2020 Recap - Don't Miss This!Published on December 18, 2020
As another year ends, I wanted to put pen to paper to reflect upon the year that has been and provide you all with an advance copy of a year-end communique I will be putting out in the coming days.
Without question, this has been a difficult year for us all as the COVID-19 global pandemic presents numerous challenges.
Despite this, Ontarians have shown remarkable resilience and hope.
I would like to thank you, the constituents I proudly represent at Queen’s Park, for all you have done over the last year. As we look around our communities, we see remarkable acts of selflessness and people coming together from all walks of life to support each other, our health care workers, elderly and first responders. This is the Ontario spirit!
As your Member of Provincial Parliament, I never thought I would find myself amidst a global pandemic just over two years after being elected. For all of us, there has been no playbook we can turn to. However, like you, I have rolled up my sleeves and gotten to work.
More than ever, we have relied on our health care system and its backbone, the workers.
In Budget 2020, we made a number of key commitments to improving our health care system:
- Increasing the average daily care of our loved ones in long-term care to a minimum of four (4) hours of care, making Ontario the leader among Canadian provinces;
- Investing over $1.4 billion to improve COVID-19 testing, again a leader in Canada, testing more Ontarians than the rest of Canada combined;
- Building 30,000 new long-term care beds, a number of which are currently under construction in our community; and,
- Supporting our hospitals with an additional $572 million to help with costs incurred during the pandemic.
So what does this look like, locally, for us?
For years, our hospitals did more, with less. This year, that changed.
Premier Ford, Health Minister, Christine Elliott and I addressed the longstanding funding inequities for small-and-medium-sized hospitals and announced that Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH) would receive $5,619,800 million in base funding to meet current and future demands for services. NHH received a 10.8% increase in funding for 2020/2021. This is in addition to the $3.8 million in funding announced last year, which is now being annualized.
As a small sized hospital, Campbellford Memorial Hospital (CMH) will receive $306,862 in total additional funding for fiscal year 2020/2021. Overall, Campbellford Memorial Hospital will receive a 2% increase in funding for 2020/2021 which builds on the historic $5 million dollar investment our Government made in CMH in 2019.
We know our houses need yearly repairs, so too do our hospitals. To support critical hospital upgrades, our Government invested $1.3 million in Lakeridge and over $336,000 in Northumberland.
We know that health care is more than a job, it’s a calling. I have long been guided by the belief, that how we care for each other at the end of life, is as important as at the beginning of life.
This is why I strongly support hospice care.
I was proud to join my colleague, MPP Lindsey Park to announce an expanded plan with an $800,000 additional investment in Durham Hospice, Clarington. This is in addition to recently marking the opening of Ed’s House Northumberland Hospice Care Centre.
Today, we have hospice throughout the riding of Northumberland – Peterborough South to provide our loved ones with the compassionate and comprehensive care they deserve, closer to home.
We know that seniors are looking to age in place, so we launched The Seniors' Home Safety Tax Credit - a fully refundable tax credit for the 2021 tax year worth 25% of up to $10,000 in eligible expenses to make homes safer and more accessible.
You deserve the best possible care and community supports, when and where you need it. That is why I was proud to join former Northumberland Paramedic Chief, Bill Detlor to announce $340,000 to deliver on a promise to fund community paramedicine.
We know our hospitals need more beds to help improve capacity. In Peterborough, we expanded bed capacity with 45 new patient beds at Peterborough Regional Health Centre. I was proud to announce 10 new beds for Northumberland Hills Hospital, a $951,700 investment to help operate 6 additional transitional care beds and 4 additional ICU beds. Making more beds available to patients will help reduce surgical backlogs and improve access to care during COVID-19.
These investments reflect the ongoing commitment of Premier Ford and our Government to protect the health of Ontarians. I remain grateful for the ongoing work of our health care providers, serving and protecting our communities.
How fed up are you with gaps in connectivity? You’re probably sick of empty promises and I understand your justifiable skepticism, but let me lay out significant steps make by our Government to date.
I joined Mayors and Chiefs in our community to call of the Federal Government to immediately commit to internet connectivity, as little was being said. In contrast, Premier Ford committed $1 billion to broadband, to support projects from small providers, municipalities, non-profits, & indigenous communities.
The Improving Connectivity for Ontarians (ICON) program is a great example of one of the initiatives our Government has taken to get Ontarians connected. The program is cost leveraged with private and other funding partners mentioned above. Intakes have been split in two, understanding that there are certain shovel ready projects now, and others that will require more time to develop partnerships. For example, Northumberland County would fall in the latter, and used the past number of months to undertake an exhaustive study of gaps in connectivity, identifying potential partners and target areas of priority. I look forward to receiving their application in January.
Currently, I am working on a number of applications with local partners which are being submitted to Government for the next intake on January 8th. Know of a local provider or a worthwhile project? Let me know or tell them to apply by clicking, here.
I recognize that small businesses have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. When the first wave hit us in March, I held a number of virtual roundtables with local businesses. I quickly launched COVIDsupports.ca to help people and businesses navigate the supports available to them.
We heard that fixed costs were among the greatest of concerns for our small businesses. This is why our Government stepped up to support with rent and wage subsidies, programs to help cover the cost of PPE, property tax deferrals and investments in digital infrastructure.
Our Government is also working hard to help businesses go online. The Digital Main Street grant was expanded to support businesses grow their online presence. This $57 million investment will support 22,900 businesses go online and create jobs for 1,400 students. This program is not only a tool for recovery from the effects of COVID-19, but will be an asset that meets the needs of our businesses, re-establishes our competitive advantage, and sets our small businesses up for greater success.
We are also taking urgent action to help small business owners by eliminating unfair taxes on jobs and lowering the Business Education Tax (BET) to help alleviate financial stress in the coming year. Wait, unsure what the BET is? Read this article from two PhD students from Trent, on how indefensible this varied rate was to businesses across Ontario.
No more! Starting on January 1st 2021, the highest rate of the Business Education Tax will be lowered to 0.88%. This will result in 94% of Ontario businesses, roughly 200,000 employers, experiencing a cumulative $450 million in immediate annual savings and represents a reduction of 30 per cent for many businesses currently subject to the highest BET rate in the province.
For example, in Northumberland County, it means industrial properties will save $471,000 and commercial properties will save $2,324,000.
In addition, our Government is helping businesses by reducing the payroll tax, increasing the Employer Health Tax exemption threshold to $1 million.
Lastly, the provincial government is introducing the Small Business Property Tax sub classification to allow municipalities the opportunity to tax local businesses at a lower rate. And the province is considering matching these reductions. Addressing property tax rates is one of the most important things we can do to immediately support employers now and in the future.
When I first got elected in 2018, Ontario was going backwards. Good manufacturing jobs in our community were leaving, in part, because of skyrocketing hydro rates. Simply put, if your company was paying 5X more for fixed costs in Ontario, why would you want to do business here? Those days are gone!
As part of the 2020 Ontario Budget, our Government is introducing electricity bill relief for Ontario’s job creators and employers. The proposed action would provide medium and large sized industrial and commercial electricity consumers with 14-16% relief on their electricity bills and make Ontario’s industrial electricity prices among the most competitive in North America.
I took to the phones to let local Plant Managers know. The reaction was incredible! This means greater stability for workers in our community. Some of our employers benefiting from this relief, include: Belden Canada Inc. in Cobourg, Blommer Chocolate Canada in Campbellford, Cameco in Port Hope, CRH Canada Group & Jebco in Colborne and Algoma Orchards in Newcastle.
Fewer small business owners have been hit harder than our tourism operators, so as we look forward to the year ahead, stay tuned for more on the year of the stay-cation. The 20 percent tax credit on eligible tourism expenses is designed to encourage you, your friends and family to travel and explore Ontario.
This has been a challenging time for everyone in Ontario, including those involved in our agri-food sector. Agriculture is the number one employer in Ontario and a huge economic driver. Simply put, our farmers feed cities, and grow the food on your table and mine.
I have been actively engaged with our farmers to ensure our Government keeps their workplaces safe; we maintain production, processing and distribution to keep food on store shelves; and on kitchen tables.
I want to highlight some of the actions that our government has taken to help the sector adapt to challenges due to COVID-19:
- Invested $273,718.84 into 22 projects in Northumberland-Peterborough South through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership program to support the production of safe, high-quality food and contribute to more environmentally friendly agricultural products;
- Expanded the Agri-food Workplace Protection Program to enhance health and safety measures on farms and in food processing facilities;
- Invested funding to help address the labour supply and training challenges through the Place to Grow: Agri-Food Innovation Initiative;
- Enhanced Agri-Insurance for the 2020 growing season to cover COVID-19 related seasonal agricultural labour shortages.
- Emergency Assistance to help cover increased costs of feeding market-ready cattle and hogs on-farm, while also expanding meat processing capacity;
- Investing additional resources into the Agri-Food Open for E-Business to help food producers, farmers markets, garden centres etc. develop online business, providing consumers with greater access to a wide variety of food and agriculture products.
- Extending program deadlines to give farmers more time to adjust to the challenges of business during the COVID-19 outbreak, such as extending the Risk Management Program (RMP) and AgriStability enrollment deadlines.
For those wondering how important it was to farmers that we increase the cap on the Risk Management Program, click here. Farmers have been calling for this since 2014!
Promise made, Promise kept! We even did this a full year before we promised.
Locally, we know how much we missed Fall Fairs this year. To support our local agricultural societies who make these fairs possible, our Government invested funds to help offset revenue losses for agricultural and horticultural societies impacted by cancellations. Locally, this meant support for: Campbellford Fair, Campbellford Seymour Agr Society, Orono Fair and Ag Society, Port Hope Fair and Ag Society, Warkworth Fair and Percy Township Ag Society, Norwood Fair and Ag Society and Roseneath Fair and Ag Society.
I always want to ensure that any taxpayer dollar spent is done so efficiently and effectively, and I think the Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a fine example of a program that works for many in our community. Algoma Orchards was one of the recipients that received funding. With their $57,726.25, they purchased an automated boiler to sanitize juice, resulting in energy savings and improving their competitiveness. With more juice now going out to market, they’ll be needing more workers, which means more jobs in our community!
Locally, 16 businesses benefitted from the Agri-Food Open for E-Business funding with an investment of over $147,000 in our riding. We helped Rutherford’s Farm & Roadside Market and Allin’s Orchard & Country Market enhance their online presence. Rosefield Farms develop their e-commerce, and Ganaraska Grain and Soups2Go increased their digital platform.
I will continue to ensure farmers and businesses are able to bring their world-class food from the farm to the dinner tables across the province. Ontario’s strong and responsive food system relies on the success of our farmers and people in the food processing industry and our Government will continue to support them.
Thanks in large part to the strength of our relationships with community organizations, industry and other partners; we have made considerable progress on commitments outlined in our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.
We have taken deliberate steps to protect our air, land and water and reduce litter and waste, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions and helping communities prepare and adapt to climate change.
Those steps include:
- Enhanced emissions testing program;
- New model of waste management that puts producers in charge of the lifecycle of their products and packaging;
- Investments in Ontario Parks and the Great Lakes; and,
- Ontario’s first low-carbon hydrogen strategy to create jobs and help the province move towards its greenhouse gas reduction target.
Tired of the confusion around the more than 240 different blue box programs around Ontario – why can we recycle something in Newcastle but not Toronto? This ends under our Government. DYK: Over 30% of what is recycled in blue boxes ends up in landfills.
Some key highlights of the changes are:
- Standardizing and increasing the list of materials accepted in the blue box including paper and plastic cups, wraps, foils, trays, and bags and other single use items such as stir sticks, straws, cutlery and plates.
- Transitioning the costs of the program away from municipal taxpayers by making the producers of products and packaging fully responsible for costs, resulting in an estimated savings of $135 million annually for municipalities.
- Expanding blue box services to more communities, such as smaller, rural and remote communities, including those under 5,000 people.
Premier Ford is setting the highest diversion targets in North America for products such as beverage containers, glass and paper, that waste producers are expected to recycle, encouraging innovation such as better product design and the use of new technologies for better environmental outcomes.
Many of us live along, or close to Lake Ontario. How often have we seen plastic waste in our waterways? Experts say there may be more plastic than fish in our Great Lakes by 2050 and plastic makes up 80% of all litter in Lake Ontario. To address this, I recently joined Mayor Henderson in Cobourg at the Harbour to announce the largest initiative of its kind in the world to tackle plastic pollution in provincial lakes and waterways.
The Government of Ontario is supporting Pollution Probe with $375,000 to install plastic capture devices in up to 12 marinas around the province to collect plastic waste, including Cobourg in our riding. Waste captured will then be studied to determine how we can address the issue at the source.
I will continue to engage and consult with the public, stakeholders, Indigenous communities and other levels of government on the evolution of our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan to ensure we continue to build on our progress made to-date. Together we can support a health economy and a healthy environment.
Many of our municipalities and townships are small, so throughout the pandemic, I have worked with our municipal partners to provide them with the necessary tools and supports they need.
The COVID Economic Recovery Act ensured municipalities were equipped with the tools they need to continue to provide the critical services people rely on every day.
The Municipal Emergency Act, 2020 was passed unanimously in a historic emergency sitting of the legislature. This protected the jobs of employees who self-isolate or quarantine, helped keep store shelves stocked and gave municipal councils the flexibility to continue operations
Our community has come together like never before through COVID-19, to help the most vulnerable, to come together with our service clubs and non-profits, churches and social service agencies. I am very proud to say that our Government provided over $2.6 million to Northumberland County to help re-imagine how we serve and support our most vulnerable, including important supports for our food banks, vital supplies and expanded housing support programs.
In Peterborough, we helped ensure Peterborough’s overflow shelter had the resources to support increased need, PPE and helped support long-term housing solutions.
Important forums, like the Association of Municipalities of Ontario serve to demonstrate the critical partnership between the province and municipalities and the willingness to work together towards a safe and strong economic recovery. Key announcements made at AMO included:
- Gave funding predictability for the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) for 2021 - the province's general assistance grant to rural and northern municipalities;
- Invested $47 million in one-time mitigation funding for both the 2020 and 2021 calendar years to further support public health units as they continue to respond to COVID-19.
Every town, city and community in Ontario is unique. But no matter where you go, one thing is the same – people are looking for housing that meets their needs and their budget.
Young families are searching for their first home, close to schools, where they can build a life and raise children. Seniors are thinking about downsizing and want homes that meet their needs as they age, staying in neighbourhoods they love. So many people want to live where they can commute to their jobs easily, and get home to family and friends faster, so that they can enjoy their down-time.
Our plan, More Homes, More Choice outlines our Government’s plan to tackle Ontario’s housing crisis and encourages our partners to do their part by starting now, to build more housing that meets the needs of people in every part of Ontario.
Locally, I was proud to announce $2.6 million to help build more affordable homes for seniors in Newcastle through the Parkview Seniors Lodge Expansion. The project will include a total of 37 units, 30 of which will be affordable housing spaces to help Newcastle’s most vulnerable residents. In addition, 10 of these homes will be fully accessible.
In Northumberland, we partnered with the Federal Government to commit over $5.7 million to build 28 community housing units in Cobourg. The new complex will have a total of 40 units, creating 22 new homes, all of which will be affordable, rent-geared-to-income housing.
The riding I represent is larger than many European countries, which means there are many roads and bridges to look after. I continue to work closely with our municipalities to identify critical infrastructure needs, and bring the resources to bear to support vital repairs.
Near the start of the year, we made critical investments in our communities through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund. Northumberland-Peterborough South received more than $4.1 million across the riding to help build and repair roads, bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure, and support asset management planning projects.
It’s important our municipalities manage their assets, understand their life-cycle and plan for repairs as you do in your home every year!
Here are a few examples: In Asphodel-Norwood, $640,435.95 was invested in the reconstruction of Centre Line Road and Hiawatha First Nation received $882,562.46 for the Paudash Street Reconstruction through the ICIP Rural and Northern stream. Both of these projects will help to create local jobs and put money back into our local economies.
In Port Hope, we extended Pemberton Road to the new Business Park. Situated right by Highway 401, this extension has brought new business to our community and helped create the conditions for job creation!
We also invested in transit infrastructure projects in Bowmanville, securing the final route and a lower cost and preserving the vital connection to GO Train. In Cobourg and Port Hope I announced improved capacity, quality and accessibility of the transit systems. The Town of Cobourg received funding to support upgrading their bus fleet and the Municipality of Port Hope receiving funding to purchase new specialized transit vehicles that will expand services to rural areas, while the installation of new shelters improve the quality, safety and accessibility of the transit system.
In addition, I am pleased to say that $2.05 million has been allocated to the municipalities of Northumberland-Peterborough South for a variety of infrastructure projects including repairs to roads, parks, health infrastructure, transportation services and the construction of a variety of disaster preparedness projects through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program: COVID-19 Resilience Stream.
I will continue to bring local issues to the attention of our Government and push for solutions that benefit you. Please know that although there has been a shift to digital, I am present in the riding, in my constituency office, at announcements and events, and I am always available to meet or chat over the phone. I have appreciated meeting with so many of you to discuss your ideas, concerns and issues, and will continue to be accessible and accountable to the people I represent.
Thank you for your continued trust in me as your representative at Queen’s Park.
On behalf of my family and staff, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Member of Provincial Parliament
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