Community News Update - September 27, 2021

Dear Community,

Today, Ontario has reported another 613 new cases of COVID-19, meaning that our seven-day rolling average of cases now stands at 621. Across Ontario, 75.7% of all people have received at least one dose of a vaccine – and we could see that number jumping relatively soon when Health Canada approves vaccines for children aged 5 to 11.

In preparation for that, Toronto Public Health is forming a COVID-19 vaccination planning group, to prepare to deliver those shots once approval is granted. At the moment, the estimation is that we’ll see approval of a vaccine for this age group around the end of this year, or the beginning of 2022. This planning group is working with the aim to be able to distribute these vaccines as smoothly as possible when the time comes.

We’ve also learned that the Toronto Board of Health is planning to ask the province to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students, along with the other already mandatory vaccines.

For anyone who is eligible, but who hasn’t gotten their vaccination yet, you can register for a shot here.

But COVID-19 is not the only healthcare challenge our province is fighting today.

This morning, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath hosted a press conference to address eye care in Ontario, and the failure of the Ford government to work out a fair deal with our optometrists, leading to the removal of OHIP covered eye care services for many Ontarians.

While I’ve touched on this in previous Community News Updates, let me backtrack briefly to explain the issue that’s arisen here in some more detail.

Ontario has the lowest funding level for publicly funded eye care services of any province in the country, and on average, optometrists actually lose around $30 per patient that they treat under OHIP. The government provides about $45 per patient, and the actual cost per patient is about $75.

For context, everyone under the age of 20 and over 65 are covered for eye exams by OHIP.  

As a result of this, they have been trying to negotiate a new deal with the Ontario government, but the Ford government has refused to really negotiate with the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) and has only held three meetings with them – where talks broke down quickly. As a result, beginning on September 1, the OAO commenced job action and told its members to stop providing OHIP-covered services until a new deal is reached.

Ultimately, this situation harms so many who are reliant on these services, and the blame here lands squarely on the shoulders of the Ford government.

Children who can’t see the blackboard clearly are being denied vision care, and at the same time, many seniors are losing their independence because they can’t get their prescription updated - all because this government is trying to pinch pennies again on healthcare.

What needs to be done here is straightforward.

There needs to be a fair deal negotiated with the OAO, and we need to make sure the necessary funding is there moving forward so that seniors and children are not put in this position again.

Last week, I wrote a letter to the Minister of Health about this issue, and if you would like to sign on to my letter, you can click here.

Throughout the pandemic, small businesses have been hit hard, and despite their claims to the contrary, the Ford government has failed to provide the supports that they need.

Recently, I spoke with one of our own small business owners, who owns an independent travel agency, and who has had her business devastated by COVID-19. Her story is a story that is all too familiar to many of our small business owners.

She was told that she’d be able to stay afloat through the Travel & Tourism Small Business Support Grant, but because of a government oversight in how they decided to distribute these funds, independent travel agents were excluded.

She should have been able to access this money, she should have been given support, but she was let down.

In response to this, I’ve written a letter to the Premier, the Minister of Heritage, Sports, Tourism, and Culture Industries, and the Associate Minister of Red Tape Reductions and Small Business, calling for them to immediately rectify this situation.

You can read the full letter here.

I would like to congratulate the team from Krave Coffee on their successful re-opening after their store was badly damaged by a deliberately set fire. I’m sending a huge shout out to Calay Hall and her staff for their hard work to get their doors back open so quickly, and wishing them the best of luck moving forward.

If you’re in the neighbourhood, you should definitely drop by for a tasty coffee and a treat (781 St. Clair Ave W)!

Next, a message from the team at Hillcrest Village Community Players, who are now casting for their upcoming production of Anne of Green Gables!

They will be holding auditions in the coming days, and if you’re interested in pursuing one of the many roles they’ll be casting, you can register to audition here.

I’d also encourage everyone to check out their Facebook page to follow along on their journey here.  

Finally, over the weekend I had the great pleasure of celebrating the birthday of Archbishop Desmond Tutu at Grace Church on-the-hill! I want to especially thank Carole Adriaans for organizing this powerful event. Below, you can see of my photos from the event, and if you’d like to see more, you can find them here on my Instagram account.

In Solidarity,

Jill

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