speed connectivity, and community post-pandemic recovery. The conference wrapped up on Tuesday with delegates given the opportunity to question Ontario’s ministers on adapting health and social services for rural communities. Congratulations to ROMA on a great conference.

I want to thank the public and municipal representatives for contributing to a virtual pre-Ontario Budget consultation session on Wednesday. We had an open and wide-ranging discussion on several challenges facing the region and how to address them. Key topics included the availability of affordable housing, including rental units, high-speed broadband, affordable electricity, maintaining critical infrastructure, and child care. Some of these issues intertwine with each other. For example, a shortage of skilled labour and a sluggish supply chain, combined with residents relocating to this area, has increased housing prices beyond what first-time homebuyers can afford. As I noted in previous updates, the province is looking at collaborative ways to address these issues, such as speeding up building approvals and enhancing skilled trades training initiatives, including fast-tracking qualified immigrants. The consultation results will be forwarded to Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy for his provincewide budget preparations. 

Remember to follow public health guidelines, get vaccinated if you have not done so, and stay safe.