COVID-19 cases continue to edge downwards in the Counties and Cornwall. However, hospitalized patients still number over a dozen, most of whom are under-vaccinated. Progress on our reopening plan and its lifting of restrictions are dependent on our ability to maintain access to our quality health care facilities. Attaining a high full vaccination level is key to keeping hospital occupancies at sustainable levels. Visit www.EOHU.ca for the latest vaccination information. So far, the results have been encouraging as the fully vaccinated have enjoyed many higher-capacity amenities and venues since October 25. Our next scheduled reopening step is on Monday, November 15. We plan to raise capacity limits in higher-risk settings, such as food or drink establishments with dance facilities, nightclubs, wedding receptions, and others. You can find more information at https://www.ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario. You can download your proof of vaccination at https://covid19.ontariohealth.ca/, obtained at a Service Ontario centre, or by calling 1-833-943-3900.
As part of efforts to create a lasting and stronger economy, the Government is giving more support to the many unsung heroes of the pandemic, such as the dedicated workers who keep our food shelves full and supply chain running. New legislation, if passed, will raise the minimum wage from $14.35 to $15.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2022. The rate increase will put $1,350 more into the pockets of an average, full-time minimum wage worker during 2022. This new wage will also apply to liquor servers as we eliminate their special wage rate. Increases will also benefit students under 18, homeworkers, and outfitting guides. The bigger paycheques will help offset inflationary increases that have occurred this year.
New legislation from Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips will help us move ahead to address long-term care, fixing many years of neglect by previous governments. The plan builds on three pillars: staffing and care; accountability, enforcement, and transparency; and building modern, safe, comfortable homes for our seniors. This legislation cements our commitment to investing in more staff, new and upgraded facilities, and improved inspections. Over several years, our plan invests $7.58 billion to increase LTC staffing while building and upgrading 30,000 LTC beds. These measures will give our most vulnerable the high quality of life and care they deserve.
We are able to make these commitments while we grow the economy and reduce the pandemic-related deficit to $21.5 billion, $11.6 billion less than the original forecast. We will continue our investments into people and infrastructure as warranted to offset the pandemic’s worst effects and secure Ontario’s future. We are taking a measured and responsible approach, utilizing economic growth, not higher taxes or fewer services, to support our critical programs and services. We released details of this plan, the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, on Thursday, November 4. For more information, please visit https://budget.ontario.ca/2021/fallstatement/index.html.
The province’s legal system has a history dating back to previous governments failing to resolve criminal cases promptly. To rectify this, Attorney General Doug Downey is spearheading a comprehensive strategy to address an unacceptable backlog of serious criminal cases, including at the Cornwall and other local courthouses. The Government will invest $72 million over two years to hire new Crown prosecutors to speed up cases through the courts. The strategy will also reduce the number of cases that enter the criminal justice system finding resolutions sooner and improving court processes to reduce the trial duration.
As always, stay safe and get vaccinated if you have not done so.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry