By RIMA BERNS-McGOWN
Happy New Year! May it be a better year for all of us. I hope that 2021 marks a rapid turnaround in our collective fortunes – and that you all experience only joy and fulfillment, health and happiness.
2020 was brutal. Let us hope that in 2021 we see the virus beaten back and that we can build back better and stronger.
I will continue to work with everything I’ve got to hold the provincial and federal governments accountable to you.
In the first instance, that has got to mean a rapid and efficient vaccine rollout.
We need schools to be open but safe, with adequate asymptomatic testing of the school communities, small classes, and good ventilation.
We need a rapid, massive overhaul of long-term care in Ontario – and that means, most importantly, adequate staffing and a living wage for personal support workers, so that they don’t need to sleep in shelters, can afford rent, and can work in just one place.
We need national standards for LTC. We need them enforced. We need corporations to stop profiteering off our elders.
We need, in the short term, a moratorium on evictions and rent relief for tenants who have lost income to covid so that mom-and-pop landlords can afford to pay their bills as well.
And in the medium and longer term, we need policy that views housing as a human right – and that ensures that our elders will not be pushed out of our community by corporate landlords looking to jack up the rents in their apartments.
We need smart policy that rewards small businesses that have poured their hearts and souls – and spent a lot of money – making themselves safe. There is no reason to close businesses by category as we did during the first lockdown. We should be allowing small businesses to keep open if they keep to strict safety protocols.
We know more than we did in March. We now know, for instance, that dogs are unlikely to transmit COVID-19, so why are we closing groomers? Groomers can do curbside drop-off and pick-up of dogs. They can put safe grooming protocols in place.
We need guaranteed sick pay so that workers can afford to stay home if they are sick and aren’t forced to work sick so that they can pay rent so that they don’t find themselves homeless in the middle of a pandemic winter….
Above all, we need to understand the way that systemic racism and discrimination currently mean that Black, Indigenous, and communities of other people of colour face barriers in every aspect of society, which have ensured that they have fewer opportunities and less ability to keep themselves safe from the pandemic.
Let’s build back an Ontario that is clean, green, safe, and equitable for all of us. One in which all of us can thrive and live our best lives. One in which all of us are respected and well served by our institutions.
Here’s to a better future.