MPPs will take part in the final question period of the spring session on Thursday as Ontario awaits an announcement on when the province’s pandemic reopening plan will take effect.
A lot of questions will likely be asked about the premier’s comment on Wednesday about possibly moving up the schedule for Step 1 of the plan, tentatively schedule for June 14.
Doug Ford, who has been skipping question periods as of late, has indicated he may be willing to speed up the process if the COVID-19 indicators continue to improve saying he is “cautiously optimistic” things could happen ahead of schedule.
“I’m so hopeful that as things are going, we may be able to enter Step 1 safely earlier than June the 14th,” Ford said Wednesday.
Some reports have suggested an announcement on an earlier reopening could come before the end of the week.
The fallout from yesterday’s decision to keep schools closed will also be in the spotlight. Some critics accused the premier of prioritizing the economy over schools.
The opposition is expected to hammer the Ford government on the decision to not reopen schools. Ford said Wednesday it isn’t the right time to risk having students and staff assemble inside a classroom.
Some are also dismissing the premier’s promise to work with school boards to ensure students have one last opportunity to socialize outdoors before the summer break with an end of the year celebration or graduation ceremony.
“If you’re going to announce something have a plan,” says NDP leader Andrea Horwath. “Don’t just pull stuff out of your hat with some folksy story that throws everybody into mass confusion.”
The president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association tells the Toronto Star that “three weeks is not time to plan ceremonies of that size.”
Cathy Abraham says that schools generally start planning graduation ceremonies in January and most schools have already planned virtual and drive-thru events for students.
President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation says his real concern is the province ignoring the academic social and development losses of students.
“I have seen no effort on their part whatsoever to lead a strategy that says ‘this is how we’re going to remediate the losses that students have suffered over this last disruptive year,” says Harvey Bischof.
Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table concluded Saturday they believe schools can reopen safely on a regional basis for in-person learning for the last month of the school year.
Schools were closed to in-person learning in mid-April as the province fought a deadly third wave driven by more infectious variants of COVID-19. There are now just over three weeks left in the school year.
Ontario is the only Canadian province with schools currently closed to in-person learning.
As the province looks ahead to reopening the economy, the provincewide stay-at-home order has been lifted.
The stay-at-home order required Ontarians to remain at home except for the purposes set out in the order, such as exercise, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, or accessing health care services.
These restrictions are no longer in effect. The government is still urging people to be safe and continue to get vaccinated in the days and weeks ahead.