Ontario’s new broadband fund to connect residents and businesses in Bay of Quinte

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, 2020

Bay of Quinte – The Ontario government has announced an investment of $150 million over four years to address much-needed broadband infrastructure across unserved and underserved regions of the province, MPP Todd Smith announced.

This investment looks to connect more residents and businesses in Hastings and Prince Edward counties to reliable broadband and cellular service.

The Improving Connectivity in Ontario, or ICON, has the potential to leverage up to $500 million in total partner funding. 

“I have heard from many of my constituents, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges they face in staying connected with limited to access to cellular and broadband connectivity, said Smith. “I am proud to see our government announcing this significant investment to bring the people of Bay of Quinte one step closer to more reliable connectivity.”

Once the ICON program opens its initial application intake later this month, applicants – telecom companies, municipal governments, Indigenous communities and non-profits – will be invited to submit innovative proposals to lend their investment, expertise and experience to improve connectivity in communities across Ontario. The province will fund a portion of each approved project. 

“Now more than ever before, our government recognizes that the people of Ontario need to be connected to learn, work, and run their businesses. This program is an important step toward bridging the digital divide,” said Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott.

The Improving Connectivity in Ontario program is part of Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan, which includes $315-million to improve and expand cellular service and broadband in rural and remote communities across Ontario. That plan also includes a separate $71-million investment in the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s $212-million public-private partnership to improve cellular coverage within the region.

In the span of a year, Ontario has advanced initiatives to improve access to broadband and cellular service across eastern, western and northern Ontario. All of these initiatives are expected to generate more than $1 billion in investments over five years.

QUICK FACTS

  • As many as 12 per cent of households in Ontario – mostly in rural, remote or northern areas – are underserved or unserved, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
  • In the past several months, Ontario has partnered with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to leverage $213 million to improve access to cellular and mobile broadband in eastern Ontario
  • The Province is investing in the $190 million Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project to bring high-speed broadband to 50,000 more homes and businesses across Southwestern Ontario. Recently, SWIFT Inc. awarded contracts to bring high-speed internet to thousands of homes and businesses in Lambton, Wellington and Norfolk counties. More contracts are expected for additional counties across southwestern Ontario.
  • Ontario has invested in initiatives to improve connectivity in northern Ontario, such as a project that will connect five remote Matawa-member First Nation communities, and investments in broadband projects through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Next Generation Network Program.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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Ontario government commits $17 billion in response to COVID-19 as part of its spring economic update

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2020

Bay of Quinte – Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte and Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, welcomed the government’s significant investment of $17 billion to address COVID-19 as part of Minister of Finance Rod Phillips’ March Economic and Fiscal Update.

“My top priority is keeping Bay of Quinte families safe and well,” said Smith. “Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 will provide our health-care workers the tools they need, while also providing tangible relief to the people of Ontario and to our business community as well.”

A critical first step to position the Province to weather the challenges ahead, the $17-billion package will provide $3.3 billion to bolster health care, $3.7 billion to support people and jobs, and an additional $10 billion to improve cash flow through tax deferrals and other measures.

Within today’s announcement, the government is showing historic levels of fiscal prudence. In addition to an unprecedented $2.5 billion reserve, the plan includes a dedicated $1-billion contingency fund as part of the additional investment in health care and a $1.3-billion contingency fund to respond to changing global circumstances.  The government is projecting a $9.2-billion deficit in 2019-2020 – an improvement of $1.1 billion relative to the 2019 budget – and, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, is planning for a $20.5-billion deficit in 2020-2021.  Phillips has also committed to releasing a full multi-year budget by Nov. 15, 2020.

“Our government has taken a responsible approach that will allow us to make life more manageable, while still having the ability to reassess changing conditions and prepare for the future,” said Smith.

The specific measures included in today’s action plan are as follows…

HEALTH CARE

Investments of $2.1-billion in new measures related to COVID-19, $1.2 billion to improve health-care system.

 A commitment of a dedicated $1-billion COVID-19 contingency fund for emergency needs related to the pandemic response.

  • Investment of $935 million for the hospital sector, including $594 million to accelerate progress on the government’s commitment to address capacity issues, as well as $341 million for an additional 1,000 acute care and 500 critical care beds and additional assessment centres.
  • An increase of $160 million in public health funding to support COVID-19 monitoring, surveillance, and laboratory and home testing, while also investing in virtual care and Telehealth Ontario.
  • An investment of $243 million for surge capacity in the long-term care sector, as well as funding for 24/7 screening, more staffing to support infection control, and supplies and equipment to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • An investment of $75 million to supply personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies to frontline staff to tackle COVID-19.

 PEOPLE AND JOBS

 Investments of $2 billion for targeted supports, $1.5 billion for electricity cost relief, and $290 billion for electricity cost relief.

  • The provision of a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, to help families pay for the extra costs associated with school and daycare closures during the COVID-19 outbreak. This funding is also available for children enrolled in private schools.
  • A proposal to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments for low-income seniors for six months.
  • Provision of approximately $5.6 billion for electricity cost relief programs for eligible residential, farm, and small business consumers in 2020-2021, an increase of about $1.5 billion in comparison to the 2019 Budget plan.
  • Provision of further support for more affordable electricity bills by setting electricity prices for residential, farm, and small business time-of-use customers at the lowest rate, known as off-peak, 24 hours a day for 45 days to support ratepayers in their increased daytime usage due to COVID-19.
  • Cutting taxes by $355 million for about 57,000 employers through a proposed temporary increase to the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption.
  • The provision of $9 million in direct support for families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and ensuring their electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected for non-payment during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Providing emergency childcare options to support parents working on the front lines, such as health-care workers, police officers, firefighters and correctional officers.
  • Provision of expanded access to the emergency assistance program administered by Ontario Works to provide financial support to people facing economic hardship and help more people meet basic needs such as food and rent during this public health emergency.
  • Enhancing funding by $148 million for charitable and non-profit social services organizations such as food banks, homeless shelters, churches, and emergency services to improve their ability to respond to COVID-19 by providing funding directly to Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Service Administrative Boards who would allocate this funding based on local needs.
  • Providing six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan and interest accrual relief, leaving more money in people’s pockets.
  • Helping to support regions lagging in employment growth with a proposed new corporate income tax credit, the Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit.
  • Providing additional supports of $26 million to Indigenous Peoples and communities, including emergency assistance for urban Indigenous people in financial need, and costs for health-care professionals and critical supplies to reach remote First Nations.

CASH FLOW SUPPORTS

Providing $10 billion to support improved cash flow for people and businesses during COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Making available $6 billion by providing five months of interest and penalty-free relief for businesses to file and make payments for the majority of provincially administered taxes.
  • Deferring the upcoming June 30 quarterly municipal remittance of education property tax to school boards by 90 days, which provides municipalities the flexibility to, in turn, provide property tax deferrals to residents and businesses while ensuring school boards continue to receive their funding. A measure valued at over $1.8 billion.
  • Making available $1.9 billion by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, allowing employers to defer payments for up to six months.

QUICK FACTS

  • The March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update provides planning assumptions for the year ahead. The government will provide regular updates of the Province’s fiscal and economic outlook throughout the year.
  • Ontario’s $2.5-billion reserve fund is the highest in its history.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19: https://news.ontario.ca/mof/en/2020/03/ontarios-action-plan-responding-to-covid-19.html

General information on COVID-19: www.ontario.ca/coronavirus

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Ontario provides $200 million in social services relief funding to protect vulnerable residents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2020

Bay of Quinte – Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte and Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, announced the provincial government is providing $200 million in social services relief funding to help protect the health and safety of Ontario’s most vulnerable people in response to COVID-19.

“Protecting our must vulnerable is an absolute priority as the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop,” said Smith. “We’re expanding access to temporary emergency assistance so that individuals who have no other means of financial support can stay safe and healthy.”

The funding will help individuals who do not qualify for emergency financial supports under federal programs. The government is putting in place an expanded Emergency Assistance program administered through Ontario Works (OW) to cover these individuals' needs such as food, rent, informal childcare, and services. There will also be discretionary benefits available to those who already receive social assistance.

This new funding will help individuals and families in financial crisis who are not able to access federal assistance to cover needs such as food, rent, medicine, transportation and other services during this public health crisis. Funding will be made available to organizations delivering social services to vulnerable First Nations individuals and families. Individuals can apply online at Ontario.ca/community.

The province will be also providing municipalities and organizations that administer social services with funding to support them in their response to COVID-19. The funding will help municipalities and social service providers such as shelters, food banks, emergency services, charities and non-profits continue to deliver their critical services, hire additional staff, and find ways to promote social distancing and self-isolation to keep clients safe and healthy. Ontario's municipal service managers will determine local needs and distribute the funding, ensuring clients are receiving the support they need.

 "Our government will spare no expense to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians," said Premier Doug Ford. "We are doing our part to show the Ontario spirit and we will make sure no one gets left behind. Organizations across the province are doing critical work right now to help vulnerable Ontarians and these funds will allow them to directly help those who need it most." 

This fund will also help local communities support their shelter systems during this health crisis. The province's 47 municipal service managers will deliver this funding, ensuring clients are receiving the support they need, and will make local decisions on community funding.

"We are acting quickly to support those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless during this unprecedented time," said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "This funding will go straight to communities, who know best what the immediate needs are on the ground in their local shelters."

"This new funding will provide much-needed support to our province's most vulnerable as we continue to take decisive action to contain the spread of COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "If Ontario is going to successfully flatten the curve, it's vital that we ensure that all Ontarians have the resources they need to protect their health and well-being."

QUICK FACTS

 

  • Last week, Ontario announced a $304 million investment in COVID-19 response, including $20 million for residential facilities in developmental services, gender-based services and protective care for children and youth.
  • To bolster safety measures for social-assistance clients and caseworkers, the government has also temporarily removed the requirement for clients to provide written documentation at this time. Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments will be made as usual and will continue based on previous levels of income support. Individuals will not have to visit their local office to provide written documentation. If individuals need to connect with their caseworker, they are encouraged to connect over the phone.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Changes to Ontario’s Emergency Assistance Program: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/03/changes-to-ontarios-emergency-assistance-program-in-response-to-covid-19.html.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Ontario’s response to COVID-19 and self-assessment tool: www.ontario.ca/coronavirus
  • To apply for social assistance: In Belleville, call 613-966-8032; in Quinte West, call 613-392-1387; or in Prince Edward County, call 613-476-2842; or apply online at https://saapply.mcss.gov.on.ca/CitizenPortal/application.do
  • To report changes or receive information about your Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program case: Visit mybenefits.mcss.gov.on.ca

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