Today, Premier Ford’s government recognized the realities on the ground here in Windsor-Essex.
For more than 100 days, residents in the City of Windsor have done their part. We’ve maintained our distance. We shut down our businesses. We stopped visiting our loved ones in long-term care homes. We even banned the use of monkey bars in municipal parks. All to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Within the City of Windsor and a wide section of Essex County, the efforts that we have all taken have bent the curve and made sure that our local health care system was not overwhelmed this spring. In the next few days, the City of Windsor will be permitted to enter Stage 2.
And some local businesses will be permitted to re-open, while adhering to strict public health safety protocols. The Province of Ontario has already published guidance documents for businesses to let them know exactly what they can and cannot do in Stage 2. There are dozens of pages of information available at ontario.ca/COVID. Our local Public Health Unit is also set to mandate face masks while in commercial establishments.
Let me be clear, this news today, while very welcomed for so many in Windsor, comes with an important responsibility – we need to follow the guidelines and recommendations of provincial public health officials to ensure that, as we move to Stage 2, we don’t increase the risk of community transmission.
I’m confident that the dedication and compliance that many in our community have shown over the course of the past few months will continue as we enter this next phase and begin our local economic recovery.
At the same time, our neighbours in Leamington and Kingsville will remain in Stage 1. Two days ago, I told you that we rise and fall as a region. That remains the case today.
After the Premier’s press conference, I called Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald to let her know that I’m going to continue to fight hard to make sure that farms in our region get the attention they need from senior orders of government. Testing of the entire Temporary Foreign Worker population is an important first step. Creating the spaces for isolation and recovery, just as the City of Windsor has already done, is the next step. The Province of Ontario’s “Three Point Plan” is going to help chart that course, and lays the foundation for Leamington and Kingsville to recover as well.
So, I’m going to continue to stand up on behalf of this region.
Later today, I’ve got a call with Ontario Minister of Health, Christine Elliott. Tomorrow morning, I’m speaking with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland about necessary changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program and what the federal government should do to protect migrant workers. Thursday evening, Windsor City Council will convene and host my friend Gary McNamara, Chair of the Board of Windsor-Essex County Health Unit as well as Dr. Wajid Ahmed to provide an update about our regional response to this ongoing public health crisis. On Friday morning, myself, David Musyj, Ross Moncur (Erie Shores), and representatives of the Health Unit will meet again with Canada’s Minister of Health – Patty Hajdu – as part of a working group to navigate the ongoing crisis within the migrant worker community.
I’ve been impressed that some regional agricultural firms have come forward to request testing. Highline Mushroom, Sun-Bright Farms and Nature Fresh are those who have recently stepped up to ensure their population of farm workers get tested. We need many, many more farm operators to step forward to get their workers tested.
And for those who test positive, the City of Windsor has stepped forward to establish an isolation and recovery centre to help those farm workers cope. The City of Windsor is going to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours in Leamington and Kingsville.
Finally, I just want to thank Premier Ford and the Ontario Government for their ongoing leadership in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve been responsive and willing to listen. I know that we have a lot more work to do, but today is a tremendous step forward for Windsor.