Ford government economic updates and budgets

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Douglas Fir Premier

epaulo13 wrote:

..you would think folks would be rising in the streets with all those cuts. with all that harm inflicted on them. you would think that unions would be up in arms and organizing general strikes. it's kind of sad to see this passivity. 

As soon as Ford became leader of his party, I kept hearing people talk about how the left needed to learn the lessons from mistakes that were made in opposing Mike Harris.

Regrettably, the main lesson that seems to have been learned is that unpleasant as it is to have a right-wing populist as premier, just so long as you’re not Dudley George, Kimberly Rogers, or a resident of Walkerton; this too shall pass.

The lack of urgency - indeed the passivity - we've seen in the two years since the election seems to suggest that many are banking on Ford being a four-year aberration who's too incompetent to accomplish much that'll cause themselves to experience any lasting harm.

In my city, a mere 14 days after the election, a local grassroots org was able to fill a community centre to hear Pam Frache and Doug Nesbitt talk about strategies for resisting the Ford agenda. I was one of probably hundreds to sign the contact sheet they circulated to get involved in their future organizing. There was never any follow-up communication, and the organization that hosted the event appears to have simply moved on to other things before eventually folding.

Towards the end of July 2018, a different set of organizers started to assemble a coalition of groups and individuals to push back against the Ford agenda. Feeling hopeful that this group might be serious, I got involved. By the end of 2018, our main accomplishment was that we'd finally settled on a name for our coalition. The highlight of 2019 was getting said name printed onto a large banner in preparation for a protest that never ended up happening. Despite all the time that went into agonizing over our basis of unity, in practice, what seemed to most unify our group was: 1) a belief that in-person meetings should be infrequent and too short to allow for anything to be deliberated and decided upon in a single sitting, and; 2) a resistence to even trying to speed up the decision-making process through any sort of online discussion.

It feels like even proponents of leftwing class struggle often still have a very bourgeois outlook on organizing - at least in my town. We can't organize anything in the summer because "everyone" is on vacation or away at their cottages. We're told we have to wait until after labour day, when students have returned, and everyone is back at work. Organizing really only starts in the fall. But then we have to keep in mind that Thanksgiving weekend is out. As is reading week. And then, by late November, it's pointless to try to schedule anything when people have holiday office parties to attend, and students have exams to study for. So then everything is put on pause until the new year, at which point the winter weather provides the next rationale for inertia (it'd be a shame to put in all that work, only to have your event derailed by a blizzard, ice storm, or polar vortex). You've got another reading week, followed by the Easter long weekend, exams, and then you're back into the "summer" period of inactivity once the students vacate at the end of April.

As much as Doug Ford offends the sensibilities of many people on the left, it really feels like those with enough privilege to do so are content to wait him out.

jerrym

epaulo13 wrote:

..you would think folks would be rising in the streets with all those cuts. with all that harm inflicted on them. you would think that unions would be up in arms and organizing general strikes. it's kind of sad to see this passivity. 

 

The extremely long list of Ford government cuts and other actions on two websites since it took office that were described in posts #149 and #150 but ended in February 2020, were updated on July 28th by the Ontario Federation of Labour to cover the period from March 2020 to July 2020. The updated part is posted below. By clicking on any of the bullets you can get an article related to that issue.

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

http://ofl.ca/power-of-many-ford-tracker-pc-cuts-and-privatization-to-date/

 

jerrym

Retired Ontario teacher Wendy Goodes has analyzed the Ford government's spending on Covid-19 spending in preparation for the students' return to school in the fall. She found that the Ford government is spending an average of only 7 cents per student per day on Covid-19 safety measures and failing to spend money on even moderately costly measures that would help protect teachers, staff, students and their families, thereby increasing the risks of illness and even death from the coming return to school. 

Wendy Goodes is a retired teacher and a member of the Northumberland Labour Council and Northumberland Coalition for Social Justice. She tells us that the actions of politicians lately is more than a bit hypocritical.

The concerned community were united in demanding full funding and real solutions to ensure a safe and equitable return to school. Goodes also mentions how this will affect children’s mental health.

They say the government has only added 7 cents per child per day toward COVID-19 school safety measures.

This has left families and school staff without a safe plan to return to school in September. Goodes got a bit emotional, saying she’s scared for the children during these unprecedented times.

https://www.gonorthumberland.ca/2020/07/29/parents-education-workers-sto...

jerrym

The Ford Ontario government is being sued by Ecojustice and Greenpeace  because of it passed it Covid-19 bill which undermines environmental oversight without consulting the public as required by law. Ecojustice already represents a group of young people who are suing the Ford government because alleging of the Ford government's lack of climate action that is endangering their charter rights.

Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk speaks to media following the release of her annual report in Toronto on Dec. 5, 2018. Photo by Fatima Syed

Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk speaks to media in 2018. Lysyk has said the government was required to consult the public on environmental changes in Bill 197. File photo by Fatima Syed

A coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Ford government Monday, alleging the province’s lack of public consultation on environmental changes in its economic recovery bill was “unlawful.”

The Ontario legislature passed the omnibus Bill 197 last month over objections from opposition parties, environmental advocates and auditor general Bonnie Lysyk. Lysyk warned the government would be “not compliant” with Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights if it passed the bill without consulting the public. The bill was aimed at jumpstarting economic activity after COVID-19, but critics said it undermines environmental oversight.

“The government does have to consult the public when it makes changes like this,” said Ian Miron, a staff lawyer with the green law charity Ecojustice, which is representing Greenpeace Canada and the Wilderness Committee.

“We say (the passage of the bill) broke the law.”

The environmental groups have filed an application for judicial review, asking Ontario’s Divisional Court to rule that the Ontario government’s passage of the bill was “unlawful.” If successful, the law wouldn’t be struck down, but Miron said he hopes clear guidance from the courts could help the government reassess its plans — though Bill 197 has passed, it hasn’t taken effect yet. ...

Greenpeace and Ecojustice brought a similar case before the courts in 2018, after the Ford government axed the province’s cap-and-trade program without holding consultations. The court found last year that the government broke the law in that case, though the judges didn’t compel the government to undo the change. 

Three environmental groups are taking the Ford government to court for failing to consult the public on major envirnmental changes in Bill 197. “We say (the passage of the bill) broke the law," said Ian Miron, a staff lawyer with Ecojustice. ...

Ecojustice is also representing a group of young people who filed a suit against the Ford government last year, alleging the province’s lack of climate action is endangering their charter rights.

In the application for judicial review on Bill 197, Ecojustice alleged the Ford government has shown a “pattern of illegal conduct. Here we are again,” Miron said. ...

In Ontario, the Environmental Bill of Rights mandates governments to consult the public for 30 days on changes that would impact the environment. Proposals are supposed to be posted online, on the Environmental Registry, for public feedback. ...

The Ford government did not do so before it passed Bill 197, which included rewrites to 20 pieces of legislation, including several that related to the environment.

Lysyk previously told Canada's National Observer she was concerned about a section of the bill that overhauled environmental assessments (environmental advocates said the rewrite weakened environmental protections). She also flagged a portion that expanded the government’s power to use Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs), a mechanism that allows Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark to override the normal land planning process.

The Ecojustice court challenge mentions those sections as well, but also points to four other sections that it says would change laws related to the environment, with measures related to expropriating land, land development and municipal drainage systems. The laws changed fall under four ministries — municipal affairs, agriculture, environment and transportation.

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/08/10/news/environmental-groups-ta...

jerrym

The Ford government has been misleading Ontarians on the funding of education throughout its mandate including in its February budget:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford's oft-repeated statement that his government is spending $1.2 billion more on education this year than last year doesn't stand up to scrutiny. ...

"We've increased education by $1.2 billion," Ford said in question period on Wednesday. "I know math is not the NDP's strength, or the Liberals', but it's $1.2 billion, more than any government in the history of Ontario."  ...

A key reason for the discrepancy is that the Education Ministry's overall budget also includes child-care programs. Nearly half of the $1.2 billion difference is accounted for by increased spending on child care, particularly $390 million budgeted for a new child-care tax credit. ...

Two thirds of the additional $186 million announced for the ministry's budget in November is allocated "to help municipal partners provide child-care programs."  

To find out just what the government is actually spending on the school system, you have to look beyond the Education Ministry's bottom line into the detailed budget documents. ...

The real amount spent on schools is found in those documents, called the expenditure estimates, under one line labelled, "Elementary and secondary education program: Policy and program delivery."

  • The amount budgeted in 2018-19 for this program was $25.029 billion.
  • The amount budgeted for 2019-20 (including $64 million added last fall): $25.163 billion.
  • The difference: about $133 million, far less than the $1.2 billion claimed by the Progressive  Conservatives. 

Another way of comparing school spending is to look at the province's annual "grants for student needs," which is the funding the ministry provides to school boards. The amount in 2019-20 is $24.66 billion, while the amount the previous year was $24.53 billion, an increase of about $130 million, or 0.5 per cent. 

When you factor in enrolment growth, the amount spent per student this year is actually down from the previous year. The per-pupil grant is $12,246, down from $12,300 in the 2018-19 school year. ...

Asked repeatedly on Thursday how much of the $1.2 billion extra is actually being spent in schools, Lecce did not give a direct answer. 

"We want to see more money being spent in schools," Lecce responded.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-teachers-strike-education...

jerrym

Once again the Ford government has failed to properly fund education, this time during the Covid-19 crisis, when many parents worry about sending their children back to school and the risks they and their families face, which in poor families are much more likely to be multi-generational and racialized, in order to save money. This also increases the risk for teachers and staff of course. By 'unlocking' $500 million, which is not deemed enough to deal with the problem, they are providing funds set aside for other contingencies as well as teacher and staff benefits, thereby creating increasing risks of future funding problems, as well as not adequately dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, especially by not mandating reduced class sizes. Without reduced class sizes the risk of Covid-19 infection grows exponentially as social distancing often becomes impossible. The Ford plan also violates occupational health and safety legislation.

Teachers and parent groups continue to protest the risks that this places students and school personnel in.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he's "unlocked" $500 million in funding to enhance physical distancing and improve air quality as multiple teachers' unions claim the province's current plan violates provincial health and safety law.

The minister also announced an additional $50 million for upgrades to ventilation systems and $18 million for online learning amid concerns over student safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The half a billion dollars in funding comes after the ministry allowed school boards to dip into reserve funds. Boards that do not have reserves will be provided with funding from an $11 million allocation. ...

But Lecce's opening up of new funding follows weeks of criticism of the province's back-to-school plan from parents, teachers and medical professionals, particularly when it comes to class sizes.

The announcement also comes on the heels of Ontario's four major education unions alleging that the current back-to-school strategy breaks provincial law by violating occupational health and safety legislation. ...

The unions, which represent more than 190,000 teachers and education workers, issued a press release Thursday afternoon saying the plan "fails to meet legal health and safety requirements," and that teachers and students are not protected against COVID-19. 

They raised red flags over the lack of mask requirements for children under 10, larger class sizes, poor ventilation in schools and lack of adequate screenings and safeguards for students. They've asked to meet with Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton and representatives from the Ministry of Education to discuss their concerns. ...

The issue of class sizes has been the crux of the opposition toward the province's plan, as while high schools will have a cap of 15 students per class, elementary schools will not have a limit on class sizes for Grades 4 to 8. Instead, the only stipulation is a maximum average of 24.5 students per class across each school board. ...

This would mean it's likely a child could be in a class with 30 or more other students.  ...

In a report examining back-to-school planning published in July by SickKids hospital, it's recommended that smaller class sizes be a "priority strategy." ...

Teachers and parent groups held a protest at Queen's Park on Wednesday to address the class-size issue, as well as draw attention to the sometimes poor ventilation in older Toronto schools that could exacerbate the crowding concerns. At that protest, teachers spoke about how the two-metre physical distancing rules would be impossible for many classrooms based on their size.They also raised concerns about building repairs that are needed to increase airflow in many schools.​ ...

Parents and teacher coalitions at Wednesday's protest asked the province for $3 billion in funding to allow for smaller class sizes and updated ventilation systems.

Older schools can use individual HVAC mobile units with the funding to support current ventilation instead of entirely remodeling a school's airflow system, Lecce noted at the press conference. ...

The Toronto District School Board provided CBC News with a memo to school trustees from Interim Director Carlene Jackson that says pulling from reserve funds would be a liability and lead to "future financial risks" for the board. "It would not be prudent or good financial management if we were to use a large amount of reserve funds to cover the entire cost of smaller class sizes," Jackson states.  ...

Even if class sizes are smaller, the schools do not currently have enough space to accommodate these sizes and staff are working on finding more options for new classrooms, explained Jackson. Transportation would need to be arranged if new school locations are added.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-stephen-lecce-schools-dis...

jerrym

NDP leader Andrea Horwath has criticized the Ford government for its failure to adequately fund the return to schools. 

NDP leader Andrea Horwath brought a school bus to Queen's Park on Monday to demonstrate concerns about physical distancing once students go back to school next month.

“We’re asking Mr. Ford to step up to the plate,” Horwath said at a press conference. “Not to just cross your fingers and hope for the best but to step up and act to make sure that classrooms are safe.”

Students have been out of school since in-class learning stopped in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ...

Premier Doug Ford and his government released its original $309 million back-to-school plan in June but teachers, parents, and school boards have all raised concerns about it, particularly around elementary class sizes and physical distancing.

Horwath argued that the government is not providing enough funding for school boards to implement appropriate safety and physical distancing measures, including proper ventilation, sufficient supplies and personal protective gear and more buses and bus drivers.

“The bottom line is if we’re three weeks in front of the opening of schools and the Ford government hasn’t done anything to try to source extra buses then it’s inevitable that kids are going to be cheek by jowl inside those buses,” Horwath said.

The government’s plan includes twice daily cleaning of all school buses, and $40 million to hire additional drivers and provide them with personal protective equipment. ...

“This planning by the school boards has become that much more difficult because the government of Ontario, the Ford government, is trying to do it on the cheap,” she said. “He’s trying to send kids back to school on the cheap.”

To demonstrate what appropriate physical distancing measures should look like on buses, Horwath did a show-and-tell with the media and had student cutouts sitting on the bus.

On one side of the bus, it showed a regular scenario of two or three students per seat, which Horwath said would not be safe especially without mandatory masks. The other side had one student per seat with a mask on, which she said offers a safer option to reduce the spread of the virus. Students are set to head back to school on Sept. 8.

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ndp-use-school-bus-to-highlight-concerns-with...

jerrym

The Ford government has announced the hiring of 200 additional police officers, claiming it is needed to support the police force that has been strained by Covid-19, at the same time the cry for police reform or even defunding is growing globally in the light of police brutality, especially against people of colour. When asked why more money for the police instead of education, the answer was of the 'let-the-educators-eat-the-cake-they-still-have-in the fridge' variety.

 

  • Off-duty OPP officers to carry guns on Nov. 11

    The Ontario Provincial Police get $25 million to grow their numbers

The Ford government says it will spend $25 million to hire 200 more Ontario Provincial Police officers following a report on mental health, occupational stress injuries and suicide by members of the force — a move some are criticizing as tone-deaf at a time of mounting calls to defund the police. The new recruits are meant to provide frontline officers with additional resources they need "to better protect communities, while safeguarding their mental health and well-being," the province said in a news release Thursday. ...

The move comes at a time when police forces across Canada and around the world are under heightened scrutiny over anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in particular as well as brutality more broadly. The sentiments gathered steam after the death of George Floyd — a Black man killed when a white police officer in Minneapolis kneeled on his neck— and have given rise to growing calls to cut police budgets and divert the savings to community supports like housing and child care. ...

During the news conference, Ford was asked why he is choosing to spend money on hiring more police at a time when school boards have been asking for funding to hire more teachers in time for the school year.

Critics question timing. The premier defended his spending decision and said schools should be using the reserve money they have to take on more staff. "The reserves are there for a rainy day fund and I haven't seen a storm like this in my lifetime," said Ford. "Let's use the reserves and hire more teachers." ...

But the timing of the decision raised eyebrows among some politicians, who questioned why the spending was necessary now. ... "The Premier can't give your kids a safe classroom, but he can put more police on the street to arrest them," Toronto city councillor Gord Perks said in a tweet. ...

Asked about his views on defunding the police, Ford said in June that's something he simply doesn't believe in.  "I don't believe in that for a second," Ford told reporters at the time. "I think we need strong police within the communities. What we do need to do is have a higher standard. We need more focus on more training." 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-ford-hires-200-new-opp-po...

jerrym

Ford says he won't campaign for O'Toole but will encourage everyone to rally around him. Obviously, he doesn't want anything to get in the way of what he can get out of the Trudeau government. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said he will not be campaigning for new Conservative leader Erin O’Toole. Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park on Monday afternoon, Ford congratulated newly-elected O’Toole for securing the role and said he ran a “hard fought campaign.” “I just encourage everyone to rally around him,” the premier said. ...

When asked if he would be campaigning for O’Toole during the next federal election, Ford said he would not be.

“I'm not getting involved in the federal campaign,” he said. “I won't be campaigning for anyone, like I didn't last time either. I am so swamped right here. I'm going literally around the clock every single day and I can't take my eye off the ball for an election or anything else. So, my main focus is Ontario.”

Ford went on to say that he has a “phenomenal relationship” with Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, and will work with whoever is elected regardless of their political stripe.

“My main focus is to stay here in Ontario…. getting our economy back up and running, make sure everyone's safe here and I'm too busy to get involved in any election. In the future, and I'm not going to either. I wish everyone all the best and let the best person win.”

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-premier-doug-ford-says-he-will-not-ca...

jerrym

The chair of the Halton School Board says that Ford's messaging with regard to school reopening is 'highly confusing' and 'difficult'.

The chair of a GTA school board expressed concerns about the changing direction the Ford government has given about school reopening plans over the past month, saying the education minister's comments during a news conference have forced them to go back to the drawing board at least once.

In a letter sent to Education Minister Stephen Lecce, Halton District School Board (HDSB) Chair Andréa Grebenc says the Ford government's winding and ever-changing messaging about school reopening this month has been difficult to follow.

"We are asking for consistency and clarity of vision so that all resources can be focussed on implementing back to school plans," she said in the letter sent on Aug. 21.

Ontario's Education Ministry released a $309 million plan to help school boards reopen back on July 30.

It emphasized embedding hundreds of public health nurses in the school system, conducting surveillance testing on high school students and cleaning, but could not guarantee physical distancing for elementary students in schools.

So the Ministry came back with an offer on Aug. 13 to allow school boards to access their reserve funds to pay for teachers and makeshift extra classrooms to increase distancing, as well as $50 million extra to pay for ventilation and HVAC upgrades. ...

But in Halton, properly distancing all elementary classrooms would require 1,200 additional teachers, something the board's reserve funds could not even begin to cover.

"This is highly confusing and puts our Board in a very difficult position," Grebenc said in her letter, adding that distancing was cited as essential by many of the province's leading epidemiologists and pediatricians.

Grebenc added that the $50 million for ventilation, however it could be split between Ontario's 72 school boards, would likely not even cover retrofitting one older school with air conditioning. ...

She also cited Lecce's answer to a question in a news conference on Aug. 13, where he said that high schools should have students in class 50 per cent of the total time, rather than on 50 per cent of days, forcing her board to completely redraw its plans for high school.

"HDSB staff had begun the process of surveying staff and families about their intent to return. Following your comment about the expectation of in-person instruction at 50% of the time, Board staff immediately paused the process to revise the plan, diverting valuable energy and undermining the community confidence," Grebenc said.

She said the 50 per cent issue for high schools speaks to the constant changes being made to provincial plans for school reopening this month.

"It is very challenging when these announcements come with no advance notice, and Boards hear about them at the same time as thousands of concerned citizens of Ontario who, in turn, expect school boards to have answers. These announcements may trigger complex revision processes that often require additional direction from the Ministry which may or may not come in short order."

https://www.cp24.com/news/halton-school-board-chair-says-ford-reopening-...

jerrym

As Ford continues to fail to provide the funding needed for reduced class sizes, ventilation, PPE, and computer equipment for those who are immune-compromised in order to facilitate the safe re-opening of schools, he engages in teacher union attacks. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is ratcheting up his war of words with the head of one of Ontario's largest teacher unions, telling reporters that he would rather listen to doctors and epidemiologists than someone "with a degree in English literature who thinks he is a doctor." Ford has been engaged in a prolonged dispute with the leaders of Ontario's four teacher unions over his government's back-to-school plans.

The unions have said that the plans fail to institute specific standards “around physical distancing, cohorting, ventilation, and transportation” and have vowed to file formal appeals with the labour relations board over what they say is a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Ford, meanwhile, has accused the unions of being unreasonable and has said that his “patience is running thin” with their rhetoric. ...

Speaking with reporters during his daily COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, Ford took his criticism one step further, singling out Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation President Harvey Bischof. "I will listen to the docs and the health and science all day long as opposed to some head of the teachers' union that has his degree in English literature as Harvey does," Ford said. "I think the parents would rather us listen to the doctors as opposed to some guy with a degree in English literature who thinks he is a doctor."

Bischof, who has an English literature degree from Trent University as well as a Masters of Arts and Bachelor of Education degree from Queen’s University, has been outspoken about the government's return to school plans in the past and last week took to Twitter to accuse Ford of "belittling educators."

He has also stressed that teachers only want the same safeguards as other frontline workers, such as a minimum of two metres of physical distancing in the classroom.

"No worker in the province of Ontario should be expected to sacrifice their health and safety, especially when there are such obvious measures the government could be taking to reduce the risk and prevent potential tragedies," Bischof said in a press release issued earlier this week.

During his briefing on Wednesday, Ford called Ontario’s return to school plan the “safest” in Canada and again accused the unions of "playing politics" and "painting a picture of apocalypse."

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/why-don-t-they-pitch-in-ontario-premier-unlea...

jerrym

Below is a review of the first two years of the Ford regime. 

On a personal level, the premier’s responses to the pandemic have generally been regarded favourably. He has, at times, conveyed deep personal empathy for those affected by COVID-19 and their families.

At the same time, the province has struggled to provide effective responses to the COVID-19 crisis, seemingly uncertain of what direction to take or of the scope of its own authority and capacity.

The Ontario government was initially slow to recognize the scope of the pandemic and the risks it posed. COVID-19’s global spread was apparent by early March, yet the premier confidently advised Ontarians to “go away” and “have fun” over the March break.

By the time a provincial lockdown was imposed March 18, most of those travellers were already back in Ontario. Some brought the virus with them, where it began to spread into the community, most critically to long-term-care facilities.

The disaster that ensued in long-term-care centres has been well-documented. More than 1,843 long-term-care residents have died of COVID-19. More may have perished due to neglect as portions of the care system, particularly in for-profit facilities, effectively collapsed.

The province was again slow to respond, despite well-known risks in the sector, especially its increasing reliance on part-time itinerant staff, and more general concerns over the quality and level of care being provided in long-term-care facilities. ...

The province’s promise of an “iron ring of protection” for care facility residents failed. The government then studiously avoided a formal judicial inquiry into the COVID-19 care home disaster, opting for a less formal commission, which will lack public testimony, under oath, by key officials in system. ...

Early warning bells were also sounded around the potential risks to large numbers of temporary foreign farm workers employed in Ontario. Crowded, unsanitary living conditions, as well as the vulnerability to deportation for workers who lack permanent resident status if fired by their employers, were again well-known long before the arrival of COVID-19.

Yet the province failed to take proactive action, despite having substantial legal authority to set and enforce standards and practices for farm operators under occupational health and safetypublic health and agricultural legislation.

Those responsibilities were left to the ad hoc efforts of local health units, most notably in Windsor-Essex. The result was more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 among temporary farm workers and at least three deaths.

The government’s latest missteps have been around the reopening of schools in September. Major concerns are being raised by health experts, school boards, teachers and parents about the government’s approach to opening elementary schools.

The government seems to be proceeding on a largely business-as-usual model with normal, pre-pandemic class sizes. Personal protective equipment will be provided for teachers, and masks are required for students in grades 4 to 8, and are recommended for younger children. ...

But health experts and public health authorities have highlighted the need to reduce class sizes to control COVID-19. With smaller classes, any outbreak would be limited to a smaller group. ...

The Ford government, overall, has presented an image of deep concern and empathy for the victims of the pandemic. But it’s failing when it comes to delivering the kinds of concrete, proactive measures that COVID-19 requires. ...

The land development industry continues to be a favourite of the government. Proposed revisions to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe region released in June would compel municipalities to make land available to developers to accommodate doubtful projections of population growth to 2051.

The same proposed amendments would permit aggregate extraction operations (for example, gravel pits and quarries) in the habitat of endangered and threatened species. The province’s environmental assessment process, in place since the mid-1970s, was largely dismantled through the government’s omnibus “Economic Recovery Act.”

https://www.thespec.com/opinion/contributors/2020/09/08/rating-the-ford-...

jerrym

Because of an upsurge in Covid cases, the Ford government is pausing the loosening of health measures for four weeks, but the pause does not include schools, leaving many parents, grandparents students, teachers and staff deeply concerned about the spread of Covid through the educational system.

Ontario is putting a "pause" of four weeks on any further loosening of public health measures in the province, Minister of Health Christine Elliott said Tuesday.

The province reported 185 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and 190 on Monday — the most on any single day since July 24. Data for both days was released early Tuesday because the province did not issue an updated report on Labour Day. ...

That pause does not include schools, which started reopening in parts of the province on Tuesday. Elliot acknowledged community spread will likely mean spread in schools, but said the province's approach is to limit the spread at the community level to keep the virus from entering schools.

The pause also doesn't include casinos, several of which will reopen on Sept. 28, with a limit of 50 guests per room.  ...

The five-day rolling average of new daily cases in Ontario, a measure that smoothes peaks and valleys in data, has been trending steadily upward since a low on Aug. 9.

The province has now seen a total of 43,536 confirmed infections of the coronavirus since the outbreak began in late January. ...

Speaking to reporters this morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory drew attention to the troubling number of cases in younger people. Of the 968 cases confirmed in the city in the last month, he said 65 per cent were people under the age of 40, and that some 15 per cent of those cases were in people under 20.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-coronavirus-ontario-sept...

 

 

jerrym

With 313 new cases reported on Monday, the Ford government is facing increasing pressure over Covid-19.

Ontario's COVID-19 cases are rising at a rate not seen for months, upping the pressure on Premier Doug Ford's government and public health officials to take fresh action to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

The average number of new COVID-19 infections confirmed daily in the province has doubled in a stretch of just three weeks. Ontario's daily count has exceeded 200 on each of the past three days, something that hasn't happened since early June.  

On Monday, the province reported 313 new cases of COVID-19, representing a more than 50 per cent increase from the day before. 

The trend is worrisome, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, in an interview with CBC News 

"I thought that we were going to see this rise in cases a little bit later," Bogoch said Sunday. "But it's real and it's happening now and it certainly is concerning. We certainly want to make sure that this doesn't continue to grow." ...

Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region, which includes the cities of Brampton and Mississauga, account for the bulk of the province's new cases. 

Social gatherings, travel and workplace outbreaks appear to be driving the spread in Peel, said the region's medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, in an interview with CBC News. ...

"Health experts and public officials, including the Premier, have emphasized the need to limit gatherings. MPPs should lead by example," said Peggy Sattler, the NDP's deputy leader, in the letter.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-ontario-case-numbers-ris...

 

jerrym

Ontario's Financial Accountability Office just reported that the Ford government has $6.7 billion in unallocated pandemic fighting funds from the federal government and that 97 per cent of the money spent on Covid provided by the federal government and just three per cent by the provincial government. Obviously Ford is taking credit for dealing with Covid while doing very little beyond daily broadcasts aimed at gaining visibility. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province is flowing COVID-19 funds as quickly as it can amid a report by the province’s Financial Accountability Office pointing to $6.7 billion in unallocated pandemic fighting funds.

The Ontario NDP issued a news release on Sept. 10, stating that "Doug Ford is sitting on $6.7 billion in money he promised to use to fight COVID-19."

"That money could be used to stop the spread of the virus — from ensuring kids are safer in schools to getting hospitals ready for a second wave — but Ford is choosing to horde it to help his bottom line, instead," said the news release from the NDP.

The NDP news release said that the $6.7 billion in remaining unallocated provincial funds includes $3.5 billion in cash transfers from the federal government. 

"Because Ontario isn’t spending the money it promised to, COVID-19 spending for Ontarians has, so far, been 97 per cent provided by the federal government and just three per cent by the provincial government," said the news release. ...

“Doug Ford never believed in investing in schools, hospitals, long-term care homes and public health. Those are all things he was cutting and squeezing before the pandemic,” said Catherine Fife, Ontario NDP critic for Economic Growth and Job Creation.  “Now, he’s quietly squirrelling away money meant for those things. This premier just doesn’t believe it’s his job to make education and health care better.”

https://www.sudbury.com/local-news/fao-shows-67b-in-unallocated-covid-19...

jerrym

Ford along with other premiers wants $28 billion, primarily in health care, from the federal government with no strings attached. Since Ontario has 38% of the country's population, it would get by far the largest share. Considering he still has $7 billion left from previous federal funding and the Ford government is only spending 3% of the money used in dealing with the Covid crisis according to Ontario's Financial Accountability Office (see last post for details), a no strings-attached funding of the Ford government would likely see the vast majority of it going to his pet projects and tax cuts rather than health care. 

Just days before a pandemic-era federal Throne Speech, Canada’s premiers are asking for billions of dollars more in health care funding, and a major revamp of Ottawa’s fiscal stabilization program to aid provinces hard hit by global shutdowns.

The premiers of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec met in Ottawa Friday, saying they are representing all provinces and territories – even those premiers not physically in attendance. They’re looking for new health care spending to be prioritized in Wednesday’s Throne Speech.

“We have seen health care costs escalate overwhelmingly throughout this pandemic,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.

The premiers asked for an immediate, no-strings attached increase to the Canada Health Transfer to bring the federal share of health care funding to 35 per cent. The premiers say this represents an increase of $28-billion, going to $70-billion a year from the current $42-billion.

Health care is a provincial responsibility. However, the premiers argued that the area has been underfunded for years, exacerbated by the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All provinces feel the same way: Give us the money, and we’ll deliver health care [in] the most effective, most efficient way,” Mr. Ford said. “We all have our different needs.” ...

In Ontario, which reported 400 cases on Friday for the first time since early June, people reported waiting in lines for hours with their children and being turned away because of overcrowding.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/alberta/article-premiers-call-for...

jerrym

The Ford government is being criticized for its increasingly inconsistent and inadequate response to the Covid-19 crisis, leading to public distrust of their statements on this problem according to experts, as the number of infections per day hits a new record in Ontario. 

The Ontario government's confusing and contradictory information about how people should act amid the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to some public distrust of the province's advice, several experts say. The more precise and concise messaging at the start of the pandemic has become increasingly convoluted, they say, leaving some people frustrated as cases surge.

"It seems like they're making it up as they go," said Laura Babcock, owner of the communications firm Powergroup Communications. ...

That seemed to be the case at Friday's provincial COVID-19 news conference, when reporters repeatedly asked if families should gather for Thanksgiving next weekend. The press conference came just as the province issued a news release saying that it is "pausing social circles" and advising Ontarians to "allow close contact only with people living in their own household."

Instead of echoing that advice, Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and other health officials all gave responses that seemed to contradict it.

Babcock says some of the information about gathering size made little sense, especially since bars, clubs, banquet halls and even casinos are still open throughout the province and people are allowed to gather there — albeit with physical distancing measures in place.

"They're trying to have it all ways, and what it is doing is sowing mass confusion," she said. "It's painful. They've just made it worse. I'm trying to not use profanity here. It's a dog's breakfast of guidance." ...

 Ontario hit a new single-day record Friday with 732 new cases, and infections have risen steadily over the last several weeks. ...

Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, says it's long past time for the public to hear directly from the panel of health experts advising provincial officials, which Ford and other officials have repeatedly referenced during news conferences. "To say that we have a fall preparedness plan, we know what we're doing and we're ready to go but to have no clarity in terms of what the benchmarks are, what the goalposts are … leads to confusion," Warner told CBC News. "It's building this sense of distrust that is going to permeate this second wave and make it much more difficult for the government to ask us to do things that are maladaptive — that are hard." ...

A sticking point for some has been Williams, who routinely gives long-winded answers at news conferences that are difficult to understand. Asked on Friday if the province would start releasing data to back up the decisions it makes, Williams spoke at length but in the end, did not answer the question. Williams was appointed by the previous Liberal government in February 2016. He was previously the medical officer of health for the Thunder Bay District Board of Health.

Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, has called for Williams to be taken off the job.

Dr. Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, also says Williams needs to step down. "There is not nearly enough attention on the damage [on the messaging and scientific front] he is doing … and I am not the only one saying this. It is absolutely crazy," Furness told CBC News. "This is a disaster. His term is up in February. The best that we can hope for is he feels that he's got to leave."

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-covid-19-response-confusi...

jerrym

The Ford government will present its budget on November 5th. 

While the government has already projected to run a $38.5 billion deficit, the premier indicated that deficit spending due the pandemic would continue. 

"I just don't believe in increasing taxes as the solution to our problems," Ford said suggesting the premier was willing to burrow further into debt in an effort to pull the province out of the pandemic-induced recession. ...

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wants the Tories to stop “following an austerity agenda as they have been since they were elected” in 2018.

“What we’d like to see is a massive increase in supports for long-term care,” said Horwath, urging more personal service workers and better pay for those caregivers.

https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2020/10/21/premier-doug-ford...

jerrym

The PCs are projecting $100 billion in deficits over the next three years because of Covid-19 with relatively little being offered in terms of dealing with all the problems created by the pandemic, including in health care, education, and especially with regard to long-term care homes where so many have died.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hang new debt on Ontario’s back, with the Ford government adding $99.8 billion worth of deficit spending over the next three years to keep the healthcare system primed, cut taxes for business and hand out more cash to parents and seniors.

The 2019/2020 budget deficit remains unchanged from the summer at $38.5 billion (with $2.5 billion held in reserve.)

As it has at the federal level, the coronavirus pandemic has completely shredded the Ford government’s plans for a balanced budget, with both the deficit and the net debt hitting historically high levels this year.

The Ford government’s 2020 plan includes a new tax credit for seniors to renovate their homes, more cash payouts for parents of young children, a raft of tax new cuts for business and a vague pledge to allow Ontarians to claim 20 per cent of the cost of a vacation taken inside the province in 2021.

It also includes $570 million more to fund hospitals, over and above what was announced in the fall. ...

Gross Domestic Product is on track to fall 6.5 per cent for the year, while employment at the end of Sept. was still 319,000 jobs lower than its peak in Feb. 2020.

The province will spend $187 billion this fiscal year, with $12.5 billion spent to service interest charges on the debt.

The Ministry of Finance says growth will rebound by 4.9 per cent next year and 3.5 per cent in 2022, but cautions that private sector economists are all over the map when it comes to charting Ontario’s rebound. ...

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the budget amounts to the Premier “waving the white flag” at the coronavirus pandemic. “There’s not much help, if any, for working folks and families in this budget,” she said. “I guess he thinks COVID-19 is over because this is a budget that sits on a lot of money.” ...

Horwath scoffed at the lack of additional funds for education and local public health units in the budget.

“He’s leaving 30 kids packed into classrooms; he has chosen to give no new money for public health,” she said. ...

Both Horwath and Del Duca also criticized the government for not including any cost details of the new promise to increase the standard of care in long-term care homes to four hours of care per day in the budget document.

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-set-to-add-100b-in-new-debt-over-next...

jerrym

There are no spending estimates in the new Ford government budget about fulfilling its promise to improve long-term care standards, including providing four hours of care per LTC residents and the hiring of thousands of needed workers, thereby raising questions about whether it really intends to do anything. 

Health care advocates are criticizing the Ontario government today for not providing any funding details in its budget for a key pledge to improve long-term care standards.

Both the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario and the Canadian Union of Public Employees say the promised four hours of care per day standard for long-term care residents will require serious investment. But they point out that the key fiscal document - unveiled by Ford's government Thursday - contains no spending estimates or detailed funding commitment.

They say the government must show how it plans to pay for the measure and provide a detailed implementation strategy.

The government has promised the new standards as a way to address problems in long-term care homes, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Ford has said it will take until 2024-2025 to implement the measure because it will require the province to hire thousands of workers.

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/advocates-say-absent-funding-details-for-long...

Douglas Fir Premier

Sheila Block, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives:

Quote:

Ontarians relying on social assistance won’t get a nickel of extra help this year even though lone individuals on Ontario Works receive just $733 a month.

Just to add some more context; remember that when Mike Harris took office in 1995, one of his first acts was to slash social assistance rates by 21.6%, down to $520/month for single adults. When you adjust $520 in 1995 into 2020 dollars, it comes out to more than $810.

I repeat: it would take an increase of $77/month just to bring social assistance rates back to the level of Mike Harris' cuts, nevermind restoring them to their pre-Harris levels. To do that, it would take an immediate increase of $326/month.

Similarly, in 1998, when the Harris government established Ontario's current income support program for disabled people, single individuals received a maximum of $930 a month. That's $1396 in today's dollars, yet current rates have been frozen at $1169 since 2018.

I never would have dreamed that I'd feel somewhat nostalgic for the Mike Harris era, and yet...

Although, if there's one thing I feel even more nostalgic for, it's for the anti-poverty militancy that we saw during those years. Doug Ford didn't create this current crisis. He's just worsening the crisis that was allowed to slowly build during the McGuinty and Wynne years, after progressives stopped paying attention. 

jerrym

Instead of taking advantage of increased revenues ("Buoyed by strong job growth and corporate profits" [https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-s-deficit-for-2019-2020-falls-to-9-bi...), the Ford government focused mainly on cutting the deficit despite many organizations saying increased spending was needed to spark the economy and deal with the disastrous effects of Covid. 

In the lead-up to Thursday’s budget unveiling, some prominent organizations have laid out their requests of the government, with players like the Ontario Chamber of Commerce acknowledging Ontario will need to continue spending to avoid “a prolonged economic downturn.” ...

Health-care groups such as the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) and the Ontario Long-Term Care Association (OLTCA) also want the province to increase spending on health and elder care, specially so more nursing-home staff can be hired quickly.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), which represents the province’s 444 local governments, wrote to the province last month to ask for extra money for infrastructure, child care, broadband connectivity, long-term care, housing, and social infrastructure.

At Queen’s Park, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Wednesday she wants the Ford government to make “urgent investments” in hospitals, schools, small businesses, and workers, rather than “repeat 2019 cuts.” ...

Prominent health-care advocacy groups are asking the Ford government to make new investments in long-term care, home care, primary care, Indigenous health, and the opioid-addiction crisis. ...

One of those critics, the RNAO, said it was “shocked by the lack of urgency,” and urged the province to act immediately, calling the announcement an “election promise.” ...

In its pre-budget submission, the RNAO asked the province to: build a comprehensive primary care system; deliver home care that allows people to stay in their homes for longer, instead of becoming “institutionalized in nursing homes”; and work to support older populations in nursing homes and other institutions.

The OLTCA has asked for an update to regulatory and funding policies to allow long-term care homes to hire a “greater range of staff.” The association also hopes the government will strike an “HR task force” in partnership with the sector to create a “multi-year action plan” to tackle staffing shortages that continue to be felt. The OLTCA supports the government’s plan to boost nursing-home residents’ hours of care over four years.

On Wednesday, Ontario’s NDP said it wants the government to make “immediate” investments in hospitals, and to hire “an army” of public health staff to prop up struggling testing and contact-tracing efforts. 

The party also asked for immediate funding to hire a minimum of 10,000 personal support workers, and to raise their pay by at least $5 an hour. ...

In its submission, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) asked the province to boost funding to the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund, so municipalities can make long-term plans for infrastructure projects.

The AMO said more money for child care is “likely required” in this fiscal year to ensure municipal child-care providers can stay open. It also wants the province to reverse its decision requiring all municipalities to fully cost-share all administrative costs, starting in July 2021.

“Responding effectively to the pandemic requires all available resources for front-line services, and not administrative expenses,” the submission reads. 

Ontario’s NDP is asking for “direct and meaningful” financial support of small businesses and their employees, with paid sick days for all workers. ...

Other community investments requested by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) include an acceleration of work to expand broadband connectivity in rural communities, and increased spending on public housing infrastructure and homelessness prevention. 

https://ipolitics.ca/2020/11/04/what-key-pandemic-players-are-asking-for...

jerrym

The Ontario Federation of Labour has also criticized the Ford government budget. 

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) said the Fall 2020 Ontario Budget fails to deliver urgent assistance for Ontarians and their families. The legacy of this budget will be its failure to prioritize the needs of the people of Ontario – robust public service investment, safety, and immediate income supports needed to get through this second wave of COVID-19.

“Instead of investing to protect the people of Ontario, especially our seniors, or ensuring our schools are safe, the Ford government seems more concerned about tax cuts to employers, and improved access to booze and gambling,” said OFL President Patty Coates. 

“Just this week Doug Ford said he would take urgent action for seniors in congregate care, lauding a commitment to provide 4 hours of hands on care a day to seniors in long-term care, yet, this budget is scant on the details or investment required to making that a reality,” said Coates.

The OFL is also greatly concerned with the continued attacks on public services workers, and a lack of action for vulnerable Ontarians, like those languishing on inadequate ODSP supports. 

“It is galling that the Ford government has chosen to thank front-line heroes by doubling down its unconstitutional attack on these workers and their collective agreements – with the introduction of Bill 124 ‘enforcement tools’. Front-line workers didn’t cause this crisis, and shouldn’t be expected to pay for it – while corporations get tax cuts,” said Coates. 

In its pre-budget submission, the OFL outlined a suite of needed action. Now is the time to invest in people and the public services they depend on – not cut and slash our way back to where we were before. Thousands of Ontarians called on the Ford government to immediately use the $9.3 Billion in federal monies, that Ontario’s FAO noted – was earmarked for Ontario’s COVID-19 recovery, but was never spent.

“This budget takes a ‘head in the sand’ approach instead of tackling COVID’s second wave head on,” said Coates. “Premier Ford’s budget lacks the bold vision and policy choices required to ensure every Ontarian can safely weather the on-going COVID-19 storm.”

“Ford sells himself to Ontarians as the ‘friend of working people Premier’, routinely noting ‘everything is on the table’. But, when given the opportunity to table a budget that ensures Ontarians will be safe – he chose instead – to duck under the table.”

https://ofl.ca/instead-of-tackling-covid-19-head-on-ontarios-budget-take...

jerrym

Despite being "Buoyed by strong job growth and corporate profits" that enabled the Ford government to cut small business taxes and reduce the budget deficit, the PC government ended up cutting the budgets of most of its departments that included extensive layoffs. So much for social equity. 

Buoyed by strong job growth and corporate profits, the Ford government says the 2019-2020 deficit has fallen from $10.3 billion to $9 billion, giving them wiggle room to cut small business income taxes and increase autism funding, but continue cutting elsewhere.

Healthcare, education, children's and social services and transit will see increases to their budgets this year, but nearly every other ministry will continue to face the axe. ...

But several other ministries will still face stiff cuts.

On a day when students at three major Toronto universities held walkouts to protest post-secondary funding cuts, the fall economic statement shows the Ford government will continue to cut the Ontario Student Assistance Program this year, to the tune of $700 million.

Northern Affairs, Energy and Mines sees a $300 million cut for this fiscal year.

Municipal Affairs and Housing is also cut by $360 million, along with $70 million from Government and Consumer Services, and $50 million from Heritage, Tourism, Culture and Sport.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2020, Finance Minister Rod Phillips is cutting the small business tax rate from 3.5 per cent to 3.2 per cent on the first $500,000 of income. ...

As a whole, the document projects the 2021 deficit to fall to $6.7 billion and the 2022 deficit to fall to $5.4 billion. Revenues from personal income, sales tax and corporate income tax rose by $1.6 billion above the projections in the March 2019 budget, and cannabis sales netted the province $80 million.

The new spending is largely funded by lower interest on debt ($430 million) and "drawing on already budgeted contingency funds" from last year's reserve so actual net increase in expenses is only $341 million.

The Ford government used last year's fall statement to partially end rent controls and fire or consolidate several provincial watchdogs.

This year, there are no outright firings but instead several pilot projects. In one program, paramedic services in several still unnamed Ontario communities will begin a pilot where some patients transported by ambulance will not be taken to a hospital emergency room but instead to "more appropriate, lower cost settings." The province says they can instead go to a hospice, receive treatment on scene or go to mental health crisis centre. The pilot plan starts sometime in 2020.

While they still plan to battle the federal government on the carbon tax, the Ford government plans to conduct a "province-wide climate change impact assessment" sometime in the new year. They say they plan to hire outside experts to assess how climate change "will affect Ontario's economy, infrastructure, communities, public health and safety, as well as ecosystems."

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-s-deficit-for-2019-2020-falls-to-9-bi...

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