As our province-wide vaccination program surpasses 1 million doses, the Federal Government now forecasts a substantial increase in deliveries. New sectors, such as 80 and over seniors, and those receiving home care, and others, will now be eligible for their vaccinations sooner. The new accelerated program will require more health practitioners and the engagement of local government, not-for-profit organizations, and private businesses to inoculate our residents with the new vaccines. Automated robocalls are being sent out by the vaccination team, led by Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, to provide detailed appointment booking instructions. The provincial online booking portal is scheduled to go live on Monday, March 15, for those 80 years old and older. Additional Phase 2 groups will be added to the portal as more vaccine deliveries are received. A new helpline will be established to answer questions and help those having trouble registering. Residents unable to attend in person may be able to receive their shot at home. Please check the Eastern Ontario Health Unit for the latest information at www.eohu.ca.
This week, I had the privilege of speaking to several legislature bills, including Bill 257, Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act. This legislation aims to remove barriers to help ensure timely deployment of reliable, high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas throughout the province. Studies show that Ontario has become the most expensive jurisdiction in North America to place fibre cable facilities, considered the best solution in providing high-speed broadband service. This bill will make a measurable impact on the 700,000 Ontario households that lack reliable high-speed broadband. Since 2019, our government has committed nearly $1 billion over six years to address this technology deficit.
The triple threat has hit Ontario’s tourism sector as COVID-19 created a health, economic and social crisis. Throughout the pandemic, Minister Lisa MacLeod has remained committed to engaging with stakeholders, partners and agencies to fully understand the economic impacts on the heritage, sport, tourism and culture sectors. This week, Minister MacLeod announced a Tourism Economic Recovery Ministerial Task Force to give expert advice and recommendations on helping the province’s $36 billion tourism industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Its mandate includes providing strategies and advice that help position Ontario and its local communities as destinations of choice for travel, and identify travel and tourism incentives, products, and experiences that enhance destination development. The tourism sector supports more than 400,000 jobs province-wide. The task force, chaired by former Minister of Tourism Tim Hudak, will report back by late spring.
Ontario launched the Social Services Relief Fund in March 2020 to help protect the health and safety of the province’s most vulnerable people during COVID-19. As part of its Community Housing Renewal Strategy and response to COVID-19, Ontario is investing approximately $1.75 billion in 2020-2021 to help sustain, repair and grow community housing to address homelessness. This week we announced $3,521,944 to help the City of Cornwall Social Services respond to an increase in COVID-19 cases in some emergency shelters and help keep vulnerable people safe throughout our region. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed extra demands on shelters to provide a safe place for people in need, and this funding will give these shelters the additional support they need to stop the spread of COVID-19 as they work to ensure everyone can find and keep a safe and secure roof over their head.
As always, remember to stay home, stay safe and save lives. Your health and that of your loved ones may depend on it.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry