By MPP Toby Barrett  

Following the December 26 province-wide shutdown, Premier Ford, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, has now declared a second provincial emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.  

Given the continuing spread of coronavirus, increasing pressures on intensive care units and troubling future projections, it was decided additional measures outside of existing legislative authority were necessary.  

As of January 14, everyone is subject to a stay-at-home order with exceptions for permitted activities, such as going to a grocery store or drug store, accessing health care, exercising, or working where the work cannot be done online. People are required to wear a mask inside businesses, and also when outside if not physically distanced.  

Learn more at Ontario.ca/covidresponse  

The OPP, local police, bylaw officers, and workplace inspectors have the authority to ticket people and businesses that do not comply. However, in terms of enforcement of the stay-at-home order, no element of it provides law enforcement with either the power to enter dwellings nor the authority to stop a vehicle for the singular purpose of checking compliance with the emergency order.  

If you have questions about what businesses will be open or impacts to your business or employment, call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-441-3659. The new Ontario Small Business Support Grant provides a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to help navigate this challenging period. For example, some businesses may need support to pay wages, rent or maintain inventory.  

Long-term care remains at the front of the line to receive the vaccine during phase 1 of the distribution program. Phase 2 will see approximately 8.5 million people, for example those over the age of 70, immunized by the end of July.  

When vaccines are available – which is under the control of the federal government – phase 3 will be for everyone who wants to be immunized. Vaccines will not be mandatory. Public health units and hospitals are playing an essential role in distribution. For information, go to https://covid-19.ontario.ca  

Remote learning is extended until January 25 for both secondary and elementary school students. A determination will be made on January 20 which public health unit regions will be permitted to resume in-person instruction. Special education students who cannot learn at home can return to school, as advised by special education experts.  

I strive to represent everyone in Haldimand-Norfolk, regardless of who they voted for or their position on how to deal with this infectious disease. The Province of Ontario has made the decision that the best path forward is to continue to tackle this pandemic by following the advice of health care professionals. I also recognize that dealing with this global pandemic means different things to different people.   

We are all worried about the health of our friends, families and our communities, our jobs and our businesses, and our rights in a free and democratic society. We must constantly strive to find a balance.  

When we defeat Covid, our single focus will return to doing what we as a government can do to help grow the economy, restore balance to our finances, strengthen our communities and make our province the best place to live, work, and build a future.  

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk