The incorrect Queen’s Park Update appears in the Dec. 16 edition of Seaway News. The below column was the one that was intended to run, not MPP McDonell’s column from July. We apologize for any confusion.
The second surge of COVID-19 cases continues to persist throughout the riding. With numbers spiking to new highs, our region will be moving to a more restrictive zone next week. Modelling numbers released a few weeks ago predicted increased numbers of cases as colder weather pushes us to spend more time in confined indoor spaces. Our increased vigilance has helped us avoid those much higher numbers, but only strict adherence to proven best practices of social distancing, wearing a mask, and avoiding crowded indoor spaces will bring down these numbers. Our efforts can make a difference in protecting our families from getting this virus, improving our quality of life, and allowing our local businesses to stay open. Please visit https://covid-19.ontario.ca/ for the latest requirements.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit continues to perform COVID-19 testing for those with symptoms or believe they may have come in contact with the virus. Asymptomatic people can now get tested at the Long Sault Pharmasave Pharmacy by registering online at https://southstormontpharmacies.com/.
While the pandemic has not loosened its grip, there is positive news on several fronts. Health Canada has approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in Canada, and shipments will start to arrive next week. The Vaccine Distribution Task Force is anxious to test its newly formed distribution network to deliver these limited supplies to priority groups. On the advice of the National Advisory Committee of Immunization, higher-risk populations and individuals who care for them will receive the vaccine first.
This week, Attorney General Doug Downey announced new permanent measures to support jobs and workers at local restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, and distilleries. They will expand alcohol sales opportunities, including making the sale of alcohol with food takeout and delivery orders permanent. This step will ensure Ontarians have more ways of supporting the province’s vibrant hospitality sector during the COVID-19 recovery and beyond. Additional permanent reforms for the hospitality sector will allow the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to set time limits for temporary patio extensions and permit eligible manufacturers to sell spirits and 100 percent Ontario wine at farmers’ markets. Local restaurants and bars are essential to community life in Ontario. Our government is delivering permanent changes to help them recover and plan beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government also received Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s annual report. Premier Ford welcomed the audit, stating that it will help the government manage its programs and services more effectively.
Our government also announced this week $120 million in social services relief funding to help protect Ontario’s vulnerable people during COVID-19. This investment builds upon the second phase of social services relief funding announced this fall. This discretionary funding can be used to add to rent banks, renovate and purchase shelter facilities and better protect shelter staff and residents from COVID-19. Local communities can also use the funding to create longer-term housing solutions, improve the delivery of critical services, and support plans to prepare for potential future outbreaks or emergencies. The City of Cornwall and SD&G’s share is $814,600.
As always, I want to remind everyone to stay safe and please follow COVID-19’s best practices.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry