We are now three days into Ontario’s new proof of vaccination program, and across Ontario, we are hearing about some of the shortfalls of the system that the Ford government has implemented.
While I fully support a vaccine certificate program, there are many issues with this current program that must be resolved. We need this vaccine certificate program to apply to all non-essential retail, and to ensure that businesses and municipalities have the funding that they need to implement this program efficiently and effectively.
Frustratingly, we are now in this position because for months the Ford government flat out refused to implement vaccine certificates – wasting valuable time that would have allowed us to be better prepared now with a fully developed app, and a better thought-out paper certificate program. Instead, once again we’re here as a province, playing catch up because of the Ford government’s refusal to take decisive action at a critical juncture during this pandemic.
At this very moment, this isn’t even the only example of something like this happening. On another front, as a result of the Ford government’s refusal to negotiate, OHIP-funded eye care services in our province are currently not being performed by many optometrists.
For those who don’t know, for years Ontario has underfunded eye care services, meaning that optometrists have been left to pay significantly out of their own polers to provide over 4 million services each year to Ontarians covered under OHIP, and despite their efforts, the Ford government will not commit to a formal negotiation process with them.
Now, because of their refusal to negotiate, 96% of Ontario optometrists voted to withdraw those OHIP services at the start of this month. This is an utter failure from the Ford government, and it is absolutely crucial that we’re able to get these services back as soon as possible.
So, this week, I wrote an open letter to the Minister of Health demanding that the government get back to the negotiation table immediately and get this mess sorted out.
All of this is especially egregious, as we are still not back in the Legislature for our fall session, where we could be addressing these issues in the chamber in Question Period – another of Doug Ford’s decisions.
In the coming weeks, we will be finally returning after an extended break, and I am happy to support an Ontario NDP initiative, that has received support from both the Green and Liberal caucus at Queen’s Park for our initiative to call for mandatory vaccinations for Ontario MPPs and their staff teams at the Legislature (with exceptions for valid medical exemptions).
Sadly, the Conservatives would not sign on to the letter, which you can read here.
This is an important step for two reasons. First off, this is a health and safety issue for everyone who works at Queen’s Park. Many of our Members are frequently travelling to and from their ridings and getting vaccinated will make the building a safer place to work. It also sends a clear message to the province about the importance of getting vaccinated. We cannot have mixed messages coming from Queen’s Park right now, we need a united, and non-partisan front on this issue to help inspire confidence in Ontarians who remain vaccine hesitant.
We also must demonstrate clearly that vaccine-or-test policies are not acceptable - we must get vaccinated.
Finally, a reminder that tomorrow my office’s Community Food Table program will be back up and running in four locations around our community. I want to encourage anyone who’s interested to visit the tables where you will be able to donate food or take food at no cost.
Here are the four table locations: