Investment will help more seniors stay in their own homes . . .

Expanding local paramedicine program . . .

Monday, Mar. 1st - The Ontario government is investing $2,815,200 to expand the Community Paramedicine for Long-Term Care program in the City of Cornwall and the United Counties of Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry. This four-year initiative will help more seniors on long-term care waitlists stay safe while living in the comfort of their own homes for longer.

      Details of the new program were provided today by Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, and Bernadette Clement, Mayor of the City of Cornwall.

      “This paramedicine program will provide our seniors, their families and caregivers peace of mind while waiting for a long-term care bed and could potentially delay the need for long-term care,” MPP McDonell said. “Our government is committed to collaborating with our health system partners to provide innovative services in support of our goal to end hallway health care in Ontario and build a 21st century long-term care system, while also responding to the impact COVID-19 has had on the sector.”

     The long-term care focused Community Paramedicine program leverages the skills of community paramedic providers to help end hallway health care and provide additional care for seniors. The first phase of this program was announced in October 2020, in partnership with five communities. This expansion will help keep seniors safe, while delaying the need for long-term care by providing enhanced at-home supports.

      “The community paramedicine program provides our seniors, their families and caregivers peace of mind while waiting for a long-term care space,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. “Expanding the program across the province means that more of our loved ones can access services from their own homes, potentially even delaying the need for long-term care, while still providing the quality care and service they need and deserve.”

The program will be delivered through local communities, providing:

   •  Access to health services 24-7, through in-home and remote methods, such as online or virtual supports;

   •  Non-emergency home visits and in-home testing procedures;

   •  Ongoing monitoring of changing or escalating conditions to prevent or reduce emergency incidents;

   •  Additional education about healthy living and managing chronic diseases; and

   •  Connections for participants and their families to home care and community supports.

     The Community Paramedicine program is yet another way Ontario is collaborating with our health system partners to provide innovative services and end hallway health care, build a 21st century long-term care system, and respond to the impact COVID-19 has had on seniors and their families.


Funding for complex Mental Health and Addictions needs . . .

Supporting children and youth . . .

Monday, Mar. 1st - The Ontario government is investing up to $10.5 million to immediately expand the mental health Secure Treatment Program for the province's most vulnerable children and youth. This funding will enhance access to these services and add up to 24 new beds at the Syl Apps Youth Centre in Oakville and at the Roberts/Smart Centre in Ottawa. By expanding this program, an additional 52 children and youth with complex needs will receive direct mental health and addictions support each year.

 

        "Our government is continuing to fulfill our promise of making mental health and addictions a priority, and ensure Ontarians have the services they deserve - when and where they need them," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "Today's investment in Ontario's Secure Treatment Program will help vulnerable children, youth and their families in their time of need and allow them to access supports faster."

      Ontario's Secure Treatment Program provides intensive care for children and youth experiencing acute and complex mental health and/or addictions challenges that may put them at risk of self-harm or harm to others. The expanded Secure Treatment Program will address gaps in care and improve access while decreasing existing wait lists and extensive wait times. The Syl Apps Youth Centre is expected to accept additional children and youth by the summer, while the Roberts/Smart Centre is expected to be fully implemented in 2022-2023.

        The province is also increasing annual base funding by 10 per cent at the Syl Apps Youth Centre, the Roberts/Smart Centre, as well as the Youthdale Treatment Centre in Toronto.

 

        "This much-needed funding will help expand Ontario's Secure Treatment Program, so that our most vulnerable children and youth can take that next important step in their journey towards mental wellness," said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "By investing today, we are closer to reaching our shared goal of building a modern, connected and integrated mental health and addictions system for the future. Our government remains fully committed to creating a system where all Ontarians, young and old, have access to the highest-quality supports that meet their unique needs."

        "The Secure Treatment Program is an essential part of the child and youth mental health system serving children and youth experiencing high-need and complex mental health issues who require intensive and in some cases life-saving treatment. I know firsthand just how important this investment will be to other Ontario kids and their families, who right now are facing long wait times for secure treatment and as a result often end up in the hospital in crisis," said Kimberly Moran, Chief Executive Officer, Children's Mental Health Ontario. "This is a critical step and we appreciate the Ministry of Health putting dedicated focus on this group of vulnerable children and youth, and look forward to continuing our work together to build up a comprehensive and connected mental health system for children, youth and families."

        This funding is part of the government's commitment to invest $3.8 billion over 10 years to implement the Roadmap to Wellness, Ontario's plan to establish a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions system to serve Ontarians of all ages.


Seniors remaining socially connected . . .

Funding to provide virtual programming . . .

Monday, Mar. 1st - The Ontario government is investing $14.3 million in 2020-21 to support nearly 300 Seniors Active Living Centres. These programs will deliver new virtual initiatives to help keep seniors safe and socially connected as they continue to self-isolate due to COVID-19.

     "Given the fact that many seniors have had to self-isolate during COVID-19, it is important that we look to programs that will keep them safe and connected," said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. "Our government's investment in Seniors Active Living Centres will help older adults stay virtually engaged with their friends, family and communities while combatting social isolation during the pandemic."

 

      This year's investment will focus on virtual programs such as teleconferences, online videos, one-on-one phone calls to help seniors stay connected from home, and support projects such as: Seniors' Centre Without Walls to create interactive telephone-based group programming for socially isolated seniors and people with disabilities; virtual physical fitness programming; online craft programs and delivery of pre-made craft kits to seniors; meal programs ranging from curbside pick up to door-to-door deliveries; online educational programs such as tax clinics, technology assistance, health and wellness, and COVID-19 information

        This year's ongoing funding has supported the application of safety control measures against the spread of COVID-19, and provided more remote and virtual programming. These programs have also provided safe in-person programming when the local public health unit said it was safe to do so.

        The government is committed to the safety and well-being of Ontario's older adults. Seniors Active Living Centre programs are a key initiative to help older adults stay healthy, active and socially connected within their own communities. 


Ontario investing in Personal Support Workers . . .

Campaign to accelerate PSW training . . .

                                    - Anderson College photo
- Anderson College photo

Friday, Feb. 26th - The Ontario government is investing over $115 million to train up to 8,200 new personal support workers (PSWs) for high-demand jobs in Ontario's health and long-term care sectors. In collaboration with Colleges Ontario, all 24 publicly assisted colleges will offer this innovative, fully funded program starting in April 2021. This is part of the government's Long-Term Care Staffing Plan, one of the largest PSW recruitment and training drives in the province's history.

Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, and Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities.

        "We are taking monumental steps to protect our most vulnerable and provide the highest quality of care when and where residents need it," said Premier Ford. "We will achieve this by recruiting and training some of our best and brightest to be PSWs. This will improve the quality of life for our seniors and begin to correct the decades of neglect in this sector."

        The Accelerated PSW Training Program is a tuition-free opportunity for 6,000 new students and is expected to take only six months to complete, rather than the typical eight months. After three months of coursework, and experiential learning in a clinical setting, students will complete the final three months in paid onsite training in a long-term care home or in a home and community care environment. Registration for the program will be available through the Ontario College Application Service and is expected to open in early March.

        The provincial government is also offering tuition assistance to students who are close to finishing an existing PSW program at one of Ontario's publicly-assisted colleges. Nearly 2,200 students will be eligible to receive a $2,000 tuition grant to help them complete their studies, as well as a stipend to complete the clinical placement part of their training.

        "Today's announcement is another major step towards hiring enough Personal Support Workers to provide the nation-leading four hours on average of direct daily care to residents," said Minister Merrilee Fullerton. "Modernizing long-term care requires innovative solutions and programs that allow us to recruit and train PSWs quickly so that they can begin their meaningful work caring for our loved ones."

        Ontario launched A Better Place to Live, A Better Place to Work: Ontario's Long-Term Care Staffing Plan, in December of last year. At the centre of this plan, the hours of direct care for residents will be increasing to an average of four hours per day over four years. To implement this initiative, the government is making immediate overall investments of $1.9 billion annually by 2024-2025.

        "Personal support workers have played a critical role in caring for some of our most vulnerable Ontarians throughout the pandemic, and our government continues to use every tool at its disposal to protect Ontarians and support our frontline workers," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "This new program will stabilize and strengthen our PSW workforce so that patients can receive high-quality care when and where they need it."

        In addition to launching this multi-year plan, the government invested nearly $540 million, announced in the fall of last year, to ramp up surveillance testing, increase Infection Prevention and Control personnel, increase PPE supplies, and continue building a strong health care workforce at long-term care homes across the province.


Queen's Park update . . .

MPP Jim McDonell
MPP Jim McDonell

From the desk of 

MPP Jim McDonell . . .

 

Friday, Feb. 26th - After our area reached its highest rate of COVID-19 positivity in January, our collective cooperation in social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home except to pick up essential supplies, substantially reduced our active cases by mid-February. The reduction has allowed our businesses to reopen and welcome back customers to their premises under the Orange-Restrict level. The latest guidelines and vaccine details are always available at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit's website at www.eohu.ca.

        Early in February, discussions commenced in the media and within our public health service over on the merits of postponing the annual March Break. Medical Officers of Health across the province warned the Government of the need to avoid another spike in cases, as we experienced after the Christmas Break. In the end, the Health Command Table recommended that the break be postponed to the week of April 12-16. The delay will allow more of our vulnerable citizens to receive the life-saving vaccine and provide better weather conditions for outside activities.

        The on-again, off-again deliveries of vaccine to the province have challenged our health unit's vaccination teams, as well as the members of the public. We recently received good news from the Federal Government that they believe shipments will ramp up quickly over the next months.  Dr. Paul's team has made great strides in administering the first dose to all eligible residents in our long-term care homes that wished to receive it, most of our retirement homes, and many frontline healthcare workers. As we receive more vaccines, these recipients will get their second doses. We will expand into more groups under Phase 1, including the remaining retirement homes, healthcare workers, Akwesasne residents, chronic home-care residents, and people aged 80 and over. Please watch for notices from the EOHU on their website, social media, local media outlets, and community and municipal partners.  The team will continue, based on available vaccines, until they inoculate everyone who wishes to be vaccinated. The Federal Government has pledged to obtain the required vaccines by the end of September 2021.

        As we continue these efforts, the Government is planning a three-year province-wide recovery. The first significant step is the upcoming 2021 Ontario Budget. More than two dozen residents and municipal representatives contributed to our local, pre-budget consultations, offering a wide range of ideas and proposals. Together, I am confident we will forge a successful, new path, ensuring Ontario remains the best province in Canada to work and raise a family in.

        This week our Government announced a $115 million investment to help train and support up to 8,200 personal support workers (PSWs) for entry into high-demand jobs in Ontario's health and long-term care sectors by the end of 2021. This innovative, fully funded Accelerated PSW Training Program, will be offered by all of the 24 colleges, starting this April 2021 to help communities experiencing a shortage of personal support workers in long-term care and home and community care. It is part of our plan to increase the hours of direct care for residents to an average of four hours per day by investing $1.9 billion annually by 2024-25, to create more than 27,000 new positions for personal support workers, registered nurses and registered practical nurses in long-term care. It will create a modernized long-term care sector that is genuinely resident-centred and one that provides the highest quality of care for our most vulnerable people, where and when they need it.

        As always, remember to stay home, stay safe and save lives. Your health and that of your loved ones may depend on it.  

 

                Regards,

           Jim McDonell

                MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry


Additional funding will help rebuild roads and bridges . . .

Municipalities ready for extreme weather . . .

Friday, Feb.26th - The Ontario government is providing up to $2 million in additional funding to extend the Build Back Better pilot project through 2023, and help eligible municipalities rebuild infrastructure that was damaged by extreme weather to a higher standard. This investment is part of Ontario's Municipal Recovery Assistance (MDRA) program and will better protect communities from the impacts of natural disasters.

          "As we approach the spring flooding season, it is important that we extend the Build Back Better pilot to help Ontario's municipalities prevent future damage to their roads and bridges," said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "This funding will help keep individuals and families safe and better prepare municipalities for extreme weather events."

        “Supporting municipalities to build healthier and safer communities continues to be a top priority for the government,” said Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.

        Under Build Back Better, municipalities are eligible to receive up to 15 per cent above the estimated cost of rebuilding damaged infrastructure to make it more resilient to extreme weather. Municipalities can use the additional funding to make improvements such as raising roads to ensure better overland flow of water, improving the columns or footings of a bridge, or enlarging the size of ditches and catch basins to increase the capacity to hold water.


Creating skilled jobs investing in Made-In-Ontario technology . . .

Wearable contact tracing technology . . .

Thursday, Feb. 18th - The Ontario government is providing Facedrive Inc. with $2.5 million through the Ontario Together Fund to accelerate the deployment of its wearable contact tracing technology, TraceSCAN, which alerts users within a workplace who have been in close contact with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. The company anticipates manufacturing about 150,000 devices under this project and creating 68 new jobs, including software, firmware and hardware engineers and machine learning specialists.

        "In our fight against COVID-19, Ontario is continuing to support companies like Facedrive that are developing the innovative technology that adds new layers of defence against this global pandemic," said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. "Through the Ontario Together Fund, we will continue to make sure that companies like Facedrive have the resources they need to supply emergency products and innovative solutions during these challenging times, while creating skilled jobs for our province."

        Facedrive developed TraceSCAN's made-in-Ontario AI-powered solution, which can track staff exposure to COVID-19 without GPS information, in partnership with the University of Waterloo.  Workers simply wear the device and the wearable technology will communicate with others within a workplace environment. If users are less than six feet apart, the device beeps to alert the users. If anyone in the working premises reports COVID-19 positive, HR or health and safety officials can log in to the online reporting dashboard and see who they have been in contact with and their risk level, then send an exposure notification. Contact tracing will be made simple with all of the close proximity contact having been recorded.

The technology is designed to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 for workplaces and settings where smartphone use is limited or prohibited, such as airlines, schools, construction sites, and long-term care homes. It will add another layer of safety and protection through identification and isolation of new COVID-19 cases, tracing back the interactions and helping to stop the contamination.

        TraceSCAN has already been deployed in multiple pilot projects, leading to the successful adoption of the technology in real-world settings. Some of the businesses and organizations that are using TraceSCAN include Air Canada, LiUNA and Waywayseecappo First Nation.

        "My door is always open to new and innovative solutions to help keep workers safe during COVID-19," said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. "Contact tracing technologies have the potential to protect essential workers until the province receives a sufficient number of vaccines. We need more made-in-Ontario solutions to keep workers safe."

        "The continued support of the Ontario Government is very valuable to us at Facedrive, and we are humbled to receive this support facilitating our work to fight COVID-19," said Sayan Navaratnam, Chairman and CEO of Facedrive. "We are looking forward to working side by side with government institutions in our joint mission to create safe environments for our communities, restart our economy and get workers back on the job. The Ontario Together Fund will be instrumental in helping us grow production volumes, invest in top talent, create jobs and ultimately establish TraceSCAN as a global leader and household name for contact tracing."

        The province's initial pandemic response was to procure available stock, the majority of which was from international sources. Over the course of the pandemic, efforts to develop Ontario-based production has resulted in a shift to 74 per cent of PPE purchases being domestically produced (by procurement value). Key categories such as N95 respirators, surgical masks, face shields, wipes, disinfectants and hand sanitizer are all domestically produced at production sites in Ontario.

        "This is another great local example of the Ontario Spirit at work", said Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility and MPP for Scarborough North. "With our government's support, new companies like Facedrive can expand their operation and production of innovative Ontario Made technology, creating jobs and opportunities right here in Scarborough."

        Through the Ontario Together Fund, the government is delivering targeted investments that will increase the province's stockpile of made-in-Ontario products and PPE. This innovative technology and manufacturing capacity will help the province to combat the current COVID-19 outbreak and prepare for potential challenges in the future, while supporting local businesses during the safe and gradual reopening of the province.  


Ontario study to increase efficiency and capacity . . .

Governments funding meat and poultry . . .

Wednesday, Feb. 17th - The governments of Canada and Ontario are expanding Ontario’s meat processing sector by investing $127,000 to support a research initiative by Meat and Poultry Ontario, and Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, welcomed the announcement from the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at the Annual General Meeting of the Beef Farmers of Ontario that the meat processing sector is getting a boost from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership) in support of Meat and Poultry Ontario’s project to increase the capacity for meat processing across the province.

 

              “This new research project will enhance Ontario’s meat processing sector, which

                 has been working hard to overcome the challenges created by the pandemic,”

                                            - MPP Jim McDonell.

       

        “Ontario’s meat processing sector is an important contributor to Ontario’s economy,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, during an address to the annual general meeting of the Beef Farmers of Ontario. “Today’s announcement is part of our government’s plan to support projects that increase processing capacity and help our local meat sector continue to grow.”

        The demand for processing facilities in Ontario, especially in the North, continues to grow. In response, MPO has begun researching a strategy that pairs skills development with innovative technologies to increase efficiency and capacity across the sector. This work builds on three additional federal-provincial funding programs introduced over the last year to deal with more urgent challenges:

    •  $2 million for food safety initiatives

    •  $2.25 million for provincial meat plants to make workplace modifications to increase worker health and safety

    •  $4 million for rapid measures to increase capacity

        "The pandemic has highlighted some of the vulnerabilities in the meat & poultry sector, one of them being the need to increase processing capacity," says Carol Goriup, President of Meat & Poultry Ontario. "This study is the first step in identifying opportunities and possible solutions for the future growth of our sector.  We would like to thank the federal and provincial governments for their timely funding of this project."

        Provincial abattoirs and provincially licensed processors have been consulted to understand the current state of their operations, the potential for growth and the technology requirements to support that growth. MPO will also work with farmers to understand both current and future needs for processing and packaging and how their needs differ based on where they are in the province. The data will be collected and analyzed for the creation of a potential centralized reservation system of processing that could be developed in the future.

        Since June 2018, both the federal and provincial governments have committed cost-share support for more than 4,400 projects through the Partnership to help eligible Ontario farmers, processors, businesses and sector organizations innovate and grow.


Ontario’s probate process for small estates more accessible . . .

Less costly to manage small estates . . .

Wednesday, Feb. 17th - The Ontario government is easing the burden on those grieving the loss of a loved one by simplifying the process to apply to manage small estates. The changes, which include setting the limit for a small estate at $150,000, will help people receive their inheritances faster and make Ontario's probate process for small estates simpler and more accessible.

        "Right now, the process to apply to manage an estate in Ontario is the same, whether the estate is worth $10,000 or $10,000,000. The process can be time consuming and costly, deterring people from claiming smaller estates - and that isn't right," said Attorney General Doug Downey. "To ease the burden on grieving loved ones and ensure fairness for everyone regardless of the size of an estate, the government is making the process to claim a small estate faster, easier and less costly for Ontarians." 

        On April 1, 2021, Ontario is setting the limit for a small estate at $150,000 and removing the requirement to post a bond in most small estate probate applications.  

        Introduced in the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, these changes will make it easier to file a probate application for a small estate that may otherwise go unclaimed. Amendments to simplify small estate procedures will also help people confirm their legal authority to manage an estate faster while ensuring safeguards are in place to protect minors and vulnerable people who have an interest in an estate.

        "We have heard from people across Ontario that the justice system has grown too complex and outdated," said Attorney General Downey. "Now, more than ever, is the time to boldly press forward with changes that simplify processes and increase access to justice. These changes will move the estates sector forward in Ontario, ensure fairness and save families time and money." 

        Establishing new and innovative ways of delivering services remotely, in-person and online will help address dated processes, that put a strain on the justice system and contribute to delays and longer than necessary wait times for families. These changes build on the government's work with justice partners to simplify other processes for small estates, including:

allowing for the completion and filing of a new simpler application form; removing requirements for certain supporting documents to be filed (for example, a commissioned affidavit of service); and guiding applicants on the process to file a probate application for a small estate.


Helping small businesses access Personal Protective Equipment . . .

Expands eligibility-Main Street grant . . .

Tuesday, Feb. 16th - The Ontario government is expanding the number of small businesses that can apply for the Main Street Relief Grant to help offset the costs of purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) to cautiously and gradually reopen in parts of the province. Small businesses with 2 to 19 employees in all eligible sectors - expanded from 2-9 employees - including those in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector, can now apply for up to $1,000 in financial support. The expansion is being made as more parts of the province enter the strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework, which allows for the gradual and safe reopening of in-store shopping at non-essential retail stores.

      "This funding will help even more main street businesses stay safe, keep people employed, and continue contributing to our communities," said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. "By expanding the accessibility to the Main Street Relief Grant our government will provide up to 60,000 small businesses with support to help them cover the cost of PPE and protective supplies. We continue to encourage businesses to apply and learn more at ontario.ca/COVIDsupport." 

        This one-time grant reimburses main street businesses for up to $1,000 in PPE costs incurred since March 17, 2020. Eligible businesses for the Main Street Relief Grant now include those with 2 to 19 employees in the following sectors: retail trade; accommodation and food services; repair and maintenance; personal and laundry services; gyms and yoga studios; and arts, entertainment, and recreation. 

        "Expanding eligible sectors for the PPE grant that have been significantly affected by COVID-19 is another way we can support our small business community," said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. "These businesses often require frequent, in-person contact with coworkers and they have the least space to accommodate physical distancing. They need a steady supply of PPE to function in a sustainable way." 

        The grant can be used to help cover the costs of a variety of PPE, including installing plexiglass or purchasing gloves and masks. Eligible businesses can apply for this grant and other COVID-19 financial supports - like the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and property tax or energy cost rebates - through a simple online application. 

        "Ontario's heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries were hit first, hardest, and will take the longest to recover post-pandemic," said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. "Expanding eligibility of the Main Street Relief Grant to include more business-owners within these sectors will cover added costs and help us explore all that our province has to offer when it's safe to do so." 

        "We thank the Ontario government for acting on our recommendations to increase access to the PPE grant by adding sectors and increasing the employee threshold," said Julie Kwiecinski, Director of Provincial Affairs for Ontario at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. "PPE funding is especially critical now, as small businesses safely reopen to in-store customers. We look forward to continuing our work with government to further improve this important program."

Small businesses can visit ontario.ca/smallbusiness to learn about the many supports available to them. These include resources to find Ontario-made PPE through the Workplace PPE Supplier Directory, tools to build or expand their online presence through Digital Main Street, tailored local support through the Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Network, and free financial advice.  


Ontario continues COVID-19 response - upcoming Legislative sitting . . .

Protecting health and safety of families . . .

Tuesday, Feb. 16th - During the next sitting of the legislature the Ontario government plans to continue its unprecedented response to COVID-19 while laying the foundation for a strong economic recovery. It is also proposing to break down barriers to justice for Ontarians and accelerate the government's modernization of Ontario's legal sector, as well as build on Ontario's Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy.

        "The fight against COVID-19 and variants of concern will remain our highest priority as we return to the Legislature today," said Minister Paul Calandra, Ontario's Government House Leader. "Over the last year the people of Ontario have demonstrated an unbelievable spirit, determination, and selflessness, doing their part to stop the spread. They expect every Member of Provincial Parliament to bring that same commitment to the business of the House." 

        The legislature itself will be operating under ongoing COVID-19 safety protocols including masking requirements, physically-distanced voting in the lobbies adjacent to the Chamber, cohorting of Members to reduce close contact, and the use of video-conferencing technology in committee meetings. 

        "The COVID-19 safety protocols we have instituted in the legislature over the last year have proven incredibly effective in allowing Members of Provincial Parliament to safely engage in legislative business and these measures will continue," Minister Calandra added. "Last fall our careful and cautious approach to legislative operations allowed us to pass 36 bills including 10 Private Members' Bills. During this next sitting we will continue to build on this success." 

        In the first weeks of the winter sitting, the government plans to proceed with important labour and public safety legislation, and support Ontario's recovery by proposing changes to help people resolve their legal matters with fewer delays. 

The government has also wrapped up consultations for the 2021 Ontario Budget. People and organizations shared their ideas via an online survey, email, mailed submissions, and through a series of virtual consultations across the province. The 2021 Ontario Budget, to be delivered by March 31, 2021, will build on Ontario's plan to continue protecting and supporting people through the pandemic, while preparing the province to emerge in a position of economic strength. 

        The legislature is scheduled to sit for 13 weeks of business before rising for the summer. 


Ensuring people are getting the right supports at the right time . . .

Ontario improving social assistance . . .

Thursday, Feb. 11th - The Ontario Government is working with its municipal partners to better connect people to the supports they need as the next step in the province’s plan to modernize the delivery of social assistance. As part of its plan, frontline workers will have more time to focus on connecting clients with supports such as job-readiness programs, housing, childcare, skills training and mental health services. At the same time, the province will gradually take on more program administration to make it easier for people to navigate the system.

        “Ontario is facing deep economic challenges brought on by COVID-19,” said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “Our government is taking action by developing a sustainable social assistance program that takes the administrative burden off local front-line workers, so they can spend more time helping their clients connect to community supports that will get them ready for jobs.”

        As part of the Recovery and Renewal Plan announced last fall, the province worked with municipalities to design a Vision for Social Assistance Transformationto ensure people are getting the right supports at the right time so they can re-enter the workforce. The vision outlines plans for a new social assistance delivery model that allows frontline workers to focus on results for people rather than paperwork. Based on a 2018 study, caseworkers spent approximately a quarter of their day – about 400 hours a year – filing and organizing paperwork.

Under the new delivery model:

        The province will focus on overseeing social assistance applications and payments making it quick and easy for people to access the system while safeguarding program integrity. Currently, 47 agencies at the municipal/District Social Services Administration Board level co-fund and manage delivery of social assistance in Ontario.

        Municipal partners will use their expertise to deliver person-centred casework and knowledge of local supports to help people get back to work and access supports to stabilize their lives such as housing and health care.

        In acknowledgement of the unique needs and priorities of First Nations communities, the Ontario government will continue working with First Nations partners towards a separate plan to renew social assistance for First Nations communities.

        “Ontario finds itself at a significant crossroad,” said Minister Smith. “We must continue our work to renew the social assistance system during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting the province’s economic recovery and helping the people of Ontario find financial independence and stability. Our plan for a transformed social assistance system will help us achieve that.”

        Work on social assistance reform is already underway and will be phased in over the next several years. The province continues to build on this work which includes centralized intake and prototyping a streamlined applications process to continue to free up staff time so they can focus on client support.


Mental health, addiction services access . . .

Thursday, Feb. 11th - The Ontario government is providing $7 million to help increase access to mental health and addiction services for postsecondary students during COVID-19. The funding will provide more supports for students, both on-campus and virtually and can also be used to address the needs of vulnerable and diverse groups, such as Indigenous students, LGBTQ students and students with disabilities.

           "We know that college and university can be a difficult time for our students, and that the COVID-19 outbreak has only increased those pressures on their mental health," said Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities. "That is why it is so important that we recognize the need for added support by investing more in mental health services. This added funding will give our colleges and universities the ability to expand services and better meet student needs ─ creating the best conditions possible for students to achieve their goals." 

           Today's announcement is part of the Ministry of Health's more than $147 million in funding for mental health supports and builds upon the province's $19.25 million investment for publicly-assisted colleges and universities announced in October. The funding will help to immediately expand access for postsecondary students to the provincial mental health and addictions system in response to COVID-19. 

           "We continue to hear from mental health professionals that our youth are under more pressure and more stress than any recent generation," said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "In these unprecedented times, this investment will help to ensure that the mental health services they need are going to be there to support them, when they need it." 

           Today's funding is part of Ontario's Roadmap to Wellness, the government's plan to build a connected and comprehensive mental health and addiction system that ensures children, youth, and adults in Ontario receive appropriate services where and when they need them. 


3rd-Quarter finances demonstrate unwavering commitment to protect . . .

COVID-19 response funding is allocated . . .

Thursday, Feb. 11th - The Ontario government has released the province's 2020-21 Third Quarter Finances, which demonstrates an unwavering commitment to support individuals, families and small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report shows that the government is projecting to spend $25 billion more than last year, including an additional $2.6 billion since the 2020 Budget. These investments are being used to deliver the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, to provide more hospital supplies and PPE, and to better protect long-term care homes and child care settings.

"Our priority remains protecting lives and livelihoods and defeating this virus," said Minister Bethlenfalvy. "That's why we are spending $25 billion more this year than we did last year. It's why our government outlined our $45 billion action plan in response to COVID-19 in the fall Budget. And it's why, since then, we have been focused on beating this second wave. Today's report - which outlines record levels of government spending - demonstrates that."

        Since the 2020 Budget, Ontario's Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover, significant additional investments have been made as part of the Ontario government's urgent COVID-19 response, including:

    •  $1.4 billion to launch the Ontario Small Business Support Grant to help small businesses that are required to close or

          significantly restrict services under the Provincewide Shutdown, with grants starting at $10,000 and up to $20,000.

    •  $869 million in additional investments for the hospital sector for supplies and equipment to address the surge in COVID-

          19 cases, including testing, swabs, saliva tubes and test kits, bringing the total increase in funding to hospitals since

          2019-20 to $3.4 billion.

    •  $609 million to support the procurement of additional personal protective equipment (PPE), critical supplies, equipment

          and continued support for essential supply chain operations.

    •  $398 million in additional support to respond to the impact of COVID-19 in the long-term care sector, which includes

          continued prevention and containment measures and more funding to support implementation of testing guidelines.

    •  $235 million in additional supports to protect children and staff in child care and early years settings.

        COVID-19 has led to unprecedented uncertainty for governments in Canada and around the world. To ensure Ontario could respond quickly to changing circumstances, the government's budget plan built in historic levels of flexible, time-limited funding and extraordinary contingencies of $13.3 billion in 2020-21. The 2020-21 Third Quarter Finances shows that these funds were fully allocated in the third quarter, and other governments have since followed this approach.  

        Additionally, the government is now using the fiscal reserve to top up the standard contingency fund, making an additional $2.1 billion available for spending before the end of the year. This added contingency will ensure the government can continue to respond with flexibility during the second wave, as well as to the emergence of new, concerning variants of COVID-19.

        "Today's update shows we have allocated all of the time-limited and extraordinary contingencies for this fiscal year so that we could remain responsive as the pandemic continued to unfold," said Minister Bethlenfalvy. "While some have criticized us for setting aside funds, thank goodness we had the resources available to respond to the second wave. We will continue to be ready for anything. Today I am making an additional $2.1 billion in funding available for our COVID-19 response this year."

        The 2020-21 Third Quarter Finances project a deficit of $38.5 billion in 2020-21, unchanged from the deficit outlook projected in the 2020 Budget and the 2020-21 First Quarter Finances.

        Despite extraordinary uncertainty over the past year, each quarter the government has delivered on its commitment to transparency and accountability in Ontario's finances by releasing a fiscal update. The 2020-21 Third Quarter Finances is the first fiscal report since the 2020 Budget, Ontario's Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover.

        The government will provide its next update on Ontario's finances and the government's plan to continue the fight against COVID-19 in the 2021 Budget, to be delivered no later than March 31, 2021.


Financial assistance critical for job creators and workers . . .

Combating economic impacts, COVID-19 . . .

Friday, Feb. 5th - Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, issued the following statement in response to today's monthly employment release by Statistics Canada: "Employment in Ontario decreased by 153,500 in January. In the last eight months Ontario's employment has increased by 739,800. This month's employment numbers underscore the significant economic impacts of COVID-19. These numbers serve as a stark reminder that behind every economic statistic is a family, a worker or a business owner and the work that lies ahead of us to reach a full economic recovery.

        The government imposed a provincial Stay-at-Home order in January to stop the spread of COVID-19 and help keep people safe. However, there is no denying that the impacts are being felt throughout the economy. We know that many Ontarians continue to struggle during this challenging time and that is why we are providing unprecedented support to workers, businesses and families as we plan for our economic recovery.  

        We recently launched the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which provides a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to help eligible small business owners impacted by the Provincewide Shutdown. Each eligible small business can use this funding in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business. 

        Eligible small businesses dealing with unexpected costs of personal protective equipment can also apply for one-time grants of up to $1,000 through Ontario's Main Street Relief Grant. Our government is also providing $600 million for property tax and energy cost rebates to support businesses required to close or significantly reduce services because of public health restrictions. 

        We are all in this together. The people of this province continue to step up and make the necessary sacrifices to help slow the spread of COVID-19. By working together, we will defeat this terrible pandemic, restart the job creation engine of Canada, and lay the foundation for a brighter future." 


Applications open for new Skills Development Fund . . .

Investment brings innovative solutions . . .

Friday, Feb. 5th -  Applications are now open for the Ontario government's new two-year $115 million Skills Development Fund. The fund, which will support workers and apprentices, is specifically designed to address the challenges brought on by COVID-19 and help reduce obstacles to hiring, training and retaining while preparing workers for the province's economic recovery.

        "When faced with unprecedented challenges we need innovative solutions, that's why we developed this new Skills Development Fund. It will lead to fresh and creative ideas to help get people back on the job and kick-start our communities," said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. "My message to workers is clear - there is hope and opportunity around the corner. I'm calling on everyone - businesses, union leaders and training providers - to submit your ideas and participate in our economic recovery." 

        The Skills Development Fund will accept applications from a wide range of employment and training organizations in Ontario, and the focus will be on: 

    •  giving laid-off workers immediate access to training supports or new jobs 

    •  improving the quality of training 

    •  reaching out to traditionally underrepresented groups 

    •  increasing apprentice registrations and completion 

    •  better serving local communities 

    •  supporting the talent needs of small businesses 

        Examples of projects from the fund could include: a digital career fair that allows employers to connect with job seekers impacted by COVID-19, mentorship programs and career counselling for apprentices while they are training on-the-job, the creation of training materials that teach employers how to accommodate employees who have disabilities, and making workspaces and equipment more accessible.

        “I encourage local organizations to apply for this funding, which I am confident will go a long way in helping local residents find new employment as we recover from the pandemic,” said Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry. 

        Applicants, including employers, apprenticeship training delivery agents, unions, post-secondary institutions, community organizations and others can now submit proposals beginning today, until February 28, 2021. 


Community Support Program extended until 2022 . . .

Seniors, disabled ensured support . . .

Thursday, Feb. 4th - The Ontario government is extending the Ontario Community Support Program until 2022 to ensure that low-income seniors and people with disabilities have access to food, medicine and other essentials during COVID-19. The program was established in April 2020, and involves an innovative partnership with the Ontario Community Support Association and its large volunteer base in communities across the province. During that period nearly 800,000 deliveries have been made.

        "The Ontario Community Support Program is a made-in-Ontario success story that shows the true Ontario spirit, and our government offers our thanks to the army of dedicated workers and volunteers," said Premier Doug Ford. "Through the generous and tireless efforts of these people, Ontarians with disabilities and older Ontarians have the food and necessities they need to stay home and stay safe."

        The OCSP operates in communities across the province by matching volunteer services with seniors, people with disabilities and other vulnerable Ontarians through an online registration system. Volunteers are stepping up in significant numbers to give their time and efforts to fellow Ontarians who need support to meet the challenges of COVID-19.

        "This program is critical because it keeps our seniors and people with disabilities safe, by allowing them to receive essential items like food and medicine right at their door, without the need to go out during the pandemic," said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. "Extending this program will ensure that we continue to support our most vulnerable when they need it most." 

        During the Fall Economic Update, the government announced plans to extend the program until March, 2022, in recognition of its positive impact on vulnerable Ontarians. 


Supporting lifelong learning in unserved, underserved communities . . .

Expanded broadband for public libraries . . .

Thursday, Feb. 4th - The Ontario government is investing more than $4.8 million to upgrade broadband at public libraries in unserved and underserved communities. By investing in improved broadband at public libraries, the province is providing greater community access to education and vital services, while creating more economic opportunity for residents.

        "Ontario's public libraries are an important part of our communities and provide a wide range of information, programs and services. Now more than ever, communities need faster and more reliable access to these resources," said Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure. "Our investment will make it easier to use local libraries for learning, accessing services and connecting with others."

        This provincial investment will help many communities bridge the digital divide to ensure residents have access to online information and resources. The Ontario Library Service will oversee and deliver the project. As a first step in the broadband upgrade process, site surveys and assessments will be conducted to identify eligible library branches, with priority given to those with inadequate broadband located within five kilometres of a secondary school.

        "From supporting lifelong learning to providing access to resources that help to build strong, vibrant communities, Ontario's public libraries make a real difference in people's lives across the province," said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. "Increasing broadband capabilities at public libraries will help provide Ontarians with better access to digital resources and services, including digital collections, online skills training and career development. I'm proud that our government is making this important investment to ensure people and communities across Ontario stay connected through improved broadband."

        “This new investment to upgrade broadband services in our rural communities, will ensure our residents also have better access to online information and services,” said Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.

This investment is part of Up to Speed: Ontario's Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. On November 4, 2020, the Ontario government announced an investment of $680 million on top of its existing commitment to improve connectivity in the province, leading to a historic investment of nearly $1 billion over six years.

        "Robust broadband access through the public library is increasingly critical to the well-being of local communities," said Andrea Cecchetto, President of the Ontario Library Association. "The Ontario government's strategic investment will ensure that tens of thousands of people in small, rural and northern communities, as well as First Nations, will have the high-speed broadband necessary for fair access to the e-resources and learning opportunities they need to succeed."