Sol Mamakwa MPP, Kiiwetinoong

Government of Ontario

COVID-19 News Releases

Published on March 30, 2020

Sol Mamakwa

Updated- May 29, 2020


May 28, 2020

Horwath calls on Doug Ford o adopt medical officers map forward

QUEEN’S PARK – Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath issued the following statement following a Toronto Star report that local Medical Officers of Health have coordinated to create a detailed metric to plan the path forwards, including important benchmarks, for re-opening:

“Communities, families and businesses across Ontario deserve to have clarity on how decisions will be made to safely re-open the economy.

The province’s local Medical Officers of Health have done an outstanding job to protect their communities during this pandemic. We fully support the local Medical Officers of Health as they lay out concrete benchmarks and provide the leadership the public expects as we gradually move ahead with safely re-opening the province.

We urge Doug Ford and the provincial government to work with the local Medical Officers of Health to adopt this set of clear metrics.”


May 27, 2020

Ford attempts to quietly sneak through bill to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants

Suze Morrison, Ontario NDP Tenant Rights critic, said it’s simply wrong for Doug Ford to capitalize on a pandemic to quietly ram through legislation that will make it easier for landlords to evict tenants.

Bill 184, Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, which passed second reading today, does the opposite of what its name suggests. The bill prevents tenants from bringing up issues like their landlord failing to make repairs to their unit during hearings for non-payment of rent, and skips straight from repayment agreement for back rent to eviction order without any hearing for the tenant if they miss a payment.

“It was always wrong for the Ford government to attempt to make evictions easier, and it’s even worse to use the pandemic as a cover to sneak through changes that will hurt tenants,” said Morrison. “Tenants are frantically treading water to stay afloat during the pandemic, because the Ford government has refused to provide rent relief.

“That has left so many tenants to watch thousands of dollars of back rent pile up, which their landlords will no doubt come calling for when the temporary pause on evictions ends. If this bill passes, landlords are going to find it even easier to push tenants out.”

Along with a ban on disconnections and lockouts and a freeze on rent increases, the Ontario NDP has called for a rent subsidy of 80 per cent for up to $2,500 for four months for tenants who have lost income due to the pandemic. During the pandemic, tenants have continued to receive notices of eviction and rent increases.

“Tenants deserve so much better than to be abandoned in their time of need, and then be put on the fast-track to eviction,” said Morrison. “We should be doing more to help tenants keep a roof over their heads — now and after the pandemic has passed — not less.”


May 26, 2020

Response from NDP Leader on Canadian Armed Forces report on Ontario LTC homes

“The conditions and treatment of seniors revealed in this report are outrageous, horrifying and saddening. The horror seniors in these homes are being forced to live is inhumane. It breaks my heart to think about what these people are living through even today, and how scared and outraged their families must be feeling right now. I can only imagine their anguish.

We cannot allow Doug Ford to waste another second. We need inspections, takeovers of all homes that are not safe, and we need to launch a full, transparent public inquiry.

Beyond that, it’s shocking that the Canadian Armed Forces needed to lift the veil, when Doug Ford and Merrilee Fullerton ought to have known about these horrific conditions, and did nothing to take the homes over. The premier cannot pass the buck, finger-point, and express outrage about what his own government is doing on his watch. He has no choice to immediately require the resignation of Minister of Long Term Care Merillee Fullerton.

But the buck stops with Mr. Ford. For him to waste another second before having public health or a hospital take over these homes — and many others — would be unconscionable. For him to say the government will hold an internal investigation is disturbingly inadequate.

I want to thank the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have blown the whistle in order to protect these precious lives. Families and our entire province owe them a great debt.”


May 26, 2020

Ford government must take over all unsafe long-term care facilities, Horwath says

Doug Ford and his government need to act immediately and take over the many long-term care facilities across the province that are failing to ensure the health and safety of seniors and staff, said Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in a press conference with family members of seniors in long-term care.

“It wasn’t good enough for Mr. Ford and his government to sit on their hands for weeks while the COVID-19 pandemic tore through long-term care homes,” said Horwath. “Just like it’s not good enough now for them to pick just two homes while leaving thousands of seniors and staff in many other facilities across the province still in danger.”

For many weeks, the NDP has been calling for the province and its public health authority to take over direct management of what staff and families believe to be unsafe long-term care homes. Despite calls from the NDP, the pleas from seniors in care, their families and health care workers, and the examples of other provinces assuming control of unsafe facilities, the Ford government refused for weeks to step in, before finally agreeing to take over just two care homes, many weeks late.

Horwath joined family members for a press conference Tuesday to urge the government to immediately intervene at all the other homes where the situation is getting more dire by the day. Audrey Da Cruz saw her mom, Theresa, for the last time on Mother’s Day, through a window. It wasn’t until Theresa developed symptoms on May 7 that the family was informed of the COVID-19 outbreak at Extendicare Guildwood, and she passed away less than a week later. Peter Priest is urgently trying to get his mom, Betty, discharged from Extendicare Guildwood because his family is worried for her well-being as the outbreak has grown and she has received limited attention to a new health issue due to the absence of physicians on-site.

“There are far too many homes like Extendicare Guildwood – facilities that have utterly failed the seniors in their care,” said Horwath. “They can’t be allowed to continue putting Ontarians at risk. The Ford government must step in now and ensure that every unsafe facility – not just two – comes under the direct management of the province. Every day this government drags their feet, they risk more seniors in care getting sick and dying.”


May 25, 2020

Promised pandemic pay needs to flow now

Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath issued the following statement in response to a letter from 11 health care CEOs to Premier Doug Ford asking for the province to release the pandemic pay bump it promised a month ago:

"Workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle are putting their lives on the line every day, yet many of these workers — the PSWs, paramedics and many others who are seeing us through the pandemic — may be struggling to make ends meet thanks to low pay.

NDP MPP offices have been flooded with calls and e-mails from essential workers who deserve a pandemic pay top-up, yet have failed to see that money flow, whether because the Ford government neglected to include them on its list or because they are on the list, but have not seen a single dollar of the wages they were promised.

It is unacceptable for Doug Ford to call frontline workers heroes, then fail to give them the small raise he promised a month ago. Frontline workers should receive their pandemic pay immediately, retroactive to the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

The workers on the front lines deserve so much better from the government."


May 25, 2020

NDP to force vote on emergency funding for municipalities

NDP Municipal Affairs critic Jeff Burch will table a motion this week that would give emergency financial support to municipalities that have been deeply impacted by COVID-19.

“Cities and towns throughout the province are on the verge of devastating cuts if the Ford Government does not step up and provide funding,” said Burch.

Municipalities are not able to run deficits, by law. So without emergency provincial funding, the financial burden of COVID-19 will force them to make deep cuts to the services people count on — like public health, transit, child care, policing, social service agencies, and city infrastructure. People shouldn’t have to suffer those cuts, nor hikes to fees like day care or transit prices, said Burch.

“Whether it’s the working parent who relies on childcare, or workers who use transit to get to work, people desperately need the services municipal government provides. Municipalities have been clear that they need support, and it’s time for the provincial government to step up and create some relief and certainty for everyone.”

Burch’s motion mirrors the proposal put forward by a coalition of Ontario’s municipal leaders and frontline municipal workers that would ensure vital services are funded, and municipalities keep their heads above water.


May 22, 2020

NDP calls for testing for all workers, new mobile testing: Ontario averaging just 8,826 daily COVID-19 tests for the past week

The NDP’s Andrea Horwath is calling for a dramatically ramped-up COVID-19 testing regime to start immediately, including systematic testing for essential workers and people returning to work, all congregate care settings, plus mobile testing centres to start random community testing.

“Low testing numbers put people’s health at risk, and put Ontario’s economic re-opening at risk,” said Horwath. “For weeks, people were being turned away from the assessment centres because of Ford’s restrictive testing policy. Now, the government blames abysmally low testing numbers on people not showing up to assessment centres.

“With tests never getting up to decent levels in Ontario, Ford’s been all bluster and blame, and no action to institute a strong COVID-19 testing regime. Let’s make today the day Ontario starts that.”

Horwath and the Official Opposition are proposing a systematic surveillance testing regime, including:

  • Systematic testing aiming for 100 per cent coverage in group homes, shelters, retirement homes and other congregate settings.
  • Systematic workplace testing of essential workers, and re-opening workplaces, partnering with large employers in areas such as food supply, construction, manufacturing and automotive industries.
  • Random sample testing in community, using new mobile assessment centres, which would travel to areas where community members are congregating — such as grocery store and pharmacy parking lots.

All three of these new endeavors would test asymptomatic people. Individuals with symptoms should continue to attend an assessment centre, as per the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

As of May 12, the province’s testing goal is 20,000 tests every 24 hours. On Friday, Ontario completed 11,276 tests and the average for the past week is 8,826 daily tests.

“When Health Minister Christine Elliott falsely claims Ontario leads the country in testing, it’s clear the Ford government doesn’t see the urgency of ramping up Ontario’s testing,” said Horwath. “But it is urgent. It’s people’s lives and our economic recovery on the line. Ontario needs to test, test, test and keep testing.”


May 19, 2020

'Unconscionable': Horwath on Ford blocking long-term care inquiry

Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath released the following statement after the Ford government voted down an NDP motion calling for a full, independent public inquiry into Ontario’s long-term care system:

“It’s unconscionable for the Ford government to refuse to launch a full, independent public inquiry into how badly Ontario’s long-term care system has failed vulnerable seniors, and how to fix it. Voting no to a public inquiry is salt in the wound of families grieving the loss of loved ones to COVID-19 in long-term care, and for health care heroes who are run off their feet and still pleading for personal protective equipment. It is a cause for us all to worry that the painful, dangerous, decades-in-the-making problems in long-term care are not going to change.

To fix the system, we need to give a voice to seniors, workers, experts, and families who’ve lost loved ones. We need to closely examine the role of private, for-profit corporations in long-term care.

The NDP wants this public inquiry to be find-and-fix — which means we can urgently address the problems in long-term care as soon as they’re identified. In fact, we could start that today with a permanent $4 raise for personal support workers, by creating minimum care hours for each resident, and with regular mandatory comprehensive inspections.

For the government to review the government with a behind-closed-doors government-controlled commission is not good enough. People deserve better.”


May 19, 2020

More support needed as Ontario extends school closures

Marit Stiles, Ontario NDP Education critic, released the following statement in response to the government announcement that schools will remain closed through the end of June:

“Schools should remain closed until it’s absolutely safe for kids to return, so we support the move to keep kids at home for the rest of the school year. But parents are now being called back to work while schools and child care centres remain closed. That’s a major gap that will leave households all over the province with no options for child care, and the government needs to step up with a plan and tangible supports for those parents.

We also recognize that parents, students and educators are doing their best to keep up learning from home, but the government hasn’t provided additional supports to help them get through this. From learn-at-home supplies to supports for students with special needs, the government can do better to help students, teachers and families through this.

The plan for an eventual return to classrooms must be based on the advice of public health officials and developed in partnership with frontline education workers, school boards, parents and students. And the plan must come with a commitment to fund additional resources, including support staff, caretakers and other education workers to support teachers, students and parents.”


May 19, 2020

Ford must consult with First Nations before reopening the North

The Ford government must consult with First Nations before reopening the North in order to ensure the safety of communities vulnerable to a resurgence of Covid-19, said Sol Mamakwa, the NDP’s Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation critic during question period on Tuesday.

“First Nations across Kiiwetinoong have been doing everything possible to keep COVID-19 out of our communities,” said Mamakwa. “They have gone to great lengths to keep communities safe such as implementing strict lockdowns and travel restrictions.

“But this government needs to do more to remedy the issues that make First Nations people more vulnerable to COVID-19 in the first place- such as overcrowded housing and the lack of hospitals.

“How has this government been working with First Nations on dealing with this pandemic?”

Mamakwa said the current situation poses a risk to the health of First Nations communities that is higher than the risks faced by most people in Ontario. He said the Ford government must listen to First Nations to be prepared for a second wave of the virus that could infect northern communities.

“Agencies and leadership in the North have a great deal of advice that this government needs to listen to, on how and when the North should be reopened,” said Mamakwa. “Once the North is opened up again, a second wave of coronavirus could spread to First Nations across the North.

“What is your government doing to listen to and support communities in planning for that possibility?”


May 19, 2020

Ontarians need Ford to step up and lower auto insurance rates: Savings from less driving and fewer accidents should benefit drivers, not just insurance companies 

Doug Ford’s sympathy won’t help Ontario drivers pay their bills, said the Official Opposition NDP’s Auto Insurance critic Tom Rakocevic and Brampton North NDP MPP Kevin Yarde during Question Period today.

“Every day Ontarians are grappling with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, and struggling to pay the bills,” said Rakocevic. “Major auto insurers have admitted that driving and accidents are down – in Toronto alone accidents are down by 74 percent. But rather than mandate an across the board rate reduction for all drivers during COVID-19, the Ford government is leaving drivers to go it alone and haggle with their insurers.”

“The government regulator is a month late in approving quarterly auto insurance rates,” Yarde noted. “Some have suggested that the government is delaying, because they plan to announce another auto insurance rate increase, even though accidents and claims are way down during COVID-19. In fact, we have already heard from some drivers that their rates are going up.”

Doug Ford and his government have expressed sympathy to drivers, saying they hoped insurers would lower premiums. But, the Ford government has the power to act on behalf of Ontarians and mandate lower rates. Instead, they have continued to sign off on auto insurance rate hikes, despite a considerable drop in auto accidents across the province.

“Drivers don’t need the Premier’s sympathy, “added Rakocevic. “They need action. Will the government finally take action and cut rates for all drivers during this crisis?”

The Ford government did not commit to taking any action at all.


May 19, 2020

Horwath forces a vote on launching a full, independent public inquiry into Ontario's long-term care system

QUEEN’S PARK – On Tuesday afternoon, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario will vote on whether to hold a thorough, non-partisan, independent public inquiry — under The Public Inquiries Act — sparked by a motion by NDP Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath.

Since the pandemic began, more than 4,400 residents and staff at Ontario long term care homes have contracted COVID-19, with over 1,400 deaths to date, and more infections and deaths expected.

“The Ford government is digging in their heels by insisting they’ll hold a government-controlled commission instead of a public inquiry,” said Horwath. “A government-controlled commission is just a review —a back-room process that won’t give long-term care residents and their families, seniors entering care, and loved ones of COVID-19 victims the voice they deserve, the respect they deserve, or the major overhaul to long-term care that all long-term care residents need and deserve.”


May 15, 2020

Ford and Rickford should take action now to stop gas price gouging in Northern Ontario

Doug Ford and Energy Minister Greg Rickford should use the tools they have to take action on the price of gasoline in Northern Ontario, said Timmins NDP MPP Gilles Bisson, as gas prices continue to climb during the COVID-19 crisis.

The NDP’s bill, Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act, 2018, would allow the Ontario Energy Board to regulate the retail price and wholesale mark-up of petroleum products in Ontario. That means that gas prices in Ontario will not fluctuate and could only change once a week. The NDP bill will stop the spikes in gas prices at the pump, and provide relief and stability to drivers in Northern Ontario and right across the province.


May 14, 2020

Horwath says re-opening must come with more testing and tracing

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats, says that re-opening some businesses and recreation would be safer if Ontario stepped up its COVID-19 testing and tracing.

Over the past 30 days, Ontario has averaged just 12,600 tests per day, and not all positive cases are thoroughly contact-traced.

“Everyone is eager to start easing restrictions, but Doug Ford needs to dramatically ramp up testing and contact tracing to make it safer for everyone when we do that,” said Horwath. “No one wants to see Ontario take one step forward and two steps back. We don’t want to see more people getting sick, and freshly re-opened businesses having to close again, because of outbreaks — and the solution to that is to test, test, test, and have the capacity to trace every positive case.”

Horwath said the government also needs to ensure businesses have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and that they are regularly inspected. Physical distancing and infection control rules should be mandatory – not suggested guidelines, according to the NDP.


May 14, 2020

Ford government must do more to help farmers and workers now

While farmers and employees need more protection to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, the Ford Conservatives must do more to reverse their damage to the agriculture sector said John Vanthof, NDP Deputy Leader and Agriculture critic.

Vanthof responded to an announcement by the Ontario government on provincial abattoirs and access to protective equipment for workers.

“New Democrats support any help for farmers and workers who need it today during the Covid-19 crisis,” said Vanthof, “However, today’s announcement is not nearly close enough to reverse the damage done by the Ford government to the agriculture sector and to stabilize Ontario’s food sector during this crisis.”

The Ford Conservatives broke their promise to increase the Risk Management cap for farmers and cut millions from programs meant to help farmers grow crops and livestock. Ford cut planned spending on Risk Management Programs by $160 million and it cut $2.3 million from Agricorp.


May 14, 2020

FACT CHECK: Ontario's 30-day testing average just 12,600 tests per day: Ontario in fifth place in Canada for COVID-19 testing

Over the last 30 days, Ontario’s COVID-19 testing count has averaged just 12,600 tests per day – far too low to give people the safety they deserve during the economy’s re-opening, says the NDP.

“Over the past 30 days, Ontario has only averaged 12,600 tests a day. That’s far behind what we need to re-open the economy with certainty,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “People deserve the safety that will come with an intense program of broad testing within the community, as things like parks and retail business start to open.”

Ontario’s testing numbers are substantially behind Nunavut, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Quebec.

Ontario is also testing fewer people than American states, including Delaware, Washington, Vermont, Illinois, West Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Alaska, Tennessee, Utah, New Mexico, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota, New York and Rhode Island.

And Ontario is far behind a large number of developed countries around the world, including Israel, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the UK.


May 9, 2020

Response to Education Minister Lecce's memo

NDP Education critic Marit Stiles released the following statement in response to a memo from Education Minister Stephen Lecce regarding “synchronous learning,” or video conferencing.

“I was incredibly disappointed to read Minister Stephen Lecce’s memo criticizing the ‘inconsistent uptake’ of video conference classes. Parents, teachers and kids are doing an exceptional job keeping the learning going at home. Teachers are coming up with innovative ways to support kids’ learning, and the difficult social impacts of isolation. Parents are managing the incredibly difficult challenge of parenting, supporting learning and working from home, all at the same time, often while dealing with additional anxiety and other pressures.

The Ford government and Stephen Lecce have not provided devices or funding, nor has he listened to front line educators, students and parents. Lecce should know that many families don’t have devices at home, or are sharing a device with working parents and siblings. Many still don’t have adequate access to broadband. He should also know that for many kids with learning challenges video conferencing is not going to work, and that there are families with legitimate privacy and security concerns.

I’d urge Lecce to stop scolding parents, teachers and kids, and instead recognize and celebrate the incredible things they’re already accomplishing in these challenging times.”


May 8, 2020

Statement from Andrea Horwath on N95 access directive

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats, released the following statement in response to reports that the provincial government is seeking to change a directive, removing access to N95 masks, because it believes the masks aren't necessary, possibly driven by low supplies:

“It’s dangerous and wrong for the Ford government to consider taking away the right that health care workers have to access personal protective equipment, including N95 masks based on the precautionary principle.

The government’s job is to get enough N95 masks — not to rewrite the rules to withhold them from workers.

Workers in long-term care homes and other frontline jobs are putting themselves in harm’s way daily to save and care for others, and precious lives have been lost. Praise for them rings hollow if this government is not moving heaven and earth to safeguard their lives.

The right to have and to wear an N95 has been settled by the courts, thanks to a court case launched by the Ontario Nurses Association.”


May 8, 2020

Long-term care public inquiry must include evaluation of the continuing role of for profit homes

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says that Ontario deserves a broad and thorough public inquiry into long-term care, including why the system was in crisis before the pandemic hit; how the pandemic response left seniors homes so vulnerable; and an examination of the future of for-profit homes in Ontario.

“It’s heartbreaking to think of seniors left in understaffed, under-resourced nursing homes, with virtually no regulations in place to protect them, while COVID-19 swept through home after home. The staff who care for our most vulnerable have been run off their feet, and have been putting their lives at risk in facilities that don’t have enough personal protective equipment, and that may not have had proper isolation or infection control procedures in place.” Horwath said. “Tragically, residents and staff have lost their lives. We owe it to them, to their families and loved ones, to make major changes to this system, to protect every life from here on.”

Horwath said slow-to-arrive half-measures, loopholes and mixed messaging from the Ford government need to be examined by an independent public inquiry, as does the state of the system before the pandemic hit. She also wants different types of ownership in long-term care scrutinized, comparing outcomes for non-profit homes versus for-profit homes versus public, municipally-owned homes.

“I oppose profits being made by corporations in long-term care. Let’s lay all the facts on the table in a thorough and independent public inquiry,” said Horwath.

Data released Tuesday by the Ontario Health Coalition shows a significantly higher death rate due to COVID-19 in long-term care homes that are owned by for-profit corporations, compared to non-profit homes and public, municipal homes. The analysis showed that the rate of death was 9 per cent in for-profit homes, 5.25 per cent in non-profit homes and 3.62 per cent in publicly-owned, municipal homes.

“I envision a community-based non-profit and public seniors care system – one that doesn’t siphon away frontline funding to pad the pockets of multi-national corporations, but instead uses every penny to deliver the best care,” said Horwath. “This inquiry could be the start of putting Ontario on a new, better, safer and more dignified path.”

Privatization of long-term care increased dramatically in the 1990s under Premier Mike Harris. Harris is now the chair of the board for a massive long-term care for-profit corporation.


May 6, 2020

FACT CHECK: Ontario needs to ramp up testing before re-opening businesses

The Ford government missed its own, lowered testing targets again Wednesday.

  • Ford’s initial target for May 6: 18,900 tests per day
  • Ford’s downgraded target for May 6: 16,000 tests per day
  • Tests completed May 6: 12,961
  • Cumulatively short of initial target: 155,207

“A massive increase in COVID-19 testing within the community is necessary to re-open businesses, parks and services. The fewer tests Ontario does, the greater the risk is for people out there. Doug Ford’s job is to fix this problem, not to complain about it,” said Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats.


May 5, 2020

FACT CHECK: COVID testing falling behind 

The NDP Official Opposition says today’s shocking drop in COVID-19 testing shows the Ford government is failing to ramp up testing to meet its own new, lowered target for tomorrow, even while using testing data as a justification for re-opening parts of the Ontario economy.

  • Ford’s initial target: 18,900 tests per day
  • Ford’s downgraded target for this week: 16,000 tests per day by May 6
  • Tests completed May 4: 14,555
  • Tests completed May 5: 10,654

On Monday, the national average was 24,460 tested per million people, but Ontario was only testing at 22,715 per million. Alberta, by comparison, is testing 34,800 per million, or 42 per cent more tests.

Since March, the government has consistently missed its own testing targets.


May 5, 2020

NDP statement on Education Week

Marit Stiles, Ontario NDP Education critic, released the following statement to mark Education Week:

“This year, we mark Education Week at a time when students, parents, teachers and education workers are facing extraordinary circumstances.

As Education Critic for the Official Opposition, I want to thank students and parents across the province for your flexibility and hard work to keep learning going in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to acknowledge the uncertainty and anxiety students are facing right now.

I also want to salute the work of our incredible teachers who are finding creative ways to deliver curriculum and connect with their students; education workers who are maintaining our schools, supporting the distribution of technology and handling administrative issues; and school boards, trustees, superintendents and principals who are working hard to get needed equipment into the hands of our students.

As we adapt to our current learning and working circumstances, I am inspired by the determination and compassion all Ontarians have shown.

It’s a strange time, but an important one. And everything you are doing is helping save lives and keep our young people connected and supported.

Happy Education Week!”


May 4, 2020

NDP pitches agriculture plan including lifting Risk Management cap, livestock security funding

The NDP is calling for a suite of safeguards to ensure agribusinesses and rural economies can weather the COVID-19 storm — particularly since the provincial government has left the farming industry and rural communities to fend for themselves, weakening the food supply chain.

“Imagine finding out that the animals that your family worked hard to raise have lost their value. Imagine being told that the crop you have stored has lost its worth and has to be disposed of. Those animals and crops were going to pay your mortgage, feed your family, and cover input costs for next year's crop. This is the nightmare that Ontario's farmers are facing,” said Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats. “The provincial government hasn’t stepped up, and it’s really time they do – to support farms, and to keep the food supply chain from faltering.”

The government broke its promise to increase the Risk Management Program cap by $50 million in 2020-21, actually cutting planned spending on demand-driven risk management programs by $160 million.

To safeguard the food supply chain and protect agricultural and rural economies, the NDP is urging the Ford government, in partnership with agri-food stakeholders and other levels of government, to immediately:

  • Completely remove the cap on the Risk Management Program to ensure as much stability as possible in Ontario’s food system during the crisis
  • Direct Agricorp to expand risk coverage for agriculture insurance
  • Provide funding so farmers can hold livestock humanely until processing space opens up, avoiding wasteful slaughter
  • Guarantee access to PPE and all necessary equipment, supplies, training and physical distancing measures for the agri-food sector
  • Take urgent action to save the restaurant and hospitality sector, key customers for Ontario’s food producers, including the 75 per cent commercial rent subsidy up to $10,000 a month for three months and banning commercial evictions during the crisis
  • Treat rural broadband internet as an essential service, working with carriers to lower costs and remove data caps on the limited broadband services currently available to rural Ontarians, and providing additional funding and leadership to greatly accelerate the delivery of permanent broadband and cellular infrastructure to rural Ontario
  • Encouraging the expansion of local food supply chains to fill gaps in imports/exports that have been fragmented due to the pandemic, with additional support for food banks and local food businesses
  • Providing enhanced funding to rural municipalities so they can keep workers on the payroll and continue providing essential services safely during the pandemic
  • Establishing procedures to identify and respond quickly to new threats to food security during and after the immediate crisis

May 1, 2020

Ford government must stop ignoring people with disabilities during COVID-19

The Official Opposition is reiterating its call for Doug Ford to take urgent actions to support people with disabilities through this pandemic — including a plan to conduct in-home COVID-19 testing for people with disabilities.

The NDP is calling for the plan to include, but not be limited to:

  • Adopting a clinical triage protocol that respects the human rights of people with disabilities
  • Ensuring that attendant care workers who help people with disabilities in their own homes have access to personal protective equipment
  • Resources and clear guidelines to support 330,000 special education students with e-learning
  • Provide remote and distance supports to assist the families of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities living with them, to provide respite for family members during mandatory periods of isolation at home
  • Declaring the Assistive Devices Program an essential service so that no one is deprived of critical mobility or medical aides

May 1, 2020

McNaughton must address health and safety enforcement problems before reopening economy

The NDP is calling on the Ford Government’s Labour Minister to strengthen protections for workers to refuse unsafe work, especially while they consider the steps necessary to re-open the economy.

The Toronto Star has reported that 213 workers have exercised their legislated right to refuse unsafe work and demand an inspection from the Ministry of Labour. In every case, the Ministry of Labour has overruled their concerns, often without an on-site inspection of the workplace.

The NDP has joined workers in calling for clarity for how workplace inspections and investigations are happening in the absence of physical site inspections. It is all employers’ responsibility, in law, to provide safe workplaces, and the government’s role to enforce and investigate when they do not.

“No one should ever have to choose between keeping their job and coming home safe and healthy. People need to know the government will protect every worker’s right under Ontario law to refuse unsafe work, and the premier and minister must make sure that all workers, including those who are showing up to work in the health care, retail, construction and other essential services still in operation right now know it,” said Andrea Horwath, NDP Leader of the Opposition.

As of April 24, the WSIB had received 1,069 COVID-19 workplace exposure incident reports.


May 1, 2020

International Workers' Day

Today, as Ontarians join communities across the globe in celebrating International Workers’ Day, it is more important than ever to show our thanks and solidarity to working folks.

During these incredibly difficult times, we are all especially thankful for the public health staff, health care workers, grocery store staff, pharmacy workers, transit drivers, truckers, supply chain workers, manufacturing teams, essential construction workers, first responders, and so many more of our everyday heroes. That’s why here in Ontario, we are also celebrating First Responders Day today

All Ontarians are so thankful to these crucial workers for all that they do to keep people safe and healthy, get food and medicine into people’s homes, and keep our province running. In communities across the province and the globe, people have finally come to realize how critical these working folks really are. But, sadly – and shamefully – many of these heroes are among the lowest paid workers in our society. Some have to work three jobs to make ends meet. Some haven’t had proper health and safety protections. Many don’t have pensions and health benefits.

While there is no doubt that the risks have been greater and the pressure more intense these last few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t make these workers more valuable – it showed the world how incredibly valuable they have always been.
Let’s make sure they get the wages and working conditions they’ve always deserved. And let’s make sure they’re never taken for granted again.


April 30, 2020

Making Safety Optional will Put Lives at Risk

Opening restaurants and other workplaces with health and safety “guidelines” instead of enforceable rules will put people’s health at risk, said the NDP.

“Some employers will work hard to keep people as safe as they can when they re-open following the COVID-19 peak. And some absolutely will not,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “Allowing individual employers to decide if their employees, customers and suppliers get to be adequately protected is a bad idea that will put people at risk, and hurt us all if it leads to a resurgence of COVID-19.”

The Ford government announced Thursday that it will put roughly 60 health and safety guidelines up online to guide business re-opening, and produce posters.

“Having guidelines rather than rules and inspections contributed to the deadly disaster in long-term care,” said Wayne Gates, the NDP’s Labour critic for Workplace Health and Safety. “Before Doug Ford moves ahead with re-opening businesses, he needs to set and clearly communicate rules, and ensure that inspections will take place to enforce those rules.”

Horwath has previously called for Ford to put in place a robust testing plan, make PPE available, and increase the number of proactive site inspections as a part of the plan to re-open segments of the economy.


April 30, 2020

Fact Check: Ontario falls 100,000 COVID-19 tests behind initial target

 

On Wednesday Doug Ford claimed that Ontario was hitting its COVID-19 testing targets. But Ford has moved the goalposts to make those targets lower, and they’re still not being met.

Ford lowered the target from 18,900 tests per day by April 17 to 12,500 tests per day by April 22. Then started counting each swab, rather than each patient, since multiple swabs can be taken from each patient.

The government still hasn’t consistently met their own lower target, and as of Wednesday, the province has tested 100,000 fewer people by failing to meet its original target.

chart of covid19 tests


April 28, 2020

NDP urges province to fully cover take-home cancer drugs while hospital treatments are on hold

NDP Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath is urging the province to cover 100 per cent of the cost of take-home cancer drugs some patients are struggling to afford after the COVID-19 pandemic put their in-hospital treatments on hold. The NDP has long called for the province to make all take-home cancer drugs free, and this has only taken on increased urgency amid the pandemic.

Bhutila Karpoche, NDP MPP, said her office has been supporting patients who can’t afford the expensive medications they are being prescribed as COVID-19 forces their doctor to alter their treatment plan. Take-home cancer drugs are a modern option that may replace chemotherapy for some patients and can keep patients stabilized until hospitals are again able to perform surgeries. But they can cost more than $2,000 a month, and Karpoche says constituents in need haven’t qualified for any provincial drug plan help.

“Getting a cancer diagnosis and going through treatment is hard enough as it is,” said Karpoche. “Having to change treatment due to COVID-19, and not knowing what that will mean for your prospects of recovery, is devastating.

“There are families across the province facing these situations, and the last thing anyone should have to worry about right now is whether they’ll be able to afford to pay for critical medications while hospital treatments are on hold.”

The Ontario NDP remains committed to pharmacare: a prescription drug plan that covers everyone.

“Cancer patients deserve to be able to focus on getting better as they adjust to new treatment plans under COVID-19 protocols,” said Karpoche. “I am urging the province to immediately commit to covering the full cost of all take-home cancer drugs.”


April 28, 2020

NDP Leader marks the Day of Mourning:

Today, I stand in Solidarity with workers across Ontario and Canada in marking and especially solemn and painful National Day of Mourning.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have essential workers in our hearts, including health care workers and public health staff, first responders, pharmacy and grocery store staff, farmers, truckers and supply chain workers. We are filled with sorrow for people who have been infected at work, and we mourn the loss of workers who have died from this terrible virus.
On this Day of Mourning, I’m launching the fight to ensure that all workers during this pandemic have presumptive WSIB coverage for COVID-19. Both for the virus itself, and for the trauma, PTSD and mental health challenges that may come after it. Thanks to the hard work of the NDP Labour critic for Workplace Health and Safety, Wayne Gates, the NDP will table a private member’s bill to accomplish that, because no essential worker should have to fight to prove this illness was contracted at work.

Even during this extremely challenging time, we know that every workplace infection, injury or death is a preventable one.

On behalf of the Official Opposition, I want to congratulate the Ontario Nurses Association on their legal victory, fighting for the right to have access to and to wear personal protective equipment, including N95 masks.

Every worker has the right to protection and safety at work, including personal protective equipment like N95 masks.

More than ever, on the National Day of Mourning we remember the dead, and fight for the living.


April 27, 2020

Vague re-opening plan missing actions to make new economy safe: "Caution is good. Testing, inspecting and expanding access to PPE is still needed."

Successfully re-opening the economy will take action, not just words and passive monitoring, says Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath. 

“The government needs to dramatically ramp up inspections and testing. They need to get personal protective equipment into the hands of workers in workplaces that are re-opening. And they need a plan to stop the outbreaks still raging in long-term care,” said Horwath. “The government can and must do more if we are to safely move forward. There is an active role only the government can play in making the re-opening successful and safe.”

The government’s framework for re-opening was rightfully committed to following the advice of public health, and re-opening cautiously and in phases — the NDP supports that approach. But the NDP also wants to see the government’s role include:

Proactive and on-site inspections of re-opened workplaces to ensure physical distancing and infection control. Even with the current limited number of businesses operating, workers report that they cannot get on-site inspections of their work conditions.

Dramatically ramping up testing of people in the community, including asymptomatic people. Ontario continues to have the lowest testing rate in the country and experts say we need much more testing before businesses re-open.

Expanding the availability and use of personal protective equipment in workplaces that are re-opening.

Dramatically ramping up containment efforts in long-term care and other congregate care settings to save lives, and stop the wildfire from spreading back into the community — including a plan for workers that come and go from homes where deadly outbreaks continue to rage, and are still growing.

“We have to learn from SARS. We have to learn from countries experiencing a second COVID-19 wave. If the province doesn’t put a robust plan in place to dramatically expand testing, inspections and infection control, we could see a resurgence of this deadly virus.”

Horwath said the government’s framework is disappointingly vague, leaving people and businesses without information on what each phase will look like, which could lead to misinformation.


April 25, 2020

Ontario's pandemic payment should be retroactive to beginning of state of emergency

“Our frontline workers, whether in long-term care facilities or hospital kitchens, have done extraordinary work since the beginning of this state of emergency. It’s wrong that it took so long for this small wage top up to arrive, and I’m asking Doug Ford to make this additional pay retroactive to the day the State of Emergency was declared, so that people‘s sacrifice and hard work to keep us all safe is recognized.”


April 24, 2020

Misleading government announcement leaves kids, teachers and parents disappointed and without iPads

Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce gave teachers, students and families the impression that at least 21,000 new iPads were on the way to give families in need access to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The truth is that school boards won’t get a single extra device.

“We’ve heard from boards all over the province that are inundated with calls from parents looking for the iPad they believed the government was sending their child,” said NDP Education critic Marit Stiles. “But the sad truth is that Mr. Ford and Mr. Lecce were just taking credit for devices already owned and distributed by school boards.

“Mr. Ford’s words don’t match his actions, and as a result, thousands of kids — especially kids from lower-income households — are being let down. This really adds to the inequity. We need solutions for kids in communities with less resources, and those in remote and rural areas.”

On April 17, a government press release announced “iPad devices are being purchased and distributed by Ontario school boards, pre-equipped with free Rogers LTE wireless data.” The carefully-worded announcement added that “over 21,000 will be sent to the homes of families in need.”

This week, the Toronto and District School Board was forced to distribute a statement to its trustees, which the NDP has obtained. It reads:

“Last week’s announcement by the Minister was highlighting, from a provincial level, what school boards are doing with regard to distribution of devices at the local level. At this point in time, there are no additional iPads (or additional money for iPads) being provided by the Province.”


April 23, 2020

NDP calls for nursing home COVID-19 outbreaks to be publicly posted

The Official Opposition wants a list of long-term care facilities and other congregate care settings experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19 to be posted publicly online.

The NDP’s call comes after at least 31 deaths were confirmed at a Pickering long-term care facility that was reporting only four deaths just days ago.

Ontario’s iPHIS data reporting system has been consistently wrong, underreporting the number of deaths in long-term care by about 100 people, at last count. Both the former Liberal and current Conservative governments have been warned that iPHIS is inaccurate, but have ignored the warnings for years.


April 22, 2020

Government must make in-home testing available for people with disabilities

The Official Opposition is calling for the Ford government to make COVID-19 testing available at home for people with disabilities who face barriers trying to travel to testing sites.

"There are 2.6 million Ontarians living with disabilities, yet Doug Ford has not announced any plans to support them during the pandemic — despite the fact that many people with disabilities are among the most susceptible to COVID-19, and often face barriers in accessing testing and treatment," said Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition.

Horwath and Harden wrote to Doug Ford calling for his government to adopt a plan in consultation with experts and grassroots disability community leaders. The plan should include, but not be limited to:

  • Adopting a clinical triage protocol that respects the human rights of people with disabilities
  • Ensuring that attendant care workers who help people with disabilities in their own homes have access to personal protective equipment
  • Resources and clear guidelines to support 330,000 special education students with e-learning
  • Provide remote and distance supports to assist the families of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities living with them, to provide respite for family members during mandatory periods of isolation at home
  • Declaring the Assistive Devices Program an essential service so that no one is deprived of critical mobility or medical aides

April 16, 2020

Race-based data critical in Ontario's fight against COVID-19

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats, is calling on the Ford government to listen to experts and collect race and socio-demographic data on COVID-19. Horwath said this is critical to preventing worse health outcomes for racialized Ontarians during the pandemic.

In the United Sates, data collected from many urban centres have shown an alarming trend of disproportionate COVID-19 deaths and infection rates amongst Black populations. It’s unclear whether this could be the case in Ontario, because the province isn’t collecting race-based health data.

“Black, Indigenous and racialized Ontarians were already suffering from poorer health outcomes and barriers to access before the province was thrust into a pandemic,” said Horwath. “Now we’re seeing troubling signs in other places that these inequities — and the worse health outcomes that come with them —are continuing unchecked with the spread of COVID-19.”

Health experts have long advocated for the government to include race and socio-demographic information when it collects health data in order to fight inequity in health care. The Toronto Central LHIN has been collecting race and socio-demographic data since 2010.

“It’s time for the province to start collecting data on how racialized Ontarians are experiencing COVID-19,” said Horwath. “Without a complete picture of how we’re doing, we can’t make decisions that ensure the best possible health outcomes for everyone so we can get through this pandemic together.”


April 16, 2020

Ford must close huge gaps he opened in home care protections: Province needs a plan to manage residential homes in dire situations

After weeks of COVID-19 sweeping through vulnerable group living facilities, the Ford government is choosing to build dangerous gaps into its new protective orders, leaving seniors and adults with disabilities at greater risk. Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats, wants those problems fixed today — alongside a plan to take over management of facilities where residents aren’t protected.

  • Retirement homes, supportive housing and assisted living residences — including homes like Participation House — are excluded
  • Temp agency staff, who frequently work in long-term care homes, are exempt from a new rule banning workers from working in multiple homes
  • The rules don’t come into effect for a full week, despite the wildfire of infections potentially at a peak this week

“The government has done too little, far too late to protect seniors in care and adults with disabilities in group living situations. It’s beyond time for the government to step up with a plan to take direct management of homes where residents aren’t protected enough.”

Horwath has been calling for an overhaul of long-term care in Ontario for years, and now says once the COVID-19 crisis has passed, it will be up to Queen’s Park to ensure Ontario never goes back to the patchwork of privatized, underfunded and poorly-regulated seniors care.


April 15, 2020

Horwath opposes Time of Use hydro bill hike

“Just last month Doug Ford promised he would ‘take the burden off families’ during the COVID-19 pandemic — but his actions don’t match his words. I’m shocked that the government is preparing to hike the hydro bills of families and small businesses already struggling, by tacking Time of Use pricing back onto their bills.

Millions of Ontarians are doing their part by staying at home to protect the most vulnerable in our province. Hiking their bills for daytime electricity use punishes them for doing that.

With so many families struggling with rent, mortgage payments and bills they can’t afford right now — through no fault of their own — this hydro bill hike is cruel, and tone-deaf. The government should cancel Time of Use pricing until after the end of the pandemic, and work on making electricity bills more affordable, not more expensive.”


April 15, 2020

The Ford government must immediately fix dangerous return-to-work guidelines for health care workers with COVID-19

NDP Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath said the government needs to fix its own guidelines, which instruct health care workers with COVID-19 to return to work in hospitals, long-term care facilities and other health care settings.

“The government’s decision to allow health care workers who have the COVID-19 virus to return to work with the most vulnerable Ontarians is deeply worrying and flies in the face of what we all know about the virus — that it spreads whether you have symptoms or not,” said Horwath.

“As hospitals and long-term care facilities across the province are facing serious outbreaks of COVID-19, we should be assuring patients, residents and their loved ones that we’re doing everything we can to keep COVID-19 away from them, not inviting it to their bedside. And we should be assuring our health care heroes that we’re doing everything possible to ensure they won’t contract the virus from someone they work alongside and share a staff lounge with.”


April 14, 2020

Government must stem outbreaks by stopping staff from working at multiple care homes

Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath said it’s wrong that the government has continued with a system in which people work at multiple seniors facilities, which has helped the deadly COVID-19 virus sweep through one care home after another. Despite dozens of outbreaks in long-term care and other living facilities for frail and vulnerable people, large care home owners are still telling staff to work at multiple homes.


April 14, 2020

Ontario needs to help people where federal supports fall short: help for students, top-ups or socail assistance and low-wage workers proposed

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats, wants Ontario to catch people who fall through the cracks with a $2,000 monthly benefit, plus help for students, and top-up payments for low-wage essential workers and those struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Horwath said new measures should have been in the government’s emergency bill, including:

Emergency Income

  • Supplementary Emergency Benefit of up to $2,000 per month for those who fall through the cracks of Employment Insurance (EI) and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
  • Top-up social assistance payments of $300 per month, plus eliminating any clawback triggered by federal emergency benefits.
  • Top-up payments for those with reduced income or for whom federal benefits fall short of basic needs, including essential workers with reduced income or earnings of less than $2,000 per month

Income for students

  • Supplementary Student Grants for students who are unable to find summer jobs.
  • Eliminating assumed student earnings and parental contributions for any student affected by income loss in their households for the purpose of calculating OSAP. ​​

Drug Coverage

  • Full drug coverage through Trillium or the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan for anyone receiving emergency benefits.

Horwath and the NDP have also proposed a $2,500 a month rent supplement and other supports for people with reduced income, as well as a number of supports for small businesses — which may be able to access a wage support package form the federal government, but have no help with rent or other overhead costs they still need to cover during the pandemic.

Background

The NDP has been calling for direct supports to help people and businesses. To date, those constructive proposals have included:

Help with income

  • Establish the Ontario Emergency Income program to provide households experiencing unemployment or lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic with $2,000, plus $250 per dependent child, to bridge the gap while waiting for federal supports to arrive.
  • Order all utilities to provide interest-free bill deferrals of up to six months to anyone who cites financial need, with penalty-free repayment plans.
  • Immediately cancel Time of Use hydro billing.
  • Cancel prescription co-payments for seniors.
  • Institute an immediate discount of 50 per cent on auto insurance premiums and order the Financial Services Regulatory Authority to institute an auto-insurance grace period to allow for interest-free bill deferrals for all who need it.

Help people keep their home

  • Offer a provincially-funded rent subsidy of 80 per cent of a household’s rent, up to $2,500 a month, for each of the next four months, for anyone qualifying for the federal emergency benefit. The money would be paid to the tenant.
  • Order a six-month freeze on rent increases.
  • Write into law that there can be no evictions, lockouts or disconnections for any reason during the pandemic, nor punished in any way for missing a rent payment, and ban threats of the same.
  • Push for a federal moratorium on mortgage foreclosures.

Help vulnerable people

  • Create a new stabilization fund for the non-profit sector to provide financial support for non-profits like food banks.
  • Designate additional emergency funding for the shelter system, outreach and harm reduction.
  • Automatically renew transfer payments to agencies, organizations and programs currently being funded.
  • Waive the requirement for Ontario Works recipients to be actively looking for work.

Help small and medium-sized businesses, non-profits and charities

  • Provide a 75 per cent rent subsidy, up to $10,000 a month for three months for businesses that have substantially lower income as a result of COVID-19.
  • Work with other levels of government to immediately halt the collection of all payroll, property, sales, and income taxes from small and medium-sized business.
  • Institute a utility payment freeze.
  • Postpone tourism and marketing fees for businesses in the very hard-hit hospitality sector, as requested by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
  • Dedicate additional resources to ensure the food supply chain is maintained and responsive to shortages, including direct support to growers and animal agriculture.
  • Create a remote-work set up fund for small-businesses — which could help them with things like setting up an online retail operation, or buying laptops and software for their workforce.
  • Institute an auto-insurance grace period for taxis and car-sharing drivers.
  • Create a designated emergency fund for small businesses and entrepreneurs who have faced historic barriers to accessing traditional capital, as proposed by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce.

Partner with municipalities

  • For municipalities that institute property tax deferrals, ensure the flexibility to defer their remittance of property taxes to the province.
  • Provide 100 per cent provincial funding to public health units, so that they are not relying on municipalities for 30 per cent of their funding, especially while municipalities have paused revenue tools like property tax payments.

April 14, 2020

Ontario needs to help people where federal supports fall short

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats, wants Ontario to catch people who fall through the cracks with a $2,000 monthly benefit, plus help for students, and top-up payments for low-wage essential workers and those struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic including:

Emergency Income

  • Supplementary Emergency Benefit of up to $2,000 per month for those who fall through the cracks of Employment Insurance (EI) and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
  • Top-up social assistance payments of $300 per month, plus eliminating any clawback triggered by federal emergency benefits.
  • Top-up payments for those with reduced income or for whom federal benefits fall short of basic needs, including essential workers with reduced income or earnings of less than $2,000 per month

Income for students

  • Supplementary Student Grants for students who are unable to find summer jobs.
  • Eliminating assumed student earnings and parental contributions for any student affected by income loss in their households for the purpose of calculating OSAP. ​​

Drug Coverage

  • Full drug coverage through Trillium or the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan for anyone receiving emergency benefits.

Horwath said the NDP will vote in favour of Tuesday’s emergency bill, and allow it to pass immediately, but believes people were hoping the legislation would rescue them from sleepless nights and payments they can’t afford — and it doesn’t.

Horwath and the NDP have also proposed a $2,500 a month rent supplement and other supports for people with reduced income, as well as a number of supports for small businesses — which may be able to access a wage support package form the federal government, but have no help with rent or other overhead costs they still need to cover during the pandemic.


April 9, 2020

NDP response to Economic Recovery Committee

Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said today’s announcement that the Ontario government has tasked the majority of its cabinet to look at jobs and economic recovery is disappointing for those who were desperately hoping for an announcement that would help them financially, right now.

“We need action, now, to save families and businesses from economic hardship, not just a plan to pull together cabinet ministers for yet another committee.”

The NDP’s proposal so far have included:

  • An 80 per cent rent subsidy for people up to $2,500 per month
  • A utility payment freeze
  • A $2,000 payment to bridge the gap while people wait for federal financial support
  • A 50 per cent discount on auto insurance
  • A 75 per cent commercial rent subsidy up to $10,000 per month for three months
  • A remote-work set up fund, which could help them with things like setting up an online retail operation, or buying laptops and software for staff
  • An auto insurance grace period for taxis and car-sharing drivers
  • A designated emergency fund for small businesses and entrepreneurs who have faced historic barriers to accessing traditional capital, as proposed by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce.

April 9, 2020

Ontario must support businesses as COVID-19 spikes job losses

Statistics Canada figures released today offer a first glimpse of the economic damage caused by the crisis, with Ontario leading the country in job losses. More than 400,000 people in Ontario were handed pink slips in March, pushing the unemployment rate up to 7.6 per cent.

“COVID-19 has left hundreds of thousands of people out of work, worrying about how they’ll keep up with their bills, and has left small and medium-sized businesses counting down the days they can keep going,” said Fife, NDP critic for Economic Growth and Jobs Creation. “We can insulate people and families and small and medium-sized businesses from financial crisis better than we’re doing right now.”

The Statistics Canada figures also show how widespread an impact COVID-19 is having, with jobs down in almost every sector and region in Ontario, including in the health sector.

Anything that happened after the labour force survey, March 15 to 21, won’t show up in the numbers until next month’s release.


April 9, 2020

Ontario's ODSP clawback leaves families eligible for Canada Emergency Response Benefit worse off in the COVID-19 crisis

The NDP Official Opposition is calling for the government to stop Ontario’s clawback rules for social assistance recipients during the COVID-19 pandemic. This clawback policy risks leaving many families who qualify for and receive the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) even worse off, as their family could see their existing ODSP support wiped out.

In Ontario, any supports like EI coming into the household are deducted dollar-for-dollar from ODSP payments, but earned income from work triggers a clawback at 50-cents on the dollar. If someone from a household that counts on ODSP loses their job, and applies for CERB, the benefit could be completely wiped out, leaving the family even further behind for the month.

“Families are feeling anxious during this unprecedented crisis as they worry about their health, their jobs and paying the bills,” said MPP Lisa Gretzky, the NDP’s Community and Social Services critic. "Ontario's policies punish working families, and adds insult to injury given already abysmally-low social assistance rates.

“For adults with disabilities and their families, the pandemic has made life even more expensive – and forcing them to try to get by with even less is wrong, and it has to stop. Ontario needs to act immediately to cancel the clawback for people that are eligible for CERB. A clawback that will wipe out the financial help the federal government is offering.”


April 9, 2020

Province should cover accommodation costs for front-line workers who shouldn't go home

Some frontline health care workers are desperate for a place to stay during the pandemic, because home is where immuno-compromised, elderly or infant loved ones are.

“We’re hearing from health care workers who are devastated at the very thought of going home after their shift because someone they love there is vulnerable,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “If a health care worker or first responder has higher-risk people in their household, we need to help them keep their family safe,”

Some hospitals or unions have negotiated discounted hotel rates for some health care workers, but all health care workers should have a cost-free option, organized and paid for by the province, according to the NDP.


April 8, 2020

NDP calling for half-price auto insurance during pandemic

The NDP Official Opposition is calling on the Ford government to give all Ontario drivers a 50 per cent break on auto insurance payments for three months, and let people who have lost a job or income defer payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.


April 8, 2020

Provincial plan needed to support and protect seniors during COVID-19 pandemic

The NDP’s recommendations to protect and support seniors during COVID-19 include:

  • Suspend medication dispensing fees and co-pays for Ontarians 65 and older
  • Ban fee hikes or new fees in long-term care, retirement homes and other settings supporting senior care
  • Crack down on scams looking to defraud seniors
  • Provide $5 million in matching funding to support screening, testing and resources for all senior care settings
  • Provide $20 million to community organizations addressing senior isolation
  • Developing a clear province-wide plan for family visitation at long-term care homes, retirement homes and hospitals that includes best practices in preventing COVID-19 transmission
  • Actively screen and regularly test all seniors in long-term care, retirement homes, supportive housing and assisted living
  • Create a $5 million fund for more staff, supplies, equipment and infection control for seniors living in supportive and assistive living facilities in Ontario

April 7, 2020

Changes needed in long-term care and home-care

“Our parents and grandparents need us. We have a responsibility to protect them.” The Official Opposition NDP is calling for major changes and investments, including:

  • Aggressively recruiting home care and long-term care staff
  • Mandate that more staff be scheduled on each shift in each long-term care home
  • Immediately increase salaries for staff to a minimum of $22/hr in order to retain and attract workers, including Personal Support Workers (PSWs) and Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs)
  • Assign each staff member to one facility only, and ensure they have full-time hours, to eliminate the potential for staff to transmit COVID-19 to other facilities, ending all exceptions
  • Standardize visitor policies province-wide to prevent COVID-19 transmission from visitors and volunteers, seeking Public Health determination on the safest policy
  • Mandate that home care workers wear personal protective equipment — including gloves and a surgical mask — for every home visit, to avoid transmission from one vulnerable client to another, and mandate long-term care staff wear PPE any time they’re with residents
  • Create a caregiver fund to support families that choose to care for their loved one at home

April 6, 2020

Cancel prescription co-payments for seniors in Ontario

The Ontario NDP are calling on the Ford government to cancel and cover the drug co-payments seniors in Ontario are required to pay every time they fill a prescription, as COVID-19 measures force seniors to fill their prescriptions more often. 

The provincial government has asked pharmacists to dispense no more than one month’s worth of medication at a time in order to prevent drug shortages. Seniors pay up to $6.11 every time they fill a prescription, regardless of how many months’ supply they take home.

“No senior in Ontario should have to skip their pills or skimp on food as a result of the pandemic,” said Horwath. “But if seniors have to pay for each prescription each month, some of them will be forced to make difficult choices.


April 5, 2020

Provincial investments needed to keep Main Street afloat

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s said small and medium-sized businesses, charities and community-based non-profits should get help from the province, including:

  • A 75 per cent commercial rent subsidy up to $10,000 a month for three months
  • A utility payment freeze
  • A remote-work set up fund, which could help them with things like setting up an online retail operation, or buying laptops and software for staff
  • An auto insurance grace period for taxis and car-sharing drivers, established in partnership with the insurance industry and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority
  • A designated emergency fund for small businesses and entrepreneurs who have faced historic barriers to accessing traditional capital, as proposed by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce.

The cost of the Save Main Street plan is estimated to range from $850 million to $1.15 billion.


April 2, 2020

Issues with Carding: Distrust in communities during COVID-19 Pandemic

Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath released the following statement regarding the Ford government’s decision to give provincial offences officers the ability to card Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic:


“I join Black, Indigenous and racialized communities across Ontario in expressing concern at the province’s decision to give provincial offences officers the ability to card Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, the government has to proactively build trust with communities, so we can all work together to stop the spread of COVID-19. There is never a right time to take a step backward in the fight against racism. Legalized carding is a giant step backward and must end. This regulation should never have been introduced.
I’m calling on the government to explain how it intends to guard against abuse of these additional powers, and what recourse Black, Indigenous and racialized Ontarians will have if they are unfairly and disproportionately targeted. Black, Indigenous and racialized Ontarians deserve to feel safe during a crisis just like everyone else. End carding for good, now."


April 1, 2020

Government needs to support health care workers 

The NDP is calling for the government to take a number of steps to support health care workers:

  1. Issue an emergency order to ensure workers can have personal protective equipment
    • Legally protect the right for health care workers to determine – based on their professional and clinical judgement – when they require access to personal protective equipment like masks.
  2. Issue an emergency order to require all organizations to donate personal protective equipment they’re not using
  3. Hike Personal Support Worker (PSW) pay to $22
    • Aggressively ramp up recruitment efforts to get more staff into seniors care homes. Many trained PSWs are not working in home care or long-term care because of underpaying and understaffing. More staff gives workers in long-term care and home care time to care for people, and take necessary precautions with virus containment protocols
    • Create a retention fund for PSWs
  4. Give health care workers mental health supports
    • Invest $5 million to provide round-the-clock, emergency mental health supports for health care workers
    • Provide Presumptive WSIB coverage for frontline health care workers whose mental or physical health is affected by COVID-19
  5. Scale up free child care centres for health care workers now
    • Ramp-up opening child care centres
    • Locate child care centres located near hospitals, long-term care homes, COVID-19 assessment centres and other health care facilities
    • Set required standards for cleaning and disinfecting the temporary child care centres
  6. Cancel all parking fees at hospitals and other health care facilities

March 31, 2020

Students, Parents and Teachers Need Direction

Families need to see a concrete plan for students that assumes kids can’t return to class in the near future.

At this time of uncertainty the province must provide clarity. The minister must issue clear directions, including the government’s position on the following:

  • Final grades — Grade 12 students need answers about how their final grade will be determined and what impact that will have on their post-secondary plans.
  • Special needs supports — Parents need extra supports to get special needs students through the next few weeks at home.
  • Access to internet-connected devices — The government must work hand-in-hand with school boards to provide access to computers at home especially to those families facing economic challenges, and explain what will be done for students who don’t have access to a decent internet connection at home.

March 31, 2020

COVID-19 Contingency Plans for Colleges and Universities

Today the Ontario government announced emergency financial support for Ontario’s colleges and universities and a grace period on paying back student loans amid the COVID-19.

 

The Ontario NDP say that these are "good first steps in addressing the impact of COVID-19 in our post-secondary institutions. But more needs to be done for Ontario’s post-secondary students and the colleges and universities where they study.

As post-secondary institutions turn to online learning as a stopgap measure, the government needs to ensure that there is equitable access, including for students with low incomes and those who live in remote parts of Ontario. Many students do not have access to computers and Wi-Fi, or cannot afford data plans.

As our post-secondary institutions contribute to the efforts to fight COVID-19 — by producing personal protective equipment and by potentially contributing to lab testing soon — we need to make sure that they and their students are fully supported in their time of need too.”


March 30, 2020

People need a rent subsidy to get through COVID-19: Statement from NDP Leader Horwath

 

NDP Leader lays out plan for 80% rent support, eviction ban, six-month rent freeze.

 

“For many people in our province, the rent is due this week and they have no way to pay it,” said Horwath. “This public health crisis is also an economic crisis, and renters who usually don’t have much wiggle room at the end of the month are vulnerable. The province needs to have the backs of folks who have lost their jobs or lost income as a result of the pandemic.”

 

The facts:

  • NDP is proposing an 80% subsidy of the household's monthly rent (up to $2,500 per home, per month, for up to four months)
  • Horwath believes there should be a legal ban on evictions, lockouts and disconnections for four months
  • Rent prices should stay put for six months (along with a provincial freeze and federal ban on mortgage foreclosures)
  • The cost to the province is estimated to be between $2.4 billion and $3 billion

March 25, 2020

NDP Leader's Response to Financial Statement: "Leaves Out Help for People"

NDP says direct support is needed to help people and small businesses make it through COVID-19

On March 25, 2020, the provincial government released a financial update for Ontario audit the COVID-19 crisis. Though the NDP voted in favour of the financial bill and it passed immediately, the NDP are concerned that it lacks the direct financial assistance many Ontarians and small and medium-sized local businesses will need to get by during the COVID-19 crisis.


March 23, 2020

NDP calls for $2,000 Emergency Income to Help Ontarians Pay the Bills and Get By

Andrea Horwath and the NDP called for the provincial government to send $2,000 Ontario Emergency Income cheques to households experiencing unemployment or lost income during the COVID-19 crisis.


The direct payments would bridge the weeks-long wait for federal support payments, and help top-up the Employment Insurance and Emergency Care Benefit payments. These payments would be available immediately and automatically to those enrolled in Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Support Program, Employment Insurance, and the federal Emergency Care Benefit, and distributed to everyone who needs them by April 1.

In planning for the fiscal update, The Official Opposition has provided the government with the Ontario Emergency Income proposal, along with a number of other emergency measures it is urging the government to include in Wednesday’s fiscal plan:

  • A $250 per child emergency child benefit for households experiencing unemployment or reduced income
  • A minimum $1 billion in surge funding for hospitals
  • 100 per cent provincial funding for Public Health Units
  • A fund to provide child care for health care, public health and essential workers
  • A Personal Support Worker (PSW) retention fund
  • Interest-free utility bill deferrals and the end of Time of Use hydro billing
  • A stabilization fund for the non-profit sector – like food banks
  • A wage-fund boost and remote-work set up fund to support small and medium-sized businesses, which face much greater challenges now than large businesses
  • A program for ongoing income support for Ontarians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

March 19, 2020

NDP Call for Strong, Legislated Eviction Protections During COVID-19 Pandemic

Helping people

  • Order all utilities to provide interest-free bill deferrals of up to six months to anyone who cites financial need, with penalty-free repayment plans.
  • Immediately cancel Time Of Use hydro billing.
  • Write into law that no one can be evicted for any reason during the pandemic, nor punished in any way for missing a rent payment.
  • Waive the requirement for Ontario Works recipients to be actively looking for work.
  • Bring in a program for ongoing income support for Ontarians throughout the pandemic.

Bolstering small and medium-sized businesses

  • The federal government has offered a 10 per cent wage subsidy program for small businesses. The province needs to institute a substantial top-up, so employers can afford to maintain staff on the payroll while business is hampered.
  • Working with other levels of government, immediately halt the collection of all payroll, property, sales, and income taxes from small and medium-sized business; including ceasing issuing penalties and fines on taxes owed, and limit audits..
  • Institute a utility payment freeze for small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Postpone tourism and marketing fees for businesses in the very hard-hit hospitality sector, as requested by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
  • Create a remote-work set up fund for small-businesses — which could help them with things like setting up an online retail operation, or buying laptops and software for their workforce.
  • Institute an auto-insurance grace period for taxis and car-sharing drivers.

Partnering with municipalities

  • For municipalities that institute property tax deferrals, ensure the flexibility to defer their remittance of property taxes to the province.
  • Provide 100 per cent provincial funding to public health units, so that they are not relying on municipalities for 30 per cent of their funding, especially while municipalities have paused revenue tools like property tax payments.

March 18, 2020

NDP Welcome Federal Funds, Urge Ontario to Step Up with Direct Funding

  • The NDP supports the job protection provision, and the ban on required doctor’s notes. We will vote in favour of the bills, and we will provide the consent needed to pass them in one day. But they fall well short of what is needed.

  • The NDP has been pushing for leave from work to be paid, not unpaid, along with other measures. The government refused to accept the NDP’s suggestions or amendments to this legislation — things we’ve long been calling for — but we won’t give up on getting people the help they need.

  • Today’s announcement by the federal government of an $82-billion support package for Canadians is welcome relief. But it took too long to arrive, is too slow to flow, and it’s simply not enough money. It’s time for the Ontario government to step up and do its part by providing direct funding to protect families from missing meals or rent and mortgage payments, protect the most vulnerable people and organizations that support them, and prevent small businesses from going under.


March 17, 2020

The Official Opposition's Statement on Ontario's State of Emergency and Closure of all Non-Essential Workplaces

On March 17th the provincial government announced a State of Emergency.

As a result of this declaration and its associated orders, the following establishments ae legally required to close:

• All facilities providing indoor recreational programs;
• All public libraries;
• All private schools as defined in the Education Act;
• All licensed child care centres;
• All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery;
• All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies; and
• Concert venues.
• Further, all organized public events of over fifty people are also prohibited, including parades and events and communal services within places of worship.


On March 24th the provincial government announced the closure of all at-risk workplaces. You can find a full list of essential workplaces that are permitted to be open here. If you have questions about what is permitted to be open call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.


March 16, 2020

Emergency Legislation Passed at Queen's Park

The Legislative Assembly passed two bills to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Changes to Employment Standards Act to allow for employees in isolation, quarantine, or are caring for sick family due to COVID-19 to have job-protected leave. The changes also eliminate the requirement for sick notes to be provided to employers.
  2. A new Municipal Emergency Act that will permit overnight delivery to grocery stores and pharmacies and allows municipal councils to meet virtually.

The NDP voted in favour of these measures, but they are only small steps. Ontarians deserve more financial protection in the face of the scale of this unprecedented threat. 

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her top unaddressed concerns include:

  • Protecting people from losing a paycheque, or being expected to get by on inadequate Employment Insurance or Ontario Works payments alone, as a result of taking COVID-19 precautions or because of the illness
  • Guaranteeing that no one can be punished in any way for missing a rent or mortgage payment
  • Financial support for Ontarians not covered by Employment Insurance — especially those working in the gig economy
  • Immediate financial support for small and medium-sized businesses so they can continue to pay employees without becoming insolvent
  • Specific supports for vulnerable people, including seniors and those receiving OW and ODSP support, so they can access the groceries and medications they need to self-isolate if need be