On October 4, the Ontario Government delivered their Speech from the Throne. With a provincial election expected in June 2022, there was an expectation that this speech would set the stage for the upcoming election campaign, 2022 provincial budget and plans ahead for the fall session. The full text of the speech can be read here
The Speech from the Throne made it clear that the COVID-19 pandemic, enhancing vaccine uptake and focusing on health and long-term care is front and centre as the top priority for the provincial government. Vaccine policies were highlighted relating to retirement homes, hospitals, home and community care, schools and post-secondary institutions.
Throne Speech Highlights:
- The speech mentioned third booster doses being administered to Ontario’s most vulnerable residents: Your government has worked in unprecedented cooperation with municipal leaders, public health officials, frontline health care workers and the federal government to achieve one of the highest rates of vaccine protection in the world at incredible speed.
- In response to protests seen during the federal election, the provincial government spoke about balancing individual freedoms and rights with health measures needed to defeat COVID-19. The speech also set the goal of avoiding future lockdowns: Your government also recognizes that we cannot live under these exceptional measures forever. Vaccine certificates are a temporary policy that will be lifted when it is safe to do so, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
- The Throne Speech focused mostly on health and long-term care. Building and redeveloping hospitals; investing 2.28 billion over a decade in long-term care to add 30,000 beds and adding hospital beds with qualified nurses and doctors to support the COVID response and any new pandemics in the future. The province also promised to add 16,200 PSWs prior to April 2022.
- The Ontario government will join other provincial Premiers in advocating for an increased share of health transfers from the federal government. Nationally, this would come at a cost of over $28 billion per year with Ontario receiving their share based on population.
- The Ontario government made a commitment to support Truth and Reconciliation: Your government will also continue to engage with Indigenous communities in true partnership as we continue the work toward meaningful reconciliation. A few short days ago, Ontario and Canada observed the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. On that day, today and every day, your government will work to strengthen its relationship with Indigenous peoples and play an active role in supporting healing and reconciliation.
- The government also highlighted that they are focused on getting through the pandemic and working towards economic recovery. This will include investing in infrastructure and avoiding spending cuts or tax hikes.
- Unfortunately, the speech did not mention the national child care deal and was silent on community housing, employment system transformation and social assistance reform.
- OMSSA members continue to discuss these issues with our provincial partners at various provincial-municipal tables. The speech did reference working with municipalities on economic recovery and ending the pandemic: Your government remains steadfast in its commitment to an economic and fiscal recovery that is fueled by economic growth, not painful tax hikes or spending cutsAs your government tackles these issues that challenge the social and economic fabric of Ontario, it will do so in cooperation with municipal leaders.
Overall, the Speech from the Throne was short on details but included no surprises.
OMSSA will continue to support our members as we work with our provincial partners over the remainder of the term and prepare to advocate in the upcoming provincial election on issues important to municipalities related to the health and human services sectors, including pushing for a renewal of the Social Services Relief Fund, human services integration, an agreement on national child care, additional supports for mental health, long-term care, supportive housing, community housing and homelessness prevention through the upcoming provincial budget consultations. Municipalities will be key in supporting an inclusive economic recovery and ending the COVID-19 pandemic locally.