New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
In the first days of 2021, New Pathway – Ukrainian News asked members of Ontario Parliament from the ridings with the largest Ukrainian Canadian populations in the Greater Toronto Area about 1) the biggest challenges in their ridings in 2020; 2) their biggest achievements as MPPs in 2020; and 3) their plans and recommendations to the Ontario government for 2021.
MPP Christine Hogarth (Etobicoke—Lakeshore):
1) Virtually no aspect of life has been untouched by the COVID-19 Pandemic and as a government we have responded to it with hundreds of initiatives, to support people and businesses, totalling $45 billion dollars over the next three years. Some notable funding initiatives included providing over $1.5 billion for pandemic pay for more than 375,000 frontline workers and investing $600 million to eligible small businesses for costs associated with municipal and education property taxes and energy bills.
While providing supports for Ontario residents is incredibly important, nothing is more important than protecting the health and well-being of Ontarians. Since first learning of COVID-19, our government has taken decisive action to stop the spread of this deadly virus.
2) With COVID being such a huge factor in the lives of people in 2020, I believe servicing the needs of Etobicoke-Lakeshore at this critical time has been some of our strongest work. That being said there have been some other developments that I am proud of.
- Working with parents from our community and staff at Bishop Allen, we advocated for a replacement facility for Bishop Allen Academy, and succeeded! I was thrilled to join the Premier, Minister of Education and TCDSB Trustee Lubinski to announce over $36 million in funding for the new replacement school at Bishop Allen. The new facility will have space for 1,300 students in our community.
- Gun crime continues to be an issue in our community so when nearly 80 gunshots were fired in a gang-related shooting in our area, I was horrified to see a child-care centre right across the street from the incident. Action needed to be taken, so I introduced a private members motion to the legislature, calling for the federal government to strengthen Criminal Code bail provisions for all charges related to firearms trafficking and violent gun offences, and to explore mandatory minimum sentences for gun trafficking. The motion was unanimously passed by the legislature. I urge your readers to go to christinehogarthMPP.ca/gun_violence_bail_provisions to add their voice to the petition supporting this motion.
- Another moment from the Legislature was when I had the opportunity to speak and honour the victims of the Holodomor, the famine in Soviet Ukraine in the early 1930s. I, along with the Ontario Government, stand with the Ukrainian community of Ontario to remember the millions of victims who were murdered during this heinous genocide.
- Increasing hospital capacity and reducing wait times for patients in Etobicoke-Lakeshore and across Ontario is a priority for the government. In 2020, I was pleased to share that the Queensway Health Centre will receive 36 new beds as part of the $21million investment for Trillium Health Partners and at the same time Unity Health Toronto will receive $12 million in 42 new beds and 7 critical care beds which will help alleviate pressure at St Joseph’s Health Centre.
On a much more personal note, last year I had the honour to be the first female Parliamentary Assistant to answer a question in the Legislature during Question Period, when MPP Aris Babikian of Scarborough-Agincourt asked me about the new role of Ontario’s first Inspector General of Policing. Along with serving the people of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, I will continue working hard in my role as Parliamentary Assistant to the Solicitor General of Ontario.
3) I will continue to encourage and support the people and businesses of Etobicoke-Lakeshore. I hope everyone continues to shop local, support small businesses and support the residents of our area that need it. Any plans for our province will be done through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 will continue to challenge our province and our riding in 2021. Thus far we have allocated $45 billion dollars over the next three years to combat the virus. $15.2 billion to protect our citizens, $13.5 billion to support people and jobs, $4.8 billion to create the conditions for growth to help the economy recover and $11.3 billion to improve cash flow for people and businesses.
There is light at the end of the tunnel from the pandemic with the recent approval of COVID vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines to Ontarians is well underway with Phase One of our three-phase implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. We expect to complete Phase One of our distribution plan by early January. Phase Two of our vaccine distribution will begin when more doses become available to Ontario which is expected to begin later this winter. The province will finally enter the third phase when the COVID-19 vaccine will become accessible for every Ontarian who wishes to be immunized.
While the COVID-19 vaccines represent a light at the end of the tunnel, it is critical that all Ontarians continue to follow public health measures and public health advice. As we await the arrival of more vaccines, this is our best and only defense against this virus.
I am hopeful that once the people of Ontario and Etobicoke-Lakeshore are vaccinated we will take the first steps on the road to recovery from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MPP Kinga Surma (Etobicoke Centre):
1) Since March 2020, we’ve been living in these challenging and unprecedented times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although everybody’s life was significantly impacted by this new pandemic reality, I was deeply touched how the community came together to do everything to win this battle. Etobicoke Centre residents demonstrated incredible resilience and compassion stepping up to help their neighbours, to volunteer, to comfort and cheer up one another during these trying times. No words can express my gratitude to the medical and front-line workers and volunteers who kept working restlessly and overcoming so many challenges that the year 2020 posed.
2) In late August, I was pleased to join Premier Doug Ford and Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, to announce the release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the design and delivery of the tunnelling work for the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension. The release of the RFP was part of the government’s continued commitment to deliver the largest subway expansion in the country’s history to commuters and businesses in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
As the Associate Minister of Transportation (GTA) and MPP for Etobicoke Centre, I am thrilled that we are making smart, long-term transit investments to address congestion, and giving the people of Etobicoke, Mississauga, and the rest of the GTA more affordable and seamless options to get where they need to be. The progress made in 2020 gets us one step closer to closing the transit gap along the Eglinton corridor and to connecting communities and families to urban growth centres and employment hubs in Etobicoke, Toronto and Mississauga.
The Eglinton Crosstown West Extension (ECWE) will extend the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit project, currently under construction, by 9.2 km from the future Mount Dennis Station to Renforth Drive. The extension will create convenient connections between different transit systems throughout the region ― UP Express and Kitchener Line GO train service at Mount Dennis, TTC bus services at transit stops in Toronto, and MiWay and GO bus services via the Mississauga Transitway at Renforth Drive. The province is also committed to establishing connectivity to Pearson International Airport.
I look forward to the next phase of work on the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension. Upon evaluating the proposals received, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and Metrolinx expect to award the tunnelling contract to a successful team in mid-2021.
I was also thrilled to welcome Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education to Etobicoke Centre for the announcement of $15.9 million to build a Buttonwood Elementary School in August 2020. The new school will include cutting-edge classrooms to accommodate 600 students in the Toronto Catholic District School Board. The new school will be located at 100 Allanhurst Drive. The modern learning environment will also provide 88 new licensed childcare spaces to ensure families from Etobicoke Centre have access to high quality childcare. There will be five childcare rooms: one for infants, two for toddlers, and two for preschool.
Our riding of Etobicoke Centre has long grappled with a shortage of school spaces. There are many primary schools feeding into just a single Catholic secondary school in our community. Many constituents have expressed their concerns about the number of student spaces in secondary schools. This has been a pressing issue for this community for many years and it is finally being resolved. On Friday October 30, 2020, I joined Premier Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, to announce the investment of $26.4 millions to build a new Catholic secondary school in Etobicoke Centre. The new school will accommodate close to 900 students and offer modern classrooms and the latest technology to help ensure the very best learning environment. Additionally, the Government of Ontario announced the investment of $36 million for Bishop Allen Academy for a new replacement facility that will support 1,300 students.
3) In early 2021, the Province will announce the opening of the transformed Kipling Transit Hub. Once the new modern transit hub is complete, riders will be able to seamlessly connect to the TTC, MiWay, GO Bus, or GO Train, all from the same place. The station will soon connect Toronto’s west end to an entire regional transit network with connections to the Milton line, more than 10 bus routes, three transit providers, and express access to the airport.
Looking forward to 2021, as the vaccination effort is underway and the people of Ontario are continuously showcasing their unity, hard work and determination, I have very high hopes that we will be able to curb the pandemic and enjoy again the days and events, where we can all come together in the great spirit of unity and celebration.
MPP Natalia Kusendova (Mississauga Centre):
1) One of the main ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has come to affect my riding and my constituents most pertinently is with the limitations it has imposed on us for gathering and meeting in-person. As an elected representative, one of my favourite parts of my role is meeting with my neighbours in Mississauga Centre, getting to hear their experiences and concerns, and working to help fix issues and make Mississauga Centre a better place to live. Though, thanks to technology, we have alternate ways of connecting, such as through Zoom or obviously email, large events where I can connect with my constituents have been a challenge, and it is something that I cannot wait to welcome back soon enough as our government works day and night to ensure vaccines get into the arms of every Ontarian across the province.
2) In my role as an MPP I am, first and foremost, proud to have brought my background in nursing to the table in helping to formulate and enact a comprehensive government strategy to help protect Ontarians from COVID-19. Our government rose to the occasion, demonstrating strong leadership in conjunction with our top medical experts to flatten the curve and quell the debilitating threats of this virus. Being able to use my nursing background to help direct governmental policy to help the health of Ontarians is one of the major reasons I decided to run as an MPP back in 2018.
In addition to this, I had the privilege of being able to work with so many amazing groups in my community to help look after our elderly and vulnerable neighbours. Whether it was delivering homecooked, hot meals to seniors isolating at home, or assembling care packages for children in foster care, the care and generosity exemplified by my fellow Mississauga residents was nothing short of inspiring. Despite the pandemic, advocacy for the victims of human trafficking did not stop, and our government’s ambitious Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy — something I am honoured to have helped institute — will ensure victims receive the supports they need.
I’m also proud of my Bill 182, the Franco-Ontarian Emblem Amendment Act, receiving Royal Assent and becoming law. With this piece of legislation, the flag of the Franco-Ontarian community has become a provincial emblem in the same way that the trillium and our coat of arms are. By doing this, we recognize the place of French Ontarians as a founding nation, having been here in the earliest days of contact, and their henceforth contributions to this province since then.
On a final note, I had the pleasure of taking part in an episode of TVO’s Political Blind Date, alongside MPP Sara Singh, where I had the chance to speak about all of the initiatives undertaken by our government to fix hallway healthcare in Ontario. The episode will be airing on January 19th on TVO, so make sure that you tune in for an insightful dialogue between myself and my colleague across the aisle!
3) I’m excited to have been promoted to being the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Francophone Affairs, a role that I look forward to serving in as we turn a new chapter and begin 2021. I will no doubt be putting my commitment to the Franco-Ontarian community into action in this role, and I’m grateful to have this opportunity to bring my experiences and expertise to the fore to make a positive difference in our province.
As for our government, I am excited as we begin one of the largest and most ambitious vaccination campaigns in our province’s history. Our government, in conjunction with our federal counterparts, has gone to unceasing lengths to procure the amount of vaccine doses needed to ensure all Ontarians are able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. As we begin to continually vaccinate Ontarians, there is a light at the end of the tunnel – we are taking all necessary steps to protect Ontarians and facilitate a return to a life more reminiscent of what we knew before.
MPP Kaleed Rasheed (Mississauga East-Cooksville):
1) The year 2020 remains the most unprecedented I have experienced in my career or personal life. I am thankful to the people of Mississauga East-Cooksville for working so hard to support one another through these challenging and difficult times. Our riding is home to a diverse population and my team and I are working hard on supporting everyone’s unique concerns and needs. Some of the greatest challenges included working with individuals who were affected by the COVID-19 crisis in many different ways. For example, my team and I have been contacted by countless landlords and tenants regarding rent and eviction concerns. In many instances, we were able to assist these parties in exploring solutions and options and mitigate their conflicts. Another concern was assisting constituents with their day-to-day provincial concerns regardless of the pandemic. Our office had to pivot quickly to zoom meetings and adhere to COVID safety standards in order to continue to serve those individuals who still required in-person assistance such as notarizations. I am proud to say my team and I continue to maintain a public office where everyone who needs it can turn to for help.
I want to also say that none of our work would have been possible without the diligence and dedication of our front-line and essential service workers across Ontario. These remarkable individuals deserve our gratitude for keeping our province running smoothly throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
2) In 2020, I am proud to say that my first Private Member’s Bill, the Stop Cyberbullying in Ontario Day Act, received royal assent and became law in Ontario. Additionally, my second PMB, the Front-line and Essential Service Worker Week Act, passed first and second reading in the fall session. I am honoured to bring attention to these two important causes through my legislation. The intent of my legislation is to bring awareness and highlight the importance of these causes and the individuals they affect. As a father of four (soon to be five!) children, I want to set an example for my children and future generations of Ontarians.
3) In 2021, I hope to continue to work with my colleagues in government to make sure Ontario is on the best path to overcoming the COVID-19 crisis, strengthening our economy, and improving the lives of all Ontarians. Our government has been working non-stop on assessing the growing and evolving needs of Ontarians affected by the COVID-19 crisis. I believe we are on the path to success with Ontario’s vaccine roll-out plan, and that we have prepared to assist our businesses and families with the recently announced Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover, a budget outlining our intent to invest in ensuring all Ontarians, from individuals to businesses can look forward to a bright future.
MPP Rudy Cuzzetto (Mississauga—Lakeshore):
1) We have faced many extraordinary challenges in Mississauga-Lakeshore since the COVID-19 pandemic began. COVID-19 has exposed many serious, longstanding issues in our long-term care system, in particular. Two of the worst outbreaks in the Region of Peel were in Mississauga-Lakeshore: there were 149 cases and 72 deaths at the Camilla Care Community, and 99 cases and 21 deaths at the Erin Mills Lodge nursing home.
Many of our small and medium sized businesses in Port Credit and Clarkson have also struggled with COVID-19-related restrictions, particularly during the current Provincewide Shutdown. We have had to show flexibility to help them adapt, as much as possible, to this new environment. In some cases, this has included making it easier for them to retool to produce health-related supplies and equipment for our frontline health care workers.
2) I’m proud of working with our businesses and volunteers to facilitate donations of over a hundred thousand pounds of food to our local food banks, millions of dollars to the Trillium Health Partners Foundation, and tens of thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to our frontline health care workers in Mississauga, Toronto, Brampton, Oakville, Burlington and Barrie.
Often, I worked together with other MPPs. For example, on October 1, 2020, I joined my friend, Associate Minister Kinga Surma, to deliver disinfectant kits and medical masks to the staff and residents at the Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre in Etobicoke-Centre, thanks to a generous donation from Lysol Canada. In turn, businesses across Ontario donated used tablets through my site, RudyConnects.ca, to help seniors in our long-term care facilities stay socially connected with their loved ones throughout the worst months of the COVID-19 crisis.
On July 21, 2020, I was proud to join the Premier and Minister of Long-Term Care to announce that the Province will build two new long-term care homes, with 640 new beds, a health services building and – in partnership with Heart House Hospice – the first residential hospice in Mississauga, here at Trillium Health Partners’ site in the Sheridan Park Corporate Centre.
These facilities will feature senior-friendly designs, modern infection control standards, private (or semi-private) rooms, and air conditioning. While a project of this scale would previously take three years (or longer) to build, construction will now proceed on an accelerated schedule, for completion next year, in 2021. This will help bring much-needed relief to seniors and their families in southern Mississauga.
3) As Parliamentary Assistant to the President of the Treasury Board (and now Minister of Finance) Peter Bethlenfalvy, I plan to continue to work together with our team to implement our $45 billion plan to deliver critical support for families, seniors, and small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to lay the groundwork for a robust long-term economic recovery for Ontario. This includes many important new investments in Mississauga-Lakeshore, which will be announced in 2021.