From Steven Newsletter: April 24

Dear Friends,

I hope you and your family are well and staying safe.

Fighting this virus is hard – nothing like this has ever happened before – and all of you have made sacrifices as we work to beat this pandemic.

Some of you are working from home. Some of you are risking your health on the front lines. Some of you are caring for a loved one who’s sick. And some of you have lost your jobs.

I’m proud of the discipline, resilience and community spirit that the people of our province have shown as we work together to end COVID-19.

I know that the longer this goes on, the harder this becomes. And because this is unprecedented, we aren’t sure of what’s to come.

But there is good news—what we’re doing is working. Physical distancing and increased testing are slowly flattening the curve.

So my message to you is this: Stay strong and know what you’re doing matters.

If you’re able to stay at home, please do so. Staying at home is critical if we want to keep each other safe. While not all of us can, staying home as much as possible and ensuring our families do the same is working.

Our team has continued working hard to advise the Provincial government on how to keep Ontarians healthy and safe.

We’ve also sounded the alarm that we’re now facing two crises because of the virus: One that’s affecting everyone, and one that’s targeting our seniors.

To keep up to date on all of our recommendations to the government so far, visit ontarioliberal.ca/coronavirus

The Liberal team has stepped up to the plate in a big way (full details on each initiative are outlined further in the memo). We have advocated for the provincial government to:

  • Call for a public inquiry on long term care home and retirement home deaths
  • Suspend time of use rates to reduce hydro bills
  • Expand protections for renters
  • Welcome internationally trained doctors and nurses to the fight against COVID-19
  • Suspend WSIB premiums and other payroll charges to help small business
  • Introduce alcohol sales for licensed restaurants who offer take-out and are trying to prevent their businesses from closing

As the crisis continues to evolve, our team and I will continue to collaborate with the government to keep Ontarians healthy and safe.

Below, you’ll find some key information and updates we’ve gathered for you:

  1. Advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada on how to stay safe and healthy
  2. What our team has been doing to address the crisis
  3. Links to find more information about how the provincial and federal governments are responding
  4. What you can do to help some organizations fighting COVID-19

Staying Safe and Healthy

Here is some advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada on the steps to take to prevent the spread of the virus and keep you and your neighbours safe.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom and when preparing food
    • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • When coughing or sneezing, cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
    • Dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a lined waste basket and wash your hands afterwards
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Practice social distancing:
    • Avoid non-essential gatherings
    • Avoid common greetings, such as handshakes
    • Avoid crowded places
    • Limit contact with people at higher risk like older adults and those in poor health
    • Keep a distance of at least 2 arms-length (approximately 2 metres) from others
  • Clean the following high-touch surfaces frequently with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1-part bleach to 9 parts water):
    • Toys, toilets, phones, electronics, door handles, bedside tables and television remotes

For more information, please visit the Government of Canada website on COVID-19.

What Our Team is Doing

Alongside our Liberal caucus I’ve focused on collaborating with the government and providing advice on how to end this pandemic and protect Ontarians from the fallout, sharing the feedback we’ve heard from Ontarians across the province and public health experts.

1. Demanded better for vulnerable seniors

BC moved to protect its seniors a month ago by limiting the number of homes Personal Support Workers could operate in. Ontario put that in place just last Wednesday. This is something I called for on March 30.

On April 15, we learned Ontario inspected comprehensively just nine of 626 long term care homes in all of 2019. This is absolutely astounding, and Premier Ford’s government must be held accountable. On April 16, I called for a public inquiry on long term care home and retirement home deaths. I’ve also made several recommendations on changes for long term care homes, which you can read here.

2. Suspending time of use hydro rates for 45 days

On March 20, I encouraged the provincial government to consider a six-month suspension of time-of-use electricity pricing to help Ontarians pay their hydro bills. Then on March 24, the government announced they would be suspending time-of-use rates for 45 days. You can read more about my recommendations to the provincial government in the Toronto Star.

3. Expanded protections for renters

On March 27, I recommended that the province provide financial support to landlords so they can provide rent relief for low to middle income tenants. The Premier has said there will be no evictions during this time, but there’s still more to be done. You can read more about my recommendations here.

4. Introducing alcohol sales for licensed restaurants who offer take-out

On March 20, I advised Premier Ford to provide creative supports to our hard-hit restaurant and hospitality sector—allow those who provide take-out and delivery service to temporarily sell alcohol. I was pleased to see his government to do just that on March 26.

5. Fast-tracking foreign-educated health workers to fight COVID-19

On March 30, I wrote to Premier Ford recommending he investigate how we can use our pool of foreign trained healthcare professionals to fight COVID-19. I reiterated this in my letter to him on April 3. Then on April 6, I was happy to hear the Minister of Health say there will be a pathway for these workers to join those already on the front lines of this crisis. You can read my March 30 letter to the Premier here and the April 3 letter here.

6. Suspend WSIB payments

On March 20, I recommended suspending payroll payments like WSIB and Employer Health Tax premiums for six months for small and medium sized businesses. When the government released its economic response to COVID-19 on March 25, I was pleased to see they decided to provide temporary relief from WSIB and EHT premiums.

7. Calling for expanded and accelerated testing

Last Friday, I called for broad based and rapid testing after reports that Ontario is falling short of its testing capacity. On Wednesday, the Premier committed to ramping up testing. You can read more here.

Government Action

The provincial and federal governments have taken a number of actions to fight the health and economic impacts of the crisis.

For more details on Ontario’s economic response to COVID-19, click here.

For the latest information on COVID-19 in Ontario, click here.

To apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, click here.

For more details on Canada’s economic response to COVID-19, click here.

For more details on Canada’s response to COVID-19 overall, click here.

How You Can Help

Visit ontarioliberal.ca/coronavirus for ideas on how you can help fight the impacts of COVID-19.

Stay safe – there is light at the end of the tunnel

Health experts have told us that the virus outbreak has likely peaked in Ontario. While that doesn’t mean that the fight is over, it does mean that we’re winning.

I know that people from all walks of life are doing your part to fight the virus, whether it’s by physical distancing, providing critical health care, or by continuing to do your jobs in grocery and drug stores.

There is still a great deal more work to do until we get to the finish line. And it’s going to continue to be hard until this is over.

But together, we’ll get through this.

Steven Del Duca

Leader, Ontario Liberal Party

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