August 17, 2020, Premier Doug Ford provided and update and responded to questions from media regarding Ontario’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Ford was joined by Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, who responded to questions on the province’s return-to-school plan.
Earlier today, Premier Ford addressed delegates of the 2020 Annual Conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), reaffirming the government’s commitment to support Ontario municipalities as they recover from COVID-19 and pointing to the $4 billion in support secured for municipalities through the federal/provincial/territorial Safe Restart Agreement.
Update on COVID-19
Case Numbers and Economic Recovery
This afternoon, Premier Ford provided an update on Ontario’s progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Over the last two weeks, on average less than 100 new cases have been reported each day.
As a result of all of Ontario’s public health regions now being in stage three, businesses in the province are increasingly re-opening their doors and hiring back employees. Ontario saw 528,000 jobs added in June and July.
Premier Ford and Minister Lecce were asked about the Ministry of Education’s rejection of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) plan for shorter school days, to enable smaller class sizes. In response, Premier Ford spoke critically of education unions for being inflexible. Minister Lecce reiterated the government’s request for unions to be flexible, particularly on the issue of prep time for teachers.
Minister Lecce added that the government’s priorities are to maximize the amount of time (out of the total 300 instructional minutes) that students have in front of their teacher each day, and to achieve smaller class sizes. The government is working with the TDSB on the issues of distancing and accessing additional space for education within the City of Toronto.
When asked whether the number of schools’ supply teachers will be permitted to teach in should be limited to prevent COVID-19 spread, Minister Lecce said that this recommendation is already in the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education. He urged boards to adhere to this recommendation as much as possible, to ensure that schools do not experience similar issues as long-term care homes due to travelling staff.