It’s a snow day today in Ontario, and before getting into anything else, I must take a moment to thank all the folks working right now to keep our city moving. I also encourage everyone to stay off the roads if you don’t need to be there, and make sure that you’re keeping safe during this snowstorm.
The snowfall from last night alone dropped well over 30cm of snow on our city, and it has continued to snow throughout the day. Now, as the temperatures are continuing to fall the City of Toronto has issued an extreme cold weather alert, and they are activating four warming centres around the city that will be opening their doors at 7PM.
They are located at:
- 5800 Yonge St.
- 129 Peter St.
- Exhibition Place, Better Living Centre, 195 Princes’ Blvd
- Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Dr
So please stay warm, and if you see someone in distress, don’t hesitate to reach out to 311 to make sure that they get the help that they need.
Before moving on, I just want to say that while days like today are challenging, at the same time I find great inspiration in the way that our community is always ready to step up to support one another during trying times. To everyone who’s taken the time today to help move a stuck car, shovel a neighbour’s sidewalk, or helped a member of their community in any way – thank you.
As a result of the storm, schools in Toronto were shuttered today to in-person learning, with students directed to online learning options – the timing here was especially frustrating as schools were slated to return to in-person learning today for the first time since the holiday break. Along with schools, all Toronto Public Library Branches and vaccine clinics in our city were also closed, with appointments cancelled.
Despite the weather, COVID-19 continues its spread, and the Omicron variant is still straining our health care system. As of this morning, Ontario reported 3887 people in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 578 people are in ICUs across our province. While the future remains very uncertain, it does appear that the rate of growth of the Omicron variant in Ontario is beginning to slow down.
Moving forward, I must encourage everyone to take the steps they can in their own lives to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community. That means wearing an effective mask and getting vaccinated!
Friday evenings tend to be when the government releases information that they don’t want the public to notice. Last Friday, the Ford government announced that the Minister of Long-Term Care, Rod Phillips, would be resigning and that they would be replacing him with Minister Paul Calandra – who is also set to retain his current responsibilities as Government House Leader and as Minister of Legislative Affairs.
I am shocked that the Ford government thinks that being the Minister of Long-Term Care is a part-time job. It’s unbelievable that upon taking over this role, Minister Calandra isn’t giving up his prior roles and responsibilities and focusing his full attention on LTC in our province. This is the space in our province that has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 from the beginning of this pandemic, and now we’re seeing more and more cases in long-term care once again.
Long-term care in Ontario must be a priority for the government, especially when we still need to deliver a pay increase for PSWs, hazard pay, and a real plan for paid sick days. In response to this Friday news dump from the Conservatives, today, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath sent an open letter to Premier Ford calling on him to take immediate action to address these issues, and to ensure that long-term care has the full-time Minister it needs.
Some important news for small business owners in our community, the government will be opening applications for a new round of the Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program tomorrow.
This program will reimburse some or all property tax or energy costs to businesses mandated to close indoor service or reduce capacity from December of 2021. In order to be eligible, businesses must either pay property tax or energy costs directly, or indirectly as part of the terms of their lease. Applications will open tomorrow at www.ontario.ca/page/businesses-get-help-covid-19-costs.
This new round of grants is long overdue, as previous rounds have repeatedly failed to get supports to many eligible businesses in our community. A key piece to the new grants that are being offered is that the government is claiming that they will be extended to some businesses who were too new to qualify for the program previously. At this point, we have to wait and see what’s delivered, as we know that previously the government’s commitments have failed to materialize into action.
We are also expecting another round of the Ontario Small Business Support Grants to be announced later in this month, and I will be sure to keep you notified as we learn more.
In the Community
I’m happy to share important programming from the team at Skills for Change, and their Women & Girls Circle, who have organized a workshop titled: Disrupting & Reconstructing our understanding of femicide: Centring Black women, girls and gender diverse people's experiences for tomorrow afternoon from 3 to 4PM.
The workshop will feature Nneka Macgregor, who is the co-founder of and Executive Director at WomenatthecentrE.
Finally today, I am very excited to share with our community a project that’s being organized by a young member of our community. Peyton is a grade 11 student at North Toronto Collegiate, and she has launched Project Be Kind, a non-profit organization with the goal of inspiring others to embrace kindness, even in these trying times. It’s a brilliant project that’s just getting off the ground right now, and I want to encourage everyone to check it out.