Today is another record-setting high in Ontario with 1983 new cases of COVID-19 and 35 deaths. Unfortunately, we are still not seeing the downward trend in case counts. Our hospitals and ICUs are at a tipping point. To add insult to injury, Premier Ford has adjourned the Legislature and will no longer be doing daily press briefings. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, and the Premier has offered no explanation for this sudden change. It appears that Premier Ford is simply bored with his duty to the Province. Case counts are rising in Ontario, and our Premier is ignoring his responsibility. Without regular press availability, it will be hard to hold our elected officials accountable or even to have them respond directly to the evolving needs of Ontarians.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare innumerable health and social inequities across Toronto, including the desperate need for affordable, supportive and transitional housing. I want to thank everyone who has reached out to my office with concern for those living in encampments. I share your worries for our neighbours as the weather turns colder and snow piles on the ground.
As part of the work of the Planning and Housing Committee, I was proud to co-submit a motion directing City staff to report back on a review of any programs, funding sources, and legislative tools available to the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, and the City of Toronto to provide housing in the immediate weeks ahead. This report will be submitted to next week’s City Council meeting. You can read the full letter here. This must become another part of the City’s ongoing commitment to ensure shelter and housing is available for anyone in need.
At the monthly Toronto Homelessness Memorial, there were an additional ten lives lost this month. In 2019, the Federal Government brought into law that Canada recognizes housing as a fundamental human right. These numbers aren’t simply statistics but they are individuals who have friends and family. Individuals who required supports and found none. It is my hope that this next City Council meeting will be another step forward in protecting residents experiencing homelessness and prevent more lives lost.
Today, the Province of Ontario announced an investment of over $47 million to provide supportive housing for individuals suffering from severe addictions and mental health challenges. As part of a new Back to Home program, a modest $13.7 million will be designed to help provide supportive housing for patients in hospitals with mental health and addiction challenges, but who do not require hospital-level acute care. I want to thank Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. While this is only a small step towards the robust and holistic supports needed to help our many residents living with mental health and addiction challenges, it gives me hope that our ongoing calls for more direct funding might still be heard. There is still more that the Provincial Government can do to address this mental health service gap and to this end, we must remind the Premier and Ministers to keep going and not stop with this one-time announcement.
I know many residents living outside depend on City facilities for a warm shelter, as well as a place where they can use the washrooms and showers. With many community centres closed in order to comply with public health guidelines. I know how critical these services are and I have fiercely advocated for their reopening. It is imperative that everyone has a safe, clean space to use the washroom, have a shower, or simply wash their hands.
While most community centres are still closed to the public, the following facilities in Toronto Centre are open:
Available 24 hours a day:
- Allan Gardens, 160 Gerrard Street East
- Moss Park, 150 Sherbourne Street
These washrooms are available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Riverdale Farm, 201 Winchester Street
- Regent Park Community Centre, 402 Shuter Street*
- St. Lawrence Community Centre, 230 The Esplanade*
- Wellesley Community Centre, 495 Sherbourne Street
*Extended evening hours until 7 p.m.
On Tuesday, Suze Morrison, our Member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto Centre, brought forward a motion requesting the Province of Ontario ban residential evictions through the pandemic. Despite an attempt to adjourn the meeting early without discussion of that item, her motion was passed unanimously by the House. There is only one thing that needs to happen now. Premier Ford needs to sign an Emergency Order to implement the moratorium on evictions. The Premier is the only one who can legislate another eviction moratorium and without it, we will see more and more people and their families forced into our shelter system or living in the parks. If the Premier does not sign the Emergency Order on his own, I have submitted a motion to next week’s City Council meeting formally asking the Premier to execute the order to immediately halt residential evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I know many of you are facing insurmountable financial challenges exacerbated by COVID-19. Instead of protecting tenants, Premier Ford facilitates the ongoing housing crisis in Toronto. He continues to deny the financial realities of Torontonians deciding between paying rent or feeding their families. At the beginning of the pandemic, Ford encouraged residents to not pay rent if that was the choice they faced, yet he has refused to legislate protections for tenants. Not only will this be detrimental for tenants, but now he ignores the will of the Legislature.
I urge you to email Premier Ford and make it known that he needs to sign an Emergency Order to implement a moratorium on evictions. Our Federal and Provincial governments need to take all measures possible to protect our residents and ensure that we are all in a position to recover once this pandemic has passed.
Lastly, today is the first night of Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday also referred to as the Festival of Lights. As each celebration and holiday passes, and we are called on to find new ways to celebrate, I am reminded of how resilient we are. I know that while we must still remain apart, we are together in spirit. This season will be unlike any other and I encourage you to take extra care with those you love. Happy Hanukkah, and Chag Sameach!
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
Image content: a picture of the Winchester Hotel from 1891
The beloved Winchester Hotel located at the corner of Parliament and Winchester (531 Parliament) is a memorable landmark of the Cabbagetown neighbourhood. First built in 1888, the Winchester Hotel boasts of a long history that was noted for its distinctive Second Empire Style. As a popular jazz establishment that featured legends such as Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker, it was considered one of the toughest drinking spots in the City.
Image content: a picture of the Winchester Hotel's original cupola
Though now occupied by a Tim Hortons, it has undergone extensive restorations over the years, particularly after a two-alarm fire broke out on the roof in 2009. For the past two years, the building has been under restoration again and on December 2, 2020, the restoration team brought the hotel back to its original state by installing the corner cupola backing onto the building via crane. Check out this Instagram post from the Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area for a timelapse of the Hotel and amazing pictures throughout the year.
Community Care in Ward 13
The Neighbourhood Group is excited to announce a new funding program by the City of Toronto for local social service agencies, community, residents groups, grassroots, and emerging organizations. This funding will help them deliver critical services, supply food, clothing, resources, and/or hire additional staff. It will also help them find ways to foster social distancing and self-isolation practices to keep everyone safe and healthy during the pandemic. It is specifically available to organizations in the Downtown East, with the exception of Indigenous organizations.
There will be a minimum of 8 micro-grants recipients and each group can receive a maximum of $4,500 each. The deadline to apply is December 16, 2020.
The goal of this funding is to support a broad range of vulnerable and precariously housed populations by addressing emergency needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic including access to clothing, food, water, hygiene-related products, and any additional needs. The program delivery will take place from December 2020 through until February 2021, and successful applicants will be required to submit receipts and invoices to the Neighbourhood Group as well as their completed final report.
Upcoming Ward 13 Community Consultations
49 Ontario Street and 429-455 Richmond Street East, 69 and 75 Ontario Street
This public meeting is about two separate development applications:
49 Ontario Street: Zoning By-law Amendment application for three buildings of 12, 29 and 36 storeys containing 643 square metres of retail, 13,138 square metres of office, and 52,241 square metres of residential resulting in 881 dwelling units. 149 parking spaces are proposed within a 2-level underground garage.
429-455 Richmond Street East, 69 and 75 Ontario Street: Zoning By-law amendment to permit a 35-storey building (113.85 metres including the mechanical penthouse) containing: 16,431.5 square metres of residential space resulting in 251 dwelling units; 384.4 square metres of retail space; and 58 parking spaces.
When: Monday, December 14, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Please register for the virtual consultation.
Learn more about this development application by visiting the City’s website at the links above. Please contact the City Planner on this file, Katherine Bailey, at Katherine.Bailey@toronto.ca for more information about this application or if you have any comments or questions.
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.
Face Masks and Coverings Offer Best Protection
Image description: Informational graphic from Toronto Public Health titled, "Face Masks & Coverings Offer Best Protection." Through visual examples, the graphic shows recommended and not recommended ways of wearing a mask. The recommended way for wearing a mask says, "should cover your nose, mouth, and chin without gaping." The following are not recommended: face shields, masks with exhalation valves, or clear plastic masks.
How to Safely Wear a Mask
Image description: Toronto Public Health infographic about how to safely wear a mask. Information on the infographic is listed below.
- Do wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off
- Do make sure it fits to cover your mouth and nose
- Do wash your cloth mask in the laundry
- Do clean surfaces that a dirty mask touches
- Don’t touch your face or mask while using it
- Don’t use masks on children under 2 or those who can’t breathe with them on
- Don’t share your mask with others
- Don’t wear medical masks, keep them for health care workers
- The best protection is to stay home, keep a 6-foot distance, and wash hands often.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
City of Toronto Continues Working with Community-Based Agencies to Provide Mental Health Support to Vulnerable Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The City of Toronto wants all residents to know that it is OK to not be OK and ask for mental health support. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto has partnered with community-based agencies that provide mental health and social services to support residents during this difficult time. The City has also remained committed to providing Torontonians with safe opportunities for recreation and prioritized access to the City’s parks and green spaces for fresh air and exercise.
Toronto Fire Services has partnered with First Alert, to help ensure Toronto residents in vulnerable communities have the required smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms needed to stay safe.
Province of Ontario Updates
The Ontario government is investing over $47 million to provide supportive housing for individuals with severe mental health and addictions challenges who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The funding will also support the creation of a new Back to Home program to help patients transition from hospitals to permanent housing.
The Ontario government is investing $46 million in the Anti-Human Trafficking Community Supports and Indigenous-led Initiatives funds. They provide critical supports to children and youth who have experienced sexual exploitation, as well as survivor-led programming and Indigenous-specific services. The funding will be provided to 27 community-based projects and is part of the province’s $307 million Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy, which aims to raise awareness of the issue, protect victims and intervene early, support survivors, and hold offenders accountable.
The Ontario government is investing more than $5 million through the Ontario Together Fund to help three companies create jobs by designing and producing respirators and surgical masks for frontline and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure we are prepared for future challenges.
The Ontario government wrapped up a successful session of the legislature today after delivering on a commitment to protect the health and safety of the people of the province during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the accomplishments, this fall are initiatives to support families and communities, and the adoption of Ontario's Action Plan: Protect, Support and Recover that will set the stage for economic recovery and job creation across the province.
The Ontario government introduced the Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act, 2020 that would, if passed, protect employers from an unexpected increase in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premiums, while maintaining an increase to the maximum earnings cap for worker benefits.
Government of Canada Updates
The Government of Canada has established a number of advisory groups and task forces composed of stakeholders from the public sector, private sector and/or academia and research community, to provide recommendations or actions to address the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.
Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Development on Human Rights Day
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, today issued the following statement.
Millions of Canadians are doing their part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by downloading and using the COVID Alert app. Thousands of people have uploaded their one-time key following a positive diagnosis to help protect others by notifying them that they may have been exposed. As more Canadians use the app, we continue to collect feedback on how it can be improved to meet user needs. Use of the app is one of the ways you can help protect each other and limit the spread of COVID-19.
Tonight, Jewish communities across Canada and around the world welcome the beginning of Hanukkah and light the first candle of the Hanukkiah.
Government Introduces Legislation to Support Safe, Secure, and Accessible Voting During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on new challenges to the way elections are administered – in Canada and around the world. Canadians deserve to have full confidence in their ability to exercise their democratic rights safely in these unprecedented times.
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)
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.
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.