It is odd to think that we are nearing the end of December. The past ten months have been a whirlwind and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling the weight of the year. I want to thank everyone who continues to work overtime in caring for our communities, including all of our health and essential workers. Thank you for your continued sacrifice in the pursuit of keeping us all safe.
In addition to ongoing updates about the City’s direct COVID-19 response, City Council continues to prepare our 2021 Budget. As you know, COVID-19 had a huge impact on our budget, and earlier this year we were looking at a $1.8 billion deficit. Despite incredible cost control measures, the City was facing the prospect of massive and devastating cuts. Yesterday, the Province of Ontario finally announced a commitment to give Toronto the critical budget relief we need, with a total of $1.2 billion to support transit and housing being made available. This is a huge relief, and allows us to focus on the 2021 budget and building back better from COVID-19. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to watch my Making Cents video series, where I discuss the important ways we need to invest in our City.
One of my biggest priorities remains a focus on addressing the growing housing and homelessness crisis. On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues Councillor Gord Perks and Mike Layton to ask the Federal and Provincial governments to use their emergency powers to expropriate vacant units to help solve the housing crisis in Toronto. The call comes as Council awaits a report on urgent housing measures at the Council meeting this week. Winter is here. In light of COVID-19 and the risks of congregate settings, we need to make sure there are enough safe spaces indoors for everyone outside who wants one.
We also need to do everything we can to ensure that the homelessness crisis doesn't get worse. I am hopeful that my colleagues will support my joint motion directing Toronto Community Housing Corporation to put a moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, this motion requests the Premier sign an Emergency Order to stop all evictions during the pandemic. As I mentioned last week, the House voted unanimously to stop evictions, and the Premier has yet to sign the Emergency Order bringing it into effect. His delay both ignores the will of the Legislature and continues to jeopardize housing in our communities, which exacerbates Toronto’s housing crisis.
City Council also voted to continue studying and begin consultation for a Vacant Home Tax. This would be another tool in our strategy to help address the housing crisis in the City by increasing the supply of housing and increasing rental vacancy rates in Toronto. I am pleased that my motion to have the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer consider the feasibility of allocating the new revenues collected to support the expansion of more affordable housing has successfully passed.
I was proud to support the City’s Data Equity Strategy and look forward to a report in 2021 about how incorporating this sociodemographic data can help the city develop a more equitable Operating Budget. This is an initiative I have been working on during my entire time at City Council. This will be important work in the coming years as Toronto looks to recover from this global pandemic. I was also proud to see City Council supporting persons living with disabilities and am keen to learn that the Housing Secretariat will do more to support those experiencing homelessness.
Lastly, I want to share with you some of the work my office has done since the start of the pandemic. My staff has been working harder than ever in these new circumstances, and in trying to navigate the nuances, challenges, and opportunities presented to us. Our communications team has coordinated and delivered over 140 EBlasts into your inboxes as well as 2 print newsletters to your doorsteps. They have coordinated four press conferences in an effort to save small businesses, requesting direct and immediate financial supports from the Province and we continue to put pressure on them.
Image description: a promotional poster of Ward 13 office successes from 2020
All of this work is in addition to regular communications we’ve received from Ward 13. We have been responding to your concerns, questions, and inquiries as fast as we can, and have responded to over 2,000 requests directly from you. We are working with city staff and our government partners to get you the information or support you need. From my advocacy, there have been upwards of 40 motions brought to City Council. I continue to champion our most important issues to keep communities safe.
My team and I have also been responding to the urgent need for food and groceries in our communities. We have delivered hundreds of hot, nutritious prepared meals to Dixon Hall through their Meals on Wheels program from a local restaurant. We have also helped raise over $350,000 for Yonge Street Mission and delivered over $5,000 in grocery gift cards to newcomer families in the St James Town and Moss Park areas. Thank you for your continued support. Your kind words and resilience help keep us motivated!
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
Image description: a map of the First Parliament site
The First Parliament site is located in downtown Toronto at the intersection of Front and Parliament Streets. It is a full city block, bounded on the west by Berkeley Street and on the south by Parliament Square Park. This area is historically significant, representing the political, social, and industrial forces that helped shape the city. The City has completed a Heritage Interpretation Strategy and is currently working on a Master Plan to help provide a vision, guiding principles, and a demonstration plan for this important site, which will include a future library and public park.
Please join the online virtual meeting on January 21, 2021, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for a community engagement on the development of a Master Plan for the First Parliament site. At the meeting, an illustrated presentation will be given followed by a live question and answer period. Written comments are welcome and can be provided online between January 21 and February 1.
Please register here and a link to the consultation meeting will be shared three days prior to the event, along with instructions to help you connect.
Community Care in Ward 13
Content description: a Trustee update banner for Ward 10 Trustee Chris Moise
Today, Toronto Public Health closed Nelson Mandela Park Public School as a result of an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak investigation. Students and staff in the affected cohorts have already been told to self-isolate and all other students and staff are advised to self-monitor closely for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
Image description: a chart of symptoms of COVID-19, cold and flu
If you or your child develops symptoms, the person with symptoms should self-isolate and visit a COVID-19 Assessment Centre. Do not attend a pharmacy for testing. Please make sure to wear your mask when you go for testing.
Winter break begins this weekend, we know that this year won’t be the same. It is important that we stay home and not have our traditional family gatherings to protect our loved ones. I feel the same pain you do, every year I visit my mother and sister for the holidays but this year needs to be different. We will need to come together virtually.
Over the last several months at the TDSB, we have been preparing for various scenarios and closures from individual cohorts or entire schools, to a system-wide closure. As a Trustee, I am in support of a system-wide shutdown to help reduce the spread of COVID. However, we are waiting on direction from the Provincial Government as it is not a decision that we as a Board of Trustees have the authority to make.
To ensure your family is prepared for any shift to remote learning - whether at the class, school or system-level - please consider taking the following actions:
- Ensure you have a working device at home.
- Ensure that the school has your correct email address.
- Login to your teacher’s online platform to confirm you have access. Your child should have done this with their teacher.
- Bookmark the Student Virtual Learning IT Support page.
Also, as we get ready to leave for a couple of restful weeks, please ensure personal belongings, such as shoes, clothing, and anything else your child may need over the break (or beyond, in case a physical return to school is not possible) is brought home, as well as any food that may be left in their desk, locker or cubby.
During the first lockdown, the TDSB provided devices to every student who requested one. If for any reason your child(ren) needs a new or replacement device, please contact your school Principal and they will see to it that each student in your household receives one. Access to devices and the internet should not be a hindrance to your child(ren)’s education and we have taken the necessary steps to ensure it isn’t. If you require any help or assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you (parents/guardians, teachers, support staff, caretaking staff, and our students) for your resilience and patience during this very stressful and difficult year. I wish you all a Happy Holiday and look forward to reconnecting with you in the new year!
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
Toronto City Council Votes to Advance Eglinton East Light Rail Transit and Waterfront Transit Network
Toronto City Council unanimously voted in support of City of Toronto staff advancing work on Eglinton East Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Waterfront Transit Network.
City Council Approves 2021 Rate-Supported Budgets with the Largest Annual Capital Investment in Toronto Water’s History
Toronto City Council has approved the 2021 rate-supported operating and capital budgets for Toronto Water, Toronto Parking Authority and Solid Waste Management Services. The approved budgets maintain current service levels and make critical investments in infrastructure while reducing planned rate increases to just 1.5 per cent.
Toronto City Council approved an implementation plan to introduce a new tax on vacant Toronto homes starting in 2022. A vacant home tax aims to increase the housing supply by encouraging homeowners to sell or rent their unoccupied home – and, if they choose to continue to keep the home vacant, a tax is levied. This revenue can then be used to fund affordable housing projects.
The City of Toronto is cancelling all planned 2020 holiday CampTO camps and winter instructional programs, including Learn-to-Skate and Instructional Ski, to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 as Toronto’s COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise. This decision follows recommendations from Toronto Public Health and the City’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa while Toronto remains in the Grey – Lockdown category of the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.
Province of Ontario Updates
The Ontario government is taking further action to reduce the risk of chronic wasting disease (CWD) from entering the province. These measures will better protect wildlife populations and support continued hunting opportunities.
The Ontario government is a step closer to getting shovels in the ground to build the Ontario Line, the signature project in the largest subway expansion program in Canadian history. The province issued two Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for procurement packages to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Ontario Line project. The Preliminary Design Business Case for the Ontario Line was also released.
The Ontario government is providing over $147 million to immediately expand access to the provincial mental health and addictions system for people of all ages and address capacity issues in response to COVID-19.
The Ontario government released its new Poverty Reduction Strategy, which will help more people get back to work and participate in the province’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
Government of Canada Updates
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, announced the 2021 Climate Action Incentive payment amounts for people who live in provinces that do not have a pollution pricing system of their own (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta). This is part of the federal government backstop, which ensures there is a consistent price on pollution across Canada and that approximately 90 per cent of proceeds go directly to Canadians.
The Government of Canada remains committed to keeping Canadians, the travelling public, and the transportation system safe and secure. Transport Canada aviation safety experts have completed their independent review of the design changes to the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft recently certified by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and have now validated these changes. Validation of these changes means that these modifications can now be incorporated on Canadian registered aircraft.
Joint Statement from the Co-Chairs of the Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses – Latest National Data on the Overdose Crisis
The co-chairs of the federal, provincial and territorial Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer and Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer of Health-issued the following statement on the release of updated data on opioid-related harms in Canada, covering the period of January 1, 2016 to June 30, 2020. For the first time, data on harms related to stimulant use (e.g., cocaine and methamphetamine) are also being reported.
Government of Canada Makes Largest Investment in Canada Research Chairs Program and Celebrates 20th Anniversary
The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced that the Government of Canada is investing approximately $195 million to support 259 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs at 47 institutions across Canada. This investment is complemented by close to $14 million in new funding for research infrastructure to support 57 Chairs at 27 institutions through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).
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.