MPPs returned to Queen’s Park on November 16 after being in their home ridings for a constituency week. The final sitting day before the Winter Recess is December 10, 2020 – leaving 12 sitting days.
On November 5, Minister of Finance Rod Phillips delivered the provincial budget entitled, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover. Part of the budget included a reference to the creation of Supply Ontario, a centralized supply chain agency that will seek to:
- Stabilize access to a high-quality supply of critical products;
- Deliver the best value by sourcing high-quality goods at scale to serve the public interest in a financially responsible way;
- Stimulate job creation and economic growth by producing Ontario-made goods; and
- Drive innovation of emerging technologies connecting small businesses and entrepreneurs to government and its customers.
On November 16, the government announced the establishment of Supply Ontario, which is to be a single supply chain organization for the Ontario Public Service (OPS), broader public sector (BPS) and health sector. Supporting legislation (Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020) and a supporting regulation (Ontario Regulation 612/20: Centralized Supply Chain Ontario) have also been introduced. OPSBA will follow up with the Ministry of Education about how school boards will be working with Supply Ontario for items such as PPE, portable air purifiers and general school and custodial supplies.
We are still waiting to learn about the Ministry of Education’s plans for a sector engagement regarding the Grants for Student Needs.
Indigenous Education Funding
On November 13, the Minister of Education announced $17 million dollars over three years to support First Nation, Métis, Inuit, and urban Indigenous education partners.
Child Care and Early Years Act (CCEYA)
As mentioned in previous updates, the Minister of Education has posted a Consultation Document regarding Proposed Regulatory Amendments under the CCEYA. OPSBA’s work teams recently met virtually to review the discussion questions and have sent in a submission. Our submission was based on comments from previous OPSBA commentary regarding childcare, feedback received from both work teams, feedback from several senior member board staff responsible for the early years portfolio, as well as opinions from childcare sector stakeholders.
Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 – TVO Consultations
This omnibus bill was introduced on July 8 and received Royal Assent on July 21, 2020. It included amendments to the Education Act, the Ontario Educational Communications Authority Act, and the Ontario French-Language Educational Communications Authority Act. OPSBA’s work teams met virtually to discuss the proposed changes and sent in a submission. At that time, it was noted that future stakeholder consultations would occur regarding the amendments to broaden the mandates of both TVO and TFO and position them to provide centralized support for online learning in the English-language and French-language publicly-funded education systems, respectively. OPSBA staff have participated in an engagement with the Ministry of Education and TVO on the topic of online learning. Next steps include connecting with the Education Program and Policy Development Work Teams to review and respond to key discussion questions.
On November 17, it was announced that Jeffrey Orridge has been named TVO’s new CEO. Orridge is a former commissioner of the Canadian Football League, and the first Black chief executive of a major North American sports league.
As of the morning of November 20, 1,150 cases of COVID-19 cases had been reported in publicly funded schools in the past 14 days. Of those cases, 706 are students, 173 are staff, and 271 are not identified. Three of the 4,828 schools in the province are currently closed.
After noting that conversations were occurring at the provincial level, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced on November 18 that “an extended winter holiday is not necessary at this time, given Ontario’s strong safety protocols, low levels of transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce said in a statement. He didn’t rule out future changes to the school year, saying the government will “consider any option” and “take decisive action to keep schools open in January and beyond.” The Premier said the decision was based on advice from the chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams, who said the safest place for kids is in schools.
On November 20, the government, in consultation with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, moved the City of Toronto and Region of Peel into the “Lockdown” level of public health restrictions. As well, other regions of Ontario moved into more stringent levels, which can be found in the hyperlink above. These new restrictions were effective this morning, November 23, as of 12:01 a.m. Schools and child care centres will remain open throughout the 28-day initial Lockdown.
Additional measures include, but are not limited to:
- Post-secondary schools open for virtual learning with some limited exceptions for training that can only be provided in-person, such as clinical training or training related to a trade;
- No indoor organized public events or social gatherings except with members of the same household. Individuals who live alone, including seniors, may consider having exclusive, close contact with one other person;
- Outdoor organized public events or social gatherings limited to a maximum of 10 people;
- Wedding services, funeral services and religious services, rites or ceremonies where physical distancing can be maintained can have up to 10 people indoors or 10 people outdoors;
- Retail permitted to be open for curbside pick-up or delivery only, with certain exceptions such as for supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, discount and big box retailers selling groceries, beer, wine and liquor stores, safety supply stores, and convenience stores, which will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity;
- Restaurants, bars, and food and drink establishments will only be able to provide takeout, drive-through and delivery. Indoor and outdoor dining services are prohibited;
- Personal care services closed;
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments closed; and
- Indoor sports and recreational facilities, including pools, closed with limited exceptions
On November 12, Minister Lecce announced in a statement that an agreement had been reached with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation to allow retired teachers to return to the classroom for the more than 50 days of occasional supply work previously permitted without penalty. OPSBA was in support of this agreement, which will help address the ongoing shortages of educators due to COVID-19 fallout.
The Deputy Minister has sent memos pertaining to COVID-19 and education. These include:
- November 18 memo – School Board COVID-19 Monthly Survey and User Guide
- November 16 memo – Mathematics Proficiency Test Update
- November 13 memo – Ontario K-12 readiness to welcome international students
- November 6 memo – Amendments to Ontario Regulation 463/97 (Electronic Meetings and Meeting Attendance) to Address Board Member Physical Attendance Requirements and Public Electronic Access
Other News Releases and Information
- November 18, 2020 – Auditor General 2020 Annual Report of Environmental Value-for-Money Audits and the Operation of the Environmental Bill of Rights
- November 18, 2020 News Release – Ontario Announces 13 New Ontario Health Teams
- November 17, 2020 News Release – Ontario Expanding Mobile Crisis Services to Respond to Mental Health Emergencies
- November 17, 2020 News Release – Ontario Opens COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream for Municipalities
- November 9, 2020 News Release – Ontario Supporting Inclusive Communities for All Ages and Abilities