Two weeks into Step 3 of our Reopening Ontario plan, we continue to make headway towards reducing restrictions. This week Ontario surpassed a significant milestone with 80% of Ontarians 12 years old and older have received at least their first vaccine dose. Moving further along on the path back to our new normal requires that this group also reach a full vaccination rate of 75%. A recent study by Public Health Ontario reveals that it is indeed a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Of the 403,000 people infected with the virus since last December, less than 0.4% were fully vaccinated. I urge everyone who has not had a chance to get their two vaccination doses to take the required actions today. The current vaccine availability has allowed the EOHU to add more clinics and provide for walk-ins without appointments. More information is available at www.eohu.ca. They ask anyone with appointments later in August or September to rebook at one of the open appointments now available by accessing www.Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or calling 1-888-999-6488 if you have a red and white OHIP card or need assistance. The process automatically cancels your previous time when you accept a new appointment. Unfortunately, the cooler fall weather and the resulting movement back indoors will require a higher full vaccination rate. Medical experts predict that we will need to reach a 90% full vaccination rate to avoid the fourth wave affecting many regions of the world, including our neighbours south of the border. I urge everyone to obtain your two doses as soon as possible.
The Ontario government is also investing $324 million to enable Ontario’s hospital and community health sector to perform more surgeries, MRI and CT scans, and procedures, including on evenings and weekends. It is part of a broader, comprehensive surgical recovery plan to provide patients with the care they need. This plan will enable Ontario’s health care system to perform up to 67,000 additional surgeries and procedures and up to 135,000 more diagnostic imaging hours to address current wait times, improve access to care, and support the government’s commitment to end hallway health care. This funding is critical in the recovery of our health care system from the impact of the pandemic.
Our government also announced the next step of our aggressive $4 billion budget commitment to connecting Ontario’s 700,000 unserved and under-served homes and businesses with 50/10 Mbps internet by 2025. The $14.7 million funding announcement will connect 44 communities and over 17,000 homes and businesses across Ontario as part of the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) program. Locally, Akwesasne, Crysler, Maxville, and regions of North Stormont are among the communities selected to participate in this program. In addition, details of a joint $1.2 billion Federal/Provincial program connecting over 280,000 homes will be forthcoming soon.
This week we also announced that the Ontario government is investing over $3 million to create a virtual training hub that will help construction supervisors learn the skills they need to mentor and train their teams. In addition, this hub will create digital training programs to help workers advance in their careers. The funding will also create an online job bank that will help up laid-off and unemployed workers find good jobs in construction. With over 13,300 jobs open in construction across Ontario in the first quarter of 2021, our government will continue to invest in programs like these to help people fully participate in training and be part of the future jobs. This program is funded through Ontario’s $115 million Skills Development Fund, which supports innovative projects that improve access to workers and apprentices’ tools to get back to work quickly.
In closing, remember to get your vaccination and be sure to continue precautionary measures as we look forward to a new normal.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry