Today across Ontario, there are 4016 patients in hospital with COVID-19, 608 in intensive care, and the province has reported an additional 89 deaths as a result of the virus. It should be noted that the 89 deaths include a number of deaths which have happened over the last three weeks and were previously unreported in the daily tracking.
As we are getting closer to the first of three reopening steps, on January 31, I want to remind everyone to remain cautious, and to follow the advice of our public health experts. That means that you should be wearing your mask when necessary, and getting fully vaccinated – including a booster – as soon as you can.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the strain that the virus has put on the services that we all rely upon to be there when we need them. There’s been a devastating impact on healthcare system, and in particular access to surgeries has been particularly problematic. Right now, in Ontario there are thousands of people who have had their surgeries either delayed or cancelled. Many have been left living in pain, and with the anxiety that their illness is likely progressing while they wait for treatment.
On January 5, in preparation for the Omicron wave, the Ford government issued a directive to hospitals across Ontario to stop performing all ‘non-urgent’ surgeries and procedures to preserve staffing levels in critical care settings. As we understood at the time, this pause in surgeries was to last until at least January 26, but now that we’ve arrived at that date, there is still no clear plan to re-start surgeries in our province. While the province has announced a roadmap to re-opening that incorporates three steps, they’ve neglected to mention their plan for surgeries.
There is of course also a money component to this.
Clearing the surgical backlog will cost money, and as it stands the Ford government is refusing to step up to the plate with the necessary funds to get these surgeries done. It’s been estimated that it would cost $1.3 billion to clear the backlog, and so far the Ford government has indicated that they would be willing to spend just $324 million.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, in British Columbia, they’ve been able to deliver 98.7% of their postponed procedures by stepping up to hire 755 key personnel to get them done. Meanwhile, here in Ontario the wait time for heart surgery is 14 months.
I’m calling for the Ford government to invest the necessary money to re-start surgeries in Ontario. They need to repeal the directive to pause surgeries, and get hospitals the resources they need to clear the backlog as quickly as possible.
In the past two days, I’ve written two open letters to the Ford government, on two important topics.
First, I wrote to Ministers MacLeod, Fedeli, and Tibollo on behalf of artists across Ontario who are currently not receiving the support that they were promised by the Ford government. In 2021, the Ford government promised to deliver $10 million to rebuild the arts sector in Ontario, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Now, while we know that $10 million is not enough to rebuild the arts sector, it would be surely be a lot better than the $5 million that’s actually been allocated to get the job done.
Right now, there are only a few days left of this fiscal year, and I want to see the rest of the $10 million delivered before they try and turn the page on this failed commitment to the arts community.
Next, I reached out to the Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services, Minster Fullerton, to demand action, and support for the March of Dimes Home and Vehicle Modification Program. This program supports people with disabilities by helping make their homes and vehicles accessible for them. This program has had a profound impact on people across Ontario, including right here in Toronto—St. Paul’s.
Some of the specific action that I am calling for includes increasing the grant gap of $15,000 and increasing overall support to the program to match what they need to cover all their eligible applications.
I’m happy to share with the community a fun program that’s being organized by the great folks from VO Youth Toronto. On February 4, starting at 6PM they will be hosting a Virtual Games Night – and they’ll be handing out prizes too.
Finally today, I must address a concerning incident of anti-Black racism that’s occurred in our city. Earlier this week it was discovered that an art installation by the immensely talented Anique Jordan and Gloria Swain at Union station was vandalized with a drawing of a slave collar.
Let me say this clearly, I stand in love and solidarity with Anique Jordan and Gloria Swain, in this moment, and in the face of this cowardly, hateful act. Whether it’s nooses on construction sites or defacing Black art, I will never stop standing up against anti-Black racism, and I know our community stands with me.