The 2019 City Budget was passed last week and I sought to put gender and equity-responsive budgeting priorities first. Council supported my motion to provide women, girls, and trans people with menstrual hygiene supplies in our shelters, community centres, and respite spaces. I invited Regent Park families to tell the Budget Committee how hard it is for local families to get access to our new community pools and won a new program that will give local youth swim time, training, and job opportunities. Council also supported a commercial tax cap for 2019, supporting small businesses and the work I initiated with local operators in 2017.
Unfortunately, Council did not support many other essential programs that contribute to sustaining a healthy and liveable city. Council did not support full, sustained funding for the Poverty Reduction Strategy, keeping TTC fares affordable, or expanding access to libraries and recreation programs in a meaningful way.
These are ongoing priorities that I will continue to focus on and advocate for. They are essential in building an equitable and sustainable city that meets the needs of all our residents. I would like to thank the countless residents, community groups and organizations for your sustained advocacy. Your determination and commitment to improving the lives of all Torontonians play an important role in moving the dial forward. I look forward to continuing our work together to fight for a city we believe in.
Yours in community service,
Table of Contents
- Town Hall on Gender and Equity Responsive Budgeting
- Snow Clearing Standards
- Improving Access to Recreation for Regent Park Residents in Local Facilities
- Menstrual Equity
- Neighbourhood Information Post
- Save the Date – Councillor Wong-Tam's Annual Environment Day!
- St. James Town Spring Gathering – March 22, 2019
- David Crombie Park Revitalization Design – April 2, 2019
- King-Parliament Secondary Plan Review Workshop – April 11, 2019
- BEE-utify your neighbourhood! Start a pollinator garden!
- Get Involved in the City Youth Council of Toronto
- Kristyn in the Community
- Community Spotlight: Reaching Out Through Music
- Media Roundup
- TDSB Trustee Update - Chris Moise
1. Town Hall on Gender and Equity Responsive Budgeting
Thank you to all who joined us last week for our Town Hall on Gender & Equity Responsive Budgeting. Over 70 people participated in a deep dive into the 2019 City budget and Data-On-The-Spot digital voting was used to crowd-source answers from the audience and display on the screen in real time.
A 1% property tax increase would generate $31.15 million and help fund expanded recreation programs for youth, more child care subsidies, homelessness prevention programs, repairs for Toronto Community Housing and even reverse the ten cent fare hike that goes into effect this April for TTC riders.
Implementing a $40/year Vehicle Registration Tax to bring in an additional $36 million would do all the above and more. This is the equivalent of 10 donuts and 10 coffees per year – something Ward 13 residents said they would give up to gain more valuable city programs and services.
56% of the audience voted for both a modest 1% increase in property taxes, as well as the introduction of a $40/year Vehicle Registration Tax. Only 3% of the audience voted for "None of the Above."
Thank you to our incredible panelists, Anjum Sultana from YWCA Toronto, Sarah Blackstock from the City of Toronto's Social Finance and Development division, and urban planner and gender justice advocate Prabha Kosla for an engaging conversation about the importance of gender and equity responsive budgeting for advancing equity in the design and delivery of City of Toronto services. Thank you to our residents' associations and community partners for your on-going partnership, including YWCA Toronto, Social Planning Toronto, CUPE 4948, Toronto Women's City Alliance and more.
2. Snow Clearing Standards
This winter has seen some of the heaviest snowfalls in years and many residents have been in touch with my office and 311 to report uncleared roads, hazardous sidewalk conditions and slow response times to service requests. While many have been inconvenienced by these service levels, many others have found them to be fundamentally unsafe, especially the elderly and those with accessibility needs. I am glad to say that there was support for reviewing our policies and budget at City Council during the 2019 Budget deliberations.
Today, approximately 90 percent of snow removal and salting services are contracted out and the budget has contracted since 2016. Further, Toronto and East York have both received service levels lower than Scarborough, Etobicoke and York since amalgamation. While the other districts receive sidewalk snow removal, this tax-funded service has never been extended to our ward or our neighbours.
City Council supported my snow clearing service level motion that initiates a report back on options for bringing snow removal services back in-house and evaluates what it would take to raise downtown service levels to be consistent with suburban wards. The next step will be to advocate the necessary funding as part of the 2020 Budget. Stay tuned for updates on this important issue over the year ahead.
3. Improving Access to Recreation for Regent Park Residents in Local Facilities
I am proud to announce that on March 7th, 2019 during City Council's Budget meeting, City Council approved funding for the Regent Park Aquatic Program Pilot. Council voted in favour to increase the Parks, Forestry and Recreation budget by $80,000 to support the first phase of the Regent Park Aquatic Program Pilot. This is a positive step forward to addressing challenges to program registration in the community. The Pilot Project was created out of the growing inequities and disparities with* access to recreation programs at both the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre and the Regent Park Community Centre.
As Regent Park has transformed into a mixed-income community, low-income families are finding access to recreation programs increasingly difficult. With the free centre policy and limited space in recreation programs, families are required to have multiple devices with high-speed internet or camp outside of City recreation centres in hopes of enrolling their children in programming. The Aquatic Pilot Project was spearheaded by the Regent Park-based community group, Access to Recreation. The group is made up of community leaders and organizers who have personally experienced the complex barriers to program registration.
The Regent Park Aquatic Program Pilot will be in partnership with two local Regent Park schools: Lord Dufferin Junior and Senior Public School and Nelson Mandela Public, and local community organizations. I look forward to continuing to work with community groups and City Staff from Recreation Services on the pilot project!
4. Calling on City of Toronto Funding for Menstrual Equity
On March 7th, City Council voted to increase the 2019 Shelter, Support and Housing Administration Budget by $222,359, to fund access to menstrual hygiene supplies, for low-income menstruators.
This historic new funding will be available to City-contracted shelters, drop-in and respite centres, as well as 'Strong Neighbourhood' community centres, for the specific purchase of menstrual hygiene supplies and washroom dispensers.
This budget victory was achieved through the hard work and advocacy of service providers, program participants, and advocates including the Period Purse, Sistering, Fred Victor, Kennedy House Youth Shelter, and many more. I must also thank the City staff and Councillors who worked to advance menstrual hygiene as a funding priority.
The funding achieved for 2019 is just a start. Over the next few months Shelter, Support and Housing Administration staff will be consulting with stakeholders, to gain a better understanding of how the City can improve on the provision of menstrual hygiene supplies, in 2020 and beyond. Their report is expected to come forward, to the Economic and Community Development Committee in May 2019.
5. Neighbourhood Information Post
Unfortunately, some funding battles were less successful. I was extremely disappointed that City Council voted against a $70,000 increase for Neighbourhood Information Post's Housing Trusteeship Program.
The Trusteeship Program aids vulnerable clients, who are in jeopardy of losing their housing as a result of money management issues. These clients have mental health concerns and cognitive disabilities that hinder their capacity to independently manage personal finances. Capacity issues affecting money management can often lead to rental arrears, and ultimately eviction. The Trusteeship Program, however, facilitates clients to voluntarily sign over their income to a Trustee. The Trustee then ensures that rent, and other financial requirements, are met on time. It is a highly cost-effective way to keep vulnerable individuals in stable housing. It also helps at-risk individuals to access housing, by providing their landlords with the assurance of timely rental payments. This program acts as a liaison between the client and the Landlord, and eliminates any financial risk for landlords who accept vulnerable individuals as tenants.
$70,000 would have allowed Neighbourhood Information Post, the community-based organization administering the program, to hire an additional staff person, and expand service to an additional 50-60 clients. Currently, the program is oversubscribed, and the organization is unable to meet the demand for referrals.
Housing stabilization programs are a vitally important tool in preventing homelessness. With shelters over capacity, and very limited availability of supportive, transitional, and affordable housing in Toronto, City Council cannot afford to bypass these critical investments. I will continue to support and advocate for the expansion of programs and services that address this growing crisis.
6. Save the Date – Councillor Wong-Tam's Annual Environment Day!
Join us at beautiful Allan Gardens for a fun-filled day of activities! Our yearly Environment Day event connects residents with City services and community organizations that are vital to creating healthy, livable neighbourhoods. We will be hosting a special lunch and various activities for parents and children!
What: Councillor Wong-Tam's Community Environment Day
When: Saturday, April 20, 2019, 10am to 2pm
Where: Allan Gardens, 19 Horticultural Ave., along Carlton St.
Full program and community groups to be announced.
Visit any time between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to donate and recycle, get your kitchen compost and garbage containers, show off your crafting skills, connect with the community, and more.
We look forward to seeing you there!
7. St. James Town Spring Gathering – March 22, 2019
You are invited to the 6th annual St. James Town Spring Gathering on Friday, March 22, 2019, hosted by the St. James Town Community Corner.
At this year's Spring Gathering, service agencies will be working together with residents to plan and build on existing and new initiatives in St. James Town. These initiatives include: a Neighbourhood Association; Income Generating Initiatives such as Local Catering and a Share/Re-use Hub; Harm Reduction activities in St. James Town; Intergenerational project; and activities to address newcomer isolation.
The Spring Gathering will also be a time to reflect on the strength and future potential of the St. James Town community's resilience, grassroots organizing, and multi-sectoral networking and support efforts that have come to the forefront in the relief efforts related to recent large scale incidents at 650 Parliament and 260 Wellesley Street East.
What: St. James Town Spring Gathering
When: Friday, March 22, 2019, 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Where: Rose Avenue Public School (675 Ontario Street), in the double gym
8. David Crombie Park Revitalization Design – April 2, 2019
The City of Toronto invites you to learn more about the proposed improvements to David Crombie Park. Staff are hosting a public information workshop to:
- Present draft concept plan options
- Receive public input
- Identify community preferences and priorities
- Discuss next steps.
Councillor Joe Cressy, Ward 10 - Spadina-Fort York and I will be in attendance during the evening meeting. Everyone is welcome to attend.
What: David Crombie Park Revitalization Public Information Workshop
When: Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm OR 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm. (Choose a session that best suits your schedule.)
Where: St. Lawrence Community Centre (230 The Esplanade), Multi-Use Room
ASL interpreters may be provided, if available. Please contact 311 in advance of this meeting if an interpreter is needed.
9. King-Parliament Secondary Plan Review Workshop – April 11, 2019
City staff are holding a second round of public consultation for the King-Parliament Secondary Plan Review. This built form workshop will be an opportunity for the community to talk to City Planning about what the community likes and doesn't like about recent development in the area. In addition, the workshop will discuss some of the tools planners can use to shape built form.
What: King-Parliament Secondary Plan Review Public Consultation
When: Thursday, April 11, 2019, 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Temporary North Market Tent, 125 The Esplanade
10. BEE-utify your neighbourhood! Start a pollinator garden!
The City is now accepting applications for its new PollinateTO Community Grants. Through the grants, the City will provide up to $5,000 to support community-led initiatives that create or expand pollinator habitat (gardens) in Toronto. The grants are a component of Toronto’s Pollinator Protection Strategy.
Through its new PollinateTO Community Grants, the City is offering grants of up to $5,000 to support community-led projects that:
- create pollinator gardens and rain gardens on public and private lands, including residential streets, neighbourhoods and schoolyards; or
- enhance or expand existing gardens with native pollinator-friendly plants.
Native pollinators are under threat from climate change, habitat loss and other stressors. You can help! Learn more and apply by May 1, 2019.
11. Get Involved in the City Youth Council of Toronto
The City Youth Council of Toronto (CYCTO) gives young people in Toronto a voice. They empower you. They give you the opportunity to learn more about municipal politics, reach out to your community, and inﬂuence how your city works.
If you are between 12 and 18, you can join. As a member of the CYCTO, you can start conversations that are important to you. You can connect with youth from all across the GTA. You can have a life-changing experience that will impact your neighbourhood, your community and your city.
Every year, the City Youth Council of Toronto hosts elections to elect 1 Youth Councillor in each ward across Toronto. The next election for the City Youth Council of Toronto will be held from April 22 - 28.
12. Kristyn in the Community
Broad discussion with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs about housing, homelessness, paid duty officers, security for places of worship, Indigenous languages and more. Thank you for taking the time to meet.
Staff providing updates on More Moss Park. Recreation services, the arena and park programming are all important to this community of tremendous need. Next step is to reconnect with local stakeholders and the community about their proposed changes.
Thank you Black Cap Toronto for all the exceptional work you do in the community to provide support for newcomers from the Caribbean and African diaspora. Your leadership in raising awareness and breaking down stigmas around homophobia, transphobia and HIV/AIDS has transformed lives!
Thank you Celebrate Toronto for hosting the 3rd annual Celebrate Toronto Festival. It's wonderful to see many happy families gathered at Nathan Phillips Square Every year the party gets bigger & better.
Congratulations to all the shortlisted candidates and the winners of the Pam McConnell Young Women in Leadership award. Pam would have been so proud to see such extraordinary women leaders follow in her footsteps. Brava!
Thank you to everyone who came out to our Gender & Equity Responsive Budgeting Town Hall. Residents had a lot of fun with Data-on-the-Spot to give us direct feedback. I hope everyone learned a lot about the city budget and its impacts!
Pleased to be at St. Patrick subway for the launch of the TTC's newest accessible station with TTC Chair Councillor Jay Robinson, Mayor John Tory, ACAT Chair Aribi, Artist Babara Todd and Amexon Development. AODA compliance is important to the TTC and this represents another move toward equitable access.
It was a powerful evening with thoughtful and compelling speakers in Hamilton at FemCare Community Health Initiative's Menstrual Health Forum. True honour to share the stage with this group of knockout menstrual equity advocates.
Thank you Jack.org for the opportunity to share ideas on solution-oriented system change to better address youth mental health needs. The keen interest and passion in the room was palpable. Can't wait to see what these young leaders do next!
Great discussion with the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association as we work together to build a stronger, safer and more prosperous Regent Park for all. Everything is riding on the final phases of the TCH revitalization. I'm proud to be standing with these dynamic community leaders!
Pleased to bring city and neighbourhood updates to the McGill Granby Village Residents' Association at their Annual General Meeting. They're an especially hardworking and progressive group of city builders!
Big thanks to the West Don Lands Committee for the opportunity to speak with your members. It's an honour to be working with such a visionary group who has been championing this emerging neighbourhood including the new Indigenous Hub by Anishnawbe Health.
Thank you to Ryerson University's Chang School for inviting me to participate in a thought-provoking discussion, Rethinking City Governance: How Much Control Should the Province Have Over Our Cities.
It was a Friday night and democracy was in action at City Hall with residents, staff and Councillors Mike Layton and Joe Cressy at our Downtown Budget Town Hall. Residents are passionate about transit and housing. My favourite moment was when a Toronto Centre resident spoke in favour of public banking!
Over 250 local residents poured into the Wellesley Community Centre to learn about the ongoing fire inspections and to demand landlords respect tenant rights. This became the founding meeting of the new St. James Town Tenants' Association. Thank you to all who attended!
13. Community Spotlight: Reaching Out Through Music
Reaching Out Through Music (ROTM), a registered charity established in 2007, provides free, high-quality music education to the children and youth of St. James Town
At the heart of ROTM is the St. James Town Children's Choir, which welcomes children from Grades 3 and up. No prior musical experience is required. Children learn to sing with professionally trained staff, learn to read music, enjoy the beauty of live piano accompaniment, and above all make friends and commence a lifelong joy of music participation and appreciation. As well, the St. James Town Children's Choir has a growing number of performance opportunities which serve to boost confidence and nurture pride in community outreach.
Private and small group lessons are available to those children who participate in the choir in the disciplines of piano, violin, guitar, and voice. ROTM is about to launch a brand new Recorder Choir project which will welcome children from Grades 4 and up to this program offered in the St. James Town Community Corner.
14. Media Roundup
Leaked documents reveal Sidewalk Labs want a lot more than Quayside, BetaKit, February 15, 2019
Toronto eyes extending 10-per-cent cap on tax increases for commercial businesses, The Globe and Mail, March 1, 2019
City of Toronto to provide menstrual products for homeless women, girls, The Globe and Mail, March 5, 2019
Displaced residents of 650 Parliament out until August, City News, March 9, 2019
A look at TTC accessibility through the eyes of a rider who uses two canes, Toronto Star, March 10, 2019
2019 City Budget: How did your City Councillor vote?, Social Planning Toronto, March 11, 2019
15. TDSB Trustee Update - Chris Moise
At the end of last year, the Provincial government made some serious cuts that impact students. Grant reductions have hit our own communities directly and has resulted in the loss of tutor programs, and equity-focused programs, including investments supporting indigenous students. For students in St. James Town and Regent Park, some of the hardest news was that these cuts threatened the Focus on Youth program, which provides after-school programming and employment opportunities for children and teenagers in Toronto's priority neighbourhoods.
In my tours of our local schools, meeting with parents on their TDSB budget priorities, and hearing from experts on the value of these investments, it was clear that Focus on Youth could not be allowed to fail. I am very glad to say that my fellow Board members concurred and we were able to fund the program this year by internally redirecting TDSB funds to make up the difference. While this is unlikely to be the last time our critical programs are threatened by cut-backs, I will stand with my peers and continue to work with parents and our wider communities to ensure that those with the most urgent needs are not forgotten or left behind.