February 8, 2018
- Welcome Letter from Councillor Wong-Tam
- The Indigenous District: A Smart (Cities) Idea
- Town Hall on Gender Responsive Budgeting
- Health Providers Decry Respite Centre Conditions
- Small Business Tax Reform Takes a Big Step Forward
- Council Roundup
- Community Spotlight - Friends of Allan Gardens
- In the Community
- Development Map
- Winter Services
1. Welcome Letter from Councillor Wong-Tam
The last few weeks have brought difficult news in the missing persons cases of Andrew Kinsmen, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi and Dean Lisowick. Toronto Police have charged Bruce McArthur with their murders and this has left our community reeling in shock and heartbreak. I am, as well, heartbroken. Having met and known some of the missing, as well as many from the community who are feeling immense grief and loss, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones. This has in no doubt been a very difficult time for many of us.
As more details become available over the coming weeks, there will be issues we need to unpack around this story, including the vulnerabilities that may have made some people targets and how information has been handled and prioritized for the missing. Today, however, due attention is being given to how the community can come together and come to grips with everything before us. Recent and upcoming vigils and gatherings in the neighbourhood are opportunities to help begin some of that healing.
Currently, the Mayor and I are working together to determine what a larger Toronto response can look like. Stories in the news have been shared across Toronto and there is a real desire to support the community. To that end, we are reaching out to community agencies and organizations to plan the next step in how the city can be part of, and contribute to, our healing. I look forward to sharing details of this initiative in the coming days.
I remain yours in service,
2. The Indigenous District: A Smart (Cities) Idea
On January 25, a packed room came out to the MaRS Discovery District to talk about two things: the federal government's Smart Cities Challenge and an idea for an Indigenous District. Following an introduction by Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit, Councillor Wong-Tam laid out the case, with help from the Canadian Centre for Aboriginal Business, the Indigenous Place Making Council, Brook McIlroy and ERA Architects, that Toronto should submit the idea of creating an Indigenous District as its submission for the $50 million Smart Cities prize.
Councillor Wong-Tam has secured 16,000 square feet of space along Dundas Street East at George Street. Unlike many of its contemporaries like Queen and King Streets, Dundas Street does not have a unifying identity. Through conversations with Indigenous leaders, the idea of turning this space into an Indigenous business incubator took root. Through an incubator, Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses would have a place to meet and work with people who are of Indigenous background, and provide education and economic opportunity. Given the incubator's proximity to numerous Indigenous agencies and links to important gathering spaces such as Allan Gardens, a cultural lens could then be put over Dundas Street East, reintroducing the lost Indigenous identity.
The incubator would be a natural fit to for a Smart Cities project, but by expanding the collection and use of data across Dundas Street, the city could literally transform the way the city does business. The idea was enthusiastically received by the MaRS audience, and has formally been submitted by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business to the city for consideration.
City staff will evaluate all the submissions received be present the strongest idea at the March 2018 Executive Committee. City Council will make the final selection in April and then the Toronto submission goes to Ottawa and compete head-to-head with the best idea generated from across Canada. Read more about the Indigenous District here.
3. Town Hall on Gender Responsive Budgeting
On January 18th, 2018, over 170 interested residents and service providers gathered at The 519 Community Centre, to discuss the need for a gender responsive budget process in Toronto. Participants, form Ward 27 and beyond, shared their thoughts and opinions regarding their priorities for City investment, and effective strategies to increase public participation in the City's budget process.
To begin the evening, Federal Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, gave a brief overview describing the Federal government's recent efforts towards gender equity investment. While there is still much work to be done, it's clear that Ottawa is further ahead on research, planning and implementation, while Toronto, unfortunately, continues to lag behind.
Next, we had a panel discussion, including subject experts Leila Sarangi of Women's Habitat, Sheila Block of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Colette Prevost of YWCA Toronto, and Kate Bezanson an Associate Professor at Brock University. The panelists spoke eloquently about the impacts of inequitable investment on women, and their families, including unstable housing and shelter, lack of affordable child care, and inadequate funding for necessary social programs. They also made clear that, despite these devastating impacts, lack of political will is the main roadblock to equitable investment.
Facilitated round-table discussions rounded out the evening, with each table reporting back on where they see the City falling behind, and how the budget process can prioritize the underserved.
A personal thank you to all of the speakers, sponsors, and volunteers who made the evening run smoothly. I'd also like to thank all of the participants who contributed their time and vision. At City Council on February 12 when we vote on the budget, I will be bringing your ideas and suggestions forward, to advocate for our shared goal of a fair and equitable budget process. Read the full recap and what residents had to say.
4. Health Providers Decry Respite Centre Conditions
On January 30, I joined Healthcare Providers Against Poverty (HPAP), front-line service providers and special guest Leslie Feist to once again call for urgent and immediate action to address Toronto's growing shelter crisis. HPAP's report reveals that Toronto's winter respite centres fail to meet the most basic standards set out by the United Nations and by the City.
Toronto’s shelter system is in an undeclared state of emergency. Each night, up to 770 people are unable to obtain a bed in our overcrowded shelter system and sleep instead on mats, floors, chairs, and cots. The City’s solution to the overcrowded shelter system has been to open temporary Winter Respite Centres, also known as “warming centres.” Healthcare professionals who regularly work with low-income and homeless populations were alarmed by the conditions of these centres. The lack of planning and prioritization for those who are homeless from all levels of government was reflected in these treacherous conditions.
While agencies hosting Winter Respite Centres are providing an essential service and doing their best, they simply do not have the facilities and resources to meet the overwhelming need. As an interim action, until enough shelter beds can be opened, the City must ensure that 1,000 beds or cots with mattresses remain open all year in respite facilities that can meet basic standards. Further, within the next year, 1,500 new shelter beds are urgently needed to bring shelter occupancy below 90% as mandated by City Council. Read the full press release here.
5. Small Business Tax Reform Takes a Big Step Forward
Last week, City Council voted 38-1 in support of staff recommendations from the December motion I put forward with Councillor Thompson. This is a huge victory for small business owners – not just on Yonge Street, but across Toronto. This tax year, there will be a crucial 10% increase cap for all commercial properties and staff are due to report-back on longer-term policy reforms in July. Compared with 2018 tax increases of 100% or more for many low-rise commercial operators, this will mean the difference between closing up shop and staying in our community.
Staff will shortly begin public consultations to determine what new tax policies will best protect small businesses and low-rise commercial owners from the speculative valuations that have hit Yonge Street, King Street, Bloor Street, and many other cherished Toronto neighbourhoods experiencing tremendous growth. There is nothing wrong with taxing sky scrapers and tall towers at their full value, but the current assessment system cannot differentiate between a new condo tower and the neighbouring bookstore. This needs to change and I am very glad that my colleagues on Council have seen the urgency to act.
6. Council Roundup: January 31 to February 2, 2018
Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy 2017 Report and 2018 Work Plan
City Council adopted the TO Prosperity 2018 Work Plan, which includes measures such as implementing the Open Door Affordable Housing Program to create new affordable rental and ownership homes across the City by expediting planning processes, creating 1000 new affordable rental units, and renovations to create 119 new affordable homes with supports at 389 Church Street.
Improving Data Collection Management of Toronto's Homeless Population
City Council has directed the Shelter, Support and Housing Administration to work with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and other interested stakeholders to report back in 2018 on measures to improve tracking information on admission and discharges of homeless individuals between shelter, respites, and hospitals. Direction was also given to increase transparency in occupancy statistics for the City's shelters.
Ensuring a Robust Hotel Supply to Strengthen Tourism
City Council directed staff to review the potential for the implementation of a hotel accommodation replacement policy and or strategy to protect the existing amount of hotel space in mixed use and regeneration areas in Toronto's Official Plan. As staff conveyed to Council, Toronto is increasingly unable to support large-scale international events with the decline in hotel stock, impacting the city's ability to receive tourists and host important industry shows. This is a challenge for hotels that, while profitable, are often located on sites being re-zoned to condominium use.
Yellow Creek and Vale of Avoca Update
City Council supported recommendations from Councillors Wong-Tam and Matlow to have staff engage local community organizations on planning for long-term improvements to Yellow Creek and the Vale of Avoca. This will help to identify funding gaps, infrastructure needs, and a timeline to restore the ravine, in conjunction with the current hydrogeological study and forthcoming Ravine Strategy.
Municipal Accommodation Tax
City Council approved the implementation of a 4 percent tax on the sale of transient accommodations in short-term rentals. This policy is expected to bring in a net revenue of $16,100,000.00 in 2018.
Old City Hall – Future Uses and Tenant Options
City Council directed staff to develop a design and plans for Old City Hall that include a Museum of Toronto, a public library branch, wedding chamber, café, public event space, and institutional uses.
Modernization of 389 Church Street
City Council authorized the release of $14.738 million in funds to construct 120 new self-contained one and two-bedroom affordable housing units at 389 Church Street, as well as significant upgrades to the building to facilitate accessibility and modernize its health and safety systems.
Review of Current Winter Respite and Shelter Services During the Recent Cold Weather
City Council reaffirmed its commitment to a 90% shelter occupancy cap across all sectors, develop options for real-time space availability reporting, and explore opportunities for more spaces to be made available through partnerships with faith-based and other community organizations. An amendment by Councillor Wong-Tam was adopted to have staff review the recent report "An Evaluation of Toronto's Warming Centre and Winter Response to Homelessness", which indicated many Toronto shelters were failing both local and UN standards for facilities and service delivery.
Parks Ambassador Service Level
City Council directed the General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation to establish adequate service levels for the Parks Ambassador Program to meet City-wide demands and report back in the first quarter of 2019. The Ambassador program represents front-line staff who work with shelters, housing, medical, and police teams to ensure that parks are safe, clean, and that those in need are connected with appropriate resources.
7. Community Spotlight: Friends of Allan Gardens
Allan Gardens is a special park in downtown Toronto. It's has been at various periods of its history a gathering place for Indigenous groups, a site of social protest, and a green gem in the middle of an ever growing city. It is also home to one of only three conservatories in the city.
As the downtown evolves, the 150-year old park must too. One of the groups that is working hard to ensure Allan Gardens remains healthy and vital is a non-profit volunteer group called Friends of Allan Gardens. The group seeks to draw out the potential the park has by advocating for fresh thinking and by building relationships with Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division and groups like the Indigenous Place Making Council.
Last week, City Council passed a motion by Councillor Wong-Tam to adopt the Friends of Allan Garden's "Refresh: A Vision Document for Allan Gardens," along with a request to explore a new governance model for the park. "Refresh" outlines principles for revitalization, priority actions and opportunities to improve the park, and will help make the horticultural garden stay relevant to as the social and cultural fabric of the city changes.
You can learn more about the work of Friends of Allan Gardens and read an online copy of "Refresh" here.
8. In the Community
Proud to stand with ACORN Canada in the call for the investment in affordable, accessible childcare and for the City of Toronto to keep its commitment to 20% investment to match the feds and the province.
Thank you ULI Toronto for inviting me to speak on this important post OMB panel discussion. Legislative changes bring opportunity to elevate the planning discourse to build better cities. The path ahead will take time to adapt to but the changes will be for the better.
Proud to support Zainab Arkani and her sisters. Myanmar is carrying out a genocide against the Rohingya minority and women's voices are rarely heard. Zainab brought us to tears with her brave words. Thank you Women's March Toronto for providing the opportunity for this brave woman to speak.
Honoured to addressed the crowd for a second time in a row at the 2018 Women's March and to speak about ways to make Toronto a more inclusive city!
Over 170 people attended last night's Town Hall on Gender-Responsive Budgeting. Residents spoke passionately about their values and expectation. They want Toronto City Council to create a better budget and to ensure services are in place when residents need them.
Proud to stand with my colleagues and the 2018 cohort of Protégées as the City of Toronto launches young women's leadership award in memory of Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell.
It's orientation day! With the City’s new protégées who will be working with women Councillors & City Officials, a program championed by the late Pam McConnell. Welcome protégées!
It was an honour to speak last night in support of Bill S238, Ban on Shark Fin Importation Act. Read my full statement here.
Thank you to University of Toronto's School of Public Policy for inviting me to speak about LGBTQ representation in city politics. Representation and diversity on City Council helps ensure that the voices of our most marginalized are heard and policies reflect community needs.
9. Development Map
Councillor Wong-Tam wants you to learn about current and upcoming development in your neighbourhood. The Ward 27 Development Map lists every application for a zoning by-law and/or official plan amendment received within the last 5 years. You can view the status of the application, learn briefly what it's about and find links to staff reports, applicant reports and more. The map also includes information about local neighbourhoods, including who is your Ward 27 staff contact and how to contact your local residents' association.
The development map will be regularly updated, with new applications and information when applicable. The map does not include Committee of Adjustment applications. If you see anything that you feel should be on the map, please contact email@example.com.
For more information and to view the map, please visit http://www.ward27news.ca/development.
10. Winter Readiness
It’s that time of the year again – winter! If you need more information about the city's plans for snow clearing, please visit www.toronto.ca/transportation.
To learn more about sidewalk snow clearing in Toronto and to view a map of the areas where the service is provided, please visit www.toronto.ca/transportation/snow/sidewalks.
The City of Toronto has created a webpage that enables residents to see the location of city plows, sidewalk plows and salt trucks and when their street was serviced by the city's winter operations crews. The webpage can be accessed at www.toronto.ca/plowTO.
Yours in service,