Back-to-School, Housing Promises in Federal Election, and COVID-19 Updates

On Friday, Health Canada announced that it has authorized the Moderna vaccine for children as young as 12 years of age to help in the fight against COVID-19. Health Canada has reported that so far any adverse reactions are consistent with those among the adult population including swelling at the site of injection, fatigue, and headaches, and that these reactions typically only lasted three days. We don’t have information yet as to when they’ll begin administering Moderna, and I will keep you updated as more information becomes available. 

This is good news as students head back to the classroom next week, and it provides further options for students and parents to get vaccinated. Additionally, Toronto schools will be participating in a program that supplies take-home testing kits available at the end of September. The program is meant to improve testing uptake and enable faster contact tracing when kids test positive, especially amongst the emerging fourth wave and dangerous Delta variant. Hopefully, this program will be a small relief for parents and provide ease between identifying a common cold and symptoms of COVID-19 so the appropriate swift action can be taken. 

The Hospital for Sick Children, Michael Garron Hospital, and Women’s College Hospital have divided more than 1,200 Toronto schools, each taking on those in their catchment area. Sick Kids is partnering with schools in Scarborough and in the city’s northwest corner. This program covers elementary and high schools in all four Toronto boards as well as private and independent schools, youth shelters, and school-based daycares. Each hospital will supply the take-home test kits and education materials, and coordinate and pay for daily couriers to bring completed specimens back to their labs. It is not yet known what symptoms will trigger the need for a COVID test, with the Ministry of Health expected to announce that in the coming days. 

As September approaches this week, the Federal election is right around the corner. I know we are all burnt out, exhausted, and done with the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot afford to let this election pass us by without thinking critically about each party’s platform, sharpening our pencils, and asking urgent questions. 

Toronto has been suffering from a long-neglected housing crisis, and we saw how it came to a peak this summer. City Council has endorsed very clear requests to our Federal government which have gone unanswered: 

  • Allocating $6.4 billion to fund the City of Toronto’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan;
  • Providing capital funding to build 18,000 new units of supportive housing over the next 10 years, and
  • Funding $900 million per year to address Toronto’s mental health and addiction crisis. 

We know that we are in desperate need of housing and that it’s at the top of mind for Torontonians. Dr. Mike P. Moffatt, Senior Direct at Prosperity and Assistant Professor at Ivey Business School has prepared this housing cheat sheet summarizing each platform for housing.

The Conservative Party plans to increase housing supply by building transit, exploring the possibility of retrofitting empty offices for housing, as well as releasing 15% of any surplus Federal properties in the real estate portfolio. This is coupled with a plan to encourage a new market in 7 to ten-year mortgages. Other items of note include the banning of foreign investors not living in, or moving to Canada from buying homes as well as the addition of 1,000 residential drug treatment beds.

In examining this general overview, we know this falls extremely short of the need in Toronto alone. Unfortunately, the housing crisis does not only exist in Toronto, and any Federal party will have to do better in order to even begin addressing the need. We need deeply affordable, supportive, and transitional housing to create a path to recovery. In April 2021, the MNP Consumer Debt Index reported over 53% of Canadians are $200 or less away from not being able to pay their bills, and 30% are already insolvent leaving zero dollars at the end of the month for bills. We need to prioritize affordability. Not through 10-year mortgages which benefit the already wealthy, but a strategy to help Canadians who are a whisper away from homelessness. 

The New Democrat Party plans to create at least 500,000 units of new quality and affordable housing over the next ten years, set up dedicated fast-start funds to streamline the application process for housing funding, and waive the Federal portion of the GST/HST on the construction of affordable units. They also promise to provide immediate COVID-19 rent relief, facilitate co-housing, and double the First Time Home Buyers tax credit. Additionally, they plan to create a public beneficial ownership registry to increase transparency, a 20% Foreign Buyers tax on the sale of homes to individuals who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and continue to fight the criminal act of money laundering. 

The Liberal Party plans to increase housing supply by giving municipalities access to a $4 billion Housing Acceleration Fund; build and repair more affordable housing as well as convert unneeded office spaces into housing, and introduce a Multigenerational Home Renovation Tax Credit. They plan to introduce $1 billion in loans and grants to develop and scale-up rent-to-own projects, introduce a tax-free First Homes saving account, and doubling the First Time Home Buyers tax credit. Additionally, they plan to ban new foreign ownership in Canada for the next two years, ban blind bidding on housing, and create an anti-flipping tax on residential properties (requiring them to be owned for at least 12 months). 

These two high-level overviews of the NDP and Liberal housing platform points show a more aggressive plan to address the housing crisis across the nation. Despite these promises, we still need each party to commit to funding the HousingTO Action Plan for the next ten years, we still need funding to retrofit any empty office spaces proposed as well as funding to help address mental health and addictions. We know that without the supportive programming necessary to help recovery, people suffering from addiction or mental health won’t be able to stay in permanent housing. 

For over a decade, I have advocated for millions of dollars in affordable, supportive, and transitional housing. I have urged the City of Toronto to declare housing an emergency. I have heard from many of you about your unhoused neighbours, safety, and the need for urgent action from all levels of government. Now is your chance to demand answers from these candidates. Do not let this moment pass you by. 

With each candidate that seeks your vote, I encourage you to share your lived experiences, and ask direct and specific questions about their commitments. It’s ok if you don’t know everything about politics, but please show up as you are. You don’t have to be an expert in order to engage in critical conversations that matter. This election might look different and you may not see candidates at your door. If that’s the case, I encourage you to reach out to them directly with your questions. Find your candidates here! Each candidate will have to earn your vote this election, and demonstrate how they will advocate for the needs of Toronto.

Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.

Kristyn


What’s In Today’s EBlast?


Toronto Centre Projects

Toronto Centre Projects promotional graphicToronto Centre Projects promotional graphic

Toronto Centre Projects is designed to engage community members and crowdsource neighbourhood projects supported by the Councillor's office and your neighbours. Over the next year, my office will be launching consultations for several parks and dog off-leash area revitalizations, public realm improvements, and more.

Successful Proposal Going to Council:

Toronto Centre Projects proposal graphicToronto Centre Projects proposal graphic

A past Toronto Centre Projects proposal by community member, Shrikant, advocated for reducing the speed limit to 30kph hours on the stretch of Church St. between Carlton and Bloor St. E. This proposal has reached the required threshold of support (60 supporters). This motion is now on the agenda for the September Toronto & East York Community Council meeting! View the motion here.

Thank you, Shrikant! You did an excellent job mobilizing community support to affect change!

Who else wants to be a changemaker? Submit your ideas to make our communities more liveable, vibrant, and safe at www.TorontoCentreProjects.ca.


Back-to-School Drive Giveaway!

Back-to-school drive posterBack-to-school drive poster

On September 8, in partnership with Toronto Community Housing, Broccolini, Downtown Yonge BIA, Medallion Corporation, and St. James Town Community Corner, my office is hosting a Back-to-School drive including a backpack and school supply giveaways! We will be offering FREE backpacks and school supplies for elementary and high school students. The beginning of the school year can be a financially demanding time for parents, and after an especially challenging year, we want to make the transition into the school year as easy as possible. 

This is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last. In order to ensure your spot, please book your appointment through The Corner by calling 416-964-6657 or by email [email protected]. Thank you to my amazing partners for making this event possible and happy back-to-school!


Have Your Say! CafeTO Survey

The City of Toronto wants to hear from you! CaféTO is supporting nearly 1,200 restaurants this season with expanded outdoor dining space in curb lanes and on sidewalks. A new survey has been launched, which will help the City to better support the recovery of the restaurant industry, enhance understanding of the appropriate use of public sidewalks and curb lanes, and identify the effects of expanded patios on private properties. The survey is now open and closes on September 19, 2021. Have your say today! 

All local restaurant operators, CaféTO diners, and members of the public are encouraged to complete the survey to help shape the City's outdoor dining programs and the future of Toronto's streets. The results of the survey will be used to guide the future of CaféTO and outdoor dining. Learn more about CafeTO! 


The Improved Toronto Rent Bank

The Toronto Rent Bank has provided interest-free loans to low-income households in Toronto who are experiencing rental arrears or require help with a rental deposit in order to prevent homelessness. 

In 2020 and 2021, the City has made significant changes to the program to be more responsive to the needs of low-income households during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of these changes, the Toronto Rent Bank is now: 

  • Piloting a grant program where all successful applicants will receive non-repayable grants instead of loans until March 31, 2022
  • Increasing the maximum allowable loan from $3,500 to $4,000 for up to three months of rental arrear loans
  • Converting balances of all existing loans issued on and after April 1, 2020, into grants, meaning they do not need to be repaid
  • Placing all repayments for loans issued before April 1, 2020, on hold until March 31, 2022
  • Increasing the household income eligibility criteria by $15,000, meaning the maximum income needed to be eligible is between $46,000 and $92,000, depending on family size
  • Eliminating the eligibility requirement that households demonstrate a steady income on a go-forward basis
  • Moving from requiring original copies to electronic document verification

The City has also invested a total of $5 million in the Toronto Rent Bank over 2020 and 2021 to support low-income households to remain housed. 

These changes have supported an additional 750 households to access loans and grants to stay in their homes, for a total of 1,062 households served in 2020. 

Residents may call 416-397-RENT (7368) for more information on how to apply. Operating hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Outside of operating hours, callers may leave a message and a representative will call back. 

Learn more about the Toronto Rent Bank!


You’re Invited To: What It Takes to Make it Through: Stories of Suicide Resilience and Loss

What It Takes to Make it Through: Stories of Suicide Resilience and Loss event promotional posterWhat It Takes to Make it Through: Stories of Suicide Resilience and Loss event promotional poster

On Friday, September 10, in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, members of the Arthur Sommer Rotenberg (ASR) St. Michael’s Suicide and Depression Studies Department at St. Michael’s Hospital will be launching a book called What It Takes To Make It Through: Stories of Suicide Resilience and Loss. This “storybook project” is the culmination of over four years of work collecting stories from individuals across Canada who have been touched by suicide. There will be a virtual panel and Q and A in celebration of the launch. 

What: What It Takes to Make it Through: Stories of Suicide Resilience and Loss launch and virtual panel
When: Friday September 10, 2021
Time: 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Register to attend here!

If you or someone you know is struggling, please know you’re not alone. If needed, I have mental health resources available on my website.


Common Space Coalition

Common Space Coalition interactive map promotionCommon Space Coalition interactive map promotion

Common Space Coalition is a newly established Toronto-based non-profit organization whose goal is to combat systemic racism in the landscape of architectural professional practice.  

Their team has recently launched an interactive map titled, Co-Design Now!, that seeks to highlight community organizing in Toronto, and bridge the divide between city builders and community. This map intends to better inform city builders of existing grassroots work and in doing so foster a design process that is collaborative alongside the community. 

If you are involved in a grassroots organization, or have a particular initiative you’d like to share, I would encourage you to reach out, especially in one of Toronto’s Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIAs). 


Have your Say! Air Quality & COVID Survey

Air Quality & COVID Survey promotional posterAir Quality & COVID Survey promotional poster

What impact did changes to our travel and shopping behaviour during COVID-19 have on our air quality? Ryerson University, in partnership with the City of Toronto via CivicLabTO, is hosting a survey to answer that question. Findings will contribute to the City’s climate action strategy.  

The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete and participation is voluntary. No personal identifying information will be collected. Participants can, however, choose to enter their names into a draw for a $50 Tim Horton’s gift card. Two respondents from each of the City’s 25 wards will be selected to receive a gift card. 

The survey closes at the end of the day today, August 31st. Take the survey here or to learn more here.


COVID-19: Vaccine Information 

For updates about Toronto’s vaccination rollout and booking system, please visit my website.

Book an appointment at a City-operated vaccination clinic by phone through the provincial call centre, 1-888-999-6488.

Book an appointment at a City-operated vaccination clinic online at www.toronto.ca/covid-19. For online bookings, you will need: 

  • Information found on your Government of Ontario photo health card;
  • Birthdate;
  • Postal code; and
  • Email address or phone number.

The provincial system will verify your eligibility to book an appointment for vaccination based on this information and will then guide you to the scheduling system. 

Please do not call 311 or Toronto Public Health to book an appointment. The City 311 contact centre and Toronto Public Health staff do not have access to the booking system.


Vaccinated Against COVID-19? What Does It Mean For Me?

By getting vaccinated, you benefit from the protection you get against COVID-19 and the easing of restrictive measures in your community. You still need to follow local public health advice in public settings (e.g. workplaces, public transit). Their advice considers community risk levels. 

A majority of people in Canada have now had their first shot and many will soon be fully vaccinated. Below is a handy chart created by Public Health Canada to inform your actions depending on your vaccination status. This advice is based on the current state and will be updated as vaccination rates continue to increase and cases decrease.


COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread

As we begin to again restrengthen our public health measures, we will all continue to live in this new normal. Wearing a mask or a face covering is mandatory in all public indoor spaces and on the TTC. Our commitment must be to continue minimizing the impact of COVID-19, especially on our most vulnerable residents, while reducing negative social, economic, and broader health impacts on our community. In the coming months what this means for our residents is:

  • Continuing to work remotely, wherever possible;
  • Maintaining physical distance from people outside our household or social circle/bubble;
  • Avoiding crowds and congregations in closed indoor settings;
  • Wearing a cloth mask or face covering in any public indoor setting, including stores, transit, offices; and where
  • physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
  • Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.

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 the City’s website or download this info sheet.


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

Telehealth Ontario
Call if you develop symptoms!
Telephone: 1-866-797-0000

Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Telephone: 416-338-7600
TTY: 416-392-0658
Email: [email protected]

311 Toronto
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)

Support for People Living with Homelessness

If you see someone living with homelessness and in need of support you can call Streets to Homes at 416-338-4766. For mental health support, the Gerstein Crisis Centre is a valuable 24-hours a day, seven days a week service in our community and they have crisis workers on standby at 416-929-5200. More resources, including additional how to report information, are available on my website at kristynwongtam.ca.

Toronto Police

If you or someone else is confronted with life-threatening danger, please call 911 immediately. Alternatively, the Toronto Police request that online reports be submitted at torontopolice.on.ca/core or to torontopolice.on.ca/community-complaints. You can also call their non-emergency line at 416-808-2222. 

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