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Illustration credit: iStock/zubada.

Member of Provincial Parliament for Whitby, Ont., and Chief Government Whip Lorne Coe knows how hard Ontarians have been hit during this crisis. The Spark asked him to talk about what the government is doing to help us in the wake of the second wave.

On serving constituents during a pandemic. In these very difficult moments, people shouldn’t have to deal with politics. We need politicians and civil servants to work together for the common good. And that is what we are doing in Ontario.
Leadership during a pandemic requires a set of skills that fosters collaboration, connectedness and out-of-the-box thinking. When not in the Ontario Legislature as the MPP for Whitby and Chief Government Whip, I spend a lot of time at a three-foot table with my various phones and computers, talking to stakeholders or constituents on teleconference calls and Zoom meetings trying to connect with as many Whitby families as possible. In normal circumstances, I would be helping people face to face with solutions, accessing or finding out about resources or navigating various government ministries, and working on issues important to constituents and their families. There are no public events, appearances or announcements. Prior to the pandemic, my entire weekend would be filled with these types of commitments.
I am proud of how Whitby residents have responded toward each other during the pandemic. The everyday acts of hard-working families, their willingness to do extraordinary and courageous acts is a currency that you can’t quantify, but it exists in every Ontario resident. As we approach a new year, I think we need to reflect on our citizenship and what it means to be Canadian. 
On supporting long-term care in his city and the province. The provincial government is investing $16.37 million to upgrade 160 long-term care spaces at Glen Hill Terrace in Whitby, operated by Durham Christian Homes.
It’s part of a larger project to modernize the funding model for long-term care homes. In total, the Ministry of Long-Term Care will be investing $761 million to upgrade 74 homes across Ontario. The additional funding is part of the province’s new funding model that helps break down historic barriers and accelerates the construction of urgently needed long-term care projects, providing seniors with the high-quality care they deserve.

The government has been taking historic steps to improve the quality of life for our loved ones by adding capacity and upgrading Ontario’s long-term care homes. We introduced the modernized funding model to build and renovate these homes faster, and we’re already seeing results, with thousands of new, safe and comfortable spaces in progress.
The modernized funding model is helping the government deliver on its commitment to create 30,000 beds over 10 years. The new model moves away from a one-size-fits-all approach and, instead, provides tailored incentives to address the needs of developers in different markets: rural, mid-size, urban and large urban. 
The number of people in Whitby who will need long-term care is expected to increase significantly over the next decade. The work underway at Glen Hill Terrace will make sure that our loved ones locally will have a comfortable, modern place to live, near family and friends, with the support they need, when they need it. Working together with long-term care partners, the government continues to use innovative ideas and modern solutions to help end hallway healthcare and increase long-term 
care capacity in communities across the province.
On Ontario’s assistance and funding of mental health. We have been working collaboratively across all sectors to provide long-term stability to our mental health and addictions system. Along with Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, and other local organizations like Lakeridge Health and Wounded Warriors Canada, we are making it a priority to ensure that all Ontarians who need mental health and addictions support have access to the high-quality services and supports they need.
The impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, including prolonged physical distancing, financial uncertainty and being constantly inundated with new information about the virus, have caused many Durham residents to experience a range of mental health and addiction challenges, which has led to an increase in the demand for services and supports. The province is making a $3.8 billion investment over 10 years for its Mental Health and Addictions Roadmap to Wellness. This includes $176 million in 2020–2021 to help expand access for critical mental health and addiction support and reduce wait times for  critical services. Consequently, the government is also providing Ontario residents with additional services including:
The province is also investing $19.25 million into mental health supports for postsecondary students in 2020–2021, an increase of $3.25 million over last year. This funding will help students by strengthening community partnerships and increasing the number of mental health workers and programs at colleges and universities.
On the province’s recovery. As Ontario deals with a second wave of COVID‑19, the focus must be on protecting people and providing urgent support to those who need it to make it through these challenging times. However, now is also the time to begin laying the foundation for a recovery fuelled by long-term economic growth. In the most recent Ontario budget, the government is investing $4.8 billion in new funding to do just that. 
People in Ontario, and certainly Whitby businesses, understand that the economic recovery from COVID‑19 will be a lengthy journey. To support the recovery of Ontario’s economy the government is acting now to address six critical needs that will have immediate benefits and, left unaddressed, would hold the province back from a stronger recovery:
Just as the Ontario spirit has helped the province through the depths of the pandemic and brought out the best in people from every region including Durham, it will also ensure Ontario is the best place in the world to work and raise a family post-COVID‑19. Ultimately, it will be people, not governments, which drive  the province’s recovery.
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