When I take my short walks with my family (staying two metres apart from others, of course) I am struck by how much the fabric of our streets has changed. Seeing all the closed and boarded up stores is a strong indicator that Ward 13 residents and businesses are taking their duty to stay home and practice physical distancing seriously. However, it is also a scary foreshadowing of what could happen to our main streets once the physical distancing measures have been lifted, if we don’t take quick and serious measures to help small businesses survive. Local small businesses employ millions of Canadians and help serve as the backbone of every community and economic life.
Saving our small local businesses will take more than the individual actions of our residents (more on this below). A report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, which surveyed more than 11,000 small businesses across the country, found that nearly a third of them will not survive another month without additional government support.
Small businesses need immediate access to revenue, and relief from expenses. We should be waiving, not deferring, rent on commercial properties starting April 1 until this pandemic is over. There should be a utility bill freeze, and further deferrals on property and tax collection. Banks should waive interest on corporate cards for six months. This will allow businesses to use existing credit without requiring new loans and without incurring substantial interest charges. 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.
Landlords who have applied for and received mortgage deferrals should be made to disclose that information, and mandatorily pass any financial relief on to their tenants.
How Residents Can Support Local Business
Small businesses, gathering spaces such as local cafés, eateries, pubs, bookshops and non-traditional cultural spaces are vital to breaking social isolation. We are going to need them more than ever when our time of social distancing is over. As a former small business owner, I know how challenging it is to survive during the best of times. I can only imagine the struggles business operators are facing today. I know that Ward 13 is a community that is committed to helping each other, and that means supporting our small businesses where possible.
Through these challenging times, supporting local businesses might look different, but you can still choose where your dollar goes. If you can afford it, you may choose to purchase a gift card online from your local coffee shop, or fitness studio. These small financial contributions help small businesses keep the doors open, and provide much needed social and emotional support.
Many Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) have begun advocacy for their members. Some, like the St Lawrence BIA have compiled a list of businesses for their community offering modified or online purchases and Corktown Resident and Business Association has been conducting a Small Business Survey throughout their boundaries. The preliminary results (based on dozens of responses) are dire. Initial data shows that without government intervention:
- Over 30% of businesses can’t or haven’t been able to pay April rent
- Over 70% of those same businesses will be unable to pay May rent
- The mandatory provincial shutdown for non-essential businesses has led to greater than an 80% loss in revenue for 80% of business in Corktown
Find your local BIA here to learn how to support small businesses in your community.
Tips for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs
If you are a small business owner, Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) has compiled a list of financial resources to help you get through the next couple of months here.
Additionally, if your small business includes a storefront, you might want to take extra precautions during this time of closure.
- Take photos of your sales floor. This way you have a record of what the store looked like when you closed. These photos will come in handy if anything happens while you are closed indefinitely.
- Remove all personal valuables from the store. This includes laptops, tablets, cell phones, jewelry, art, etc. Take all cash from the store and deposit it in your bank account. You may also want to leave your empty cash register open in a visible location to deter break ins.
- Turn off all electronics that will not be used while you are closed, and set your thermostat to a safe level. Test your fire alarm and sprinkler system.
The Retail Council of Canada has compiled a list of resources and frequently asked questions that may be useful.
Finally, I encourage you to complete this City survey to share how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting your business, and what information or supports you and your employees need. The Mayor’s Economic Support & Recovery Task Force is focused on quickly determining what supports and stimulus work needs to be done, working with industry partners to identify actions to support businesses, workers and residents. Learn more about the Economic Support & Recovery Taskforce here.
Small business and low-rise commercial property owners needed relief and support before COVID-19. We need to consider what happens after this crisis, and we need to see a change in how they are taxed if the retail character of these neighbourhoods is to survive. Tax policy changes are complex but not impossible to reform. 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.
This work remains a priority for more than ever before now. I continue to look forward to working with my colleagues at all levels of government to support and protect our local small business community.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Urging Residents to Adapt Faith-Based Holiday Observances
Tonight is the first night of Passover for many in the Jewish community. To all who are celebrating, Happy Passover, Chag Pesach Sameach, to you and your loved ones. We know these times aren't easy, but we'll get through it together. As many begin to celebrate, I encourage you to celebrate separately in your own homes in an effort to stop the spread of COVID19.
In the coming weeks, people across our city will be observing Passover, Easter, and the start of Ramadan. Normally an opportunity to spend time with family and faith-based communities, the City urges everyone to continue to follow provincial orders closing places of worship and limiting gatherings, as well as the public health recommendations to remain at home, leaving only for essential reasons.
The holidays are important spiritually and emotionally for many and to support this people are encouraged to connect with loved ones, friends, and vulnerable members of the community online or by phone. Residents can check with their place of worship for information on online services and other innovative ways to connect while staying physically apart.
Community Care in Ward 13
Today’s community care shoutout goes to residents at Verve Condo located at 120 Homewood Avenue. While isolated and practicing physical distancing, they managed to raise funds to purchase and deliver 60 meals to essential workers at Mount Sinai Hospital. This initiative was led by Kristyn, a 25 year old engineer and resident, who coordinated with Mount Sinai Hospital and a local small business Si Lom, a Thai restaurant nearby. Si Lom also contributed additional appetizers and drinks for the hospital workers. There is even talk of doing it again! Thank you for bringing together the community, helping our essential workers, and for supporting a local business! Read more about this story here.
Please continue to email my office at email@example.com 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 Practicing Physical Distance!
As the City of Toronto evokes these new measures for public health, please remember to keep practicing social distancing. I know it’s challenging, and I thank you for your continued hard work.
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 traveled, unless you work in an essential industry, stay at home except for essential trips.
Many people have asked for more clarification on when and if you can take walks outside. You can go for a walk if you:
- have not been diagnosed with COVID-19
- do not have symptoms of COVID-19
- have not travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days
Think of your walks as part of the essential trips you have to take, like going grocery shopping, and take the same precautions. If you go out for a walk, do not congregate and always practise physical distancing. When outside, you must keep at least 2 metres apart from others at all times and stay off of closed parks amenities and facilities, or you may be subjected to a fine.
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
Yesterday the City of Toronto announced an accumulation of donated goods, as well as garbage, surrounding full clothing drop boxes. These boxes play an important role in the city – they help reduce waste and raise money for worthwhile charities. Right now, in response to COVID-19, many charities are not accepting donations or emptying boxes. Mayor Tory announced that City Solid Waste Management Services workers will be collecting items left around bins and clearing the areas. The City urges all residents who want to make a donation to confirm with charities whether or not they are currently accepting donations. Illegal dumping of garbage by donation bins is not permitted and concerned residents can call 311 to report this.
As the holiday weekend approaches, and the weather changes, please remember that park amenities, including playgrounds, gym equipment and parking lots, are closed. Enforcement By-Law Officers continue to focus on hotspot locations with the most activity. I know we want to enjoy the outdoors, and sunshine, however we must prioritize the health and safety of our communities. We need to stay home whenever possible, and only leave for essentials. When we do leave our homes, please continue to practice physical distancing. Every interaction avoided can save a life.
Public Health guidance on home-made masks and other facial coverings
Today, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. de Villa spoke about steps people can take to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. While the best way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid close contact with others, Dr. de Villa discussed the use of home-made masks while stressing the importance of keeping medical masks for healthcare workers and first responders.Yesterday, the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health Communication released a statement on the use of non-medical masks (or facial coverings) by the public.
Province of Ontario Updates
As part of Ontario's Action Plan: Response to COVID-19, the provincial government is investing $37 million to support outbreak planning, prevention and mitigation efforts to ensure the health and well-being of Indigenous people and communities, particularly those in remote and far-northern regions.
The funding will respond to the unique needs of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people and families across the province. The total of $37.8 million includes:
- $16.4 million from the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs to provide emergency funds for food, household goods, critical supplies, transportation, and support and care, responsive services and supports for urban Indigenous people, self-isolation facilities in remote and northern communities, prevention and awareness efforts, and pandemic planning;
- $10 million from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to support Indigenous communities and agencies in responding to the needs of vulnerable children, families and elders during the outbreak;
- $7.4 million from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to help social service providers, charities and non-profits delivering critical housing services to Indigenous people living off-reserve; and
- $4 million from the Ministry of Transportation to ensure continued service to remote and northern airports, enabling essential goods and services to continue reaching isolated communities.
Expansion of Construction Hours
Today the Province announced the expansion of construction hours which will temporarily limit local noise bylaws from applying to essential construction activities, such as critical projects in the health care sector, to work 24 hours a day. Work on new hospital builds, expansions, and COVID-19 assessment centres will be able to continue any time of the night or day in order to help accelerate the construction of these important projects and enable employers to take additional steps to protect the health and safety of workers on these job sites. Extending hours for essential construction will also give worksite managers more flexibility to stagger shifts, limit the number of people in one place, and take reasonable precautions to keep workers safe and healthy under the recent guidelines issued by Ontario's Chief Prevention Officer for construction sites. Read the full announcement here.
If you have any questions or comments about any of the changes from the Province of Ontario, you can call 1-888-444-3659 everyday, anytime between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Government of Canada Updates
The Federal Government announced new changes to assist businesses and charities.
The wage-subsidy program for employers impacted by COVID-19 will be changed to capture more businesses. Rather than needing to report a 30% decline in revenues over the previous year, employers can show a 15% decline in March over previous months. This move is to try and capture businesses who may require assistance but did not previously qualify. Businesses will also be getting a 100% wage subsidy to hire students over the summer.
Charities and non-profits will be able to include or exclude government funding when calculating revenue losses.
The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health has released a statement about the use of non-medical face masks. It stressed that while it recommends you wear one if you are out in public, wearing a non-medical mask when in public or other settings “is not a replacement for following proven measures such as hand washing and physical distancing.”
With the holidays upcoming, residents are recommended to plan for a “staycation,” and to make virtual connections with family and loved ones.
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.
My office is compiling all the resources we can find and posting them to our website.
311 and Access to Information
The City’s website is updated daily with the latest health advice and information about City services and social supports. Check here for answers to common questions before contacting the 311 or Toronto Public Health COVID-19 Hotline.
311 is available 24/7 by telephone for essential service inquiries and service requests. Those calling 311 should expect longer than usual wait times as 311 continues to receive a high volume of calls.
- 311 (within city limits)
- 416-392-2489 (outside of city limits)
- 416-338-0889 (TTY)
Please note, email and social media accounts are not being monitored and the 311 Knowledge Base and online service requests are not available.
Phone lines for telehealth, TPH and 311 continue to experience very high volumes. Please help keep the phone 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.