By MPP Toby Barrett
The second half of 2020 started with our region emerging from Covid restrictions and life gaining more normalcy. Regrettably, by fall, Ontario succumbed to the second wave.
I started July by writing about the new math curriculum that was introduced in the fall. This new curriculum was developed over two years in consultation with parents, teachers, math education experts, designed reverse a decade of declining math scores.
Unexpectantly, July 19 saw the occupation of a second Caledonia subdivision – McKenzie Meadows just east of Douglas Creek Estates – with the subsequent blockade of road and rail.
A commitment for constructing 30,000 new long-term care beds over 10 years was reinforced in the summer, with 8,000 being built initially and 12,000 redeveloped across Ontario. Locally, two applications have been submitted to build 126 new beds and redevelop 130.
Also in July, the Ontario government announced changes to help break down barriers to success for Black students. Some of these changes include eliminating discretionary suspensions for Kindergarten to Grade 3; destreaming curricula starting with Grade 9 math; and providing anti-discrimination professional development for the education sector.
Last summer we passed the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020 to create protection for farmers’ livestock and Ontario’s food supply. People have the right to protest, but not to trespass on farms or interfere with livestock transport.
Ontario finalized its live bait review, a process I started as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. With 1.2 million anglers, and more than 250,000 lakes, it’s no surprise there is demand for minnows, leeches and worms in Ontario. The final decision is a compromise between supplying bait and ensuring there is no spread of invasive species or disease.
The province received approval from the federal government for $1.7 million of funding for the Long Point causeway bridge replacement.
On July 30, Ontario issued the Guide to Reopening Ontario’s Schools. This committed over $300 million to support a reopening of schools – followed by another in August $234.6 million in joint provincial-federal money to keep children and staff safe in child care and early years settings.
August also saw the provincial and federal governments announce joint funding to enable Haldimand and Norfolk Counties to deal with Covid-19, and move forward. More funding was announced in December for a funding total of $6.3 million.
In September, grants were announced for local hospitals through the Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund. Haldimand-Norfolk hospitals were allocated more than $2.3 million combined for upgrades.
Legislation introduced this fall, which was subsequently passed, will end the time change to Daylight Savings Time contingent on neighbouring jurisdictions also changing.
The Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act that passed this fall will tackle some of the issues that complicate family law in the province. The other thing I was glad to see was legislation to modernize the Soldier’s Aid Commission to broaden assistance.
And of course the year continued to be dominated by the sorry saga of the Caledonia insurrection – a federal issue that requires federal intervention.
With the year drawing to a close, Ontario was the first province to see injections of the Covid-19 vaccine. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of Covid-19.
Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk.