Continuing to protect Ontarians while moving forward

By MPP Toby Barrett

This October, the second session of Ontario’s 42nd Parliament reconvened with Her Majesty’s Speech from the Throne by Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor.

Much of the Throne Speech focussed on the work of the province, country and world to fight new variants of Covid-19. The past 18 months have been some of the most difficult in modern life. Families have grieved the loss of life. Jobs have been lost and businesses shuttered. The pandemic continues to challenge us in unimaginable ways.

The Ontario Government took extraordinary measures to slow the spread, and Ontarians have shown remarkable resolve by doing what is necessary to protect our communities, our hospitals and most vulnerable citizens.

Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel is looking brighter.

The Ontario Government has continued to work cooperatively with municipal leaders, public health officials, frontline health care workers and the federal government to achieve one of the best vaccination rates in the world.

For this reason, Ontario has pursued the most cautious reopening in Canada. This approach has included some of the highest vaccine thresholds for easing restrictions. It has maintained effective public health measures like indoor masking, while implementing vaccine policies to protect the vulnerable in retirement homes, hospitals, home and community care, and educational institutions.

In Haldimand-Norfolk, 80 per cent of the population 12 and older is fully vaccinated.

Recently, government further strengthened protections for long-term care homes by requiring vaccination of all staff, save valid medical exemption. This is in addition to surveillance testing and inspections. Ontario was also the first province in Canada to provide third doses to residents of long-term care.

In support of Ontario’s cautious reopening, the province also introduced a vaccine certificate. Government did not make the decision to require proof of vaccination lighlty. The struggle to strike the balance between long-established rights and freedoms and the need to do what is necessary to protect lives has been among our greatest challenges.

However, as seen elsewhere in Canada and North America, the Covid-19 pandemic remains an urgent public health emergency. As we confront the Delta-driven fourth wave, every tool must be considered.

Ontario cannot go backwards. After 18 months of fighting, we owe our businesses stability and certainty.

Your government also recognizes that we cannot live under these exceptional measures forever. Vaccine certificates are temporary and will be discontinued when it is safe to do so, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been guided by the latest science when making decisions on how to keep Ontarians healthy and safe.

As Ontario’s vaccine rate grows, we move into a new phase of the pandemic. In this new phase, while cases may rise as people head indoors during colder months, the Chief Medical Officer of Health has stated this is not a cause for panic. Instead, thanks to the protection offered by Ontario’s world-leading vaccine rate, the vaccinated are at much lower risk for more severe health outcomes, such as hospitalization.

Further, Ontario’s top doctors and public health officials are continuously monitoring hospitalizations and intensive care units, which drive decision making. If additional public health measures are needed, they will be localized and targeted. At the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, they will seek to minimize disruptions to businesses and families.

The ultimate goal, shared by all, is avoiding future lockdowns and protecting Ontarians.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk