Opioid Crisis, Budget 2021, and COVID-19 Updates

Yesterday, Dr. de Villa announced that we have begun to see that the public health safety measures and the actions we continue to take as individuals are working. While case counts continue to be high, we know these measures are helping stop the spread of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, it is looking more likely that we are at risk of new COVID-19 variants taking hold in our community before we can fully roll out immunization. The same health protocols we have been practicing for the last year are even more important to stop community transmission of these new variants. We must remain vigilant. These variants are more contagious, can make people sicker, and those who have already recovered from COVID-19 may be infected again. These facts are not meant to scare, but simply to remind us all that we are not out of the woods yet. We need to keep consistent and remember that we need to stay apart to come together once more. 

I have heard from community members about their confusion if medical advice about wearing masks needs to be updated. The Toronto Star has provided frequently asked questions to help us better understand current guidelines and where there might be opportunities for improved policies. Toronto Public Health is continuously reviewing the evolving scientific information and our collective understanding of the virus. They continue to collaborate with Federal and Provincial public health agencies and partners in universities and hospitals. Read about Ontario’s Six-Part Plan here.

Toronto is witnessing a record amount of deaths related to opioid overdoses. There was a grim record of 34 fatalities in December 2020 equal to the number of opioid overdose deaths attended by Toronto paramedics in December in the three previous years combined. During the first 26 days of January, paramedics had already attended 30 fatal calls for suspected opioid overdoses.

In November, my colleagues and I at the Board of Health called upon the Provincial and Federal governments for more support and funding for public health programs to address addictions and mental health including supporting and funding the implementation of a spectrum of safer supply options and decriminalizing the simple possession of drugs for personal use. The Federal government recently announced $15 million to help fund four safer drug supply projects in British Columbia. People suffering from addiction need access to a safer, medical alternative from a licensed prescriber instead of gambling with highly unpredictable, toxic, and illegal supply. 

While the City of Toronto has taken unprecedented steps to help address mental health and addictions, we need more funding and wrap-around services to help those living with mental health and addiction challenges. These are Federal and Provincial jurisdictions and health challenges requiring a holistic, inter-governmental approach if we are to best help those in need. 

We have each been living with a global pandemic for almost a year, and that continues to take a toll on our mental health. As the winter months hit, please check in on loved ones. Winter months are challenging at the best of times. It is not easy being apart from one another so I encourage you to text, call, email, and connect with your loved ones. Remember that sometimes knowing someone else cares can shift a mindset. Please be gentle with yourself and others. We are all doing our best. You are not alone. If you need resources, there is a list available on my website

Today is the first City Council meeting of 2021, and the beginning of Black History Month. Now is a great time to start learning about Black history and how we can practice anti-Black racism. It is essential that we continue to practice this work alongside fighting against the systems that uphold racism. On February 18 and 19 2021, City Council will be discussing the City of Toronto 2021 budget. COVID-19 has exposed so many gaps in our support systems. These gaps disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, and racialized communities who make up so many of our frontline and essential workers. I am committed to creating and advocating for a budget that works to address these gaps. The budget is one tool that we can leverage to amplify marginalized voices and ensure a more equitable recovery.

If you’re looking to learn more about the budget and how to get involved, we have created a simple Budget 101 guide. There is still time to make your priorities known through this budget season. This year, my office has partnered with Ethelo to create the Toronto Centre’s Municipal Budget, a tool you can use to redistribute and allocate your tax dollars. Start today, and revisit later. Once you’ve submitted your ideal budget, you can see how other residents in the ward voted to allocate their dollars. Make your ideal budget today!

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


Community Corner in Ward 13

A promotional graphic with information about the Fred Victor pop-up testing

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our neighbourhoods, and some more disproportionately than others. In order to provide equitable access to testing across our neighbourhoods, there will be pop-up testing available at Fred Victor throughout February. Beginning February 3, there will be drop-in testing available at Fred Victor, 40 Oak Street. There is no cost, and no appointment needed. If you have one, please bring your OHIP card though it is not required. Please bring a piece of ID or mail with your full name on it (passport, bills, etc). 

When: Wednesday, February 3, 10, 1, and 24

Where: Fred Victor, 40 Oak Street

Time: 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

If you have any questions, please contact Josie Ricciardi from the Regent Park Community Health Centre at 416-203-4506.

Toronto Centre’s Budget Town Hall

A promotional graphic for Councillor Wong-Tam's Toronto Centre Budget Town Hall

While Toronto looks to rebuild and recover, conversations around the City’s budget are critical in ensuring that no one is left behind. Now, more than ever, we have to be specific about how we direct our finances. How do we determine the health of our communities? How can we make sustainable investments for our future? How can we help take care of ourselves and each other? Community revitalization is not just about bricks and mortar. Successful community revitalization is one where both the physical infrastructure and social development receive equal commitment and focus. Looking towards the future, this is how we can make our priorities known.

On February 9, 2021, join Councillor Wong-Tam and guest speaker, Anthony Ng, as they present the upcoming 2021 City of Toronto Budget. They will discuss key learnings from our Making Cents speaker series, as well as explore how you would spend your tax dollars with Toronto Centre’s Municipal Budget. There will also be an opportunity for you to ask any questions.

Budgeting can be intimidating, but we’ve made it super simple with our Budget 101 guide! 

When: February 9, 2021 

Time: 6:30 p.m - 8 p.m.

Where: RSVP here

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.

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.

City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates

Two COVID-19 Cases in Toronto Appear Linked to the B.1.1.7 Variant

Toronto Public Health (TPH) is announcing a COVID-19 outbreak believed to be linked to the B.1.1.7 variant.

City of Toronto Opens Second Modular, Supportive Housing Building

Mayor John Tory opened the City of Toronto’s second modular supportive housing building at 321 Dovercourt Rd., (formerly known as 150 Harrison St.) a part of Phase I of the City’s Modular Housing Initiative. Along with the recently-opened 11 Macey Ave., the two housing properties provide a total of 100 new affordable, supportive homes.

City of Toronto Prioritizes Health and Safety Measures Across Service Areas to Protect Residents, Staff and Communities from COVID-19 and Variants

The City of Toronto continues to respond to COVID-19 and is proactively taking steps to address COVID-19 variants, including the U.K variant. Toronto Public Health (TPH) continues to work with congregate settings, facilities and City divisions to increase infection prevention and control measures (IPAC) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and any variant strains.

Toronto Public Health Reports Record Number of Overdose Deaths

Toronto Public Health (TPH) released new data highlighting a record number of fatal calls for suspected opioid overdoses attended by Toronto Paramedic Services in December 2020– a total of 34. This represents the worst loss of lives to the opioid crisis recorded in a single month since TPH began monitoring this data in 2017. In addition, between January 1 and 26, 2021, preliminary data indicates that there were 30 fatal calls to paramedics for suspected opioid overdoses.

City of Toronto Urges Residents to Wear Masks in Enclosed Common Spaces of Apartment Buildings and Condominiums

The City of Toronto is urging residents to wear masks or face coverings in enclosed common spaces of apartment buildings and condominiums, such as elevators, hallways, lobbies, laundry rooms and any other shared facilities. Masks or face coverings should fully cover the nose, mouth and chin.

City of Toronto to Conduct Additional Education and Enforcement of the Mask Bylaw in Residential Buildings

The City of Toronto is conducting additional education and enforcement in residential apartment buildings and condominiums where multiple complaints have been received about mask usage in enclosed common spaces.

City of Toronto Recognizes the Importance of Mental Health in the Ongoing Fight Against COVID-19

The City of Toronto continues to respond to COVID-19. Mayor John Tory and Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa provided an update on the City’s measures to combat the resurgence of the virus in Toronto and reminded residents of available mental health supports.

City of Toronto Releases First-Ever Environmental, Social and Governance Report

The City of Toronto released its first-ever Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report at Executive Committee. This annual report outlines how the City is focused on ESG-related opportunities and risks across strategic priorities, sustainable finance and socioeconomic outcomes.

City of Toronto Executive Committee Approves Bigger and Better CaféTO Program to Help Local Restaurants

The City of Toronto Executive Committee today considered and approved a report that recommends an expanded CaféTO program starting this spring to help Toronto’s main street restaurants and bars during the ongoing pandemic. The report will then be considered by Toronto City Council at its next meeting from February 2 to 3.

More information on affected City services & facilities.

More updates from the City of Toronto.

Province of Ontario Updates

Infrastructure Ontario Invests in Community-Based Infrastructure Projects

Ontario continues to support its municipalities and other eligible public-sector partners in their work to improve the quality of life in their communities by providing affordable, long-term financing for infrastructure development and renewal. The provincial government announced that Infrastructure Ontario's (IO) Loan Program has committed to more than $550 million in loans, supporting 159 local infrastructure projects over the past year. The loan portfolio continues to grow and support community needs.

Ontario Takes Immediate Action to Stop the Spread of COVID-19 Variants

The Ontario government is taking immediate and decisive action to stop the spread of new COVID-19 variants throughout the province. It is implementing a six-point plan which includes mandatory on-arrival testing of international travellers, enhanced screening and sequencing to identify the new variants, maintaining public health measures to keep people safe, strengthening case and contact management to track the spread of new cases, enhanced protections for vulnerable populations, and leveraging the latest data to inform public health decisions.

Ontario Making Additional Investments to Keep Students and Staff Safe

As more students return to class today, the Ontario government is providing an additional $381 million, provided through the federal Safe Return to Class Fund, to keep schools safe from COVID-19. Although transmission in schools has been low, this funding will be used to improve air quality and ventilation in schools, support online learning, promote student mental health and hire additional staff. With this new funding, schools will have been provided with more than $1.6 billion to better protect students, staff, and families.

Ontario Community Support Program Extended until 2022

The Ontario government is extending the Ontario Community Support Program (OCSP) until 2022 to ensure that low-income seniors and people with disabilities have access to food, medicine and other essentials during COVID-19. The program was established in April 2020, and involves an innovative partnership with the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) and its large volunteer base in communities across the province. During that period nearly 800,000 deliveries have been made. 

Ontario Supports the Development of the Next Generation of PPE

The Ontario government is providing more than $2.3 million to McMaster University and the University of Toronto through the Ontario Together Fund to carry out research, development and testing of the next generation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). These projects will help improve the technology and better protect frontline workers. 

Ontario Supports Modernization of Small and Rural Communities

The Ontario government is investing over $40 million during COVID-19 to help small and rural municipalities improve the delivery of critical programs and services. The funding, under the Municipal Modernization Program, is part of the government's $125 million investment through 2022-23 to help small and rural municipalities become more efficient and save taxpayers' dollars.

Further Action Needed to Protect the Border and Stop the Spread of COVID-19

Over 6,800 international travellers have been tested for COVID-19 as part of the Ontario government's voluntary and free border testing pilot program at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. This program was implemented to help quickly identify and stop the spread of COVID-19 in the province. Despite this steady progress, the province is calling on the federal government to take further action to protect the border, including mandatory testing of all incoming international passengers and a temporary ban on direct flights from countries where new variants are detected.

Ontario Strengthens Sexual Violence and Harassment Policies at Post- Secondary Institutions

The Ontario Government is proposing changes to sexual violence and harassment policies at post-secondary institutions to ensure that students alleging an instance of sexual violence and harassment are not faced with irrelevant questions about their sexual history, and do not face repercussions for violating an institution's drug and alcohol policy. The proposed changes are part of the Government's efforts to increase campus safety, and to reduce the fear and stigma for students who are making an allegation of sexual violence or harassment.

Ontario Expands COVID-19 Inspections to Farming Operations

The Ontario government is taking additional measures to protect farmworkers during the pandemic by expanding provincewide inspections to farms, greenhouses and other agricultural operations to ensure health and safety measures are being followed.

Ontario Extends Off-Peak Electricity Rates to Provide Relief for Families, Small Businesses and Farms

The Ontario government is extending electricity rate relief for families, small businesses and farms to support those spending more time at home in response to the provincial Stay-at-Home Order. The government will continue to hold electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour until February 9, 2021. This lower rate is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week for Time-Of-Use and tiered customers.

More updates from the Province of Ontario.

Government of Canada Updates

Canada to Implement New Testing and Quarantine Measures to Reduce COVID-19 Infection Related to Non-Essential International Air Travel

The Government of Canada continues to take unprecedented action to protect the health and safety of Canadians by introducing new measures to help prevent further introduction and transmission of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus into Canada. 

Government of Canada Supporting Community-Led Initiatives for Vaccination in Northern Ontario

During a virtual town hall hosted by Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, underscored that all levels of government must continue to engage and work together with Indigenous leadership, partners, and communities to inform and support COVID-19 vaccine planning and rollout.

The Government of Canada Intends to Create National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, announced the Government of Canada’s intention to make January 29th a National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia, to honour the victims and express solidarity with the survivors of this tragedy.

Government Announces Priorities for Action to Increase Diversity and Inclusion in the Public Service

The public service has long made diversity and inclusion a core value and continuously reflects on the treatment of Black Canadians, Indigenous Peoples, and other individuals who face racial discrimination and other barriers in the workplace, and who are often underrepresented at the most senior levels of the public service. While there has been progress, too many public servants continue to face obstacles. It is time to close the gaps and eliminate the barriers that remain, ensuring the public service is truly representative of the people it serves.

Government of Canada Commits to Fund Shelters for Inuit Women

The Government of Canada announced support for new shelters to improve the safety and security of Inuit women and children, including those living in Inuit Nunangat and in urban areas.

Canada and the UK Host Round-Table Discussion on Climate Risks and Opportunities, with Finance Leaders and Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance 

Canada and the United Kingdom hosted a virtual round table with Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance, and finance leaders from North America and Europe to discuss the importance of phasing out market support for unabated coal power, from climate-risk and clean-energy-investment perspectives. Following their discussion, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson; the UK’s Minister of State, the Right Honourable Anne-Marie Trevelyan; and Mark Carney issued the following statements.

Canada and Ontario Invest in Accessible Public Transit Infrastructure for Residents of Peel Region

The safety and well-being of Canadians are top priorities of the governments of Canada and Ontario. Investments in Ontario’s infrastructure during this extraordinary time provides an opportunity to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and to make our communities more inclusive and resilient.

More updates from the Government of Canada.

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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