Ontario announced 132 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and no new deaths — not a significant change from other daily updates of the past week.
Ontario is reporting 132 cases of #COVID19 as the province processed over 26,000 tests. Peel is reporting 45 new cases, with 31 in Toronto and 22 in Ottawa. Every other public health unit is reporting five or fewer cases, with 18 units reporting no new cases.
— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) September 3, 2020
Premier Doug Ford and Labour Minister Monte McNaughton used Thursday's press conference to pre-emptively commemorate Labour Day and to recognize the government's friends in labour including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who hosted the event in Hamilton, and LiUNA.
They announced some recipients of funding in a $37 million training program, which they billed as key to the province's economic recovery from COVID-19.
Per the province:
- The Ford Motor Company of Canada in Oakville will receive more than $954,000 to create up to 244 co-op learning spots to give college and university students practical, hands-on experience for careers in manufacturing, vehicle connectivity and business operations.
- The Greenhouse Academy in Thorndale will receive $440,000 to train secondary students about how to grow plants, prepare seedlings for reforestation projects, and gain real workplace and business experience.
- Roland Gossage Foundation will receive $500,000 for their Soldiers in Tech project to help up to 45 veterans train for careers in web development and technology.
- The Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario will receive $450,000 to support women in the trades and for health and safety training.
"Jobs change lives. Whether you're a student, a graduate or a mid-career worker, we want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to upgrade their skills, gain practical hands-on experience and find a good job," said McNaughton. "Today's announcement is an important step forward and a real opportunity to set people down the path to new in-demand careers."
Ontario will get a $147-million boost in federal funding through the Canada-Ontario Early Learning and Child Care Agreement. Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen and Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce made the announcement together Thursday.
"We are investing more in child care to ensure it is safe, accessible and affordable for working moms and dads," said Lecce in a press release. "This agreement will ensure funding continues to flow so that child care remains available to parents as they return to work today and into the future."
The funding will go toward supporting the operating costs of eligible licensed child-care providers and EarlyON centres, and is in addition to the $234.6 million provided through the Safe Restart Agreement for child care.
According to the figures from the ministry of education, just over half of the province's child-care centres have reopened since the pandemic — 3,110 of 5,523 centres. However, one report suggests that that number could rise significantly when schools open.
Return to school problems continue
Ford was asked how the province will respond if some teachers refuse to go to work on the grounds that it's unsafe and if he'd use legislative power to force them back to work. Ford didn't directly answer.
"I just want to work with them," he said. "This isn't the time to argue or disagree, let's just all work together. We'll get through it."
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath had held a press conference earlier in the day to call on Ford to make sure that workers — parents in particular — have paid sick days. Without them, parents will be forced to choose between missing pay or sending their child to school when they're sick, possibly with COVID-19. She noted that despite promises from the provincial and federal governments, nothing has materialized.
Ford was asked about that as well, but appeared to believe the question was about teachers' sick days — he responded that they have 131 sick days, which is the maximum number they can accrue.
Ford said his government is moving forward with plans to boost pay for personal support workers.
At a recent media event, he had referred to PSWs as "overworked" and "underpaid" and was criticized for failing to do anything about that.
On Thursday, Ford said he heard that criticism and is moving forward with the Ministry of Health and the Treasury Board on a plan.
"We can't delay this, they deserve more money, that's the bottom line, and I am going to act on it immediately," he said.
Ford was also asked if the province would raise ODSP rates, following a CityTV story about at least one recipient saying she's considering assisted suicide because she doesn't have enough money to live on.
Ford suggested he is open to that and said he'll have an "in-depth" talk with the ministry about that.
"It's very, very important we take care of people that can't take care of themselves, but the people that are able to work, not on ODSP, anyone, once these jobs come back, we expect you to work, it's as simple as that," he said. "If there's jobs out there, work. If you're healthy, work, because you contribute back to society."
Before the last election, the former Liberal government announced it would raise ODSP by three per cent a year for three years, but the Ford government cancelled that and increased the rate only once, by 1.5 per cent.
Ford also suggested he's open to bailing out the CNE. When asked about the fair's financial troubles, he responded with some wistful reminisces about going and eating 25-cent spaghetti as a child.
"We need to help them," he said, saying financial support should come from all three levels of government. "We can't let the history of the CNE end."