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Exclusive: Convicted group home owner ordered evicted from Oshawa home

CYNTHIA MULLIGAN | posted Friday, May 8th, 2020

A man who has been convicted of operating illegal group homes in Toronto is now using the COVID-19 pandemic to try and stay in business.

Winston Manning and his company, Comfort Residential Homes, is facing more than a dozen fire code violations after being accused of putting vulnerable people in danger at a home he has been renting and using as an illegal group home in Oshawa.

Two weeks ago, during a virtual court hearing, Manning used the current coronavirus pandemic as a reason not to be evicted. But just this week the court ruled “a real and urgent threat to vulnerable residents” outweighed even the threat of the pandemic and ordered him to leave by May 16th.

Court records show the prosecution is asking for jail time in the case with the maximum sentence being one year behind bars.

Manning rented the home in Oshawa about a year ago and the woman who owns the home said she thought a family was moving in. At the time, the house was practically brand new but recent photos she has taken show broken doors, broken fixtures, mouse droppings and evidence of bedbug infestation. She adds one of the tenants told her there is a lock on the fridge door.

Area residents tell CityNews they believe up to 15 people live in the home, many with mental health issues. Neighbours say tenants of the home would knock on their door asking for food and that children would get harassed for cigarettes at a nearby bus stop.

Officials believe Manning collects their disability cheques and charges them $1000 a month.

Manning has a well-documented past when it comes to operating illegal group homes.

In 2018, Manning plead guilty to to multiple fire code violations in relation to several illegal group homes in Toronto. He was fined more than $80,000, put on probation and ordered not to operate any illegal homes.

In 2016, Manning was a key figure in an Ontario Provincial Police probe into illegal group homes. The investigation found that people with physical and mental health issues were living in deplorable conditions: mattresses on the floor, inadequate food, mouse feces and the smell of urine in the homes.

Adequacy of federal emergency aid measures to be tested by jobless numbers

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, May 8th, 2020

The adequacy of federal emergency benefits to help Canadians weather the coronavirus crisis is bound to come under scrutiny Friday as the country gets the first real glimpse of the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic.

Statistics Canada is to release the jobless numbers for April — the first full month in which the economy was virtually shut down while all but essential workers stayed home to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

One million were thrown out of work in March — a record-breaking jobs loss that saw the unemployment rate shoot up 2.2 points to 7.8 per cent — and that was before the full force of the pandemic was felt in Canada.

Non-essential businesses only began to shut down in mid-March and are only now taking the tentative, first steps towards re-opening.

The Trudeau government has shovelled some $150 billion into benefits to help cushion the blow, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a 75 per cent wage subsidy, commercial rent relief and a host of targeted measures to help particularly hard hit individuals and sectors, including students, farmers, artists and front-line essential workers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to use Friday’s daily briefing on the pandemic responding to the calamitous jobless numbers and highlight all the ways the federal government has tried to help.

But the numbers are sure to provide fodder to opposition parties and other critics who’ve long contended that the various emergency aid programs fall short of what’s needed and have left some Canadians and businesses out in the cold.

The government has been trying to fill in the gaps with multiple adjustments to the eligibility criteria for the benefits and additional, targeted measures. Trudeau has promised more to financial support to come.

On Wednesday, Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos did not rule out extending the $35-billion Canada Emergency Response Benefit beyond the initial four-months duration. He said 7.5 million Canadians have so far received financial support from the program, which provides $2,000 a month for up to four months for those who’ve lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

However, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has estimated that some 1.4 million unemployed Canadians are not receiving the benefit —  either because they haven’t worked sufficient hours or earned sufficient income to qualify.

Duclos can expect to be grilled on that when he testifies later today before the House of Commons government operations committee.

Critics have also said owner-operators of small businesses, who pay themselves and family members out of dividends, can’t access the wage subsidy.

And many small- and medium-sized businesses have complained they’ve been unable to access interest-free loan programs.

Ontario to begin collecting race-based data during coronavirus pandemic

FAIZA AMIN | posted Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Ontario will soon start collecting race-based data during the COVID-19 pandemic to better understand how communities are being impacted by the virus.

The announcement was made during Wednesday’s provincial health update when the Chief Medical Officer of Health said the province would soon begin this process, after consultants said it was necessary to collect socioeconomic status (SES) data.

“Not just for the sake of having it collected, but then how are you going to use that to change your policy and target your programs to the unique settings,” said Dr. David Williams. “Racial ones as well. We want to know which ones in Canada are important to us, such that they would inform program or policy decisions, but not one of actually encouraging any type of racial profiling in that regard.”

Dr. Williams said the data could also help to identify which populations are at risk, particularly as public health measures are eased and more efforts are geared towards containment.

Just recently, Public Health Units in both Toronto and Peel Region announced their offices would begin collecting ethnoracial data to better inform the regions response to the virus.

Provincial health officials say questions will be added to the current questionnaire distributed to patients, adding that they will be collaborating with health equity experts to better inform their data collection process.

“We have been working on the questions that should be asked and we’re in the process of getting the questions added to the basic questions asked by a health unit,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health. “They will be questions that will be answered on a voluntary basis because they’re not included in the anti-racism legislation.”

In the U.S., some states are reporting that African Americans are contracting and dying from the virus at higher rates. Officials say the data collected in these regions is helping to create policies with these communities in mind.

In previous weeks, CityNews asked the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care why the province wasn’t collecting race-based data.

A spokesperson said it was because health wasn’t included in the Anti-Racism Act that allows governments to “mandate the collection of race-based data through regulation in order to measure and address systemic racism.”

Toronto closing down some streets to car traffic in favour of pedestrians and cyclists


Officials in Toronto announced measures to help residents resume regular routines on Wednesday, pledging to close some roads and improve cycling infrastructure in a bid to let people circulate while observing physical distancing measures meant to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The plan dubbed ActiveTO is still being developed, but accompanied a shift in messaging from city officials who have begun urging people to move about while keeping their distance rather than staying home as much as possible.

“We will need more road space for walking, we will need calm streets, we will need more bike infrastructure,” Mayor John Tory said at a news conference. “Transportation services and Toronto public health are working together on a plan to provide more space for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders to allow for better physical distancing.”

Tory said the city plans to soon close 50 kilometres of roads to all but local traffic. While he did not provide details as to which streets would be affected or how the new measures would be enforced, he said some closures would likely include major roadways near hot spots like large parks that attract crowds.

Tory also said Toronto would accelerate plans to connect its bicycle network, including installing new infrastructure near public transit routes.

“We know we need a safety valve for our transit system because some people may be hesitant to ride the (Toronto Transit Commission) for health-related reasons,” he said.

The mayor’s announcement came hours after Ontario Premier Doug Ford loosened restrictions for some businesses shuttered during the peak of the pandemic. Garden centres, nurseries and hardware stores will be allowed to resume full operations by the end of the week, and other non-essential retailers have been cleared to start offering curbside pickup effective Monday.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green said the transit service does not have immediate plans to increase service levels despite the expected uptick in ridership caused by both the provincial and municipal announcements. The transit agency has been operating service levels at between 70 and 80 per cent of regular capacity throughout the outbreak, even as ridership plunged by at least 80 per cent and about 1,200 employees had to be temporarily laid off.

“We will continue to monitor ridership and respond in real time,” Green said.

Toronto’s tentative plan was endorsed by the city’s top public health official.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said it’s important to get people active.

“The World Health Organization has urged wherever feasible to consider walking or biking when moving around during the COVID-19 outbreak,” she said.

“These modes of active transportation not only provide physical distancing but can significantly reduce our risk of chronic disease and improve our mental health.”

Tory said more particulars of the ActiveTO plan would be announced in the coming days.

More people dying of coronavirus in for-profit LTC homes than publicly-owned

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, May 7th, 2020

More people appear to be dying of coronavirus in for-profit long-term-care homes, compared to publicly-owned facilities, according to a new analysis released Thursday by health care advocates.

The Ontario Health Coalition looked at death rates in 93 Ontario nursing homes with outbreaks of COVID-19 that resulted in deaths.

When comparing the number of beds in each home to the number of COVID-19 deaths, they found the mortality rate in for-profit homes was nine per cent.

That compares to just over five per cent in non-profit homes, and less than four per cent in publicly-owned homes.

The rates of death have also increased faster in for-profit homes than in non-profits, while rates in publicly-owned facilities actually dropped between late April and early May.

“We can never forget that these death rates are cold hard numbers but they represent real human beings: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers,” Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said in a release.

“The differences between the death rates in for-profit versus non-profit and public long-term care raises momentous questions about the different practices regarding staffing, working conditions and wages, levels of care, and profit-taking.”

The study’s lead author, Rabbi Shalom Schachter, said the data showsfor-profit homes have a much worse record than public and non-profit homes.

He said changes are needed to the current model of delivering long term care, and the overhaul should respond to the ways that ownership impacts quality and outcomes of care.

“Already even prior to COVID-19 it has been recognized that the current model of delivering long term care has to be overhauled,” Rabbi Schachter explained.

“The pandemic has brought to the fore the consequences of the current model. The overhaul should respond to the ways that ownership impacts quality and outcomes of care.”

To read the complete report, click here.

Feds to unveil agreements with provinces to top up essential workers’ pay

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce Thursday cost-sharing agreements with a number of provinces to top up the wages of essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those agreements are expected to involve a transfer of federal funds to the provinces, each of which will be able to decide for itself which essential workers most need a pay boost.

The flexible agreements are intended to allow provinces to tailor the program to suit their different needs.

However, it was the continuing tragedy in long-term care homes — residents of which account for more than 60 per cent of Canada’s some 4,200 deaths so far — that first prompted Trudeau several weeks ago to offer a federal assistance to boost wages.

Specifically, he proposed a pay boost for personal support workers and other front-line health workers in long-term care facilities who earn less than $2,500 per month.

The crisis in long-term care has been blamed, at least in part, on the fact that health and personal care workers in those facilities are typically poorly paid and have had to work in multiple homes to make ends meet, thereby spreading the deadly virus that causes COVID-19 among the most vulnerable population.

Part of the objective in proposing a federal wage top-up was to encourage more essential workers to stay on job, even at the risk of their own lives, and to compensate them for recent orders in some provinces banning them from working in multiple facilities.

As more workers in long-term care homes have fallen ill, many facilities have been struggling to provide basic care for residents. Both Quebec and Ontario, where the problem is most acute, have requested help from the military.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and government House leader Pablo Rodriguez are to hold a briefing this morning, updating the number of armed forces personnel who are now helping out in long-term care homes in the two provinces.

Quebec moved to top up essential workers’ pay even before Trudeau’s offer, announcing a $4-per-hour pay hike for workers in private long-term care homes, as well as a $24.28 per hour salary to attract new workers to fill in as attendants at the facilities.

Since then, several provinces, including Ontario, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, have followed suit with similar programs. Federal cost-sharing agreements with those and other  provinces are expected to be unveiled today.

Ontario, with financial support from Ottawa, has announced a $4-per-hour increase for front-line workers at long-term care homes, retirement homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, group homes, correctional institutions and youth justice facilities, as well as for those providing home and community care and some hospital staff.

As well, Ontario’s front-line employees who work more than 100 hours a month will receive bonus payments of $250 per month for four months.

Saskatchewan, with $53 million in federal support, has announced a temporary wage supplement of $400 per month for those who work with seniors, in group homes and in child care.


Union calls for inquiry, criminal probe, into coronavirus-related deaths at long-term care homes

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

The union that represents over 60,000 frontline healthcare workers in Ontario is calling for public inquiries — and criminal investigations — into coronavirus-related deaths at long-term care homes in the province.

Service Employees International Union Healthcare (SEIU) president Sharleen Stewart said on Tuesday the union has sent letters to both Toronto and Peel Regional Police, urging them to begin criminal negligence investigations after the deaths of three personal care workers that Stewart believes were avoidable.

“Were these people properly protected in their (long-term care) homes? We are calling on them to take a look at occupational health and safety,” she told 680 NEWS.

“I don’t think they did everything they could to prevent those three deaths.”

In a release Tuesday, the SEIU said it was also calling on Premier Doug Ford’s government to “immediately commission a public inquiry, pursuant to section 3 of the Public Inquiries Act, to investigate the deaths of residents and frontline workers at Ontario’s long-term care homes.”

The union also wants the Office of the Chief Coroner to look into the deaths.

“The purpose is to look back at what was done and more importantly what wasn’t done…” Stewart stressed. “Where were the mistakes made? We didn’t learn from SARS obviously because they didn’t take any of (those) recommendations forward, which is what we want investigated as well.”

“Enough is enough,” she added. “We’ve got to go in there and we have to see what went wrong from the very beginning.”

According to the latest statistics provided by the province, 218 outbreaks have been reported in long-term care homes and 697 deaths have been reported among residents/patients in long-term care homes.

A spokesperson for Peel police says they have received the letter from SEIU regarding criminal negligence, and the police service will take time to review that request.

Coronavirus: Ontario lowers liquor prices for bars and restaurants

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

The Ontario government is temporarily lowering minimum prices for liquor sold in bars and restaurants in what they say is a move to help the struggling hospitality industry as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“Effective immediately, the price for whiskey, gin, rum, and other spirits will be temporarily reduced from the current licensee minimum price of $2.00 per 29 mL to $1.34 per 29 mL,” an Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) news release said Tuesday night.  “By making spirits more affordable the government is providing further support to restaurants, bars, and other establishments that cannot serve patrons in-house during the current state of emergency.”

The AGCO added that this pricing structure would only apply to takeout and delivery orders from bars and restaurants that come with food orders.

The measure will expire on Jan. 1, 2021.

“Licensed establishments may still choose the price at which they will sell alcohol, as long as they are not lower than the minimum price requirements,” the AGCO said.

The government has also temporarily removed a requirement for cider manufacturers to have at least five acres of planted fruit in order to operate a store on site.

“This change will allow all licensed manufacturers of cider to sell their products on-site or deliver directly to consumers across Ontario,” the AGCO said.

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