Auditor-General: Ontario COVID-19 business assistance programs over-spent and underdelivered
In a new report released today, Ontario Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk criticized the Government of Ontario’s COVID-19 business assistance programs, noting that many hard-hit businesses found themselves without help while hundreds of millions of dollars flowed to ineligible organizations.
The Ontario Small Business Grant, for instance, was found to have failed to assist the badly-affected accommodation and food services industry, but overpaid approximately $714 million to businesses who had lost less than the minimum award of $10,000 due to COVID-19. The Province did not keep track of payouts, and is thus unaware of how much was actually paid to recipients. Businesses surveyed found the program’s purpose and application requirements unclear and confusing. Some businesses, such as laundromats, drycleaners, and personal services, found themselves ineligible due to the poor design of the program. Stakeholders that were consulted about program development or support were not those most impacted.
The Auditor-General also noted that the Province did not give businesses sufficient notice of either tightened or relaxed restrictions or effectively communicate the rationale for either, with two-thirds of businesses surveyed reporting that they had insufficient time to respond. Restaurants, for instance, lost thousands of dollars in food stocks that had to be disposed of. This complaint is shared by the GNCC and is an issue we have repeatedly drawn attention to since the start of the pandemic.
The Province earmarked $11.2 billion in business supports with no short- or long-term objectives, the Auditor-General said. Approximately $210 million was paid to 14,500 ineligible businesses and written off with no attempt to collect.
In other reports released today, the Auditor-General noted that:
- The Province had insufficient supplies of PPE when the pandemic hit because it had ignored warnings made in the Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic, and had destroyed 80% of the province’s expired PPE stock by 2017 without replacing it
- Ontario has no plan to reduce or prevent homelessness, with 14 plans from 5 ministries over the last 10 years all failing to coordinate or to actually tackle homelessness
- Ministers’ Zoning Orders have undermined the growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and created a climate of uncertainty for municipal government, opening the process to criticisms based on perceived unfairness and conflict-of-interest
- The 24 colleges in Ontario are economically dependent on international student tuition fees, with 68% of tuition revenue now coming from international students.
On a more positive note, the Auditor-General observed that the Ontario Clean Water Agency has been largely successful in delivering clean water to the four-and-a-half million Ontarians who rely on it.
St. Catharines sale of city-owned land will drive affordable development
With an aim of increasing affordable housing stock in the City, Council has approved the sale of City-owned land at 320 Geneva Street.
On Monday, Council approved the sale of roughly 3.8 acres previously occupied by the City’s Community, Recreation and Culture Services administration building, provided it is used in part for affordable and social housing. Specifically, the City will sell the land for $1.35 million to Penn Terra Group Ltd. (PTGL), based on the developer’s proposal to develop the area with 43 per cent affordable housing, 14 per cent social housing and 43 per cent market rate housing.
PTGL has proposed the construction of one, nine-storey building with 180 rental units and one, four-storey building with 32, two-bedroom townhomes. In addition, approximately 19,000 square feet of commercial space could be developed on the site, alongside three community gardens.
Port Cares 50-50 will provide support and gifts to adults and children in poverty
For 150 children and adults experiencing extreme poverty and difficult circumstances, Port Cares facilitates assistance and Christmas gifts given by anonymous donors.
This holiday season Port Cares will provide a Christmas dinner and gift for likely over 150 people. Losing the proceeds of major fundraising events like the annual auction gala has left a shortfall of $150,000 – funds depended on to operate the agency’s charitable services like the foodbank which does not receive any form of government funding.
The Give a Gift program provides low-income parents and caregivers toys, clothing, warm boots and books as Christmas gifts for roughly 420 to 500 children.
Launching today, tickets for the Port Cares 50-50 are once again five for $10, 20 for $20 or 100 for $40 with a chance to actually win 13 times. Funds raised will go to helping those in need.
Visit portcares5050.ca to enter.
Vaccinations for children aged 5-11 available at Wainfleet Firefighters Community Hall
COVID-19 vaccination appointments are available tomorrow & Friday for children aged 5 to 11 at the Firefighters’ Community Hall.
To book an appointment, visit Ontario.ca/BookVaccine or call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900.
Building permits up 4.5% in Ontario
The total value of building permits increased 1.3% to $10.3 billion in October, led by gains in British Columbia (+15.0%) and Ontario (+4.5%). Construction intentions in the non-residential sector were up 4.2%, while the residential sector edged down 0.1%.
Commercial building permits rose 10.1% for the month, with Ontario leading the way (+36.8%) with notable projects in Toronto such as the office renovation for the SickKids foundation.
Omicron likely to spread beyond Canada and Brazil, says regional health agency
The new Omicron variant of the coronavirus is likely to soon spread to other countries in North and South America after being detected in Canada and Brazil, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
World Health Organization (WHO) officials said 24 countries have reported cases of the variant, prompting many nations to tighten their borders.
The omicron variant, now reported in multiple Canadian provinces and a growing number of countries worldwide, could threaten hard-won immunity to the virus behind COVID-19.
But global scientists say the world has a crucial head start on the latest variant of concern, thanks to early detection. And there’s hope this highly mutated version of the coronavirus won’t bring the world back to “square one” in this pandemic.
South African scientists quickly identified and alerted the world to the variant last week, finding a concerning number of mutations that could potentially impact the effectiveness of vaccines, the transmissibility of the virus and even the severity of disease.
World Health Organization
This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.
Free rapid COVID-19 testing kits are now available to businesses. Visit gncc.ca/workplace-self-screening-kits to learn more and reserve kits for your organization.
Information on government grants, resources, and programs, policies, forms, and posters for download and use, are available here. The GNCC is here to support you. Contact us with any questions you have.
Through the Daily Updates, the GNCC aims to deliver important business news in a timely manner. We disseminate all news and information we feel will be important to businesses. Inclusion in the Daily Update is not an endorsement by the GNCC.