The Legislative Assembly of Ontario is in session for one more week before pausing for a constituency week that coincides with March Break.
The Ministry of Health provided an update on COVID-19 entitled Ontario implementing enhanced measures to safeguard public from COVID-19. Ontario is implementing an “enhanced response structure” that will bring together partners to review and implement provincial and regional plans regarding the outbreak. This response structure will include a number of tables with specific mandates:
- A new Command Table reporting directly to the Minister of Health, chaired by Deputy Minister of Health Helen Angus and also including Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health
- Five regional planning and implementation tables, led by Ontario Health with support from local public health units
- The Ministry’s Emergency Operations Centre, also known as MEOC, will continue to provide situational awareness and perform an overall coordination function among the components of the response structure
- A Scientific Table, led by Public Health Ontario
- An Ethics Table, led by the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics
- Sector or Issues Specific Tables
- A Collaboration Table with members from key health sector organizations which will provide advice to the Command Table.
School boards continue to work with their local public health units and are sharing information with their board communities with facts and recommendations for reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza. Many boards have also cancelled planned student trips to international destinations currently affected by the virus.
The government has a dedicated webpage with more information.
On March 3, the Ministry of Education issued a news release, Ontario Announces a Fair Plan to Keep Students in Class, that provided details about the government’s proposal regarding collective bargaining. This was supplemented by Ministry Memo B4, Budget Planning Information for 2020-21. OPSBA did issue a statement in response to the government’s proposal. Our mandate remains “to negotiate fair, equitable and fully funded collective agreements to ensure positive learning conditions that promote student achievement, success, learning and well-being for all students.”
The government announced that the provincial budget will be released on Wednesday, March 25. OPSBA will be requesting a presence in the budget lock up and will prepare an overview for our members that can also be discussed at the regional meetings held on March 28. We are looking for confirmation of the timing for the Grants for Student Needs (GSN).
Regulations re: Youth Vaping
At the end of February, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, announced that Ontario is proposing regulatory changes that, if approved, would limit where flavoured and high nicotine vapour products are sold. Among the proposed regulatory changes set to come into force May 1 is the restriction of flavoured vape product sales (except menthol, mint and tobacco flavours) to specialty and cannabis stores where customers must be 19-years-old to enter. A ban on the sale of high nicotine e-cigarettes anywhere except for specialty vape shops would follow on July 1. There are also measures to ensure age restrictions are followed by online retailers and to bolster prevention and cessation services. Details can be found on Ontario’s Regulatory Registry with comments due March 29, 2020. OPSBA’s work teams will review the proposed amendments.
The Ontario Liberal Party
The Ontario Liberal Party leadership convention was held March 6-7 at the International Centre. Candidates included Steven Del Duca, Michael Coteau, Kate Graham, Mitzie Hunter, Alvin Tedjo and Brenda Hollingsworth. Round one of voting occurred March 6 and first-ballot results were announced Saturday afternoon. A tribute to former leader Kathleen Wynne, who remains the MPP for Don Valley West, took place at 7:45 p.m. March 6.
- March 3, 2020 News Release – Ontario Unveils Plan to Build Mental Health and Addictions System
Please note: There continue to be many statements issued by the Minister of Education regarding labour issues.