Highlights from these past few months
Greetings from Queen's Park!
What a whirlwind these past couple of months have been with the COVID-19 pandemic consuming the better part of our year. We certainly spent a summer like no other as Ontarians from across the province joined forces to retool and manufacture PPE, ventilators and other medical products here in Ontario. Most notably, community groups have been coming together to further assist in the fight against COVID-19.
Here in Willowdale, we have seen groups such as The Willowdale COVID Response Network, The Kindness Project, Valleyview Day Program and many more deliver PPE, medication and groceries for our seniors and members of the vulnerable population. Small businesses such as Lug Life and Levelwear, donated PPE to organizations including Eva’s Satellite, North York Harvest Food Bank, Canadian Helen Keller Centre, Willowdale Welcome Centre and Willowdale constituents. Special thanks to all our volunteers and generous donors who have stepped up to the plate, especially during the initial stages of our government’s efforts in addressing the COVID-19 outbreak. Your combined strengths and efforts have made all the difference in our community.
We’ve come a long way since March 17th. Toronto has been in Stage 3 of our reopening plan for more than a month. Many restrictions have been eased to allow indoor gatherings of up to 50 people, outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people, dining-in at restaurants, reopening of gyms and fitness studios, community centres, playgrounds, boating tours and much more. To read the comprehensive list of open businesses, guidelines and Ontario’s Reopening Framework, click here.
On August 10th, Minister Phillips and I had the pleasure of visiting a family-owned restaurant in Willowdale for a dine-in experience. We witnessed first-hand how Ichiban Sushi House was adapting to the new environment and complying with COVID-19 guidelines. We discussed their best practices to ensure the safety of their staff and customers. As many more businesses prepare to reopen their doors, let us do our part to Shop Local, Shop Safe and Shop with Confidence.
On August 12th, I joined Minister Phillips at Queen’s Park to announce our government’s First Quarter Finances and provide an update on Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19. Since announcing the first steps in the government’s response to COVID-19, we are making additional investments bringing the action plan to a projected $30 billion, up from $17 billion. There will be an increase of $4.4 billion for a total of $7.7 billion to provide ongoing support for health care and an increase of $7.3 billion for a total of $11 billion to support people and jobs.
The Ontario government was the first in Canada to release a fiscal outlook that reflected the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. This is a responsible approach that speaks of our commitment to continue assessing the economic situation and provide transparency based on the most recent and reliable data. to read more, click here.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, I have been meeting with small businesses across the province nearly every day to hear how we can continue supporting their recovery efforts. So far, the Committee has heard from over 840 presenters representing six sectors. Interested peoples who would like to register or send a written submission are encouraged to visit the following link: ola.org/en/apply-committees.
On August 18th, I met with several of Ontario’s municipal leaders as part of the AMO Conference to share ideas on how we can work together to solve some of the biggest challenges facing governments today. This year, the Ontario government was joined by over 1,800 municipal officials over the course of three days during which time Ministers, Associate Ministers and Parliamentary Assistants met in 480 virtual delegation meetings.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has said that $10 billion in emergency operating funding was needed nationwide. Ontario's portion would be $4 billion – and that's exactly the deal that our government struck through the Safe Restart Agreement. Our government has already delivered the first round of funding of up to $1.6 billion to all 444 municipalities to support urgent priorities and keep transit systems running. This fall, an additional $695 million in Phase 2 funding will be available for municipalities that require further support, for a total of $1.39 billion in emergency funding.
It’s hard to believe that it's September already! Students are getting ready to learn new things, and reconnect with friends and classmate. While teachers and staff are preparing to make a positive difference in the lives of young people returning to school, and logging into remote learning classrooms. Wherever you are, including right here in Willowdale, and whatever format of learning you chose – in person, or online – this school year brings the exciting opportunity to grow through new experiences and learning.
This summer our government announced over $500 million to build 30 new schools and make upgrades to 15 existing facilities, including McKee Public School. This investment will help ease the school overcrowding issue in our community by adding more classroom space right in the heart of Willowdale.
Recently, the Federal government announced $381 million for Ontario, on top of the nearly $900 million provided by the province. This new funding will support several priority initiatives including, $200 million for reopening plan implementation; $70 million for student transportation; $12.5 million for special education and mental health supports for enhancement; $12.5 million for additional public health nurses; and $36 million for remote learning. Our government is setting aside $50 million for any future pandemic learning needs to ensure we are prepared for every scenario this Fall. To read Ontario's guide to reopening schools, click here.
Soon, I will be back at Queen’s Park working diligently with my colleagues and Minister Phillips in preparation for Ontario’s next fiscal update. Please do not hesitate to call (416-733-7878) or email ([email protected]) myself with your suggestions or concerns on how the government can further assist you during this time. We’re all in this together.
See you soon,