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TORONTO – Steven Del Duca, Ontario Liberal Party Leader, made the following statement:
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis confronting us, Ontario families had been working hard and playing by the rules. And then they were sideswiped by this terrible virus. They need their government to be there for them and I believe it’s my responsibility to make sure that the Ontario government rises to the occasion to do what it can to support Ontario families and businesses.
There are three priorities through which I am measuring the effectiveness of today’s economic update from the Ontario government. And those are:
- The health and safety of Ontarians;
- The economic security of Ontarians in the short and medium-term;
- The recovery of the Ontario economy so that it can once again create the jobs and opportunities our families are counting on.
From the very beginning, I have been determined to work with the government, collaboratively, to help the people we are honoured to serve. And that approach will continue as we are prepared to support them in the Legislature today.
But again, I believe that it is my responsibility to continue to provide constructive advice to the government and I ask the Premier to seriously consider the recommendations that are contained below.
Today’s package includes $75 million for PPE – we believe this amount should be doubled immediately. Nurses, Doctors and Personal Support Workers should be confident in their ability to stay healthy.
The announcement also includes new money for testing but again, we must make sure this is rapidly deployed to have a real outcome. The criteria for testing must be broadened so that more Ontarians can be tested. We understand community spread in Ontario is expanding and we must have the best possible data to address the crisis.
As I’ve been having conversations with Ontarians what’s been clear to me is that we need to make significant investments in mental health. Today’s package does not specifically address that – I hope the government will announce measures on mental health as soon as is possible to dramatically scale up the amount we invest in mental healthcare and support.
On the economic front, it appears that most of what’s been announced today is in the form of deferrals, which suggests that businesses will be required to pay what they owe in 6 months. Provincial payroll charges, like EHT and WSIB premiums, should be suspended for 6 months, and this measure should be retroactive to January 1st, 2020.
I understand that the province may be waiting to see what the federal government does next – but what we can’t afford is to stand still while workers are laid off, rents are due, and business owners are reeling.
I recently called on the government to match the federal government’s wage subsidy, dollar for dollar, and I believe that this should be seriously considered. We know that if we do nothing, more workers will soon find themselves laid-off.
Above all, let’s not forget that the health and safety of Ontarians must come first. Earlier today, I called on the government to re-evaluate its exemption of the construction industry from Ontario’s shut down.
It’s clear that recent developments, including news that construction workers on the Crosstown LRT have tested positive for COVID-19, now require stronger action on the part of the government.
As recently as this morning, I learned that Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer had not yet provided clear guidelines to the industry relating to the minimum standards required for the health and safety of workers in response to this crisis. It is unclear when those guidelines will be provided.
A minimum one-week pause would give the industry the time to mobilize to guarantee that the new guidelines and standards are met and would help to protect workers and their families.
This has been a trying time for Ontarians. As the father of two daughters I am reminded every day of the challenges that parents across the province face. I think above all, we need the government to provide clarity about the school year so that parents, including myself, can begin planning how best to steer our children’s education.
This crisis is going to test us in a way that we’ve never been tested before. What we need now is for the provincial government to provide the care that Ontarians need and deserve.
When we are at the other end of this there will be time to think and reflect about what kind of healthcare system we want in Ontario and to ensure that adequate funding is in place to protect and enhance it. We should make sure at the time that our health system is able to hire more frontline doctors, nurses and personal support workers – and not reduce these numbers due to a lack of funding.
Ontario is resilient and I know collectively we can rise to this challenge. But we must do more – much more, and fast to defeat COVID-19.