Every Monday, TVO.org provides a primer on what to look for in the coming week in Ontario politics, and features some stories making news now.
Here’s what we’ve got our eye on:
Queen’s Park Keywords
Gettin’ out of Dodge: The final day of the fall session at Queen’s Park was Thursday. MPPs are scheduled to return to the legislature on Feb. 22.
It sounds bad: COVID-19 experts who spoke to the media this weekend sounded particularly alarmed by the impact the Omicron variant is likely to have in Ontario. “We obviously have dealt with this for two years, but this is very different," Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases specialist at McMaster University, told the Canadian Press. "We're going to see something I don't think we've seen before." He said the province will need to know how to respond in the event that there are up to 10,000 new infections every day as a result of the variant. “I’m pretty certain that everybody in the next six to 12 weeks will be infected with Omicron, unless they’re living the life of a hermit,” Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, told the Toronto Star. “At the moment, the public doesn’t recognize the enormity of what’s ahead of us,” he added. “But they will.”
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Booster shots: The Toronto Star has learned the province is planning to accelerate its booster shot plan even further, aiming for the vaccination rates achieved in the spring and summer of 2021, when Ontario topped out at about 240,000 shots per day. Vaccinations for those 50 and older is starting today, and allowing those 18 and older to get vaccinated could happen earlier than the planned date of Jan. 4, depending on capacity and demand, according to the Star.
Long-term care: A senior official has told CBC News tighter rules are coming to long-term-care homes in response to the Omicron variant. New measures being considered include increased testing of residents, including for those already vaccinated, and a maximum of two visitors per resident allowed at one time.
Beyond the Pink Palace
COVID-19 case numbers: The province reported 1,476 new COVID-19 cases yesterday. The seven-day average for new cases was 1,235, up from 926 a week earlier.
Wind storm: Unusually strong winds featuring gusts between 90 and 120 kilometres knocked out power for about 280,000 residents in southern Ontario Saturday. Nearly 80,000 remained without power as of Sunday night.
Non-profit LTC: A new poll conducted by Leger finds that 74 per cent of Ontarians would prefer to live in a not-for-profit long-term care home rather than a for-profit one. For-profit facilities have faced criticism that they handled the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic much more poorly than not-for-profit homes.
Home ownership: CBC News has spoken to dozens of would-be homeowners who have paid for pre-construction units and are now being told they need to pay tens of thousands of dollars more than they originally agreed to if they want to eventually move into their home. Developers are citing construction delays and added costs related to the pandemic as reasons for the higher charges.
Auto sector: The federal government says it is ready to impose retaliatory tarrifs if the U.S. goes ahead with an electric-vehicle tax credit designed in a way to favour cars made in America. “What my hope is, is that we are not going to have to do this at all but what is really important is that Canada prepare for the worst,” International Trade Minister Mary Ng told CTV News. There is great concern in the Ontario auto sector that the tax credit would cause investment in Canadian manufacturing plants to dry up.
Mayor Mel: Mel Lastman, the colourful first mayor of the amalgamated “megacity” of Toronto, died on Saturday. He was 88. “I’m very sad to learn of the passing of Mel Lastman,” Premier Doug Ford wrote on Twitter. “Mel was a true leader and builder for the City of Toronto. He was a great Mayor and he touched many lives. Mel, you will truly be missed.”
Sorry, Steve: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in overtime Sunday to claim their second consecutive Grey Cup. It’s a result that I’m sure was profoundly disappointing for The Agenda’s Steve Paikin, a life-long Ti-Cats fan.
Upcoming Ontario politics coverage on TVO
On Tuesday, listen to the latest edition of the #onpoli podcast — if I'm not mistaken, it will be the last episode of 2021. And on TVO.org, you can expect new articles from our regular political columnists, John Michael McGrath and Matt Gurney.
This article was updated at 6:40 a.m.