Yesterday our province hit a grim milestone, 10,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19. We’ve been through so much together as a province since COVID-19 arrived in our midst. This pandemic has touched all of us, and while we persevere, the impact that this has had on us will be impossible to quantify for years to come.
So let’s all make sure to take a moment to check-in on our loved ones, and continue through the only way we can – together.
Ontario reported 780 new cases of COVID-19 today, and five more deaths. Of course, the Omicron variant is now top of mind for all of us, and we are continuing to learn more about this new variant. What we know right now, is that some very early analysis from South Africa suggests that Omicron could largely cause only mild illness, and vaccine manufacturers seem confident that they would be able to adjust their existing vaccines to make them more effective against this variant.
While the above information should be taken with the important disclaimer that we’re still in the early days of this new variant, the underlying message here that we don’t need to panic in this moment. We should continue being cautious, wearing our masks, washing our hands, and getting vaccinated. Those things have not changed, and in all likelihood, will not change for some time.
Down at Queen’s Park, the Auditor General released her annual report for 2021. This years report had a lot of important information, covering a range of topics. One issue that I’d like to flag in particular, are the Auditor General’s findings regarding the Ontario Small Business Grants. Now, keep in mind that this program has been riddled with issues from the start, and many of our local businesses that needed this support were not able to get it. Yet, somehow, despite the challenges many of our local businesses faced, $210 million was paid out from this program to ineligible recipients.
Bluntly, I don’t know how this could have happened, but I’m certainly looking forward to hearing the government’s explanation for this. To see more from the AG’s report, click here.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the Holy Blossom Temple’s Gifts of Light interfaith holiday concert, and let me tell you – it was incredible. I want to thank Cantor David Rosen, and Rabbi Yael Splansky, and the entire Holy Blossom family for a fantastic night, with proceeds going to the Anishnawbe Health Foundation.
Whether we are in celebration and song or whether we are tackling the world's many injustices such as antisemitism, racism or food insecurity at any time of the year we must stand together with and for each other. I left Holy Blossom filled with strength and courage. I even walked half way home because I had an extra pep in my step!
Next, I want to share another reminder about the Toronto Miracle, that’s still being organized for December 4 – and the deadline to register as a donor is tomorrow – December 2.
In case you missed it in a previous newsletter, in the Toronto Miracle, they will be working across Toronto with hundreds of volunteers to gather as much food as possible for those in need. Their ambitious goal is to collect 250,000lbs of food – and I know our community can help get them there. The way that it works is that you register your donation, and on Dec 4, you leave the food on your porch, or at the determined location in your building, and they will have a volunteer come to collect it.
Donations are vital this year, as increasing numbers of people are accessing food banks – let’s make sure that this holiday season the food banks have what they need.
To learn more about how you can register your donation, click here.
Next, I’m very proud to share the newest commitment from the Ontario NDP, that we will be increasing the minimum wage to $20/hour in our first term when we form government. Frankly this has to happen, because wages are simply too low for many to survive in our province right now.
Our progression to get to $20 an hour will be as follows:
- $16 on Oct. 1, 2022
- $17 on May 1, 2023
- $18 on May 1, 2024
- $19 on May 1, 2025
- $20 on May 1, 2026
Laying out a clear timeline of this increase is vital to making sure that this transition is able to happen quickly and smoothly. Further, we’re also ready to provide the support necessary to make sure that businesses that struggle with this transition get the help that they need.
Finally today, I want to remind everyone to get the flu shot! It’s not the vaccine that most of us have been thinking about these days, but it’s still incredibly important. I was able to get my flu shot this week, and I’m hoping to see lots more of our community out their getting theirs.