Thank you to everyone who has been reaching out. I’ve also been doing a fair amount of outreach within our community to answer questions and get feedback, and I appreciate all the individuals and organizations I’ve met virtually.
On May 7th, I hosted a live Teleforum Town Hall with thousands of participants via phone and online. The focus of the Townhall was on non-medical COVID-19 related issues, and I also had our local MLAs participate to answer provincial-related questions as many topics I am asked about often have elements of federal and provincial jurisdiction. This helped give participants a more comprehensive answer to their questions.
Once the Teleforum was completed, participants had a chance to leave a message with comment or question, and I spent the next few days following up on all of them. It was great to connect with so many people, and here are some of the calls that came in: Doug asked about seniors. I mentioned the government reduced the minimum withdrawals for RRIF’s by 25% and funds to the United Way to assist seniors. Both myself and our MLAs discussed dispensing fee decisions where restrictions were put on prescriptions to ensure supply. This led to higher dispensing fees, but supply doesn’t appear to be an issue any longer, so we should see this rectified. (on May 12th the government announced, for those eligible, a one time $300 OAS and $200 GIS boost)
John and James were concerned about our food supply and what will be done to support small and local food producers. I mentioned the Official Opposition’s recommendation for a Summer Agricultural Student Program, similar to the Summer Jobs Program. I also discussed the importance of supporting local, changing program requirements, and ensuring health supplies are available. Our MLAs mentioned farmers markets, and the need for small scale food processors.
Funds coming to support the homeless was asked about by Linda, and I let her know that the federal government announced an expansion to the Reaching Home Initiative. I wrote the Minister of Families and Social Development asking that our community be included in the disbursement of these funds. It was recently announced that 1.67 million dollars will be forthcoming to our community.
Paul inquired if people were still allowed to walk across the Roxham Road border crossing from the United States and if they are being screened for COVID-19. I advised that the government finally closed this as part of the border closures, though it may be temporary, as border restrictions are being reassessed every 30 days.
Carolyn and Bobby had questions about hospitality and other businesses not being applicable for many of the programs offered and how difficult it was. I mentioned how I had questioned Ministers about their exact concerns, and we have not seen amendments to the programs that would be helpful for them yet.
We talked about engaging with young people with Lindsay. Craig spoke passionately about the economy and internal trade, and I gave a lengthy response which I can make in a separate column. Patrick commented on firearm law changes and our democracy.
Other questions, which were primarily provincial jurisdiction, included Shelley asking about responsibility for seniors homes, Dell about gas prices, and Lynn asking how we are handling travelers coming from out of province. One of the most touching calls of the evening was from a young student who was concerned about going back to school since there is still no cure for COVID-19, and he is afraid for his family. Our MLAs reiterated that attending school in person will not be mandatory.
Thank you to all who participated. Please feel free to reach out. In your service, Tracy Gray