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Dear Neighbour,

I'm writing to you today from my desk at Queen's Park. While the pandemic has rightly dominated much of our attention for the past few months, my colleagues and I have also been paying attention and working on some key issues where the provincial government has been busy that are not related to COVID-19. I’d like to highlight some of those for you here:

Tenant Rights
Last week, without notice, the Ford government brought forward Bill 184, Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, a
piece of legislation which among many things makes it easier to evict tenants by taking away a tenant's right to defend themselves at eviction hearings and the right to a hearing following a repayment agreement. As the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario points out, the only tenant protection in Bill 184 is in the title. This is an incredibly important issue for Parkdale—High Park as 58% of residents are tenants. Due to the pandemic, tenants are struggling and having to choose between paying rent or putting food on their table. Tenants are waiting for rent relief but instead, the government is moving ahead with this bill. You can read more about this bill and take action here.

Home and Community Care
With the Canadian Armed Forces’ report on the state of long-term care homes in Ontario and the calls for a public inquiry, Ontarians expect the Ford government to do better when it comes to taking care of seniors. Instead, the government is ramming through Bill 175, the Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act 2020. This legislation further enables the privatization of home care and removes the existing provisions of public control and accountability. The bill has no provisions to improve access to care, staffing shortages, equity, or home care assessments and actually introduces measures that expand privatization, not only of homecare, but also potentially of hospitals and long-term care. The Ontario Health Coalition is
asking the Ford government to “halt Bill 175 and consult with Ontarians to develop a public non-profit home care system that would integrate care and ensure it is provided in the public interest.” I support their call to build a public system that will provide quality care for our seniors and loved ones. You can read OHC’s analysis on this bill here.

Environmental Protection
The Ford government
suspended key environmental protection oversight rules in the midst of COVID-19. With this change, government ministries no longer have to do public consultations or consider environmental factors, even when the decision doesn’t relate to COVID-19. The Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights already allows for exceptions to its public notice provisions in emergency situations, including those where health is at risk. Projects and decisions that are environmentally harmful may now be rammed through without notice, consultation, or a right of appeal – whether they are related to the COVID-19 pandemic or not. Kerri Blase from the Canadian Environmental Law Association said, "the public won't know when significant decisions may be made that have an environmental impact.” Suspension of key parts of the Environmental Bill of Rights is an unnecessary overreach that harms accountability and democracy.

Minister’s Zoning Orders
The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has
issued several Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZO) to fast track development plans and avoid environmental protection laws. MZOs allow the Minister to make rulings on how land is used, without any mechanism for appeal from citizens or advocations before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). This is a way for the government to circumvent provincial laws and push through controversial development. Among the MZOs issued during COVID-19, is a permit for the construction of a warehouse facility in Vaughan that requires the destruction of three protected wetlands. Another order will see a 500-home retirement community built on farmlands near Markham. The government’s use of MZOs has the potential to gut environmental protection laws and make Premier Ford’s comments about handing Greenbelt land to developers a scary reality.

Please also find below new provincial updates and announcements.

As always, wash your hands, stay home if you can, wear a mask when needed, be kind. We are all in this together.

Warmly,

 

Bhutila Karpoche,
MPP for Parkdale—High Park
Ombudsman Investigations into Long-Term Care

Paul Dubé, Ontario’s Ombudsman, announced that his office will invoke their authority to investigate the Ford government’s oversight of long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The investigation will focus on the work done by the Ministry of Long Term Care and Ministry of Health and will examine complaint handling, inspections, emergency planning, data collection, support measures, and inter-agency communication. The Patient Ombudsman has also announced they will launch a separate investigation into resident and caregiver experiences after receiving 150 complaints about long term care homes across the province. 

It is promising to see the Ombudsman investigating the government’s neglect of long term care facilities across Ontario, but we still need a fully transparent, independent, and public inquiry. A publicly accountable process, focused on the long history of neglect towards long term care, is the only way to ensure justice for our seniors and loved ones, and the only path forward to building a long term care system that works for all.

New Electricity Rates
  • Residential electricity ratepayers will be charged a new COVID-19 Recovery Rate
    of 12.8¢/kWh for hydro effective immediately and in place until October 31, 2020.
  • Time-of-use (TOU) pricing will continue to be suspended until October 31, 2020. All consumers will pay the COVID-19 Recovery Rate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Backcountry Camping at Ontario Parks
  • As of yesterday, backcountry camping is allowed in Ontario Parks, this includes access points, paddle and portage routes, and hiking trails. There will also be an expansion of day-use activities to allow picnicking and off-leash dog runs.
  • Advanced reservations or registrations will be required at most of the 20 operating provincial parks that offer backcountry camping.
  • No more than 5 people will be allowed to occupy a backcountry campsite unless they live in the same household.
  • The closure of all other overnight camping and day-use features has been extended to June 14.
Emergency Leave for Non-Unionized Workers
  • Amendments have been made to labour laws to help businesses avoid permanently laying off workers.
  • The Employment Standards Act currently requires businesses to terminate employees who have been laid off for 13 weeks. After 13 weeks, businesses are required to pay severance, which could bankrupt many small businesses at this time.
  • The new measures will see non-unionized workers who have had their hours reduced or eliminated put on a temporary leave that preserves their job. All those placed on this temporary leave will remain eligible for federal emergency income programs.
  • This amendment will expire six weeks after the province’s declared state of emergency.
Other Provincial Announcements
  • The Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, and the Angus Reid Institute are beginning a study that will screen the blood of 10,000 Canadians for COVID-19 antibodies. This is an important study to further understand how many Canadians have been exposed to COVID-19 and how many were infected without showing any symptoms.
  • A new Mandatory Management Order has been issued for Forest Heights Long Term Care home in Kitchener, it will be managed by St. Mary’s General Hospital for the next 90 days.
  • Three more Ontario-based manufacturers will be receiving financial support to retool their operations to support the production of Personal Protective Equipment. Southmedic in Barrie will be able to increase mask production, Sterling Industries in Concord will be able to increase its output of face shields from 200,000 to one million per week, and SRB Technologies in Pembroke will be transitioning from emergency lighting production to medical-grade face shields.
  • Amendments to the Retirement Homes Act regulations will allow the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) to increase the maximum emergency payment to retirement home residents from $2000 to $3500. This funding can be used to cover costs for transportation, alternative accommodation, or temporary care for residents. The regulatory changes will also require retirement homes to report infectious disease outbreaks to the RHRA.
  • The Government of Ontario has established the Indigenous Women’s Advisory Council which will advise the government on the root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls. The Council will consist of 11 FNMI & 2SLGBTQIA+ leaders, guided by an Elder/Traditional Knowledge Keeper.
  • Drive-in movie theatres that were in existence before May 29, 2020 will be able to reopen with restrictions, starting immediately.
  • Batting cages will be able to reopen with restrictions, starting immediately.
Reminder: For the most up-to-date information please visit Toronto Public Health, Ontario Ministry of Health, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Contact information is available on my website here.
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Community Office
While our office is closed to the public as part of our efforts to manage the COVID-19 virus, we will continue to provide services for constituents via phone and email. Thank you for your patience and flexibility during this time. 

Phone: 416-763-5630
Email: BKarpoche-CO@ndp.on.ca 
BhutilaKarpoche.ca
Copyright © 2020 MPP for Parkdale—High Park, All rights reserved.


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