The Ontario Legislature resumed briefly today to pass two emergency COVID-19 bills which I mentioned in my update yesterday. Below, you will find summaries of the bills and links for more details about them. Also, all public hearings on all outstanding bills before the legislature were suspended so that we can have proper hearings at a later date.
Over the past few days, my office has received a large volume of emails and phone calls from constituents with questions and concerns. I’ve compiled a list of information on the top five key issues that we’ve received:
Despite a spokesperson for the Attorney General confirming on Monday that evictions would be suspended during the pandemic, some tenants in our community have been receiving eviction notices. After following up on this issue and the following the announcement from the Premier this morning, the AG’s office applied for a court order to suspend the enforcement of evictions until further notice. Sheriff’s offices have been asked to postpone any scheduled enforcement of eviction orders currently set for this week. If an eviction case is proceeding against you contrary to today’s announcement, please let us know immediately.
You may have experienced very long wait times (one constituent was on hold for five hours!) on your call with TeleHealth to receive medical advice. The Ontario government is working to keep up with the increase in calls from people across the province. Today they announced 1,300 new lines have been added to TeleHealth.
3. Rent relief
The federal government in their relief package for people during this crisis included a deferral of mortgage payments for homeowners but nothing for tenants. With EI cheques at 55% of regular income expected to be received mid-April and other supports (GST credit + Child Benefit) not expected until May, people are rightly worried about paying rent (due in two weeks) when they have lost their income. My caucus colleagues and I have offered Premier Ford and the government, to draft legislation and ensure same-day passage to have new emergency laws in place so that no one is punished for missing rent. As well, we have offered to build a plan to widely and effectively communicate the new law to landlords and tenants. Please see Andrea Horwath's public statement below.
Many of you want to see Toronto follow other municipalities in Ontario like Ottawa, Hamilton and Guelph in not collecting transit fares in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. As this is a municipal decision, I would urge you to contact Mayor Tory about this. I support the public call for a suspension of fares during this time.
5. Social Assistance
Effective immediately and until further notice, Ontario has implemented the following:
- there is no need for clients to worry about submitting their income reports at this time (unless they submit electronically)
- Special Diet Allowances, already in pay, will continue, even if set to expire - clients should not worry about getting their signed forms in for now (unless they submit electronically)
- The province will not require forms and verification for Mandatory Special Necessities as we will issue these benefits and obtain what is needed later on (unless they submit electronically)
Wash your hands. Stay home, if you can. Be kind. We are all in this together.