Rotarian and Past President Shannon Neely introduced Zoom speaker, MPP Todd Smith.  Todd was born and raised in Riverview, New Brunswick and after graduating Loyalist College in the early 1990's, spent sixteen years in radio with Quinte Broadcasting CJBQ, MIX 97 and Rock 107, eventually becoming news director.  Todd is a Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and currently serves as the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.

Todd first congratulated the Rotary Club of Belleville on its 100th Anniversary.Things have been non-stop in Toronto, but he feels positive that summer is finally here and even bought a new Jeep and took the doors off.  The Rotary International theme of Connecting the World is very appropriate with the current global pandemic.  The government and many others have to consider how actions will affect others.  Supporting small business is very different with COVID-19 and the need to literally shut down the economy that has been built up.  Can't see your loved ones face to face.  But out of this has come new ways to connect, new product lines, supply chains adapting to new ways of doing things, businesses adapting.  The government is continuing to build on new connections as they move to Phase 1 of opening businesses moving forward, particularly when operations do not affect recovery.  The government is committed to ensuring success for businesses and people by opening additional assessment centers to give peace of mind and test all people whether symptomatic or not.  Certainly lessons have been learned, hard lessons in long term care and hospitals, catalysts to build a strong healthcare system after decades of neglect.  The news has been very disturbing. Staff have left some long term care facilities that are the only support for our most vulnerable elderly who built this province.  There are opportunities for people and Rotary to do their part by building a volunteer service team right across the province.  Funding has been provided to shelters, social assistance, food banks, charitable organizations across the province, support for seniors with programs like Meals on Wheels.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging time for everyone.  Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith has created a website which aims to help people answer some of the more challenging questions they are facing.  Who do I call?  Where do I go?  What do I do?  These are the types of questions that Smith says he is hoping to answer on his new, easy to navigate website.  The one-stop online support directory for Bay of Quinte residents and business operators has up-to-date, comprehensive information about COVID-19 assistance offered by the provincial and federal governments.

You can visit the website at: https://www.covidsupports.ca/bayofquinte/ for more information.

Todd answered a number of questions from members of the Club.  One question related to the changes necessary regarding regulations on long term care that is really a global issue.  An independent mission will be launched in July to gather public input and get things happening, discuss staffing issues and look at increasing both staff and pay scale.   The $4.00 an hour pandemic pay for 90 days should be a permanent provision.  This is a major commitment and will need the support of the Prime Minister's office.  The hospitality sector has been hit the hardest and some have been able to respond with home delivery services, on-line ordering, take-out.  There will be rules for the next stage of opening, the guidelines are set by the Ministry of Labour.  Todd said there was opportunity to lift restrictions outside Toronto based on the fact there has been a low number of cases in this area. The province is working on a summer learning plan and realistic scenarios going forward, staggered class times, every other day attendance at school.  Overnight day camps will not be happening this summer.

Jennifer Savini thanked Todd for the information he shared.  All governments are facing challenges and Todd's leadership under tough times was acknowledged.