MPP Nina Tangri Speaks of the Ontario Spirit

Published on June 02, 2020

MAY 27 2020

It’s my pleasure to rise in the House today to speak on today’s motion, introduced by our esteemed member from Barrie–Innisfil.

Speaker, I don’t doubt for one moment that all members of this House wish to represent their constituents and their needs. We were all elected to ensure that the business of this House—that is, to pass legislation to improve the lives of all Ontarians. Our government was elected with a mandate to build better transit, which affects many members in the opposition and would allow them to get from point A to point B in a much better way.

As we’re going through such a trying time with COVID-19, allowing the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly to study Bill 175, Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act, 2020, should be at the top of mind for the members of the opposition. As I said earlier, I truly, truly believe that all of us in this House are here to represent their constituents, and I’d like to take a moment just to speak a little bit about the areas where people in the community have really stepped up during this very difficult time.

I worked with many different community agencies and organizations. We’ve helped raise funds for, as an ex-ample, the Yogi Divine Society. They’ve been providing groceries for families and international students. We’ve donated food to Eden Food for Change, with Global-Medic. The Queen’s Manor event space, for example, gave the food bank a chunk of their space so they could store a lot of their items that are used for wintertime. They’ve taken that there to open that space up for those needy families who need to have that right now. I think it has just been amazing, some of the work that a lot of the people have been doing here.

The Canada India Foundation: I’ve joined them numerous times to provide and continue to provide meals to our front-line health care workers all across the GTA. They’ve included hospitals, long-term-care facilities. They’ve been to the police and gave it to them, the paramedics. We really want to thank them for their ongoing services.

And as we heard earlier today, there are many members across this House that have done so much work during this time. My esteemed member from Mississauga–Lakeshore has done an unbelievable amount of work each and every day. Not once, but many times, he has gone out with people in the truck to the Ontario Food Terminal, picked up food, delivered to food banks, delivered to organiza-tions. It has just been so reassuring and so comforting to see members of this House do some great here.

Our member here from Mississauga–Malton: He’s been working with Sai Dham Food Bank, delivering meals with them continually, each and every day. It’s times like this where we look around in our communities, and sometimes people who were very affluent before are very needy right now, and vice versa. It’s very, very, very difficult. So to see a lot of people just around this House and the com-munity come together to support each other is very comforting. It’s times like that where I’m so proud that I’m a Canadian and I’m Ontarian, and that I live in a place where we don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from, because somebody will be there to help. So thank you to each and every one here that’s been doing that.

But also, Speaker, my staff and I continue to support and work with, of course, our constituents. In order for us to fully represent those we serve, we need to also be here in this House to introduce, to debate and to pass legislation on important issues. Earlier, we heard from our House leader about the work we continue to do whilst we’re not in the House. I’ll give you a small sample of the work and the round tables that I’ve hosting over the last two months.

Initially, right after the House rose, I hosted a round table with the Mississauga Board of Trade with the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. At that time, we had no idea what was going to be happening with our businesses. He was there and comfort-ing to those businesses. They’re from a very wide range of different types of businesses, large and small. It was something they needed to hear from the minister at that time.

Since then, since we announced the joint economic recovery committee, I hosted another one with the Mississauga Board of Trade and heard from them. I asked them to let me know and let our government know what they could be doing in their industries to allow us to reopen. For example, I’ve talked to barbershops, I’ve talked to faith communities and just many different areas on what they could be doing for us to be able to—with the health and safety, of course, of our constituents—open up again.

I moderated a conference call with our Minister of Tourism, for those who are in the tourism industry. We all know that’s an industry that has been suffering dramatic-ally. There are no flights going. People have only been receiving vouchers and not refunds. It really has been a very difficult time for anyone in the tourism industry right now, but they did give us some fantastic feedback. They came back to us with ideas and solutions, which are what we really need to be saying. It’s not just the complaints, but real, real solutions, so I really want to thank the minister for the great work she has being doing and is continuing to do. We hosted another one with her on high-performance sports, and that was very successful, to listen to ways and we can try and find ways that we can reopen those in the sports and fitness industry.

One morning—it was quite difficult because of the time difference—to continue to still do the work in our office of the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, I was talking with a member of our trade office in India, with a company that is interested in investing right here in Ontario, a very large investment. So we spoke numerous times, and sometimes it was seven in the morning for me here and late at night for them, and sometimes it was vice versa, but we do it. We do it because we know that we need that investment and we need that confidence in Ontario for those people to come here and invest.
I spend a lot of time working with people in the media to make sure that the information that’s getting out to the public on COVID-19 is accurate. It changes, and not just daily; it sometimes changes by the hour, so we need to make sure that we are up to date on the information coming out from our government, from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, and that we’re passing that information on to the public in an accurate and important manner, so that’s something that’s been continually going on, each and every day.

I’ve been working a lot with students and families and just helping them manoeuvre things like some of the government supports that are out there right now. We have the CERB; we have the wage subsidy; OCECRA, as we call it; different loan programs. It can be extremely confusing, whether you’re an individual or a business. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t fit into any of those categories. Each individual, each family, each business is very unique. There have been, for a lot of it, some small businesses that just did not fit into any of those categories. I agree with the member from Sudbury that there are going to be some falling through the cracks, and we really have to be there for them.

I really want to thank our Premier, who has been working with the federal government, day in and day out, on talking about supports for those people in Ontario, and across this country, quite frankly, and really pushing to make sure we do get those supports for everyone who needs them. So I really wanted to thank him. I want to thank our Minister of Health and our Minister of Long-Term Care, who have really been out there working for all of us. It’s been comforting knowing that they are there all the time.

The six MPPs from Mississauga—we talk amongst ourselves at least on a weekly basis. We have calls. We talk about what’s happening. We hosted a virtual town hall with our Minister of Finance to talk about the industry. Anyone was able to come in and call in and ask questions. We actually received a lot of—it wasn’t just questions of us. They were giving us feedback on things where we as a government could help. I know our Minister of Finance really took that information and we’ve moved with a lot of those. We have a weekly update with the Trillium Health Partners—not just the Mississauga MPPs, but also our esteemed member of Parliament from Etobicoke–Lakeshore, because one of the hospitals falls in her riding as well. Every Friday, they give us an update on capacity and the patients, how many are in ICU, how many are on ventilators, and where we are on potentially reopening elective surgeries. We’re up to date on that information so that we can take that information back, again, to the public and reassure people that we’re there, we’re working for them and we’re available. We’re always available for our constituents.

But I also, Speaker, spent a lot of time speaking to companies who have really stepped up to the plate during this time; for example, to build ventilators and personal protective equipment. I want to talk about a company called Medtronic, in the south of Brampton. It’s a global company, and one of the things they build is ventilators. Because the ventilators are actually manufactured in Ireland, they had to prioritize where the ventilators—where they were making 300 a week, they’re now making 1,000. So they had to prioritize globally where they were sending them. Of course, it was, first, Asia, Africa, then Europe, and now North America. They weren’t able to meet our demand quickly enough, so they gave their intellectual property to us and allowed companies to take the specifications of the ventilators and build them right here. Danby have taken that and worked with a number of other companies to build those ventilators. They’ve been built and are at the bedsides in hospitals, ready to use if needed.
So when we look at how the people of Ontario and the companies of Ontario have really stepped up to the plate, it has been quite amazing watching all of this happen.

I know everybody, probably, in the House—all members have heard from constituents about only being able to fill a prescription for 30 days rather than a 90-day supply. We know that supply can be an issue. I actually took time out to speak to Jim Keon, the president of the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, to talk about the drug supply. I asked: Do we really have a drug supply shortage on generic drugs? Is there a real issue out there? It’s unfortunate that we’re asking our seniors to not go out, yet they’re only able to get a 30-day supply, so now they’re having to go three times where they would only normally go once for that supply. He said that we don’t have a shortage right now, but the issue that we face is the logistics. Not all of our generics are manufactured here in Canada. If it’s coming from China, for example, or from India, there’s that logistical issue of, first, are they willing to let the supply out of the country; and second, how many flights are coming out of there—and the very few flights that are coming out there, to secure that space on that flight to get those drugs out. So as of now, thankfully, we don’t have an issue, but we had to have that supply only at 30 days just in case. It really has been difficult for many. I’ve had a lot of seniors who have contacted my office with this issue alone—because we’re not talking about one drug, in some circumstances, for many seniors and many people, it could be two, three or more drugs, as well. So that was something I wanted to reach out and talk to him about.

I also held virtual meetings and conversations, for example, with Bayer. They’re partnering with the Popula-tion Health Research Institute to launch a trial to prevent health decline in COVID-19 patients. They have a study of chloroquine, azithromycin and betaseron, which could potentially prevent hospital admissions and the need for ventilation. For those of us who may get COVID-19, to take that at an early stage—and early trials are looking very promising on that. We’ve heard from many different trials that are taking place across Canada right now and here in Ontario, but also globally, that are showing great potential, but we are in early days. We don’t have a vaccine yet, we don’t have a cure, but we’re looking to those in the industry to work hard for us and try and find a way to help us all with COVID-19.
I also held a virtual round table with Life Sciences Ontario on how the sector can contribute to Ontario’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery. That included pharma, medical technology, regenerative medicine, venture capital and diagnostics. I truly believe that we need to work diligently with the sector to build a much-longer-term strategy. We need to learn from COVID-19 and what we faced and what could potentially happen in another pandemic, and be prepared.

We’ve talked a lot about personal protective equipment. I don’t think many people in this House heard that term that much before COVID-19, but it’s something we talk about each and every day. Now we have to understand, as we’re reopening the economy, how important it is to have that PPE for everyone. We’re not just talking about N95 masks, but the masks that some of us—I think everyone in the House has worn a mask today at some point. But now, as we’re opening businesses, as we’re going to the stores, as businesses are going to be working, manufacturing is going to be open, factories are going to be open, people are going to need masks, gloves, goggles, visors, whatever it may be, so we need a much larger supply. So we’re looking to industry to build that, and build that supply right here in Ontario. I think it’s really important. I’ve spent quite a bit of time picking up and delivering masks myself to hospitals, long-term-care facilities and to community members.
Soon after COVID-19 began, I picked up the phone and I called a company called Kruger to inquire about the possible shortage of what was important to all of us, which was toilet tissue. We had heard a lot about hoarding taking place as soon as COVID-19 began, so I called them—they’re in my riding—and had a great conversation with them. I said, “So do we have an issue with toilet tissue?” And they said, “For the normal general supply, there’s absolutely no issue. The problem that we have is that people are hoarding it. They’re buying it and taking it off the shelves, which means some people are not getting the supply.” Anyway, I think we’re okay for now on toilet tissue, so that’s really important. I actually spoke to them just a couple of weeks ago, so our supply is still in good shape.

I have spent time speaking with fitness and gym leaders, barbers, faith leaders from every denomination. For a lot of people, being able to go to church, to the temple, to the mosque, to the synagogue—sometimes that’s the only social interaction that they have. So for them to be able to visit those places is so important. What do we as a government, what does our Chief Medical Officer of Health—how can we reopen these institutions so that people can once again get back to practising their faith together as a community? They’ve been coming back to me with some great ideas and great solutions on the one-way-in, one-way-out, on having two or three congrega-tions where they would normally only have one. It’s heart-warming when you see people come together and bring you some really great information.
I’ve had conversations with our Peel police just a couple of days ago, with the deputy chief, Marc Andrews, who gave me an update on where we’ve been hearing a lot about domestic abuse going up. However, because people are stuck at home, sometimes there’s no access to a phone where they can actually call for help. There are a lot of different sides to what we’re hearing.
Neha Sharma, a pharmacist, has a compounding licence. In her own pharmacy, she made sanitizer with 95% alcohol—great quality. We took them ourselves and delivered them to our great paramedics, who we’ve been talking a lot about today, and to a long-term-care home in my riding.

I spent time, soon after being elected, and shadowed some PSWs in a long-term-care centre. I can’t tell you how—I understood how difficult it was, the job that they do, and the immense amount of respect we all have for our PSWs. I think there’s a lot of work that we can do, we need to do and we must do to support those in that industry.
I know there’s not much time left, so I’m going to be very quick. But Speaker, I just want to say again that I’m so proud of my colleagues in this House and the work that we’ve all been doing in our ridings. I know that we’ve also just come through Ramadan and Eid, and the Muslim community has been really stepping up to the plate and supporting the community with food deliveries and helping out our food banks. I know that.

I’ve just mentioned some of the few virtual meetings that I have done and I will continue to do, but we must always continue to govern to help get through this difficult time—and we will get through it. But I do ask the opposition to work with us for the benefit of all of the people in Ontario.
Once again, to all the members of this House, thank you for all the work that all of you are doing to support all of your communities. Thank you for the opportunity for me to rise today.