Ontario to introduce legislation to provide three paid sick days, enhance COVID-19 supports for workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28, 2021

 

BAY OF QUINTE – Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, was pleased to see new supports for workers introduced by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton and Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy this afternoon.

If passed, the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act would require employers to provide workers up to three days of pay, up to $200 per day, if missing work due to COVID-19 retroactive to April 19 and effective to Sept. 25.  Employers would provide workers their regular pay and be reimbursed by the Province through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. 

For longer-term absences, Ontario has also offered to provide funding to the federal government to double the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) by $500 per week to a total of $1,000 per week.

“This plan offers workers immediate access to the most paid sick time in any Canadian province during COVID-19 without placing extra burden on ailing businesses during a difficult time,” said Smith. “This meaningful support will ensure more people stay at home and reduce the spread of highly-contagious variants.”

The provincial government’s first act during the pandemic was to introduce a job-protected infectious disease leave to support workers needing to insolate, undergo treatment, or support others with COVID-19.  Last summer, Ontario joined the other nine provinces in negotiating the Safe Restart Agreement where the federal government committed $1.1 billion to fund 10 paid sick days.

Amid concerns about the CRSB accessibility criteria for days missed limited access to the program (an employee must be away from work at least 50 per cent of the week to qualify), the funding not being enough to address lost wages, and delays in payment, the provincial government advocated to the federal government to fix the program, rather than requiring provinces to duplicate it.

“With the generous financial commitment the federal government made, we felt it made sense to focus on improving that program, rather than recreating it – something no province had done.  That would have allowed provinces to focus their resources on improving our health-care capacity and other measures to prevent further spread,” said Smith. “When those changes didn’t occur, our government moved to fill the gaps and provide that support for workers and their families.”

McNaughton added “Our government has long advocated for the federal government to enhance the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program to better protect the people of Ontario, especially our tireless essential workers. It is a tremendously positive step that the federal government has signaled their willingness to continue discussions on the CRSB. Now we can fix the outstanding gap in the federal program so workers can get immediate support and can stay home when needed."

Smith thanked Bay of Quinte residents for their strong adherence to public health measures and encouraged them to continue that practice and book vaccinations when eligible to do so.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 


Province invests $2.9 million to reduce risk of homelessness, ease heath care pressures within Hastings and Prince Edward counties

SUNDAY, APRIL 25, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BAY OF QUINTE - Ontario is providing $2.9 million to Addictions and Mental Health Services Hastings Prince Edward (AMHS - HPE) to rehome people with a history of addictions, mental health and other co-morbidities residing in hospitals or long-term care homes, Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte announced today.

Through the AMHS-HPE Back to Home Program, people filling Alternate Level of Care beds in Quinte Health Care (QHC) hospitals could benefit from approximately 30 new-build or retrofit housing units in Belleville that would be served 24/7 by staff providing wrap-around services such as case management, mental health and addictions counselling, nursing, and personal supports. Community participation and networking would also be encouraged, with a conscious effort made to reduce stigma for residents.

“This project will provide safe housing and life-changing support for some of the Quinte region’s most vulnerable residents,” said Smith. “At the same time, this housing will ease some of the pressure on QHC and improve access to health-care services in this region. The benefit will be wide-reaching.”

Smith noted that as part of its application, AMHS-HPE presented empirical data to quantify the value of its project.  Over the past five years, QHC has had an average of 24 ALC patients with mental health or addictions per year. Those patients many with complex health needs and multiple diagnoses — represent more than 3,500 patient days over that time span. Several patients have been in institutionalized settings for two-to-three years and have had limited access to health services, like primary care, or affordable housing. Some have transitioned out of hospital to long-term care, only to return to a hospital setting.

AMHS-HPE Chief Executive Officer Garry Laws was pleased to learn the project will move forward.

“The announcement of this Back to Home funding is extremely critical for Hastings-Prince Edward and all of the patients who are inappropriately housed in hospitals or long-term care beds,” Laws said. “This funding will provide patients in Alternate Level of Care beds with an affordable housing option while they receive quality health care. On behalf of the board of directors, thank you to the Ministry of Health for recognizing AMHS-HPE’s proposal.”

Laws indicated AMHS-HPE intends to partner with QHC, Ontario Health Teams, community service providers, and cultural leaders to successfully implement the Back To Home program.

The funding, which includes rent supplements,  is related to a $13.7-million commitment to Back to Home programs across Ontario, announced by Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Steve Clark, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in December as part of $176 million in new investments as part of the Province’s 10-year Roadmap to Wellness strategy. 

“Every person in Ontario deserves access to the most appropriate supports as they move forward in their journey to mental wellness,” said Tibollo. “By investing in supportive housing for Ontario’s challenged by mental health and addictions issues, we are providing some of our most vulnerable populations with access to safe and secure housing, as well as access to the services they need, when and where they need them.”

Added Clark: “COVID-19 has had a significant impact on Ontarians who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and our government is committed to getting them the mental health and addictions support they need. This is a crucial first step down the road to recovery for those who are suffering from these issues.”

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Read Roadmap to Wellness at https://www.ontario.ca/page/roadmap-wellness-plan-build-ontarios-mental-health-and-addictions-system.
  • Learn more about this year’s $176-million investment, which brings base investments in addictions and mental health across Ontario to $350 million since 2019-2020, at https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/59549/ontario-expands-funding-for-supportive-housing.
  • Find out more about addictions and mental health supports available in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties by visiting www.amhs-hpe.ca or www.connexontario.ca.

Ontario supports improvements at Picton's town hill through Connecting Links Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SATURDAY, APRIL 10, 2021

PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY – Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, announced today that the Province is providing Prince Edward County $266,848 through the Connecting Links Program for improvements to the intersection of Picton’s Main and Bridge streets, commonly referred to locally as the town hill.

Running through Prince Edward County’s largest urban area, the municipal route connects two portions of the provincial Hwy 33, making it eligible to receive up to 90 per cent of design and construction costs to renew and replace road and bridge infrastructure.  The municipality’s submission was approved following a review of technical need, safety considerations, and cost effectiveness.

“Picton’s town hill has become a very busy place and you often hear stories about drivers who are uncertain about the traffic rules when approaching it,” said Smith. “Our government listened to the County’s concerns about safety and I’m pleased to see them addressed through Connecting Links.”

The improvements will include updated signage, traffic control infrastructure, pedestrian crossings and line painting.  Two retaining walls, one on Bridge and one on Main, currently obstruct proper lines of sight for vehicles and pedestrians. They will be replaced as part of this project.

Steve Ferguson, the Mayor of Prince Edward County, was pleased to receive the provincial funding.

“Our County delegation met with Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney, and her staff at the AMO conference in 2020 to explain our concerns with the intersection,” said Ferguson. “Since that meeting, County staff have sought the advice of the local OPP and worked closely with the Ministry of Transportation to identify issues and possible solutions. With Connecting Links funding secured, we look forward to moving ahead with the improvements at the intersection and addressing the longstanding safety concerns for both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.”

In 2021-2022, the Ontario government is investing $30 million through the Connecting Links Program to support projects in 14 municipalities. The maximum funding amount for road projects is $3 million, while the Province has increased maximum funding for bridge projects to $5 million to reflect the higher costs of maintaining and repairing bridges in comparison to roads. 

“By investing in our roads and bridges, we’re connecting people to jobs, supporting the movement of goods and creating economic growth in local communities” said Mulroney. “This funding not only helps municipalities maintain local infrastructure, but also supports projects that make roads safer, such as improvements to pedestrian crossings.”

QUICK FACTS

  • The town hill project is the second Connecting Links project in Bay of Quinte in the past three years as the City of Belleville’s Sagonaska Bridge replacement project was approved for up to $3 million in 2019-2020.
  • Eligible municipalities with road or bridge infrastructure connecting two ends of a provincial highway are encouraged to apply for 2022-2023 Connecting Links funding later this year. To learn more about the program, visit www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/highway-bridges/connecting-links.shtml.
  • In Ontario, there are a total of 352 kilometres of Connecting Links, with 70 bridges in 77 municipalities.