The Provincial Budget Was Loaded with New Spending – Full COVID-19 Update

The Provincial Budget Was Loaded with New Spending – Full COVID-19 Update

Yesterday the province unveiled a $186-billion dollar budget that was loaded with new spending. Some of the highlights include another $6.7 billion for pandemic-related measures. That includes $1 billion to vaccinate everyone and $2.3 billion for testing and contact tracing. There will also be another round of business grants to assist with pandemic expenses and job training. There will be a third round of payments to families with children which includes $400 per child and $500 for each child with special needs. Brampton is getting another hospital and transit spending will increase substantially. What is the cost of all of this? Ontario will have a a deficit over $33-billion dollars, which the government says it will eliminate in 2029.

Here is yesterday’s budget:

2-Way All-Day Go Service Coming To Kitchener And Guelph:

In yesterday’s Provincial Budget the Province announced two-way, all-day GO train service will be in place between Toronto and Kitchener by 2025. The Province will expand service from Georgetown to Kitchener, including adding new tracks and platforms. Guelph Central Station will also get an upgrade. The King Victoria Transit Hub and the Breslau Go Station will be key parts of the plan.Waterloo Regional Chair Karen Redman says, “By continuing to advance two-way, all-day GO service along the Kitchener Line, the Ontario Government is demonstrating its confidence in Waterloo Region as one of our province’s key economic engines.

More Professions Added To The Phase 2 Vaccine Rollout In Ontario:

Yesterday the province released more details on who will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines in Phase 2 of the rollout. We already knew it would include those between 60-79 years old and some at risk groups in the hot spots and congregate living settings. Now more occupations have been added. It includes inspection and government enforcement officers, virtually anyone who works in childcare, funeral and crematorium staff, veterinarian staff, communications infrastructure workers, some construction workers in high risk settings, and essential and critical retail workers – including foodbank and pharmacy workers, government services employees, LCBO staff and restaurant workers.

Trudeau Avoids Answering The Question When Asked If He Can Guarantee Europe Won’t Block Vaccine Shipments to Canada:

Prime Minister Trudeau says he’ll communicate with the highest levels of European leaders to make sure COVID-19 vaccine doses continue to be sent to Canada. The European Union is imposing stricter controls on exports of the vaccines produced within its boundaries to try to accelerate a slow vaccination campaign there. In question period in the House of Commons yesterday, Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner asked Trudeau whether he could absolutely guarantee shipments to Canada wouldn’t be affected. Trudeau didn’t answer directly but said he expects Canada will work with the EU to make sure the vaccines keep flowing. Shipments of vaccines made in Europe by Pfizer and Moderna have not been affected by previous European export controls.

Here are the remarks from Minister Rempel Garner:

The Cost of Treating COVID Patients:

Hospital treatment for COVID-19 infections doesn’t come cheap. Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows COVID-related hospitalizations in Canada cost $23,000 dollars per stay — about four times as much as the average. The average length of stay for a COVID hospitalization in Canada was two weeks. The agency examined data from January to November of 2020, but did not include Quebec. The estimated total cost of COVID-19-related hospitalizations topped $317-million dollars.

Public Health Says COVID-19 is Still a Serious Problem:

Canada is seeing thousands of new COVID-19 infections and 31 deaths per day and the Public Health Agency of Canada says the bottom line is that people still face a serious risk of contracting the disease. The federal government says possible new European Union restrictions on vaccine shipments will not affect Canada. But it isn’t commenting on a report that India has halted exports of its Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine citing its own shortages.

Nurse Fired And Others Face Discipline After Allowing Family Members To Jump The Cue To Get Vaccines:

A Hamilton nurse has been fired and others have been disciplined for helping relatives jump the COVID-19 vaccine queue. The public health unit says the actions against three nurses followed an investigation into allegations of improper vaccine distribution at one of its pop-up clinics. It says seven doses were administered to individuals outside the province’s priority categories who were related to a staff member . The city’s top doctor says any actions that impact the vaccine’s eligibility criteria will be taken seriously.

Is There Vaccine Hesitancy In Ontario Hospitals?

Toronto’s University Health Network is urging about 3,000 people on its staff to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments. In a memo, network president Dr. Kevin Smith encourages those who haven’t registered to do so. A spokeswoman says about one thousand staff members signed up for an appointment after the memo. She says 85 per cent of those working in the hospitals have already been inoculated against COVID-19.

Record Losses at Canada’s Largest Airport:

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly took its toll on businesses this past year, and Canada’s largest airport was not immune. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority says Pearson International Airport lost $383-million dollars last year, from a $140-million-dollar profit the year before. Revenues were cut in half to $832-million dollars, due to passenger numbers plunging by 74 per cent from 2019. More than 13-million passengers passed through Pearson airport in 2020, down from 50.5-million total passengers the year before. The airport responded to the pandemic by cutting capital spending, temporarily closing 40 per cent of its terminal facilities, and eliminating 500 positions — or 27-per-cent of its workforce — last summer. Federal supports included waiving of airport ground lease rent, deferring rent payments, and aid from the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

Group of Advisors Says It’s Not necessary to Test LTC residents Weekly:

The province’s science advisory panel says the potential harm of testing long-term care residents for COVID-19 every week likely outweighs the benefits. The province requires the testing in all homes every two weeks and once a week in areas in the orange, red and grey zones of its colour-coded restrictions system. But the panel says the positivity rate of more than 700,000 tests conducted between last June and March 13th was only 0.16 per cent. It also says there is no real-world evidence to support the benefits of such testing, but it can cause a number of potential harms — including the pain and discomfort of nasal swabs.

Ontario Numbers:

Yesterday the province reported 1,571 new COVID-19 cases based on nearly 52,000 tests completed. Two thirds of the new cases were concentrated in the hotspots; Toronto, Peel and York Region. The number of daily fatalities remained low at just 10 new deaths but hospitalizations continued to rise. 25 more people were admitted to hospital. ICU numbers increased by 9.  There were 1,531 more resolved cases.

Waterloo Region / WDG Numbers:

Public Health of Waterloo Region reported 46 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, which is higher than the average this week. There were no new deaths. Hospitalizations increased by two to a total of 20 with eight in intensive care. Thanks to a large number of resolved cases, the number of active cases dropped by eleven to 235.

In Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph yesterday, Public Health declared 17 new cases, for a total of 130 active. That’s two more than yesterday. 8 of the new cases were in Guelph and 5 were in Dufferin. Hospitalizations increased to 3.

Contains files from The Canadian Press

Photo Credit: Ontario Parliament via CPAC

 

After 9 Podcast - 91.5 The Beat