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Statement regarding the COVID-19 outbreak at Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement Homes Limited in Lindsay

Statement regarding the COVID-19 outbreak at Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement Homes Limited in Lindsay

LINDSAY – Today Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock gave the following statement regarding the COVID-19 outbreak at Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement Homes Limited in Lindsay:

“The current outbreak situation at Caressant Care on Mclaughlin Road in Lindsay is concerning and staff are taking all possible steps to protect residents and staff members. Caressant Care continues to work with Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, the Ministry of Long-Term Care, the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) and Infection Prevention and Control Canada (IPAC) to ensure proper precautions are taken and frequent testing of residents and staff.

“Caressant Care has offered staff members the option of staying in a hotel rather than going home to help stop the spread. I want to thank the staff at Caressant Care for working around the clock to help stop the outbreak.

“Progress continues to be made with the goal of administering vaccines in all long-term care homes across the province by mid-February and the single most important thing Ontarians can do right now to protect our most vulnerable is to stay at home. As we continue our vaccine rollout, this is our best defense against this virus.

“We remain committed to doing everything we can, along with our partners, to help stabilize the home and have it return to normal operations.”

January 21, 2021

Ontario Bringing Faster, More Reliable Broadband to the North

The Ontario government is investing $10.9 million to bring faster broadband to several towns and First Nation communities across Northern Ontario. By investing in improved internet access, Ontario is helping to bridge the digital divide and create more economic opportunity for residents and businesses in the North.

"Now more than ever, residents in Northern Ontario and across the province need access to faster, more reliable broadband service," said Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure. "Our investments will make it easier for people to work and learn from home, run their businesses, access vital services and connect with others." 

Ontario's investments will help:

  • build infastructure that brings high-speed broadband to more areas in Chisholm, Marathon, Terrace Bay, rural Thunder Bay and Oliver Paipoonge
  • construct a new 22-kilometre fibre backbone network that brings high-speed broadband to Seine River First Nation, Couchiching First Nation, Rainy River First Nations, Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation, Animakee Wa Zhing #37 First Nation and Big Grassy First Nation; and
  • upgrade the speed and capacity of the K-Net network, owned by Keewaytinook Okimakanak and which serves more than 80 First Nation communities, while supporting future upgrades.

This investment is part of Up to Speed: Ontario's Broadband and Cellular Action Plan and will bring faster internet to more than 7,000 households and businesses across the North.

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.

"COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the challenges facing our northern and remote communities, including access to reliable, high-speed internet," said Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs. "Efficient and modern broadband infrastructure is critical to advancing economic recovery and development in Northern Ontario. Our government's investment is an important step forward to ensure communities across the North have access to remote education, skills training, and business opportunities."

"Reliable broadband service is certainly needed for life in the 21st century and today's announcement is a step towards making broadband improvements for our rural businesses, families and individuals," said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. "Now more than ever, Ontario residents are relying on internet to access services, working from home and connecting with their loved ones."


Quick Facts

  • Ontario has invested in several initiatives to improve connectivity in Northern Ontario, including broadband projects through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Next Generation Network Program.
  • On July 9, 2020, the province launched the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) program, a multi-year program that aims to support approved broadband and cellular projects, as early as spring 2021. Ontario announced in November 2020 it was doubling funding in the program to $300 million.
  • As many as 12 per cent of households in Ontario – or about 1.4 million people – are underserved or unserved, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

January 20, 2021

Ontario Supporting Local Horse Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

The new Equine Hardship Program launched today will provide individual businesses offering horse related experiences up to $2,500 per horse to a maximum of $20,000 in financial support to help cover direct costs for feed, water, veterinary care and farrier services needed to maintain horses.

During the pandemic many horse experience businesses such as riding schools, trail ride operations, and horse camps have been unable to operate, which has put these businesses and their horses in jeopardy.

“Supporting local equine businesses in HKLB and across the province to help keep up with the costs of animal care is important so they can be ready for when it is safe to resume normal operations,” said Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.

 “COVID-19 has disrupted many of the activities offered by horse experience operators making it challenging for some to care for their animals this winter,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Our investment of $3 million will allow these businesses to keep up with the costs of animal care so they can maintain their horses and be ready for when activities can start up again.”

 “Ontario Equestrian would like to thank Minister Hardeman, and the Ontario government for their dedication and support of the equine sector over the past months,” said Tracey McCague-McElrea, Executive Director of Ontario Equestrian. “This funding announcement will certainly provide much needed relief to our business owners and equine farmers who have fought to maintain their herds since the beginning of the pandemic and we look forward to on-going collaboration with the government to ensure sustainability and growth for the sector.”

Horse experience businesses will be eligible for funding if they earned at least 50 per cent of their revenue in 2019 from horse experience activities, their 2020 revenue was less than half of what was earned in 2019 due to the pandemic, and they attest they are facing hardship as a result of COVID-19 that will make it difficult to care for the horses.

The Equine Hardship Program was specifically designed for horse experience businesses that are not eligible for other agriculture related programs that help farmers manage risk such as the Risk Management Program and AgriStability.

To learn more and apply to the Equine Hardship Program, visit http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/equinehardship.htm

QUICK FACTS

  • There are approximately 150 horse experience businesses in Ontario including more than 50 horse camp or trail ride operations, at least 15 carriage operators, at least 14 therapeutic riding centres and many riding schools. These businesses also include horse drawn carriage or sleigh rides.
  • Under the Equine Hardship Program, costs incurred between March 17, 2020 and February 28, 2021 will be eligible. Enrolment and claim forms will be accepted until March 12, 2021, or while program funding remains available, whichever comes first.

January 18, 2021

Applications Now Open for Ontario's Small Business Support Grant

The Ontario government has opened applications for the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant. First announced in December, the grant provides a minimum of $10,000 to a maximum of $20,000 for eligible small businesses who have had to restrict their operations due to the Provincewide Shutdown.

“This grant is another support that will help our local small businesses across Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes and Brock get through these tough times so they can  continue to remain a vital part of our local community,” said Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.

"As Ontario's employers do their part to defeat COVID-19, they are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of this global pandemic," said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board. "I encourage every eligible small business owner in Ontario to visit Ontario.ca/COVIDSupport to access the support our government has made available. While we still have a lot of work ahead of us, we can all look confidently to the future as we resolve to do our parts and put COVID-19 behind us."

Small businesses required to close or significantly restrict services under the Provincewide Shutdown will be able to apply for a one-time grant and use this funding in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business needs. For example, some businesses could need support paying employee wages, while others could need support with their rent.

Eligible small businesses include those that:

  • Were required to close or significantly restrict services due to the Provincewide Shutdown being imposed across the province effective 12:01 a.m. on December 26.
  • Have fewer than 100 employees at the enterprise level.
  • Have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019. New businesses established since April 2019 will also be eligible if they meet the other eligibility criteria.

New businesses established since April 2019 will also be eligible if they meet the other eligibility criteria. They will be able to select alternative months for comparing revenue decline through the application portal. In addition, winter seasonal businesses, such as ski hills, will be permitted to compare revenue from December 2019 or January 2020 to December 2020.

"Small businesses are the heart of Ontario's economy," said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. "The Ontario Small Business Support Grant will help thousands of small businesses get through this difficult time, while strengthening our province's economic recovery."

"As the son of two small business owners, I understand what small businesses mean to the families, employees, and local communities they support," said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. "Our hardworking businesses can be encouraged that the government's new Ontario Small Business Support Grant offers yet another helping hand that will give them the boost they need to meet the challenges of today and prepare for a brighter tomorrow."

Businesses impacted by the Provincewide Shutdown are also eligible for additional supports, including the government's program to provide rebates to offset fixed costs such as property tax and energy bills. These rebates will continue to be available for businesses impacted by the Provincewide Shutdown and earlier restrictions.

Quick Facts

  • The businesses must demonstrate they experienced a revenue decline of at least 20 per cent when comparing monthly revenue in April 2019 and April 2020.
  • winter seasonal businesses, such as ski hills, will be permitted to compare revenue from December 2019 or January 2020 to December 2020.
  • The 2020 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recoveroutlined more than $13.5 billion in support for people and jobs. The government is also investing $4.8 billion to address critical areas to support a strong long-term recovery that helps workers, employers and communities get back on their feet, while building the foundation for recovery and growth.

January 15, 2021

Ontario Provides Funding to Support Municipal Public Transportation

This year, the province is providing a total of $375 million in gas tax funding for 109 municipalities that deliver public transit to 144 communities across Ontario. The province will flow the funding as soon as possible in 2021.

The City of Kawartha Lakes will receive $640,774 and the Municipality of Dysart et al will receive $23,618 in funding through Ontario’s Gas Tax program. Peterborough County and Durham Region will also receive funds to support their local transit systems.

“The Gas Tax Program continues to provide reliable financial support to our municipal partners in HKLB,” said Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock. “These funds contribute to important improvements and maintenance for local transit systems and help residents as they access essential goods and services in their communities.”

“Our government is committed to helping municipalities sustain and improve public transit throughout the province,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. “Supporting transit systems is more important than ever as municipalities across Ontario struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will help ensure people have access to safe, reliable transportation to get to work or pick up essential items like a prescription.”

Funding for the Gas Tax program is determined by the number of litres of gasoline sold in the province during the previous year. Municipalities supporting public transit services in their community receive two cents per litre of provincial gas tax revenue collected. This funding can be used to extend service hours, buy transit vehicles, add routes, improve accessibility or upgrade infrastructure.

QUICK FACTS

  • In July 2020, the province announced up to $2 billion from the provincial and federal governments under the Safe Restart Agreement to support municipal transit systems with operating costs like vehicle maintenance and employee wages, revenue losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and other costs like installing driver protection barriers.
  • Ontario is developing regional plans that will help build a better transportation system across the province. The province has released draft regional transportation plans for Northern Ontario and southwestern Ontario, and planning is underway for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and eastern Ontario.

January 14, 2021

Ontario Declares Second Provincial Emergency to Address COVID-19 Crisis and Save Lives

TORONTO - In response to a doubling in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, the real and looming threat of the collapse of the province's hospital system and alarming risks posed to long-term care homes as a result of high COVID-19 transmission rates, the Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, is immediately declaring a second provincial emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA).

Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Co-Chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

"The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences," said Premier Ford. "That's why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay-at-home-order. We need people to only go out only for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments. By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives."

Effective Thursday, January 14, 2021at 12:01 a.m., the government is issuing a stay-at-home order requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work. This order and other new and existing public health restrictions are aimed at limiting people's mobility and reducing the number of daily contacts with those outside an immediate household. In addition to limiting outings to essential trips, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.

These new public health measures will help stop the spread of COVID-19 by reducing concerning levels of mobility as the province continues its vaccine rollout and ramps up to mass vaccination when the federal government is able to provide the necessary supply to do so.

Additional Public Health Restrictions

Since the implementation of the Provincewide Shutdown over two weeks ago, the latest modelling trends in key public health indicators have continued to worsen, forecasting an overwhelming of the health system unless drastic action is taken. Escalating case counts have led to increasing hospitalization rates and intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy which has resulted in cancellations of scheduled surgeries and procedures.

Provincial modelling shows growth in COVID-19 cases has accelerated, leading to increased hospitalization rates and ICU occupancy. ICU occupancy by COVID-19 patients is now over 400 beds and is projected to be as high as 1,000 beds by early February which has the potential to overwhelm Ontario's hospitals. The number of COVID-19-related deaths continues to rise and is expected to double from 50 to 100 deaths per day between now and the end of February. Notably, data shows that mobility and contacts between people have not decreased with the current restrictions.  A new variant of COVID-19 emerged in November. If community transmission of this variant occurs, Ontario could experience much higher case counts, ICU occupancy and mortality.

In response to the alarming and exceptional circumstances at hand, and to further interrupt the deadly trend of transmission in Ontario communities, hospitals, and long-term care homes, the government will enact the following additional public health measures:

  • Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions. This is consistent with the rules during the lockdown during the first wave of COVID-19 in spring 2020 and will allow individuals and families to enjoy time outdoors safely.
  • Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. Wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can't physically distance more than two metres.  
  • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.
  • Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.

These measures will come into effect between Tuesday January 12, 2021 and Thursday, January 14, 2021, including the provincial declaration of emergency under the EMCPA, orders under that Act, and amendments to regulations under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020

"Despite our best efforts, COVID-19 is continuing to spread in our communities, our hospitals, our long-term care homes, and our workplaces. We are continuing to see concerning trends across the province, including a tragic number of deaths," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "We have made great strides in vaccinating tens of thousands of Ontarians, and we can't let these efforts go to waste. Urgent action is required to break this deadly trend of transmission, ensure people stay home, and save lives."

To help quickly identify and isolate cases of COVID-19 in workplaces and service providers permitted to remain open such as long-term care homes and schools, the province will provide up to 300,000 COVID-19 tests per week to support key sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain and food processing, as well as additional tests for schools and long-term care homes. This volume of rapid tests would support antigen screening for up to 150,000 workers per week over the next 4-5 months in Ontario's most critical workplaces. The province is expecting to receive 12 million Panbio tests from the federal government over the next several months and continues to pursue opportunities to purchase additional rapid tests.

"The trends in key public health indicators are continuing to deteriorate, and further action is urgently required to save lives," said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health. "By strictly adhering to all public health and workplace safety measures, we can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and keep our loved ones and our communities safe. It will take the collective efforts of us all to defeat this virus."

The government knows that in order to keep Ontarians safe, it is important that they are not forced to leave their homes during the new state of emergency. Ontario is exploring all options available to put a temporary residential evictions moratorium in place, and will have more to say in the coming days.

The additional public health restrictions introduced expand on the existing measures put in place to keep Ontarians safe and healthy.

New Enforcement Measures

Under the declaration of a provincial emergency, the province will provide authority to all enforcement and provincial offences officers, including the Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home-order, or those not wearing a mask or face covering indoors as well as retail operators and companies who do not enforce. Those who decide not to abide by orders will be subject to set fines and/or prosecution under both the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, (ROA) and EMCPA.  

In addition, all enforcement personnel will have the authority to temporarily close a premise and disperse individuals who are in contravention of an order and will be able to disperse people who are gathering, regardless whether a premise has been closed or remains open such as a park or house.

"Extraordinary action is needed to protect the health and safety of Ontarians as we deal with this growing crisis," said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. "Our government is providing police and bylaw officers with the tools, and the authority, they need to enforce these critical restrictions and protect public health."

Schools and Child Care Centres

Based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, schools in the following public health units (PHUs) will not return to in-person instruction until February 10, 2021:

  • Windsor-Essex
  • Peel Region
  • Toronto
  • York
  • Hamilton

By January 20, 2021, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will advise the Ministry of Education on which public health units (PHUs) will be permitted to resume in-person instruction, based on the most up-to-date data and modelling. Before- and after-school programs can be offered when in-person instruction resumes. Schools in northern PHUs will continue to remain open.

To continue to keep students, staff and communities safe, the following new health and safety measures will be put in place for in-person learning:

  • Masking for Grade 1-3 and requirements for mask wearing outdoors;
  • Enhanced screening protocols; and
  • Expanded targeted testing.

The government will also implement new health and safety measures in Ontario child care settings, such as enhanced screening to align with school requirements, voluntary participation in targeted testing and additional infection prevention and control measures to align with schools. These enhancements are in addition to the existing health and safety measures already being implemented in child care settings across the province.

Child care centres for non-school aged children will remain open, and emergency child care for school-aged children will end in approved PHU regions on January 22, 2021 as these elementary schools return to in-person learning.During this extended period of online learning, in areas where in-person elementary learning is suspended, emergency child care will continue for eligible families in regions subject to school closures, as identified by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

"At the heart of our continued efforts to protect against  the spread of COVID-19 in our communities is a firm commitment to return kids to school safely," said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. "Protecting our students, staff and their families is our top priority, and these additional measures build on our comprehensive plan to reopen schools and keep young children in child care safe."

Workplace Safety

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is taking additional steps to protect workers with the launch of the "Stay Safe All Day" campaign, focusing workplace inspections in areas of high transmission, including break rooms, and providing new educational materials to employers to 

promote safe behaviour before, during and after work.

Evidence gathered from COVID-19 related workplace inspections to date shows the vast majority of employers and workers are following COVID-19 safety requirements when working. However, when in a break room, a vehicle or not on the clock, there is a tendency to forget about the importance of wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and hand hygiene. 

As part of the "Stay Safe All Day" campaign, inspectors will use a data-driven approach to focus on workplaces with reported COVID-19 outbreaks, manufacturing businesses, warehouses, distribution centres, food processing operations, construction projects and publicly accessible workplaces deemed essential, such as grocery stores. The Ministry is also using a new data-sharing program, in conjunction with the Ministry of Long-Term Care and the Retirement Regulatory Authority, to focus onsite inspections of long-term-care homes and retirement homes. 

"We know the majority of businesses are operating safely and responsibly to protect their workers and customers. But as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, we all need to step up and take additional measures to stop the spread," said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. "This includes increasing our inspections to look at everything workers do both while on the job and throughout the workday." 

In the unfortunate event that an employee becomes infected with COVID-19, they may be entitled to federally funded paid sick leave of up to $500 a week for two weeks. Workers can also access Canada's Recovery Caregiver Benefit of up to $500 per week for up to 26 weeks if they are unable to work because they must care for their child under 12 years old or a family member who needs supervised care.

Over the summer, the government enacted a new regulatory amendment that put non-unionized employees on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave during the COVID-19 outbreak any time their hours of work are temporarily reduced by their employer due to COVID-19, ensuring businesses aren't forced to terminate employees after their ESA temporary layoff periods have expired. As part of the Safe Restart Agreement, the federal government is funding a temporary income support program that allows workers to take up to 10 days of leave related to COVID-19, preventing the risk of further spread in the workplace and allowing workers to focus on their health.


Quick Facts

  • The Government of Ontario declared its first provincial emergency in response to COVID-19 on March 17, 2020 which remained in effect until July 24, 2020 when the ROA was introduced. 47 emergency orders were made under the EMCPA.
  • An emergency declaration pursuant to s. 7.0.1 is terminated 14 days after being made and may be extended for up to a further 14 days by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. Thereafter, extensions require approval of the Legislature for additional periods of up to 28 days. Orders made during the declaration of emergency pursuant s. 7.0.2 (4) will automatically terminate after 14 days unless they are extended for additional periods of up to 14 days, while orders pursuant to s. 7.1 can be for a period of up to 90 days and renewed for additional periods of up to 90 days.
  • The orders currently in force under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA) remain in effect until January 20, 2021. Under the ROA, orders can be extended for up to 30 days at a time, and the government must continue to report on all order extensions to the Select Committee on Emergency Management Oversight.
  • A full list of emergency orders under the EMPCA as well as orders under the ROA can be found on the e-Laws website and at Ontario.ca/alert.
  • As of January 10, 2021, there have been 215,782 reported COVID-19 cases and 4,983 related deaths in Ontario.
  • Ontario has implemented the largest immunization plan in its history and to date, a total of over 130,000 doses have been administered provincewide.
  • Building on the efforts of the targeted testing in Phase 1, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health will work together with Ontario Health, PHUs and school boards to expand access to COVID-19 testing.

January 12, 2021

Ontario Provides Funding for Autism Training

TORONTO - The Ontario government is providing $7.5 million to help educators better support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The funding will be used to deliver online courses and training opportunities for teachers and educational assistants in all 72 of Ontario's district school boards. The training program will be delivered by the Geneva Centre for Autism.

"This investment underscores our commitment to improving the learning experience for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder," said Minister Lecce. "We recognize the difficulty this pandemic has imposed on parents. That is why we are enhancing this investment to further train our education staff to better support students on the autism spectrum and to foster a culture of respect, inclusion and opportunity in our schools." 

The training provided through the Geneva Centre for Autism will increase the understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder and Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) methods and approaches amongst educators. As students on the autism spectrum may have complex needs, this specialized training will help educators to support the educational, social, communication, and behavioural outcomes of those students. The training program will begin in 2021.

"The Sonderly autism training program, allows educators to apply evidence-based techniques to classroom settings, helping students with autism to succeed in their academic year," said Andrew Davis, Director - Sonderly, Geneva Centre for Autism.

"Our government is building a brand new Ontario Autism Program that offers a range of services aligned and coordinated with our education and health systems," said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. "The Geneva Centre for Autism will assist educators in better understanding and responding to the individual needs of children and youth on the autism spectrum."

Since 2005, Ontario has invested in Geneva Centre for Autism to implement a wide range of programs and training opportunities for educators. This includes training school board staff and schools teams to support implementation of ABA-based methods in classrooms and training over 10,000 Educational Assistants.  

In addition to online training, Ontario is investing in subsidies for educators to take the ASD-specific Additional Qualification course, and funding to build the capacity of school leaders to support students on the autism spectrum. In 2019-20, the Ontario government significantly increased investments to support students with ASD, with funding in 2020-21 directed towards increasing behaviour expertise and student supports in schools; funding to promote professional learning for educators; and funding to support after-school skills development programs.

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, was joined on Friday by Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Amy Fee, MPP for Kitchener South-Hespeler and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services (Children and Autism), Jeremy Roberts, MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean and Parliamentary Assistant for the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services (Community and Social Services) and Robin Martin, MPP for Eglinton Lawrence and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health to virtually share this news with the Geneva Centre. 

Quick Facts

  • More than 24,700 students identified as being on the autism spectrum are currently enrolled in the publicly funded school system, as reported by school boards in 2018-2019.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder is the fastest growing exceptionality in Ontario’s publicly funded school system, growing by 111 per cent over the past decade.
  • ABA therapy helps people on the autism spectrum develop new life skills, communications skills and social skills.
  • In 2020-21, the ministry is providing approximately $31.1 million in funding to school boards for the Behaviour Expertise Amount. This provides funding to hire professional staff at the board level who have expertise in ABA, as well as offer training opportunities to build school board capacity in ABA.

January 11, 2021

Ontario Extends Teacher-Led Online Learning Until January 25 to Keep Students and Staff Safe in Southern Ontario

TORONTO — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate throughout the province, the Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, is extending certain measures to keep students, education staff, and residents of Northern Ontario safe. This includes extending online teacher-led learning until January 25, 2021 for elementary school students in the 27 Southern Ontario public health unit regions and extending the shutdown in Northern Ontario for another 14 days, aligning with the shutdown period in Southern Ontario.

These time-limited measures are being taken to help ensure that all Ontarians stay at home as much as possible to minimize transmission of the virus and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, while at the same time being responsive to the fact that Northern Ontario students are not able to learn at home as effectively due to limited access to reliable Internet service.

"With the public health trends where they are across the province, our priority remains keeping students, teachers, school staff, and all Ontarians safe," said Premier Ford. "That's why we're extending the remote learning period for students in Southern Ontario and the shutdown period for Northern Ontario, while continuing to provide financial relief for parents through the Support for Learners program as well as electricity rate relief for all time-of-use customers. We have to get the numbers down and today's measures will help us continue to stop the spread of this deadly virus."

Targeted testing done among students and staff in December 2020 confirmed that schools are not a significant source of transmission. However, with students having been at home for several weeks and with reports of concerning behaviour over the holidays, the positivity rate among school-aged children has increased sharply. Most troubling, the positivity rate for kids aged 12-13 years old increased from 5.44 per cent in late November, early December to nearly 20 per cent in early January.

In response to increasing community transmission, in-person learning will be deferred to January 25, 2021 in Southern Ontario, which aligns with the planned return of in-person learning for secondary school students in these regions. Elementary students and secondary students in the seven Northern Ontario public health unit regions will proceed with returning to in-person learning on January 11, 2021.

Returning students to school now with community transmission and positivity rates so high risks losing the hard-fought progress made in keeping schools and students safe. The Ministry of Education will continue to act on the best advice of medical and health experts to ensure that students in Northern Ontario are able to return to school safely and, when safe to do so, students in Southern Ontario as well.

The government's comprehensive plan of more than $1.3 billion to protect students and promote safe learning environments will continue to be in place to support students and staff. The plan includes investments in personal protective equipment, improved ventilation, money to support the hiring of additional staff, and the introduction of asymptomatic testing to screen against COVID-19.

"I have and remain firmly committed to getting students back into class as soon as possible - there is nothing more important. However, the best medical and scientific experts have been clear: while schools have been safe places for kids, the sharp rise in community transmission puts that progress and Ontario families at risk," said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. "During this time, students will remain engaged in live teacher-led online learning with access to enhanced mental health and technology supports."  

In the nearly two weeks since Ontario was moved into a Provincewide Shutdown, trends in key public health indicators have continued to worsen in both Northern and Southern Ontario, including concerning trends in health system capacity, most notably in hospitals. Trends show increasing transmission in many Northern Ontario public health regions, with only one region showing a sustained low level of transmission. In addition, with the increased risk of transmission due to the confirmed presence of the COVID-19 UK variant in the province, the seven public health unit regions in Northern Ontario will remain in the shutdown until at least January 23, 2021. The impacts of these time-limited measures throughout the province will be evaluated after 14 days to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended.

"In the last two weeks, we have seen concerning trends at home and abroad, as well as increased community transmission during the holidays, indicating that it is not yet the time to begin easing public health and workplace safety measures," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "While extending the shutdown in Northern Ontario is not the news many wanted to hear, we must work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, protect hospital capacity, and save lives."

The Chief Medical Officer of Health will continue to consult with experts, review data, and provide advice to government on the appropriate and effective measures that are needed to protect the health of Ontarians. This will include an assessment of how and when it is safe to exit the Provincewide Shutdown and move public health unit regions back into the COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open, including how a revised approach for the safe reopening of retail may be operationalized.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is crucial that all Ontarians continue to follow all public health and workplace safety measures," said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health. "To help stop the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard health system capacity, Ontarians are strongly urged to stay at home, limit trips outside of their households for essential reasons only and must not gather with individuals outside of the people they live with."

To support families during this extended school closure, child care centres, and home-based child care services will remain open. Ontario is also expanding eligibility for the Ministry of Education's targeted emergency child care program for a broader number of frontline health and safety workers.

In order to continue to support remote learning, the ministry has recommended that a portion of the second half of federal funding, an additional $80 million investment, will be provided for additional technological devices, such as laptops and tablets, to support school boards in procuring about 160,000 additional devices province-wide.

Financial support is also available for families during this temporary remote learning period through the Support for Learners program. Starting on January 11, 2021, an expanded Support for Learners program is providing $200 for each child or youth up to Grade 12 and $250 for each child or youth up to age 21 with special needs. Applications will be open until February 8, 2021.

For those requiring additional support during this challenging period, Ontario is providing an additional $10 million in support of student mental health, including funding for Kids Help Phone to support children and youth across the province. School Mental Health Ontario will be providing mental health resources and strategies to support students during this period.


Quick Facts

  • Since the Provincewide Shutdown was implemented on December 26, 2020, Northern Ontario has seen an additional 3 hospitalizations for COVID-19, and an additional 9 hospitalizations since September 1 (at which time there were zero). During this period of time Northern Ontario has also seen 1 additional COVID-19 patient admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) and has seen an additional 4 ICU admissions since September 1 (at which time there were zero).
  • Northern Ontario currently has 9 COVID-19 patients requiring acute care, 4 patients in ICU, with 2 on a ventilator. Acute hospital occupancy (total patients) in Algoma Public Health and Public Health Sudbury & Districts are at over 90 per cent.
  • Strict health and safety measures are in place for Ontario’s childcare and early years settings to keep children safe – and ready to learn and thrive. These measures include daily screening, contact tracing, masks, eye protection, proper hand hygiene, physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of toys, equipment and centres.
  • To support small businesses impacted by these necessary public health measures, the government introduced the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to eligible small business owners to help navigate this challenging period.
  • In November, the government launched a program to provide rebates to offset fixed costs such as property tax and energy bills for businesses that are required to shut down or significantly restrict services due to provincial public health measures. These Property Tax and Energy Cost Rebates will continue to be available for businesses impacted by the Provincewide Shutdown and earlier restrictions. Business can apply for the rebates here.
  • If you have questions about what will be open or impacts to your business or employment, call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms compatible with COVID-19, or if you have been advised of exposure by your local public health unit or through the COVID Alert App. Visit Ontario.ca/covidtest to find the nearest testing location.
  • To find the right supports, visit COVID-19: Support for People, which has information about the many available and free mental health services and supports.
  • To stay safe, you can download the COVID Alert App free from the Apple and Google Play app stores.

January 08, 2021

Ontario Releases Ethical Framework for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

TORONTO — The Ontario government has released an Ethical Framework for COVID-19 vaccine distribution which was developed in partnership with the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force to guide further vaccine prioritization and distribution across the province. The province continues to vaccinate vulnerable populations and those who care for them through Phase One of its three-phase implementation plan as additional vaccines become available.

Details were provided today by COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force members Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario's Chief Coroner and Coordinator, Provincial Outbreak Response, and Dr. Maxwell Smith, bioethicist and assistant professor at Western University.

"This ethical framework is a clear demonstration of our commitment to Ontarians to be transparent," said General Rick Hillier (retired), Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force. "We know that people are eager to get vaccinated and this framework helps ensure that we do it in an ethical, effective and compassionate way."

Phase One of Ontario's three-phase vaccine implementation plan began on December 15, 2020 at two hospital sites, and increased to 17 additional sites the following week, with the delivery of 90,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses. With Health Canada's recent approval of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, the province can expect about 50,000 additional doses before the end of the month.

"One of the most important aims of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force since its beginning has been to ensure that the most promising vaccines are distributed to Ontarians safely, fairly and as quickly as possible," said Dr. Huyer. "Our Ethical Framework will support the prioritization of vaccines in a way that enhances confidence and trust in Ontario's COVID-19 immunization program."

The Ethical Framework includes the following principles to guide COVID-19 vaccine distribution:

 

  • Minimize harms and maximize benefits, to reduce overall illness and death related to COVID-19, protect those at greatest risk of serious illness and death due to biological, social, geographical and occupational factors, protect critical infrastructure, and promote social and economic well-being;

 

 

  • Equity in the distribution of vaccines without bias or discrimination, to reduce disparities in illness and death related to COVID-19, and ensuring benefits for groups experiencing greater burdens from the COVID-19 pandemic;

 

 

  • Fairness, to ensure that every individual within equally prioritized groups has the same opportunity to be vaccinated, and to ensure inclusive, consistent processes that are tailored to unique needs of Ontario's many and varied communities when making decisions about vaccine prioritization;

 

 

  • Transparency, to ensure the principles and rationale, decision-making processes and plans for COVID-19 prioritization are clear, understandable and communicated to the public;

 

 

  • Legitimacy, making decisions based on the best available scientific evidence, shared values and input from affected parties including those historically underrepresented, to ensure decisions have the intended impact, and to include participation of affected parties in the creation and review of decisions and decision-making processes; and

 

 

  • Public trust, to ensure decisions and decision-making processes are informed by these principles to advance confidence and trust in Ontario's COVID-19 immunization program.

 

"The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force developed this framework to ensure that its feedback and recommendations are consistently guided by fundamentally important ethical values like equity, fairness and transparency," said Dr. Smith. "We are continuing to ensure that diverse perspectives are captured in our feedback and recommendations, so that all Ontarians who want to get vaccinated against this deadly virus are accounted for. Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases and are our best defense to help us get back to our normal lives."

While the Health Canada approval and rollout of two vaccines represent progress in the fight against COVID-19, Ontarians are reminded that staying home and following public health guidelines is currently the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. This includes limiting trips outside the home except for essential purposes, practicing physical distancing of at least two metres when going out, wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge or when it is mandatory to do so, and washing your hands frequently and thoroughly.


Quick Facts

  • Ontario has launched a new webpage detailing the province’s three-phase immunization program, information on COVID-19 vaccines, safety measures and approval standards, as well as daily updates on the number of Ontarians vaccinated.
  • The province’s decision to identify key populations to receive the vaccine first is based on the advice of medical experts and ethicists, and recommended by the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force and aligned with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s recommendations.
  • On December 9, 2020, Health Canada approved the first COVID-19 vaccine in Canada, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, and on December 23, 2020 approved the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Moderna. Health Canada approved the vaccines after independent and thorough scientific reviews for safety, effectiveness and quality. Health Canada will continue to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. To date, more than 19,000 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Ontario.
  • The province will shift to Phase Two of its vaccination implementation plan, which is expected to begin later in the winter of 2021, when more vaccines become available to Ontario. During Phase Two vaccinations will continue for health care workers, long-term care homes, retirement homes, home care patients with chronic conditions, and additional First Nation communities and Indigenous populations, including Métis and Inuit individuals. The task force will use the Ethical Framework and the best available data to identify further priority populations within this phase, based on available vaccine supply.
  • Ontario will enter Phase Three when vaccines are more widely available for everyone who wishes to be immunized. Prioritization within this group will be grounded in the ethical framework, be data driven and informed by available vaccine supply. While vaccines will not be mandated, people will be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated during this phase.
  • To help everyone stay safe, download the COVID Alert app. It is free to use and is available from the Apple and Google Play app stores. This app lets users know if they may have been exposed to the others who are infected with the virus.

January 08, 2021

Province Supports Kawartha Downs and Horse Racing Industry During COVID-19

Province Supports Kawartha Downs and Horse Racing Industry During COVID-19

Province Supports Kawartha Downs and Horse Racing Industry During COVID-19

The Ontario Government is providing further investments to support a strong and stable horse racing industry during these challenging times.

Amendments have been made to the Long-Term Funding Agreement (LTFA) for the horse racing industry in order to assist in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. These amendments will also ensure continued support for local employment and for Ontario’s fifteen racetracks until 2026, including Kawartha Downs.

“Our government’s commitment to building and supporting a sustainable racing industry is crucial during these uncertain times,” said Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock. “The horse racing industry is an important part of our rural economies and that is why we will continue to focus on recovery by providing financial support through the LTFA.”

The LTFA came into effect last year and is providing stable financial support for racetracks, horsepeople and breeders over a 19-year period. The amendments to the LTFA recognize the impact of the pandemic on the industry and will maintain support for all fifteen racetracks in communities across the province until 2026.

Changes to the Long-Term Funding Agreement (LTFA) for horse racing will give the industry time to recover from the pandemic, preserve local employment, and work towards a new 3-year strategic plan.

The amendments to the LTFA were approved by all four parties to the LTFA – OLG, Ontario Racing (OR), Ontario Racing Management and Woodbine Entertainment Group. The Board of OR includes representatives of racetracks, horsepeople and breeders of thoroughbred, standardbred and quarter horses.

January 07, 2021