Today is the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day. While we can’t all come together to mark this historic day, I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the parallels between our fight to end climate change and our fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. Both are global challenges that require collective action and both change how we live, work and play. Each has been hampered and exacerbated by scientific scepticism and denial. How we have responded to COVID-19 shows the magnitude of the responses needed to fight climate change. It also gives me hope that we can respond collectively to any challenge regardless of how threatening and all-encompassing.
As we look to re-open the economy, we need to think about how we can ensure a green recovery. How do we seize the opportunity to create jobs in renewable energy? Can we redesign funding models for cities to address the structural deficit in planning active transportation.
What is clear is that people across the world are willing to change their behaviour for the health of their friends and family. That is a message we need to carry forward as we address climate change post-COVID.
This year Earth Day celebrations are happening - just digitally. Learn more, or to join a digital earth day event here.
Part of re-imagining a green future includes thinking about how we protect local businesses and cultural spaces that have been put at risk due to COVID-19. Studies have found that people who live near small stores walk more for their daily errands and their trips are shorter than those who drive. Local businesses use less land, are more likely to carry locally-made products and use local services, locate closer to residents and create less traffic and air pollution. In addition to environmental benefits of shopping locally, these small businesses are vital to our sense of community and belonging - something we will all need once this is over.
Last week, the federal government announced some much appreciated updates to their Economic Response Plan and Support for businesses, including expansion to the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and launching the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA). If you are a business owner in need of support, click here to see what is available to you.
These are welcome and necessary relief to small businesses. As I said earlier this month, small businesses need immediate access to cash, and relief from expenses. The CECRA and CEBA go a long way to doing that, but I worry it won't be enough for many small businesses who were already facing cash flow shortages. I do not think we should be asking small business owners and entrepreneurs to take on the risk of more debt, or higher rental rates in the face of an uncertain recovery. As well, CEBA does not cover businesses that are owned-and-operated by sole proprietors. Many businesses in Ward 13, and across Toronto, are independent, single location shops that require this financial relief.
I hope the Federal government will continue to expand these supports to include sole proprietors under the CEBA program, as well as increase the funds available, and expand the loan forgiveness amount as the lockdown recession continues.
I would also like to see the Province of Ontario look at permitting more curbside pick up for current non-essential businesses, like many other provinces are allowing. If big chains like Walmart and Canadian Tire can facilitate curbside pickup, we should allow that same opportunity for small businesses.
Most importantly, we need to consider what happens after this crisis. For the last four years, I have been persistently advocating for a broad range of municipal and provincial tax reform options to support our community of small business operators and low-rise commercial property owners. Long overdue is a policy reform in how small business valuation is assessed if the retail character of neighbourhood main streets are to survive. Municipal property assessments and tax policy changes are complex but not impossible to change.
As we saw before the COVID-19 crisis, small businesses across the City of Toronto, like Glad Day Bookshop were at risk of closing due to high rent, and the adverse impact of 'highest and best use' evaluations approach by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). In January City Council adopted my motion directing staff to develop immediate and long-term recommendations to support the retention and growth of independently owned and operated LGBTQ2S+ small businesses and cultural spaces. I look forward to continuing this work with my colleagues when we return to City Council to address Toronto’s economic recovery.
This work remains a priority for me, and it’s urgency has never been higher.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge that tomorrow marks the 2nd anniversary of the Yonge Street van attack. A man drove along the sidewalk near Yonge and Finch killing 10 people, 8 of which were women, and 13 additional people were injured. This was a targeted attack against women connected to the “incel movement,” a fringe internet subculture that attracts males who are involuntarily celibate. This hateful act of gender-based violence is not unique. I am heartbroken for the people who lost their lives and loved ones in this tragic attack.
In remembrance of the people who lost their lives, survivors and all those impacted by the tragedy, the City will live stream a statement by Mayor John Tory at 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 23. Later in the evening, there will be a virtual vigil led by community groups, We Love Willowdale and Willowdale Interfaith Coalition. Learn more about the virtual vigil.
As we are urged to stay in our homes, we must remember that for some, home is not a safe place. In Canada, every six days a woman is killed by her intimate partner. While most violent crime in Canada has declined it is important to remember that the rate of intimate partner violence is likely much higher than we know; 70% of spousal violence is not reported to the police.
Following natural disasters like floods, wildfires and hurricanes, including global pandemics, new research shows that gender-based violence rates increase. Women are particularly vulnerable during times of crisis, when women’s shelters may have to close, and social services are stretched by increased demand. That is why I am grateful to the federal government for providing up to $50 million to women's shelters and sexual assault centres, including facilities in Indigenous communities, to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities. I am glad they recognize the need for increased awareness and services related to domestic violence during these crises.
I know these reminders of tragedies can be triggering for some, especially in light of last weekend’s deadly attack in Nova Scotia, and can bring up very painful memories. Grieving is much more difficult when we can’t physically be together. Please take time for yourself and know you are not alone. There are many resources available to you, and I have compiled a list of mental health resources and resources for those experiencing gender-based violence.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Care in Ward 13
As today is Earth Day, our community shoutout goes to Oasis Food Hub, an integrated food hub for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. This local organization, based in St James Town is developing an indoor, aquaponic food system that will grow food locally in the St James Town community and address climate change, food waste, and income inequality.
They have chosen to work on local food security in part due to climate change and the risks we all face regarding food security. The food system is a major player in climate change, both in what’s causing it, and what will be most affected. The Oasis food hub wants to use innovative technology to make it easy to grow organic, fair trade food in our own communities, create more opportunities for youth and immigrants in the renewable energy and food sectors and enhance access to healthy food for low-income families
Please continue to email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org to share examples of community care in your neighbourhood and ways you are supporting your community at this time. I’ll be happy to promote it, space permitting, in our communication to the residents and business owners in Ward 13. Every bit goes a long way!
Keep Practising Physical Distance!
As the City of Toronto evokes these new measures for public health, please remember to keep practising social distancing. I know it’s challenging, and I thank you for your continued hard work. Please remember to stay off of closed parks amenities and facilities, or you may be subjected to a fine. If you must leave your home, please stay at least 6 ft (2 metres) away from others on the streets. These measures are crucial to protect the greater public health.
The single best way for Torontonians to support each other right now is to stay home and practise physical distancing to prevent COVID-19 spread.
- If you have symptoms of illness, do not leave your home under any circumstance until you have spoken with a medical professional and been given the all-clear.
- If you have just returned from travel, do not leave your home under any circumstance for 14 days.
- And even if you are not sick and have not travelled, unless you work in an essential industry, stay at home except for essential trips.
Thank you for doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our communities. For more tips on social distancing, please visit toronto.ca/covid19.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
To help businesses access necessary supports, the City of Toronto has launched the BusinessTO Support Centre to provide virtual one-on-one support to Toronto businesses during this unprecedented time.
The City's new BusinessTO Support Centre will be available for all sectors, including not-for-profit, creative/cultural, manufacturing, technology, retail, hospitality, tourism, main street businesses and consulting services. The centre will help businesses apply for government support programs such as:
- Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program
- Canada’s Work-Sharing Program
- Canada’s Emergency Business Account Program
In addition to this virtual one-on-one support, the BusinessTO Support Centre will offer a weekly webinar series to provide information about these available government programs and the requirements to apply. The centre will also inform businesses about how they can support the City's COVID-19 response and provide general business support and information about other City programs.
The BusinessTO Support Centre is available here. Sign up to schedule a conversation with a business advisor by video or phone, and a business advisor will be in contact within 24 hours.
High Park Cherry Blossom Festival
The City of Toronto is working to make the High Park cherry blossoms available online during the upcoming park closure. Every year tens of thousands of people visit High Park to view the blossoming Sakura (cherry blossom) trees. The peak bloom time period traditionally occurs from late April to early May.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, High Park will be closed during the pre-bloom and peak bloom period of the cherry blossom trees, as maintaining proper physical distancing will not be possible. To encourage residents to stay home and stay safe, the City is working on a virtual walk-through of the blossoming trees in High Park. Residents will be able to experience this year's cherry blossom season through multiple livestream events and videos. More details will be announced soon.
High Park is already closed to vehicle traffic. Roads through the park were closed off when the City moved to close park amenities based on public health's advice. View the full press release here.
Province of Ontario Updates
Implementing the COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes
The Ontario government is making progress on the implementation of the COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes to help stop and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the province's long-term care homes. The government has introduced more testing, screening, and surveillance, deployed specialized teams from hospitals, public health and the home care sector, recruited additional frontline staff, and increased personal protective equipment.
To further support ongoing efforts to fight COVID-19 in Ontario's long-term care homes, the federal government has offered resources that could include personnel and other supports from Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Canadian Armed Forces. This support would be deployed to five priority long-term care homes as one element of the government's robust Action Plan.
The government continues to explore additional measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep vulnerable people safe, including building isolation capacity at long-term care homes.
Examples of work that has expedited to support long-term care homes include:
- Assisting 20 long-term care homes, which were previously experiencing outbreaks, to become now outbreak-free.
- Increasing testing on both symptomatic and asymptomatic staff and residents. To date, approximately 11,600 tests have been completed amongst residents in long-term care.
- Conducting additional testing of asymptomatic residents and staff outside of the testing guidance at 21 long-term care homes, to help understand the spread of the virus.
Setting up a 24/7 Long-Term Care COVID-19 Response Team, which has already helped more than 30 homes by putting in place infection control protocols, resolving staffing issues, and fulfilling personal protective equipment needs.
Further details on the provincial government’s action plan for long-term care homes can be found here.
Today’s full announcement from the province can be found here.
The Province of Ontario maintains an online list of businesses and workplaces it considers essential. If residents or businesses are not sure if a workplace qualifies, you can contact the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.
The province has deemed most ongoing residential construction to be essential during this pandemic. It has also overriden the City’s noise by-law during this pandemic to allow construction to occur between 6am and 10pm. Please contact the above number or e-mail Premier Doug Ford to register your objections.
Government of Canada Updates
A new $9-billion Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) for post-secondary students was announced to aid those whose education and job prospects have been disrupted by the pandemic. The CESB will allow post-secondary students to receive $1,250 per month from May to August. The CSEB benefit can increase to $1,750 for people with disabilities or for those who care for others.
Students studying at, heading to or who have graduated from post-secondary institutions after December 2019 will be eligible to apply. In addition, 76,000 job placements are going to be created for young people in sectors that are experiencing labour shortages. Details are to be announced in the coming days.
For student researchers and graduate students, the Federal government will invest more than $291 million to extend scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Additional measures for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Studies are also in the works.
Measures for seniors are also being further developed, with an announcement to be made in the coming days.
While the Federal Government has announced that provinces will be reopening their economies at their own paces, the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed until at least May 21st.
COVID-19 Information and Resources
Now is the time to stay informed through credible sources, and to follow the advice of our public health professionals. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19.
Phone lines for telehealth, TPH and 311 continue to experience very high volumes. Please help keep the phones lines open for people who are sick by visiting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for up-to-date information and resources: toronto.ca/covid-19
Call if you develop symptoms!
Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Telephone: 311 (The City is only accepting 311 requests through phone.)