Political Opinions

Doug Downey MPP Barrie, Springwater Oro-Medonte

We are currently living in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 outbreak has effected each and every one of us in a different way. As this crisis continues to unfold, our government has put together an Action Plan to help tackle the key financial issues we face from this epidemic.

As announced on March 25, our government is investing an additional $3.3 billion dollars in our health care system. This includes:

  • $2.1 billion in new initiatives to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and;
  • $12. Billion to continue to meet demand for services and build on a sustainable and connected healthcare system.

In order to support people and businesses and to improve cashflow, our government has allocated an investment of $10 billion. This includes:

  • $6 billion for deferred taxes for 100,000 businesses
  • $1.9 billion in WSIB Expense Deferrals for employers and;
  • $1.8 billion by deferring Municipal Education Property Taxes

Additionally, our government has invested $3.7 billion to help support people and to protect jobs. This investment includes:

  • $2 billion for Targeted Supports
  • $290 million in New Tax Measures and;
  • $1.5 billion in Electricity Cost Relief.

Though this outbreak has limited our social interactions and left many of us isolated in our homes, I wanted to take a moment to share my gratitude and appreciation for all of those in our community who have gone out of their way to help one another. Something as simple as connecting over social media, email or phone can help us to all feel that we are not alone during this crisis. I encourage each and everyone of you to continue to stay connected with your loved ones and make sure no one is left isolated during this crisis.

I also want to thank all of our front line workers, health care providers, small businesses and those who work in an essential service. Thank you all for continuing your handwork and keeping Ontario moving in these difficult times. If you have the opportunity to support a small business during this crisis, please do.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

 

Council okays tree clearing, Geranium proclaims first phase of MSP

By Kate Harries AWARE News Network

Is tree clearing part of the development process? Not according to Springwater.

If it is development, a request by the developer Geranium to be allowed to clear 1 hectare of land (2.5 acres) to provide for access to the proposed Micks subdivision at Carson Road and Wilson Drive should be refused, Midhurst resident David Strachan told council at their March 18 2020 meeting.

Planning Director Brent Spagnol disagreed. “This does not mean that they are going to move forward with development of the property,” he told council. “That still has to come before council in agreement fashion and developers are very well aware of that.”

That may be. But in a bulletin released yesterday and published in local media, Geranium proclaims: “Work begins on site as first phase of Midhurst development takes shape.”

Council - with only Midhurst Councillor Jack Hanna in opposition - voted according to the staff recommendation and granted permission.

When the Ontario Municipal Board granted draft plan approval of the Midhurst Secondary Plan in 2014, it imposed more than 150 conditions. All of those have to be satisfied before the development can go ahead, the OMB ruled. Many of the conditions are aimed at ensuring that costs of the mega-development do not unfairly impact the rural township ratepayers.

For instance, at the council meeting, Strachan pointed to Condition # 3, which requires that facilities like schools and required infrastructure “are available and implementable in a timely and cost-effective manner such as there is no impact on the township.”

Another example cited by Strachan is Condition #7 which requires a long-term financial plan to be approved by council ensuring that services for the MSP “are provided in a manner that is financially sustainable to the township.”

Strachan challenged councillors on whether they are satisfied that the conditions are being met.

His questions were lobbed over to CAO Jeff Schmidt and Spagnol who both insisted that the tree clearing is a routine request that’s routinely granted to developers who have a draft plan of approval. 

“This is clearing trees, it’s not grubbing, it’s not moving forward any development... Those agreements would still have to come before council and council would have to consider whether or not all the (OMB) conditions have been satisfied,” Spagnol said.

Hanna was the only member of council to express a position on the issues raised by Strachan. “If they weren’t doing a development they wouldn’t be cutting trees,” Hanna said of Geranium. “I’m not comfortable that we’re not violating the OMB.” 

He voted against the staff recommendation. Mayor Allen, Deputy Mayor Jennifer Coughlin and councillors George Cabral, Wanda Maw-Chapman, Anita Moore and Perry Ritchie voted in favour, without speaking to the recommendation. 

The tree clearing has to take place before an April 15 deadline set by the Migratory Birds Convention Act. The area to be cut includes existing hedgerows and a wooded area that is located on a township block next to the Public Works yard on Snow Valley Road, which is planned as Street ‘A’ to the subdivision, according to the staff report. 

The proposed subdivision lands cover 24 hectares (59 acres) at 2684 Wilson Drive.

The March 18 meeting was the first Springwater Council meeting to be conducting virtually, with some members and staff suitably distanced in the council chambers, and others connected remotely. A special meeting March 25 was conducted in the same way. Both were live-streamed. 

Springwater has cancelled its council meetings for April. 

To read the full list of OMB conditions, go to this article at www.aware-simcoe.ca 

 

Springwater council delegates authority to CAO, emergency control group

By Kate Harries AWARE News Network

Despite reservations expressed by some councillors, Springwater Township Council voted March 25 2020 to delegate its authority to CAO Jeff Schmidt. Planning Director Brent Spagnol has been appointed deputy CAO.

The bylaw, passed unanimously, authorizes Schmidt “to take such actions as he may deem necessary and appropriate in order to deal with any emerging issues arising from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and to ensure the continuity of business operations.” The bylaw requires Schmidt to consult with a recently formed emergency control group made up of Mayor Don Allen, Deputy Mayor Jennifer Coughlin and the township’s department heads. 

Councillor George Cabral expressed concern that council is being left out of the loop and only informed of decisions as they are released to the public. He pointed to an email sent out by Schmidt the day before the council meeting with regard to continued payment of full-time township staff during a 14-day closing mandated by the province.

That is a decision he would have expected to have been brought to council, he said. “We’re looking at providing delegated authority to the CAO and it seems to me that delegated authority was utilized last night in sending out that correspondence.”

Councillor Jack Hanna asked what the rationale is for continuing to pay staff that may not be engaged in full employment, noting that many in private industry are laying off staff.

Schmidt said that much of the township’s work continues, even though it is being done remotely, with projects for which there may not have been time being brought forward. Any layoff of permanent staff might lead to wrongful dismissal cases, he added.

Hanna said he didn’t understand why council wouldn’t be involved in all decisions.

Schmidt said the township needs to make quick decisions in a situation where “things are changing by the hour.”

Councillor Anita Moore asked for an example of an urgent decision regarding which council might not be able to come together quickly enough. Schmidt did not provide a specific example but suggested decisions by the prime minister or premier “may require us to take action fairly quickly.”

Cabral noted that he, as a retired police officer, has background in emergency management and Moore, being a health professional, could also bring useful experience to making the decisions required at this time. 

Schmidt said he is in constant communication with the Simcoe-Muskoka Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner. 

Moore said she had not been privy to any reports or minutes of the meetings of the emergency control group. “I’d like to see those if I could.”

Allen said Schmidt had been updating council by email.

“Are there reports, or no reports?” Moore insisted. 

“We have an established agenda,” Schmidt told her. “We will get you the minutes.”

 

Springwater waives penalties and interest for property tax and water/wastewater payments

Township of Springwater / March 25, 2020 – During a Special Council Meeting on March 25, Springwater Council voted in favour of providing relief to residents and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, through the waiving of penalties and interest for property tax and water/wastewater payments coming due.

Council has authorized:

  • Penalties and interest not be applied on May 1 and June 1 for unpaid property taxes that are due April 22, 2020; and,
  • Penalties and interest not be applied on April 1, May 1 and June 1 for water/wastewater bills that are due between March 31 and May 31, 2020; and,
  • NSF charges be waived for payments that are returned from April 1 to May 31, 2020; and,
  • Residents be able to temporarily withdraw from pre-authorized debit plans without penalty from March 26 to May 31, 2020.

Anyone who wishes to temporarily withdraw from pre-authorized debit plans or cancel a post-date cheque, must do so in writing by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Anyone who does not have access to e-mail is asked to please call 705-728-4784 Ext. 2024.

If the global pandemic continues beyond June 1, staff will return to Council with a recommendation to extend the relief period.

Anyone who is in the position to make payments is able to do so online through My Springwater, at most financial institutions and through some third-party providers. Cheques may also be left in the drop box located at the Township Administration Centre.

For the latest information on how the municipality is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit springwater.ca/COVID19

 

Mayor Allen’s Update – April 2

John O’Donnell

Simcoe County Councillor John O’Donnell passed on last week after battling cancer. John served as a Councillor in the Township of Ramara since 2000.  Since 2014, John has been Deputy Mayor and on County Council, where he made further significant contributions.  He served his community with passion and dedication and he will be missed.

COVID-19

Thank you to all front-line workers, essential workers and those who are working from home. We are very appreciative of you doing your part.

The Township continues to respond to the COVID-19 health pandemic in our community. The Springwater Emergency Community Control Group, made up of myself, the Deputy Mayor, CAO Schmidt and various department heads, meet by conference call throughout each week to share information and determine next steps in moving forward.

Our team is communicating regularly with the Dr. Gardner of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the County of Simcoe, other area municipalities and all levels of government. The numbers are showing that cases have increased recently in the area, and community transmission rather than travel related exposure has started. It is most important to continue to practice physical distancing and good hygiene, as this is the only way to prevent the spread in our community. It is evident that COVID-19 is affecting ALL age groups – people under 40 account for approximately 12% of the hospitalized cases at this time. RVH continues to do an excellent job adapting to COVID challenges. It is currently at approximately 70% occupancy, after having made approximately 100 bed space available for potential case needs within the next 4 weeks.  Please consider going on the RVH website for current information and donation possibilities.

All municipal facilities remain closed to the public at this time. In an effort to maintain physical distancing, staff members, where possible will continue to provide services online and by telephone, while working on rotating shifts in the office and remotely. Staff that work outside of our facilities will work in smaller teams and on shifts, to ensure safe physical distancing.

Playground, outdoor fitness equipment and outdoor rinks are also closed until further notice. This equipment cannot be sanitized and to ensure the safety of all residents, we ask that you do not use it at this time. All parks have been signed and caution taped as a reminder.

Springwater Public Library is open for business through its website and Facebook pages. The website is www.springwater.library.on.ca and has links to e-books, e-audiobooks, as well as databases and information. The brand-new Virtual Programming tab has several craft videos and a special story time video coming on this week. If you do not yet have a library card or are having technology problems, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Like the Facebook page for daily activities and signup for the e-newsletter to be the first to hear updates: http://www.libraryaware.com/390/Subscribers/Subscribe.Springwater Public Library will help you stay entertained and informed while you are at home.

In an effort to provide relief to residents and businesses during this time, Council has made the decision to waive all penalties and interest on property tax and water/wastewater until June for any bills if you are unable to pay them on the due dates. Details on this are available on the Township website.

If you are in search of groceries, pharmaceutical supplies or other services, call 211 or visit 211ontario.ca. This resource is available to help you find stores that are open and offering delivery, as well as provide information on programs and services available.

Canadian Blood Services will be hosting a Blood Drive at the Elmvale Community Hall on April 11 in a safe and secure fashion. To make an appointment to donate, you are encouraged to call 1-888-2-DONATE or visit blood.ca

ELMVALE & DISTRICT FOOD BANK

These are challenging times, resulting in reductions in work and pay for some. The Elmvale & District Food Bank wants to help if you need it – it is open Wednesdays 4-6pm and Thursdays 10 am to noon. During this COVID-19 time, they will NOT be taking any financial information from people they help. They are very appreciative of the support they have received and continue to welcome any donations possible – please call 705-322-1757. You will find further information from the Food Bank in this issue and on Springwater.ca. Council voted to donate $2500 to support the Food Bank from funds raised from the 2019 Springwater Swing Golf Tournament. The Food Bank remains open and operational to service those in need in our community.

COUNTY LANDFILLS & TRANSFER STATIONS

In addition to the regular ongoing waste collection, Simcoe County has re-opened four landfill sites and transfer stations in North Simcoe, West Gwillimbury, Nottawasaga and Oro-Medonte. The sites will be open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm.

The County requests that residents follow all Public Health recommendations and use the landfill for critical or essential drop-offs only. If you are in self-isolation, stay at home. Please store materials at your home if possible; don’t make any unnecessary visits to the sites. The County has enhanced procedures at these four sites to provide additional safety and physical distancing measures for staff and customers. These include speakers installed at weigh scales to avoid direct contact, increased sanitization and a minimum $10 fee to be paid by debit or credit only at an external terminal (no cash transaction). Number of vehicle limits allowed access at a time will be implemented to reduce contact with others. This could lead to longer wait times. Staff will no longer be able to assist with unloading.

For regular waste collection, residents are reminded to utilize curbside organics and recycling, and the two-bag garbage limit on garbage collection weeks as the best means to dispose of their usual household materials. Organics and recycling quantities for curbside collection are unlimited. Please continue to use your green bin as much as possible, and bag and seal your organics and garbage to protect the well-being of collection crews. Diapers can also be set out in sealed clear bags on garbage weeks and won’t be counted against garbage bag limits.

POSTPONING THE 2020 ASSESSMENT UPDATE

The provincial government has indicated that property assessments for the 2021 taxation year will continue to be based on the fully phased-in January 1, 2016 current values (i.e., the same valuation date in use for 2020 taxation year). 

The Township will continue to communicate any changes as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook of visit the Township website springwater.ca/COVID19 for regular updates. Additionally, follow the Township Youtube page, where I am posting regular updates on the current situation. If you do not have access to a computer and need help – call me at 705-302-4253.

Take care of yourselves, your families and your loved ones and keep gatherings to a limit of 5 people. Thank you for taking this seriously. Stay healthy and be well.

 

Important Information for patients waiting for their COVID-19 test results

A reminder to patients who have been swabbed at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) for COVID-19:

RVH will telephone ALL patients with their results - positive or negative.

Please help us keep our phone lines clear - do not call RVH for your results - you will be called as soon as the results are available.

Reminder - there is a backlog of tests across the province and results may be delayed. 

 

HOSPICE SIMCOE IS HERE TO PROVIDE CARE & SUPPORT DURING COVID-19

Barrie, March 30, 2020 – Hospice Simcoe is here to provide support. We are adapting to this new normal and are finding new and different ways to continue supporting our community. The health, safety and well-being of our clients, residents, visitors, volunteers and staff are of the utmost importance to us. Hospice Simcoe is very closely following the emergence and development of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our Community Programs are up and running as we move to virtual/online and phone support. We are continuing to provide one-to-one and group bereavement support, working together with our volunteers and clients.

“Caregivers, and those who are grieving a loss often struggle to manage their emotions. In the midst of a global crisis, these feelings can be amplified. Through our online groups, our clients have expressed gratitude for having a place “just for them” to connect and to be real about their struggles”
- Amy Pritzker, Bereavement Coordinator

Our Residential Program will remain open with continued precautionary measures. We are restricting visitors to our residence but working hard to support and care for our residents and their families through this journey.

“We need to continue to support our clients, residents and family’s by continuing to provide high quality palliative care and bereavement support through this unprecedented critical time.”- Kelly Hubbard, Executive Director

“It is heartbreaking to have to keep our doors closed to the usual beautiful hustle and bustle of family, friends, visitors and our volunteers, who fill our residence with love, hugs, laughter and a comforting presence. In light of this loss, we feel it has been a warm ray of sunshine to see all the visitors who are coming to our windows to visit the residents and their family members who are with us.  Family, friends, loved ones and pets are welcome to come by for window visits and they are so appreciated! To all of our Hospice families, volunteers and staff, it is of great importance to us that you know that we are still here for you. “
- Lori Scholten-Dallimore, Spiritual Care Coordinator

Stay in touch with us. We will continue to provide updates on our social media platforms and our website about what programs we are offering and how we are moving forward at this time.

The Hospice Simcoe Community Support Program is continuing to offer support virtually and by phone. We want to ensure the community knows we are here to help. Please call us at 705-725-1140.  We are all in this together and it is important to be here and take care of one another.

All of our programs and services – residential hospice, visiting hospice and bereavement support are provided at no cost.  We rely on donations, including memorial gifts, general donations and third-party events for over 50% of our operating costs.  Thank you to our community for their ongoing support.

For the dying and the bereaved, Hospice Simcoe provides compassionate, expert care and services to ease the pain – before, during and after their journey.

 

Can you catch COVID-19 from handling newspapers? 27 March 2020 –

First, there are no known cases of the coronavirus being transmitted to someone via a paper or package arriving at their house. You would be much more likely to get it from a delivery person if you came into face-to-face contact with someone who was sick, as unlikely as that might be.

Second, we have implemented measures to ensure carriers observe all precautions, including self-isolation if they have travelled, and do not deliver if they are at risk. We separate them at our building when they pick up newspapers. They are now picking up papers in a drive-through lineup so they do not get out of their vehicles.

Third, newspapers do not come in contact with humans until they are handed to carriers. The newsprint goes on presses, finished papers go on conveyors to bundling stations, where bundles of papers are wrapped. These bundles are handed to carriers by shippers wearing gloves.

Fourth, like in so many other situations, if you handle something and touch a surface, wash your hands afterwards. The same goes for newspapers. Washing hands after reading it is a good idea.

 

Message to the community from

Janice Skot, RVH president and CEO

These are challenging and unprecedented times. Be assured Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) is taking extraordinary measures to keep our patients, staff, physicians – and our community – safe.

   We learned many lessons from SARS, H1N1 and Ebola and RVH has evolved our emergency planning to a new level of preparedness. Our staff and physicians are well-trained and mobilized to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have cared for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, and tragically, two of those patients have passed away. Our heartfelt sympathies have been extended to those families and their deaths underscore the seriousness of this virus.

 To keep you safe, and ensure RVH can continue to provide high-quality care, we are doing everything we can to face this pandemic head-on, including:

  • Implementing a no visitor policy; of course, there are some exceptions to this on a case-by-case basis.
  • We’ve closed all public entrances to the health centre, except the main entrance, so we can carefully screen for symptoms before coming into the building.
  • Most outpatient clinics and non-elective surgeries have been postponed to minimize non-essential visits and ensure we can redeploy staff to where they are most needed.
  • RVH partnered with the Barrie Community Health Centre, Barrie and Community Family Medicine Clinics, Barrie and Community Family Health Team, Huronia Urgent Care Clinic, County of Simcoe and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit to open a dedicated COVID-19 Assessment Centre at 490 Huronia Rd.
  • A drive-thru testing centre has also been opened on RVH’s campus for patients referred to us by public health, a family physician, the assessment centre or our own Emergency department.
  • We’re working closely with local businesses to ensure we have the necessary equipment and supplies to keep our patients and TEAM RVH safe.
  • RVH has a plan to increase critical care capacity should we need it.

  TEAM RVH is working tirelessly on the frontlines in this battle against COVID-19 and you can share your messages of support and appreciation using the hashtag #ShowRVHlove. RVH will keep you up-to-date with accurate information on our website rvh.on.ca and on our social media channels.

     I have been in healthcare for almost 40 years and I have never seen anything like this. Understandably, the uncertainty of the situation has left everyone feeling anxious and frightened. I urge you to be prepared, not scared.  And I want to assure you, when you need RVH, we will be there for you and the people you love.   

  No one knows how long this pandemic will last, but we know it will be a marathon, not a sprint. We all have an important role to play in flattening the curve. Please, do your part to contain the spread of COVID-19.  Wash your hands. Practice social distancing.

  We’re staying here for you.  Please - stay home for us.

 

COVID-19: The New Normal Dr Gandhi is practicing in Stayner and president  of the Ontario Medical Association

Author: justanoldcountrydoctor (Sohail Gandhi)

Practicing rural family medicine since 1992. I still have active privileges at the Collingwood Hospital. Currently President of the Ontario Medical Association.

This article first appeared in healthing.ca, and is reproduced here for those of you who don’t

go to that website.

I was on call this past weekend for my Hospital (Collingwood General and Marine).  It’s considered a “Level I” hospital which (in my opinion) expertly provides care for common health conditions to the 75,000 residents in its catchment area.

Driving to Collingwood on Saturday (I live just outside of town) was, well, jarring.  You see, it was the second Saturday of March Break.  We are near Blue Mountain, Ontario’s largest ski hill.  This is supposed to be our busy season.  My patients rely on tourism to make the local economy go. But Blue Mountain is closed because ofCOVID-19. Other businesses were closed as well. And the town was eerily empty.

As I drive by the hospital, I see “the tent.”  That’s the place where all people who enter the hospital must go first to be screened for potential COVID-19.  The disease is now in what’s known as the “community spread” phase.  People who haven’t travelled may have got it and are giving it to others.  Essentially, anyone who has signs and symptoms of a cold or the flu, is presumed to have COVID-19.

As I walk into the tent to get screened, I marvel at the courage and integrity of not just the doctors and nurses who work there, but at the volunteers staffing the station.  These volunteers must all wear Personal Protective Equipment, and they are constantly wiping down the surfaces.  They still volunteer, even though they are potentially exposing themselves to a serious illness – even after it was announced that our hospital had a patient with COVID-19.  I am truly inspired by their profound commitment to the community that they serve.

As I contemplate all of this, I realize I’ve gone the wrong way. I’m currently averaging over 125 new emails a day, the majority of which deal with COVID-19 and I’ve somehow missed the one that informs me that staff need to go through a separate, dedicated entrance.  The email said I have to show my badge.  (It’s a small hospital, we all know each other, and I don’t think I’ve shown my badge to anyone in 25 years).

A quick walk around the back to the screening site.  It’s necessary.  It’s important.  I agree with it being done.  But it’s still weird to be screened at a place you’ve worked at for so long.

I walk by housekeeping and wave hello to some of the unsung heroes – the cleaners -who were having a meeting.  Once a patient with any transmissible disease (whether COVID-19, or MRSA, or C.difficile or other) is discharged from hospital,  it falls to the cleaners to follow rigorous and thorough cleaning protocols, to ensure that the next person in that room doesn’t get the disease.  Truly unsung heroes they are, who never get the credit they deserve.  While, – all I can offer them is a public thank you, I hope they know it’s heartfelt.

My call group has 12 inpatients this weekend.  It’s less than usual.  The nurses, as always, know the patients really well and fill me in on concerns they have.  It’s the usual mix of medical and surgical conditions.  My initial thought is to grumble once again about the fact that talking to patients takes less time than documenting on our click happy Electronic Medical Records system.  But I realized that the fact that this one thing hasn’t changed actually provided me with a sense of normalcy, for which I’m grateful.

I can sense that the staff are concerned about the circumstances. Yet despite this all of the nurses, ward clerks, cleaners, doctors and many others, are doing their jobs at peak efficiency.  Kindness and consideration for patients is evident in all of them.

Next stop, a shift at the after-hours clinic.  The clinic has changed drastically in the past week.

A volunteer meets patients at the front of the building and explains that they have to call a number and wait in the car.  When it’s their turn, I call them, and see if I can handle the problem over the phone.  If they have symptoms of a cold or the flu, they are not allowed in the building as we don’t have a protected room or personal protective equipment.  Patients with mild symptoms are given advice to get better at home.  Those with more serious symptoms are sent to the COVID-19 tent at the hospital.  The family doctors in our area have a good working relationship with the hospital, and we are able to work together and co-ordinate care in times like this.  I wish every part of Ontario had this.

I’m able to treat about 70% of the patients this weekend by telephone.  It’s not ideal, but it improves Social Distancing, which is now an urgent requirement to help flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19.

The next day, is essentially lather (for twenty seconds people!), rinse and repeat.

So, what thoughts do I have about the new normal?

It strikes me that this is going to be life for the next several weeks at a minimum.

I’m worried about many people on marginal incomes, who will be feeling economic pain in the coming weeks.

I’m worried that Social Distancing, which is really physical distancing, will lead to social isolation for many members of the community, and we will see an increase in mental illness over the next few months.

I’m on edge, hoping that we don’t see the same disaster as Italy is going through, and I know my colleagues are as well.

Yet with all that, I also see a lot of hope.  From across our community, volunteers are staffing the registration desks at the hospital and the after-hours clinic to help out.  The nurses and doctors continue to maintain an incredible degree of professionalism and kindness towards the patients, even though their lives could be at risk.  Physicians are donating unused swabs to the hospital so they can screen more people. I’ve had numerous offers from physicians to volunteer in the assessment centres.

I don’t know how long this situation will last.  I don’t know what history will say about us.  But what I will always remember is that despite the fear, anxiety, and stress, it was the kindness, generosity and courage of the people that shone through.

 

GRAIN FARMERS OF ONTARIO THANKS THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT FOR RECOGNIZING AGRICULTURE AS AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE

GUELPH, ON (March 24, 2020) – Grain Farmers of Ontario, the province’s largest commodity organization, representing Ontario’s 28,000 barley, corn, oat, soybean and wheat farmers, today thanks the Government of Ontario and Premier Doug Ford for acknowledging agriculture, including farms and businesses that support farming, as an essential service.

Grain Farmers of Ontario would also like to congratulate Premier Ford on his leadership throughout this public health crisis.

“Ontario grain farmers will continue to fill the shelves for the public, but we do not do this alone, and we are pleased to see the provincial government acknowledge the importance of the entire food supply chain and support infrastructure. We remain committed to growing safe, healthy food,” said Markus Haerle, Chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario. “Grain Farmers of Ontario continues to remind our farmer-members to be vigilant about their part in flattening the curve during the COVID-19 crisis.”

The Ontario government published a list of businesses that can remain open during the State of Emergency. For a complete list of the services click on this link – Agriculture and Food Production starts at number 21: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/03/list-of-essential-workplaces.html.

For more information on Grain Farmers of Ontario’s asks to governments for for farmer supports to ensure the viability of the food supply chain in Ontario, please visit: www.gfo.ca/covid19.

 

Ontario Extending Validation Periods for Driver, Vehicle and Carrier Products, Services and Health Cards

New Measures and Regulations Will Reduce In-person Visits to Help Contain Spread of COVID-19

Ontario continues to take decisive action to protect the health and safety of all individuals and families.

As part of the province's enhanced measures, the Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Health, in cooperation with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and ServiceOntario, is extending the validity period of driving products, services and health cards. These changes reduce the need for in-person visits to ServiceOntario, International Registration Plan offices and DriveTest centres during the COVID-19 outbreak, helping to promote social distancing and contain the spread of the virus.

These new regulations include extensions for driver licences, licence plate validation, Ontario Photo Cards, and Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration certificates, among others. Expiring and expired health cards will continue to provide access to health services.

The Ministry of Transportation is also automatically extending the due dates for medical or vision reports, which both reduces the need for in-person visits, but also ensures that patients do not need to visit their doctors, helping the health system to focus on containing COVID-19.

"We have a responsibility to Ontarians to ensure that we take every possible step to enable social distancing and stop the spread of COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "By implementing these additional measures, Ontarians can avoid putting themselves at risk and will continue to have access to the services that they need, when they need them."

This extension will be in place until such time that, based on the advice of Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health and public health officials, the current situation improves.

"We're working with all partners across the system to do everything we can to contain this virus and ensure that the system is prepared to respond to any scenario," said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. "These changes will help relieve the burden already faced by Ontarians and businesses by providing more time to renew their licences and permits without being penalized, while also reducing the need for in-person visits."

The Ministry of Transportation will continue to deliver time-critical services, including Motor Vehicle Inspection Station Stock orders and Single-Trip Oversize/Overweight permits.

"We urge our customers not to visit a ServiceOntario centre unless absolutely necessary," said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services. "We encourage people to complete transactions online or use the extended validation period, and to follow the advice of our medical professions and stay at home."

As per advice from the Chief Medical Officer, we are encouraging everyone to take appropriate measures to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus. This includes staying home if you are sick and avoiding contact with people who are sick.

Quick Facts

The public can visit ServiceOntario.ca for a full list of products and services that are affected by this change.

More than 40 services are already available online – please visit ServiceOntario.ca/services for more detail.

There is no vaccine available to protect against the 2019 novel coronavirus, but there are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses. To find out more visit Ontario's website.

 

County of Simcoe to reopen select landfills and transfer stations to the public for essential use

Midhurst/March 26, 2020 – The County of Simcoe is reopening select landfills and transfer stations to the public to support our small essential businesses and our residents’ urgent/essential waste disposal needs during this uncertain time. 

Four geographically strategic County waste sites (North Simcoe, West Gwillimbury, Nottawasaga and Oro) are scheduled to reopen on Monday, March 30th at 9 a.m. These four facilities will be fully operational Monday to Friday from 9 am to 3 pm only, until further Government restrictions occur or staffing challenges arise. Sites will be closed to the public on Saturdays and all other site locations will remain closed to the public for the foreseeable future. The County and our front-line staff ask that residents follow all Public Health recommendations and use the landfill for critical or essential drop-offs only. If you are in self-isolation, stay at home. Please store materials at your home if possible; don’t make any unnecessary visits to the sites.

“We made the initial decision to close these sites to the public in order to comply with public health and safety recommendations, as well as in response to an alarming number of non-essential visits to the sites by residents who were in clear violation of public health recommendations to stay home,” said Warden George Cornell. “We can’t stress enough how important it is for residents to stay at home to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 by limiting the spread of this virus. If you are self-isolating due to any symptoms or have recently returned from travel outside the country, please don’t put our staff, other residents and our communities at risk. Stay home, utilize our continuing curbside collections and do your best to find a place to store non-urgent household items that require diverting or disposal until we return to regular operations.” 

In the past week, the County has significantly enhanced procedures at these four sites to provide additional safety and physical distancing measures for staff and customers. In addition, the County is responding to provincial requests to maintain essential services, especially those for small and vulnerable businesses. To maintain curbside waste collections for all households in the County, our staffing levels at some select landfills and transfer stations must be maintained for drop-off, landfilling and haulage of curbside materials. To avoid jeopardizing the health of staff, other customers and the continuation of curbside waste collection services for all, please adhere to these restrictions and Public Health recommendations.

Safety measures and restrictions: 

The safety of our staff and customers is paramount, and the County is taking extra precautions with its front-line staff, including:  

  • Speaker systems installed at weigh scales to allow for staff/customer transaction through a closed window  
  • Increased sanitization and PPE requirements for staff    
  • Implementing a $10.00 minimum flat fee limit for all residential car and truck drop-offs to reduce scale contact with customers and discourage small, non-urgent/critical loads (mattresses and fridges will be charged separately as always)  
  • Debit and credit only from an exterior terminal - tap is the preferred option  
  • Removing split load charges, thus reducing multiple interactions between customers and staff at the weigh scale; however, customers must separate materials into designated areas  
  • Limiting vehicles entering the facility at any given time to reduce contact among customers and employees - this could lead to longer wait times
  • Staff will no longer support individuals with unloading items from customers’ vehicles   
  • Additional social/physical distancing measures will be put in place for all interactions between customers and staff   
  • Increased safety and instructional signage must be obeyed  

Residents are reminded to utilize curbside organics and recycling, and the two-bag garbage limit on garbage collection weeks as the best means to dispose of their usual household materials. Organics and recycling quantities for curbside collection are unlimited. Please continue to use your green bin as much as possible, and bag and seal your organics and garbage to protect the well-being of collection crews. Diapers can also be set out in sealed clear bags on garbage weeks and won’t be counted against garbage bag limits.

We encourage residents to download the Simcoe County Collects app, as hours and operations may fluctuate based on staffing levels. Service Simcoe is also open to field inquiries by phone and email Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 705-735-6901 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

County of Simcoe is composed of sixteen member municipalities and provides crucial public services to County residents in addition to providing paramedic and social services to the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia. Visit our website at simcoe.ca.

 

Federal government’s plan to support news industry falls short of expectations

25 March 2020 - Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to provide media organizations with assistance, in order to keep journalists working, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Said Trudeau: “Right now, it is more important than ever that Canadians have access to the latest news and information. To ensure that journalists can continue to do this vital work, our government is announcing new measures to support them.”

This afternoon, the details arrived. And they likely won’t do enough to help struggling Canadian news publishers.

“Canada’s news media appreciates that the Prime Minister and the government recognize their work, but this is a crisis for the industry and we need support to continue, not just rehash announcements of last year’s promises,” says John Hinds, president and CEO of News Media Canada.

In the August 2018 mandate letter issued to Pablo Rodriguez, the then-minister of Canadian Heritage was tasked with ensuring that the government’s advertising budget better supported Canadian content providers and platforms. This was to be done in tandem with several other government ministers, including those from the Treasury Board, Public Services, and Digital Government.

“While the commitment to place ads in Canadian media is certainly welcome, and will provide short term support there are bigger systemic issues that need to be addressed,” said Hinds

In order to meet the needs of struggling Canadian news publishers, Hinds says the federal government would be much better served by providing more generous support to publishers through an expanded Aid to Publishers program. As well, publishers would be helped if the federal government could provide clearer guidelines on eligibility for taxation credits.

“At the current moment, about three-quarters of Canadian news media companies are stuck out in the cold,” says Hinds with respect to the government tax credit program.

News Media Canada will continue to bring these concerns to the attention of public policy makers.

 

Ontario Enhancing Public Reporting about COVID-19

Dedicated Website Will Include Expanded Information of Confirmed Cases Across the Province

March 30, 2020 10:55 A.M. TORONTO — Ontario is enhancing the public information it provides about the status of COVID-19. As the outbreak evolves, Ontario has launched a new dedicated web page and is changing how COVID-19 cases are being reported to provide a more relevant summary of data from Public Health Ontario that offers expanded information every day at 10:30 a.m.

This daily epidemiologic summary replaces the general information on the status of COVID-19 cases that was previously provided twice daily on the web page. The new summary provides more provincial and regional data on confirmed cases, including trends of cases since the outbreak began, geography, exposure and severity.

"Ontario has been diligently monitoring and taking decisive action to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep Ontarians informed," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "We will continue to work with Public Health Ontario, public health units and the health sector to have and report on the best possible data to help us understand the scope of the COVID-19 outbreak in our province and inform our collective response to keep all Ontarians safe and healthy."

The daily summary is based on data recorded by local public health units in the province's integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS), as of 4 p.m. the day before the summary is posted. iPHIS is the Ministry of Health's disease reporting system, where data is regularly updated.

In addition to the daily update to the website, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, will continue to hold regularly scheduled daily media briefings via teleconference, to provide an update on the province's ongoing response to COVID-19.

Quick Facts

  • Everyone in Ontario should be practicing physical distancing to reduce their exposure to other people. Avoid close contact (within 2 metres) with people outside of your immediate families.
  • If you think you may have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has it, first self-isolate and then use Ontario's Self-Assessment Tool to see if you need to seek further care.
  • On March 25, 2020, the federal government announced an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act, that requires any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19. They should monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days.
  • On March 28, 2020, Ontario issued a new emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to prohibit organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people.
  • Take these everyday steps to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and protect your health:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Sneeze and cough into your sleeve;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth;
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick; and

Stay home if you are sick.

 

Ontario Stepping Up Measures to Limit the Spread of COVID-19 on Construction Sites

March 29, 2020 1:00 P.M.

Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development

TORONTO — Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, issued the following statement today regarding health and safety on construction sites:

"The health and safety of construction workers is a top priority for our government. With the COVID-19 situation changing day by day, we are working to ensure that workers have the tools they need to help keep job sites safe. We must do everything possible to fight the spread of this disease.

Today, Ontario's Chief Prevention Officer announced updated guidance to help employers better understand their responsibilities and what is needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the job site.

The update follows an initial guidance document circulated on March 20, 2020, and addresses sector topics including:

providing better on-site sanitation, including a focus on high-touch areas like site trailers, door handles and hoists

communicating roles, responsibilities, and health & safety policies, by, for example, posting site sanitization schedules and work schedules

enabling greater distances between workers by staggering shifts, restricting site numbers and limiting elevator usage

protecting public health by tracking and monitoring workers

Under Ontario law, employers must take every reasonable precaution to keep workers safe. Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. If health and safety concerns are not resolved internally, a worker can seek enforcement by filing a complaint with the ministry's Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.

Ministry inspectors are inspecting job sites today and every day. Employers and constructors should know: failure to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations could result in a stop work order.

Keeping job sites open during the current pandemic requires a heightened focus on health and safety.

We all have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19."

Additional Resources

Read the Chief Prevention Officer’s guidance to the construction sector on health and safety related to COVID-19.

Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19

 

Honduras Update: Suspension of Constitutional Rights, Military Violence, and Survival during COVID-19 Public Health Measures

The global COVID-19 pandemic is dominating the news and minds of everyone around the world. In a time of uncertainty and distress, the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor sends its best to each and every household in Simcoe County. We hope you are all safe, finding peace, and taking advantage of this time to reach out virtually to your loved ones, neighbours, and friends. We are so grateful for those implementing public health measures to protect others and for our public healthcare system and the healthcare workers on the frontlines providing the critical services that keep this pandemic under control.

Since COVID-19 is on everyone's minds, we would like to share how this pandemic is playing out in Honduras. Honduras is a country that has suffered for a very long time with a depleted and almost non-existent social safety net and public healthcare system, widespread extreme poverty, limited to no trust in public authorities, and a population that lives a day-to-day existence. 

Since March 15 when only three cases of COVID-19 were reported in Honduras, the government imposed a permanent lock-down and suspended constitutional rights. The suspension of constitutional rights is similar to invoking the War Measures Act (now called the Emergencies Act in Canada) and gives governments an extreme amount of power. In Honduras, where state security forces and the government regularly abuse their power, the suspension of constitutional rights is extremely troubling. The most concerning suspensions are the right to freedom of expression and the right to not be arbitrarily detained or arrested, and the right to private property. In practice, this suspension means that the police, military (many are very young men with guns with little education or training) and government at their own discretion, can prohibit citizens or journalists from reporting on the pandemic or what is occurring as a result. They can raid homes and arrest individuals indefinitely and without a judge's order.

This lock-down has extreme consequences for the 60% majority of Hondurans that live in extreme poverty, meaning they live day-to-day and struggle DAILY to bring home beans and tortillas to feed their families. How can people be locked down if they have no food and water? How can they not go to the informal market (similar to what a farmer's market looks like here but that offers much cheaper prices than supermarkets) to work and buy food on a daily basis if there is an imposed lock-down? As the Honduran human rights organization COFADEH strongly points out: “A curfew cannot be obeyed when people are dying of hunger.” Indeed, the lock-down seems more like a ‘stay-at-home and starve’ order that ultimately forces hungry and poor people to disobey the order, go to work in the market, or head to the streets in search of food, while risking arrest at several military check-points set up on major roads, boulevards, and sometimes even inside poor neighbourhoods in urban centres. 

On three different occasions in March 2020, citing the COVID-19 crisis as justification, the Honduran government approved over $400 million dollars to allegedly confront the impacts of the public health crisis. In addition, the Honduran government has made several requests to International Financial Institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (both of which receive U.S and Canadian taxpayers’ dollars), to provide emergency loans that the government takes on as public debt.

This has raised warning bells for many in Honduras who do not trust the government in managing any funds and feel that the crisis will be used to line the pockets of the corrupt. This indignation and extreme necessity are driving Hondurans onto the streets to protest even while knowing they are at risk of detention or being exposed to the virus. As of March 29, there are 132 COVID-19 cases reported by the government and 3 people have died from the virus.

As a result of the lock-down order and the justified disobedience driven by poverty, hundreds of people have been detained. Some detentions are individuals defying the order, whereas others are politically motivated as the government takes advantage of the crisis and suspension of rights to detain their critics. In southern Honduras, there have been 3 arrests of women – at least one human rights defender – for being on the street documenting abuses of state security forces. Another woman arrested has been a long-term organizer in her community and publicly critical of the Juan Orlando Hernandez regime.

In the last few days, there have been waves of protests in communities and urban centres around the country. Many neighbourhoods and communities are blocking the roads and gathering in the hundreds to demand food and basic supplies from the government. The protests are violently repressed with tear gas and live rounds shot by state security forces. On March 29, a 16-year old boy was gravely shot by Honduran police as he participated in a protest demanding food for his community in Tegucigalpa.

Meanwhile in the public hospitals, doctors and healthcare workers are walking off the job because demands to provide basic protective equipment like masks have not been met by the government (despite the millions of dollars approved and justified for exactly these reasons). To appease these demands, the Honduran government announced that they had purchased over 90 assisted-breathing devices in the United States to treat COVID-19 patients. When pushed on the issue by the Honduran press, the spokeswoman responsible for the COVID-19 Emergency Response System (or COPECO by its Spanish acronym) publicly admitted that the ventilators were not FDA approved to treat COVID-19 or breathing difficulties caused by the virus. Within days as a result of this admission, the spokeswoman was fired from her position by the JOH government.

As a Canadian group monitoring and reflecting on what is happening in Honduras, we cannot help but ask ourselves how the extreme situation in Honduras during this public health crisis could have been avoided if the U.S. and Canadian governments had stood by their rhetorical positions of only supporting governments that respect human rights, that are transparent, and truly democratic.

To date, the Canadian government has not condemned any of the on-going corruption, abuses, and human rights violations committed by the Honduran government. Instead, we are frustrated when we see our Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland standing beside the Honduran Foreign Affairs Minister to allegedly bring human rights and democracy to other countries like Venezuela. All the while our government is ignoring and deliberately staying quiet about human rights in Honduras.

On a more personal note, Edwin and Karen are both safe. Karen is currently trying to get back to Honduras from Canada in order to continue her work as co-ordinator of the Honduras Solidarity Network to help human rights organizations document what is happening in the crisis as the Honduran government closed the borders and the airlines suspended flights. She left Honduras on a scheduled trip before the border was closed and before the health crisis escalated. Edwin is home in Tegucigalpa, leaving home only to purchase food and necessities but frustrated to see how poverty and desperation is being criminalized during this pandemic.

The Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor Committee thanks you for your support and on-going attention to the human rights situation in Honduras. Please stay safe during these uncertain moments in Canada and around the world.

Karen Spring, Janet Spring, and the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor Committee