Community News Update - January 28, 2022

Dear Community,

Yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, here’s my statement in recognition of the day.

On January 27, 1945, the soldiers of the Red Army's 60th Army entered three camps near Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland. There they found about 7,000 surviving prisoners, 600 unburied corpses, and the discarded clothing of over one million adults and children.

No camp guards or staff remained. Criminals are rarely found at the scene.

This was all that remained of an estimated 1.1 million people, mostly Jewish, murdered by the Nazis in these camps between 1940 and 1945. This was just one part of the organized murder of over 11 million people by Nazi Germany. Around 6 million Jews were killed (the scale of the tragedy is so great that it’s impossible to have an exact figure) alongside millions of others killed because of their race, supposed disability, sexuality, or beliefs.

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember all the victims of these atrocities. These crimes provide a constant warning of how far bigotry can go, and a reminder of the duty to stand up to hatred.

As of this morning, Ontario reported another drop in hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients, while there was a small increase in the number of people in the ICU with the virus. Respectively, there are 3535 people hospitalized, and 607 with COVID-19 intensive care. Tragically, we have also reported an additional 68 deaths.

There is some hope on the horizon right now across Canada, as today Dr. Theresa Tam went on the record stating that the cases of the Omicron variant have now peaked across the country and that new infections are actually down significantly in the past week. While we still aren’t out of the woods just yet, this positive development is certainly welcome.

This news also comes as we are around the corner from the removal of a number of restrictions in Ontario starting Monday, January 31. Just before I go over what the changes will be on Monday, I first want to remind everyone that we should be proceeding with appropriate levels of caution, which means continuing to wear an effective mask when needed and ensuring that you receive your full series of vaccinations – including a booster shot.

Here are some of the key changes that will be taking effect on Jan 31, at 12:01AM:

  • Increasing social gathering limits to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
  • Increasing or maintaining capacity limits at 50 percent in indoor public settings, including but not limited to:
  • Restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities;
  • Retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies)
  • Shopping malls;
  • Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms;
  • Cinemas;
  • Meeting and event spaces;
  • Recreational amenities and amusement parks, including water parks;
  • Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, and similar attractions; and
  • Casinos, bingo halls, and other gaming establishments
  • Religious services, rites, or ceremonies.
  • Allowing spectator areas of facilities such as sporting events, concert venues, and theatres to operate at 50 percent seated capacity or 500 people, whichever is less.

Enhanced proof of vaccination and other requirements would continue to apply in existing settings.

Further lifting of restrictions is scheduled for February 21, and March 14. If you would like to see the full list of those changes, click here.

During this pandemic, the government has had to deliver services at a rapid rate, and in many cases the Ford government has turned to the private sector to deliver some of these health care services. Throughout this time, questions have been raised about those contracts, and this week we learned some potentially very troubling information about their government’s dealings with FH Health.  

So far what’s been uncovered is that prior to their contract being awarded, all FH Health directors donated the maximum allowable amount to the Conservatives, and so did a number of their other employees and family members. In total, we’ve now identified at least $42,600 in contributions to the Conservatives tied to FH Health.

This has raised eyebrows around the province – especially because the contract that FH Health received was a sole-source contract – meaning that FH Health did not have a competitive bidding process prior to being awarded their contract.

Clearly, this situation must be investigated, and the Ontario NDP MPP Taras Natyshak has written to the Auditor General to request an investigation into this matter, and we are also calling on the Ford government to release the details of their contract with FH Health.

I will be sure to continue to update you on this story as it develops.

I know that we need affordable child care in Ontario. Right now, the fees that are being charged are outrageous, and they’ve been consistently climbing for years, while successive Liberal and Conservative governments failed to act. Our lack of affordable child care has forced people - primarily women – out of the workforce and forced many families into poverty.

That’s why I believe that it’s time that we get into gear, and get a deal done with the federal government to bring $10-a-day child care to Ontario. It’s incredibly frustrating that the Ford government has sat on its hands and refused to negotiate a deal with the federal government, while every other province and territory in the country has managed to get a deal ironed out.

Along with my Ontario NDP colleagues, we have been fighting relentlessly to get the Ford government to make a deal already, and this Wednesday we pledged our full support for a new call to action letter from the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC). This letter has been signed by over 50 health experts, organizations, and community groups – and it calls for the Ford government to sign onto the federal plan.

You can read the full letter here.

This week, I wrote a letter of my own to Ministers MacLeod, Fedeli, and Lecce to echo the demands of the Ontario Book Publishers Organization (OBPO), who need real support from this government during these difficult days.

The three key demands from the OBPO are as follows:

  • Embrace the premier’s ‘Made in Ontario’ mandate and invest in Ontario book publishers to build our province’s education curriculum, textbooks, and reading materials
  • Boost our locally grown economy while diversifying Ontario publishing by expanding the Ontario Book Publishing Tax Credit (as a pandemic response) to become permanent and include translated and graphic works.
  • Recognizing book publishing as a vital component to the province’s arts and culture sector, increase investment into the Ontario Arts Council to reach emerging authors and publishers, in addition, to live performers, visual artists, musicians, and many others that also need support

Next Up, for anyone who is interested – the Regent Park Film Festival is hiring a new Executive Director! If you’re interested in learning more, check out their job posting here.

Finally, today, tomorrow afternoon from 1-3PM I will be taking part in a Day of Action for Health Care! I’ll be making phone calls along with volunteers to support more investment in our health care system, and if you would like to get involved, click here.

In Solidarity,
 
Jill Andrew
Toronto—St. Paul's

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