News

Canada and Ontario Take Steps to Further Protect Farm Workers

WOODSTOCK — The governments of Canada and Ontario are investing up to $2.25 million to help farmers better protect employees and ensure the continued supply of healthy food products for consumers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership), the federal and provincial governments are launching the second intake of the Agri-food Workplace Protection Program to help farmers enhance health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The funding will be used for initiatives like purchasing personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and redesigning workstations.

Support is also available for farmers who experience unexpected costs for housing and transportation as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak among on-farm employees.

"We care deeply about the well being of farmers and are supporting the investments already being made on farms to keep employees safe," said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. "This additional support will help Ontario farmers quickly adopt new on-farm measures and practices that follow the best public health guidance, so they can continue to focus on their critical work of feeding Canadians."

"Our farmers and their hard-working employees play a critical role in keeping our food supply chain strong, providing us with fresh, high-quality and nutritious food," said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. "Today's announcement is an important step in keeping our essential workers healthy and safe during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond."

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is now accepting applications and will expedite the approval process to help support workplace health and safety in the agri-food sector. Eligible applications will be received and assessed on a continuous basis, while funding is available.

Today's announcement is in addition to the $2.25 million investment announced last week to help provincially-licensed meat processors implement COVID-19 health and safety measures.

The Agri-food Workplace Protection Program builds on previous actions taken by the federal and provincial government to support the agri-food sector. This includes $1 million to help Ontario farmers, food processors and other agri-food supply chain partners address labour shortages, as well as $2.5 million to improve e-business opportunities for Ontario's agri-food sector.

Since June 2018, both the federal and provincial governments have committed support to approximately 2,500 projects through the Partnership to help eligible Ontario farmers, processors, businesses and sector organizations innovate and grow.

Quick Facts

  • More information about this targeted intake and other cost-share funding opportunities can be found online at: http://omafra.gov.on.ca/english/cap/index.htm or by calling 1-877-424-1300.
  • OMAFRA delivers cost-share funding for the Agri-food Workplace and Protection Program. The Partnership is a five-year, $3-billion commitment by Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments to support Canada's agri-food and agri-products sectors.
  • The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development recently released safety guidelines for employers to help protect workers, customers, and the general public from COVID-19.
  • Health and Safety inspectors are now working with employers in the agri-food sector to help ensure the safety of employees, including temporary foreign workers.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides information on COVID-19 for industry.

Additional Resources

May 14, 2020

Ontario Making Prescription Drugs More Affordable During COVID-19

TORONTO — The Ontario government is making the cost of prescription drugs more affordable. Effective today, people using the Ontario Drug Benefit Program will not be required to pay any co-payment until July 1, 2020 for any prescription of 30+ days that is now being dispensed in installments. In addition, existing and new Trillium Drug Program households can apply for an income reassessment to help reduce the financial burden for families during the outbreak.

"During these unprecedented times, our government is doing everything we can to provide additional relief for vulnerable people impacted by COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "That's why we are taking action to help ensure Ontarians continue to have access to the prescription drugs they need, without it being a source of stress or financial burden during the outbreak."  

If a Trillium Drug Program household has experienced an income change in 2019 or 2020 of 10 per cent or more compared to their 2018 income, they can apply to have their deductible recalculated  by completing and submitting the Annual Deductible Re-Assessment Form. Eligible households who are not currently enrolled in the Trillium Drug Program and have high prescription costs can also complete and submit an application and re-assessment form by e-mail or fax.

Quick Facts

  • To ensure there is an adequate supply of medications in the province during COVID-19, pharmacists and physicians are dispensing 30-days or less of medication at a time, with some exceptions.
  • Ontarians should call their pharmacy within 10 days before the end of their prescription for a refill and ask about delivery options if they can’t pick up the medicine themselves.

May 13, 2020

Ontario Further Supports Victims of Gender-Based Violence and Human Trafficking during COVID-19

TORONTO - Today, Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues released the following statement regarding new measures to support people experiencing or at risk of sexual assault, gender-based violence and human trafficking during COVID-19:

"May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month, an important time to recognize those on the frontlines who are working each and every day to prevent sexual assault, gender-based violence and human trafficking. These professionals are dedicated and compassionate individuals who give selflessly to support those most in need.

Clearly, these extraordinary times are creating extraordinary challenges. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak there has been an increased risk of gender-based violence for many individuals who have been staying home and practicing physical distancing for weeks now.

It is crucial that Ontarians who have experienced or are at risk of sexual assault, gender-based violence or human trafficking have continued access to counselling and other critical services they need to stay safe, heal and rebuild their lives.

To further support those who need and rely on these services, our government is investing $1 million to help frontline agencies adapt to remote service delivery and ensure continued operation during COVID-19.

This funding will assist counselling service providers like the Assaulted Women's Helpline, who also work the Seniors Safety Line, which will receive $200,000 to develop text and online chat platforms, set up toll-free lines, provide on-demand interpreter services and hire additional staff to respond to increased call volume.

Along with the $40 million relief fund for residential service providers and emergency funding for victim services we have already provided, this response fund will ensure a range of critical supports remain available at this time. This is in addition to our government's large investment of $148 million in relief funding to ensure municipalities and social service providers can better respond to COVID-19.

Together with our partners across Ontario, our government remains committed to preventing sexual assault, gender-based violence and human trafficking, as well as supporting victims, survivors and those at risk of these crimes. Again, I would like to express my deep appreciation to those on the frontlines who are working tirelessly to ensure that people experiencing sexual and gender-based violence receive the support they need in this uncertain and difficult time."

May 13, 2020

Declaration of Emergency Extended While Ontario Gradually Reopens the Economy

TORONTO — The Ontario government is extending the Declaration of Emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. This additional time will ensure the province has the necessary tools and health care capacity to contain COVID-19, while gradually reopening businesses, services, and amenities safely.

Passed during a special sitting of the Ontario Legislature today, the Declaration of Emergency has been extended until June 2. The declaration will allow Ontario to continue to enforce current emergency orders, such as restricting retirement and long-term care home employees from working in more than one facility and prohibiting events and gatherings of more than five people. Since the emergency was first declared on March 17, the government has taken over 150 actions to help protect individuals, families, and businesses from the impacts of COVID-19.

A full list of emergency orders can be found on the e-Laws website, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

"We are making steady progress to flatten the curve and get more people back to work safely, including our legislators, but we still have far to go in defeating COVID-19," said Premier Ford. "Extending the declaration of emergency will allow us to continue to take action to protect Ontarians, while carefully and cautiously reopening more parts of our economy."

The House also passed the COVID-19 Response and Reforms to Modernize Ontario Act, 2020, which will help people conduct business while practising physical distancing by:

  • Providing authority to address in-person attendance rules for school board trustees' meetings in regulation. This would provide the flexibility in certain emergency situations to allow trustees to meet virtually during school closures;
  • Enabling corporations to call and hold meetings virtually, as applicable, and extending the time period in which annual meetings must be held in specific circumstances;
  • Allowing designations of a beneficiary to be provided electronically for Retirement Savings Plans, Retirement Income Funds, Locked-in Retirement Accounts, Life Income Funds and Tax-Free Savings Accounts;
  • Allowing electronic filing of business registration documents, and the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services to accept copies of business registration documents and e-signatures;
  • Allowing for regulations to set out the parameters for remotely commissioning or notarizing a document;
  • Extending, on a one-time basis for 2020, the legislated four-year period during which a Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) election is mandated to be held to give more time to support remote voting.

The Expenditure Estimates for the 2020-21 fiscal year were also tabled in the Legislature. This includes program spending to support the $17 billion announced as part of Ontario's Action Plan 2020: Responding to COVID-19 to ensure the province's health care system, communities, and economy are better positioned to weather challenges posed by the pandemic.

"Today's legislation is just one step further in the fight against COVID-19," said Government House Leader Paul Calandra. "We are all eager to reopen the economy and return to work, while physical distancing remains an important reality. Today's legislation helps to modernize some of our economic and community activity and make many necessary interactions that much easier and safer."

Additional Resources

May 12, 2020

Ontario Opening Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves

TORONTO — The Ontario government is opening provincial parks and conservation reserves for limited day-use access. The first areas will open on Monday May 11, 2020, with the remaining areas opening on Friday May 15, 2020. At this time, recreational activities will be limited to walking, hiking, biking and birdwatching. Day visitors will also be able to access all parks and conservation reserves for free until the end of the month.  

The announcement was made today by Premier Doug Ford, Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

"As we continue to make progress in our fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, we are carefully and cautiously reopening the province, starting with certain businesses and retailers, and now our provincial parks and conservation reserves," said Premier Ford. "I encourage people to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but please do so in a responsible way. Practise physical distancing and follow the rules set out by health care officials to stop the spread of this virus."

On Monday, 520 provincial parks and conservation reserves across the province will open, and the remaining 115 will open on the following Friday for limited day-use activities. At this time, camping and other activities are not permitted at any provincial park or conservation reserve. All buildings and facilities including washrooms, water taps, campgrounds, backcountry campsites, roofed accommodations, playgrounds, and beaches continue to be closed.

"People are eager to enjoy the warmer weather, stretch their legs and reconnect with nature," said Minister Yurek. "In consultation with our health experts, we're working to slowly phase-in the opening of Ontario Parks in a measured way to ensure the health and safety of visitors and staff. People should take note that not all amenities will be open and plan accordingly."

Over the next several weeks, Ontario Parks' staff will be conducting critical maintenance and other parks start-up procedures, so that more recreational activities and facilities will be available when it is safe to do so.

Before planning your trip, please visit www.ontarioparks.com/park-locator to check the status of your local provincial park.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario Parks manages 340 provincial parks and 295 conservation reserves covering over nine million hectares of land in the province.
  • In 2019, Ontario Parks received more than 10 million visits.

Additional Resources

May 09, 2020

Kawartha Lakes and Dysart et al receive more than $86,000 to support road and bridge repairs

Lindsay —Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock announces provincial funding to support first step in design of rehabilitation of road and bridge repairs for local municipalities.

As part of the provinces’ Connecting Links program, Kawartha Lakes will receive funding in the amount of $63,563 towards the detailed design for resurfacing of King Street and reconstruction of King Street in downtown Omemee.  Dysart et al, will also received $22,530 in funding towards the detailed design for the rehabilitation of the Drag River Bridge.

“This provincial funding supports our local municipalities to ensure the ongoing safety of the roads and bridges our communities need and depend on,” said Laurie Scott.  “It is the first step in designing the continued rehabilitation of our important local infrastructure, which will hopefully pave the way for additional building to help connect people to the places they work, and to one another.”

These local communities are among the 24 municipalities across the province receiving $30 million in funding through the 2020-21 Connecting Links program that helps build, repair or replace municipal roads and bridges that connect two ends of a provincial highway through a community or to a border crossing.

“We understand that the maintenance and repair costs of roads and bridges places a heavy burden on our municipal partners,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. “That is why we continue to support our local communities with investments that will keep families safe, goods moving, and drive economic growth and job creation.”

Connecting Link projects are reviewed based on technical need and safety considerations such as the condition of the connecting link bridge and road, need for repair in the near term and cost effectiveness. Eligible municipalities are also encouraged to apply for funding for the 2021-22 Connecting Links Program, which will be open to applications later this year.

Quick Facts

·     The Connecting Links program is delivered through the Ministry of Transportation. The funding covers up to 90 per cent of eligible project costs, to a maximum of $3 million. Eligible costs include the design, construction, renewal, rehabilitation and replacement of connecting links.

·     In Ontario, there are a total of 352 kilometres of connecting links, with 70 bridges in 77 municipalities.

Media Contacts

Christine Bujold, Press Secretary

(t) 416.454.1782

Christine.bujold@ontario.ca

May 08, 2020

Ontario Further Eases Restrictions on Retail Stores and Essential Construction During COVID-19

TORONTO ― The Ontario government is allowing all retail stores with a street entrance to provide curbside pickup and delivery, as well as in-store payment and purchases at garden centres, nurseries, hardware stores and safety supply stores. The business owners should review the health and safety guidelines developed by the province and its health and safety association partners.

Today's announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford, Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

"We haven't been sitting on our hands. Whether it's releasing our framework for reopening or putting in place the workplace safety guidelines needed to help businesses adapt to the new environment, we've been laying the groundwork for the safe, measured, and gradual reopening of our province," said Premier Ford. "As the trends improve, we can move forward with reopening more and more of our economy and getting people back to work."

As early as Friday, May 8 at 12:01 a.m., garden centres and nurseries will be able to open for in-store payment and purchases, operating under the same guidelines as grocery stores and pharmacies. Hardware stores and safety supply stores will be permitted to open for in-store payment and purchases as soon as 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 9. On Monday, May 11 at 12:01 a.m., retail stores with a street entrance can begin offering curbside pickup and delivery, in accordance with the Ministry of Health's Guidance Document for Essential Workplaces and occupational health and safety requirements.

In addition to easing restrictions on retail, the government is also expanding essential construction to allow below-grade multi-unit residential construction projects like apartments and condominiums to begin and existing above-grade projects to continue. This will help clear the way for the housing and jobs our economy will need to support economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Businesses must follow public health measures and should review the workplace safety guidelines, such as promoting physical distancing and frequent handwashing, sanitizing surfaces, installing physical barriers, staggering shifts, and using contactless payment options to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"It's due to the progress we have made collectively to slow the spread of COVID-19 that we are able to see a gradual easing of restrictions, allowing certain businesses to reopen safely," said Minister Fedeli. "During this period, we must move cautiously and strike the right balance between getting people back to work and preventing further outbreaks. Protecting the safety of staff, customers and the general public is our number one priority."

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, in partnership with Ontario's health and safety associations, has released over 60 sector-specific health and safety guidelines, including guidelines for curbside pickup and delivery services. Business owners should review the guidelines and consult with local public health officials to ensure they have the information they need to protect workers, customers and the general public as the province prepares for the gradual reopening of the economy.

"Small businesses across Ontario have done their part to help slow the spread of COVID-19," said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. "I encourage all business owners to learn the new health and safety guidelines, so when it comes time to reopen you will be prepared to hit the ground running and provide the services we all count on every day."

The government's Framework for Reopening our Province, which was released on April 27, 2020, includes guiding principles for the safe, gradual reopening of businesses, services and public spaces, and the criteria Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts are using to advise the government on the loosening of public health measures, including emergency orders.

"The health and safety of every Ontarian will always be our top priority as we continue planning for the next phase of our fight against COVID-19," said Minister Elliott. "Together, each of us have put in tremendous effort to stop the spread, and because of these collective efforts we have made tangible progress. More than ever, we need to continue practicing physical distancing while we slowly and carefully reopen Ontario's economy."

Additional Resources

May 06, 2020

Ontario Extends Electricity Rate Relief During COVID-19

TORONTO — The Ontario government is extending emergency electricity rate relief to families, farms and small businesses until May 31, 2020 during the COVID-19 outbreak. Customers who pay time-of-use electricity rates will continue to be billed at the lowest price, known as the off-peak price, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This electricity rate relief, initially provided for a 45-day period starting on March 24, 2020, has been extended by an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. The rate relief is intended to be in place for an additional 24 days.  

"During this extraordinary period, many people are struggling to pay the bills as they do the right thing by staying at home, as well as our farmers and those whose businesses have closed or suffered reduced customer traffic," said Premier Doug Ford. "Although we are making progress in our fight against this COVID-19 outbreak, we are not out of the woods yet. The extension of this electricity rate relief will leave more money in people's pockets until businesses can start to reopen and people can get back to work."

On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario government is also extending all emergency orders that have been put in place to-date under s.7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until May 19, 2020. The emergency orders include:

 

Quick Facts

  • The Government of Ontario declared a provincial emergency on March 17, 2020 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. This declaration of emergency was last extended on April 14, 2020 and is currently in effect until May 12, 2020.
  • There are approximately five million residential consumers, farms and some small businesses billed using time-of-use (TOU) electricity prices under the Regulated Price Plan.
  • The current off-peak Time of Use electricity rate is 10.1 cents per kilowatt hour for Regulated Price Plan customers.

Additional Resources

May 06, 2020

Ontario Significantly Increases Daily Lab Testing

TORONTO — Ontario has significantly increased testing and contact tracing capacity, allowing health experts to identify cases of COVID-19 and support efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the community, long-term care homes, and other congregate settings. In partnership with Ontario Health, Public Health Ontario, local public health units, and hospital and community laboratories, the Ontario government has developed an integrated laboratory system which has established the province as a national leader in daily testing volumes per capita.

"We've been working around the clock to establish a vast and robust testing regime, which is critical in our fight against this deadly virus," said Premier Ford. "We're now exceeding our target of 16,000 tests a day, with many of those tests aimed at protecting our long-term care residents and staff. This important milestone provides a strong foundation for gradually reopening our economy and getting people back to work, while protecting the health and safety of all Ontarians."

Testing is being carried out in hospitals, long-term care homes, group homes, shelters, emergency child care centres, and other congregate settings. Once test samples are collected and received from frontline staff, patients, residents and children, labs are providing test results generally within 24 to 48 hours. On May 2, 2020, the province released updated guidance to the health sector to ensure consistency across the province, and to help guide decision-making on the testing of priority population groups.

To date, Ontario has conducted over 342,000 tests, with testing results being made available to patients through the user-friendly online portal. The portal was developed to help ease pressure on frontline workers, allowing them to focus their efforts on combating COVID-19.

"Thanks to the joint efforts of this diverse group of health experts we have dramatically expanded the scale and scope of COVID-19 testing provincewide and have emerged as a national leader," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "We have met and exceeded our testing goals, which is critical to containing and limiting the spread of this new virus, both in our communities and in long-term care homes and other shared living spaces."

The new integrated laboratory system will support the province's health care system and laboratory network far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The provincewide testing network consists of more than 20 organizations and is coordinating and leveraging the diverse expertise located throughout the province. This is being achieved through daily check-ins and processes that address operational needs, such as:

  • Levels of supplies, expected supply consumption per day, inventory replenishment and other supply chain issues
  • Equipment information
  • Technical capacity and advances
  • Test turn-around times and the shifting of test samples to laboratories that have spare processing capacity
  • Ongoing scientific and technical review of test performance
  • Alternative approaches to processing
  • Emerging technology

Ontario has also helped expand the capacity of public health units to conduct contact tracing and case management. Ontario's Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 provided $100 million in additional investments for public health units to support COVID-19 monitoring and testing, including funding to support enhanced contact tracing. This funding enables public health units to hire more personnel.

In addition, Ontario previously issued an emergency order to provide public health units the authority and flexibility they need to make staffing decisions that support their ongoing efforts to contain the virus. With the help of volunteers, public health units have been able to expand their capacity to conduct case and contact management ― both of which are critical to stopping the spread of the virus. These include the thousands of retired nurses and medical students who have signed up through the province's website.

Quick Facts

  • On April 10, 2020, the province committed to expanding its testing capacity by doubling the number of tests processed each day to 8,000 by April 15, 2020 and 14,000 by April 29, 2020.
  • Within 48 hours of implementation, the province’s COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes significantly increased testing of long-term care staff and residents.
  • The province’s COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People further expanded testing of staff and clients at group homes, homeless shelters, and other congregate settings.
  • Ontario has a provincewide network of 23 laboratory sites working in coordination to further increase capacity and test turn-around times for COVID-19 testing.
  • Ontario is now a leader in Canada in daily testing volumes per capita. Recent expansion of testing has the province’s per capita testing ahead of Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec.

Additional Resources

May 04, 2020

Ontario Continues to Support Mental Health Needs During COVID-19

Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues, released the following statement to acknowledge Mental Health Week:

"During this unprecedented time in Ontario, many people are facing great challenges as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. During Mental Health Week this year, we are dedicated to raising awareness around an issue that affects over one million Ontarians each year.

Our government recognizes many Ontarians are experiencing increased anxiety because of COVID-19 and are worried about their health, the health of their family and friends, and the future of their livelihoods and are feeling anxious in physical isolation. We want to help those who need support and have taken immediate action to ensure everyone can access the high-quality care they expect and deserve.

Recently, our government announced up to $12 million in emergency funding to immediately expand online and virtual mental health supports. This brings additional access to care for people across the province and specific services to our frontline heroes.

We know maintaining physical distancing can be stressful for many people across the province. Just as it is critical that Ontarians heed the advice of our public health experts to stay at home and maintain safe physical distancing, it is critical that we continue providing everyone with the supports they need to stay both physically and mentally healthy. Ontario's community mental health and addictions sector is working hard every single day to continue delivering services to people in need. We thank them all for their efforts and we will continue working collaboratively with them to identify further opportunities for investments to ensure all Ontarians have access to supports.

This week also marks Maternal Mental Health Week and Children's Mental Health Week, which coincides with National Child and Youth Mental Health Day on May 7. The mental health of all children and youth in Ontario is of great importance. That is why we have recently expanded programs, such as BounceBack, and have provided emergency funding to Kids Help Phone, to further support children and youth who are struggling with their mental health.

Ontario also launched a Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario's Mental Health and Addictions System, which provides a clear path forward toward offering Ontarians easier access to standardized, high-quality care and supports in communities across the province. As we implement this plan, we will continue listening and collaborating with our partners to ensure it works for all Ontarians.

We are committed to creating an Ontario where everyone is fully supported in their journey toward mental wellness. While you are staying home, we urge you to stay in touch with each other, and to reach out for help when you need it and to those who may be struggling. Even if we cannot be close physically, we are all in this together."

May 04, 2020