On Monday, Marit Stiles and I joined business leaders in the historic St. Lawrence Market for a press conference to call on the Federal government to fix the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program. Understanding that many small businesses, including those in Toronto Centre, are still struggling to get past significant COVID-related financial setbacks, I have personally written to and called on the Prime Minister to extend the deadline for the forgivable portion of the CEBA loan until the end of December this year.
During the height of the pandemic, CEBA was a lifeline for small businesses. CEBA allowed small businesses to stay solvent, pay rent, and keep their staff employed.
I watched with deep disappointment yesterday as CEBA’s repayment deadline passed, and the Prime Minister confirmed that he would not extend it.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses' survey warns that this could worsen the crisis on main streets across the country. Their data reports that one-third, or approximately 100,000 businesses, will be forced to take out a bank loan at today’s high interest rates to make their loan payment, and a further 100,000 businesses (one-third of all surveyed) have no means to secure a loan at all.
Maintaining a deadline that two-thirds of small businesses cannot meet is not an acceptable government policy when our country verges on a recession.
Before becoming an elected official, I was a small business owner. I owned a coffee shop on Church Street and an art gallery in the Queen West neighbourhood. I know how tough it is to run a successful business at the best of times – and I never had to contend with a global health pandemic.
It is beyond comprehension that the federal and provincial governments let this deadline pass, knowing that thousands of small business owners are now out in the cold and will have to lay off employees. Instead of supporting small businesses, Ford’s Conservatives are rewarding big retailers and their already wealthy CEOs at Shoppers, Staples, and Walmart. It’s shameful that Ford did not use his immense political voice to firmly and vocally call on the Prime Minister to demonstrably support small businesses with a repayment extension. He showed us once again that Conservatives are only interested in supporting their political donors and corporate friends with big bank accounts.
An Ontario dominated by big box stores and empty main streets is not an Ontario that I want to live in. I will never stop fighting for the small businesses that make our communities unique and vibrant.
Yours in community service,
MPP, Toronto Centre
Every year around this time, the Ontario government hosts pre-budget consultations across the province. Government officials and MPPs travel to communities to hear from local governments, businesses, community organizations, and residents about their priorities and what they want to see in the budget. This practice is admirable and keeps our democracy strong.
However, this year, the Conservative government decided not to hold any pre-budget consultations in Toronto. ZERO in our province’s largest city. This is unacceptable and a clear message that this government is afraid to face the consequences of their backroom deals that have so profoundly affected Torontonians.
Yesterday, the Ontario NDP Caucus hosted our own pre-budget consultation for Toronto. We heard from housing, community, and environmental organizations about what they need from their government. It was an honour to listen to these groups’ stories and understand their needs. I am excited to bring their requests to this government in the upcoming Legislative session.
Ford is falling behind on his housing goals and failing to meet the targets that his own government set for themselves in 2023.
This week, Global News revealed that the province is now even further behind in its goal of building 1.5 million homes by 2031. The Conservatives only continue to worsen the housing crisis by prioritizing backroom deals they are later forced to backtrack on when their corruption is revealed. If they were genuinely committed to building housing, they would be hitting their targets and focusing on building affordable housing in the places that people want to live.
This week, the West Don Lands Committee wrapped up their 26 years of devoted service to our developing waterfront communities. The committee has fostered and supported many vibrant neighbourhood associations in the waterfront communities that were created over the committee's lifetime, and they feel confident in passing on their work to these capable associations. I can’t wait to see how the committee's work lives on in this new iteration.
I particularly want to thank co-chairs John Wilson and Cindy Wilkey, who guided the committee for so many years. Thank you for your leadership, friendship, advocacy, and love for our communities.
The committee accomplished so much in its 26 years. Still, two personal highlights for me are their advocacy for the preservation and recognition of the First Parliament site and their work alongside the St Lawrence and Corktown communities to save the Foundry.
I recently submitted notice to the Clerk at Queen’s Park that I will call up the Gender Affirming Health Care Act for my first ballot date at Queen’s Park. This will be the Gender Affirming Health Care Act’s second reading. I will have more details for you soon — if you are interested in helping lobby the government and advocate for this bill, you can sign up here.
The Toronto Centre NDP is organizing a canvass to call on the Federal government to give Toronto a fair deal. On Sunday January 21, 2024, you can join Toronto Centre volunteers as we gather petitions for a day of action to talk to our neighbours about how we're calling on the federal government to support the City of Toronto. No prior canvassing experience is required, and training will be provided for first time canvassers. Be sure to dress warm and wear comfortable footwear!
The position of Associate Chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) is vacant for the fifth time in five years. This role is effectively the chair of the tribunal and reports directly to the Chair of Tribunals Ontario. They are responsible for the recruitment and training of new members, management of the case load, development of procedural rules, as well as adjudicative and policy leadership.
This is a critical job that requires expertise in human rights law, as well as management experience. This type of experience isn't just suggested, it is legislatively mandated in the Human Rights Code.
However, appointments to the HRTO by the Ford government have rarely followed these requirements. This lack of experience in leadership positions has been compounded by the refusal of the government to reappoint many experienced human rights adjudicators (seemingly only because they had been appointed by the previous government).
This lack of experience and high turnover has resulted in huge delays and many fewer hearings than was previously normal. In the past couple of years, the number of final merit decisions released by the HRTO has fallen by more than 50%. At the same time, the tribunal is dismissing an unprecedented number of applications at the early stages and an alarming increase in abandoned applications. Often applicants wait more than a year to move forward before abandoning their cases.
I am joining Tribunal Watch Ontario in calling on the government and Tribunals Ontario to commit to a full and transparent recruitment and appointment process to fill the very important position of Associate Chair of the Human Rights Tribunal and to ensure that the process complies with the applicable legislation.
The St James Town Community Corner is seeking community ambassadors!
What is involved?
The last date for submissions is Wednesday, 24th January
Contact [email protected] or visit us @ The Corner, 200 Wellesley St. E
Where: Central YMCA, 20 Grosvenor Street, Toronto, or virtually by Zoom
When: Saturday January 20, 10 am – 4:30 pm & Sunday January 21, 9 am – 12:30 pm
Note: this is a paid conference - tickets can be purchased here.
The Ford government is trying to close and diminish our local public hospital services. They are privatizing and deregulating the health care workforce. They are privatizing our core hospital services, long-term care, home care, primary care, and public health. They are also building the infrastructure for private for-profit hospitals.
Now, more than ever, we need fearless, strong, ambitious action to stop privatization and force the rebuilding of our public health care.
Each year, the Ontario Health Coalition invites everyone who believes in Public Medicare and wants to defend and improve it to join together in a major strategy session. Join them for an important and fun weekend of briefings, speakers, report-ins, and strategizing on January 20 & 21.
The Victim Services Awards of Distinction deadline has been extended to January 29, 2024, at 11:59 pm!
Click here to nominate a local leader!
This awards program recognizes the leadership, expertise, and commitment of local volunteers, professionals, and organizations who dedicate their time to ensuring those who have experienced victimization can access critical support and services. It also honours those that have been personally impacted by crime and are now working to bring awareness to victims’ issues in Ontario.
The City of Toronto, in collaboration with United Way Greater Toronto, is pleased to announce that nominations are now open for the Toronto Community Champion Award 2024 program.
In March 2023, the City recognized 25 organizations from across Toronto at the inaugural award ceremony. Due to the resounding success of this program, Toronto City Council agreed to continue this exciting program as an annual initiative.
The Toronto Community Champion Award recognizes and acknowledges the extraordinary contributions that community organizations make to support the health and solidarity of the residents of the City of Toronto, particularly those from Black, Indigenous, and other equity-deserving communities.
We encourage you to share the Toronto Community Champion Award nomination form with your constituents and community partners. The website is now open for Toronto residents to nominate organizations known for their “community collaboration.” The deadline to nominate is Sunday, February 4, 2024 at 11:55 p.m. Recipients will be announced in May 2024 and honoured at an award ceremony.
For more information on the Toronto Community Champion Award, including criteria and eligibility, and to access the nomination form, please visit the program’s webpage.
If you have any questions, please let us know. In the meantime, we are grateful for your support in getting the word out to encourage nominations in your riding.
Are you beginning to pave your career path? Do you have an interest in civics and current affairs? Are you actively involved in your community? Do you have aspirations to seek public office or want to know what it's like to be a political representative? The Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s Women’s Forum will bring together 124 young women and gender-diverse individuals from across Ontario for a full-day program in Toronto to promote active citizenship and public engagement through education and empowerment.
One individual between the ages of 18-30 will be selected from each provincial riding to represent their community and experience parliament in action, meet prominent Ontario women and key parliamentary figures, and gain a behind-the-scenes perspective of Ontario’s Parliament.
Applications are being accepted until TOMORROW, January 21, 2024.
The SLNA Waste Reduction Group is holding its 9th REmarket, a two-day event to collect unwanted items.
A totally free market (FreeMarket) will also be held. Guests can donate and take items for free (not for commercial resale). Bring your own bag.
Repair Café Toronto will be fixing clothing, jewelry, computers, home electronics, small appliances, housewares, and toys, while CultureLink Bike Hub will be doing minor bike repairs and safety checks.
Full event details and guidelines can be found here.
Please email [email protected] with any questions.
Bring your questions for New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh, who returns to the Democracy Forum at TMU to discuss how his party applies pressure to the Liberal government through its supply and confidence agreement in a minority Parliament. From domestic to foreign issues, Singh’s left-leaning NDP has been at the centre of a political balancing act.
Sponsored by the Dais, this free event is open to all students and the general public, with advance registration required.
When: Friday, Feb 2, 1 PM - 2 PM
The legislature resumed this week, and your Ontario NDP team hit the ground running, holding Doug Ford’s PCs to account and presenting solutions to make life better. My colleagues and I are focusing on offering solutions around housing, healthcare, and cost of living. I spent two days this week in Justice Policy Committee hearings, listening to stakeholders present tangible solutions that would improve access to justice and efficiencies in our courts.
I look forward to putting forward amendments to the government’s Bill 157 next week that would put many of these ideas into action, including increasing funding to legal aid clinics and victim compensation.
I am already looking forward to next week, when I will present my Bill, The Gender Affirming Healthcare Act, for second reading on Thursday, February 29, 2024. If you would like to attend the debate in person, you can RSVP here. It will also be streamed live on my Facebook page.
The day before, on Wednesday 28, 2024, I will be hosting a Community Assembly on Gender Affirming Care alongside some very special guests!
The Gender Affirming Healthcare Act is being brought forward at a time when social conservatives are using the rights and care of Trans people to start a culture war. Danielle Smith, Pierre Poilievre, and countless US lawmakers are announcing policies that take away the rights of Trans youth to be their authentic selves. These policies are founded on transphobia, hatred, and a fundamental disregard for science. Study after study concludes the same thing: trans folks' mental health improves when healthcare and social support honours their gender — the regret rates for gender-affirming surgeries are about 1%, dramatically lower than those for common surgeries like knee replacements.
Tragically, this anti-Trans rhetoric has serious consequences. CSIS just published a warning that the 'anti-gender movement' poses a threat of 'extreme violence.’ And we are already seeing that violence – many of you have probably heard about the heartbreaking death of Nex Benedict, an Indigenous, nonbinary teenager in Oklahoma who was beaten by peers in a school bathroom after the state passed a law saying that students must use the bathroom that aligns with the gender assigned to them at birth. Throughout next week, I will keep Nex’s memory in my heart as a reminder of what we are fighting for.
Yours in community service,
MPP, Toronto Centre
In this newsletter
- Killer of London Family Sentenced
- Petition - Restore funding to UNWRA
- Addictions Crisis Grows in Ontario
- Local Community News
Killer of London Family Sentenced
This week, my heart has been with the extended Afzaal family, their loved ones, and the wider Muslim community of London and beyond. Yesterday, the sentencing for Nathaniel Veltman was held — which found that his actions constituted “terrorist activity.” Veltman was earlier found guilty of the horrific murder of the Afzaal family in 2021.
Naming Veltman’s actions as terrorist activity is not only clearly true, but a landmark decision. This is the first time in Canada that an action motivated by white nationalism and white supremacy has been declared to be terrorism by a judge.
Since 2021, London’s Muslim community, friends and family of the Afzaal family, and our broader community have been mourning the senseless loss of life of Our London Family. This hateful act has sent shockwaves across our province.
Over the past few months, we heard heart-wrenching testimonies from family members, friends, and the young, sole survivor of the attack — who lost his entire family in the blink of an eye.
Yesterday’s sentencing verdict is a step towards justice for our communities, the Afzaal family, and their loved ones. Nothing will ever make up for this immense loss and the irreparable hurt to our community. But accountability is vital for a future in Ontario where vicious hate like this has no place.
Petition — Restore funding to UNWRA
The humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to be horrific, as even the most basic aid is restricted from entering Rafah. This is unacceptable.
I am continuing to echo the words of my Federal colleague NDP MP Heather McPherson as she calls the Canadian government to restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) and answer calls for an arms embargo on Israel. UNWRA is the leading provider of essential supplies to keep Palestinians alive in the Gaza Strip. Cuts to their funding are a death sentence to millions of displaced Palestinians. The NDP supports an investigation into the 12 UNWRA staff accused of involvement in the horrific violence of October 7, 2023. However, UNWRA is a massive agency employing over 30,000 people — defunding UNWRA constitutes collective punishment. You can sign NDP MP McPherson’s petition to restore Canada’s funding to UNWRA here.
I am horrified and enraged by the news that the Netanyahu war cabinet has set a hostage release deadline coinciding with the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. If the deadline passes, the Netanyahu war cabinet says that they will begin a ground offensive on Rafah. Every ground offensive thus far has disproportionately affected innocent civilians, especially children. Given how densely Rafah is populated with Palestinians fleeing violence, I can’t imagine that this time could be any different. The hostages held by Hamas must be released. Punishing and killing innocent civilians will put the hostages in harm's way.
A ground offensive on Rafah would be unacceptable at any time. Still, the timing of this with a month of prayer and reflection seems uniquely designed to further break the spirits of Palestinians and take place when Muslims around the world are busy with family obligations, faith practices, and community events.
Public pressure on our government is working. Canada finally signed on to international statements supporting a ceasefire because of the public pressure Trudeau Liberals are facing. I encourage you to continue signing petitions and reaching out to your federal representatives to enact an arms embargo, restore funding for UNWRA, and press all elected officials to let Gaza live.
Addictions Crisis Grows in Ontario
In Toronto Centre, we are no strangers to the consequences of the opioid epidemic and the poisoned drug supply crisis. Many of us feel the strain of these crises in our communities, our hospitals, and our own families.
The crisis is worsening across Ontario and I am so proud of my fellow NDP MPPs for speaking up for their communities and beyond who are crying out for help to save lives. On February 8, the Mayor of Belleville declared a local state of emergency after EMS responded to 17 drug overdoses in just over 24 hours.
This past Wednesday, MPP Lisa Gretzky, our critic for Mental Health and Addictions, called for urgent support in Belleville after the province ignored the mayor’s request for addictions support in the wake of a local emergency.
“In the wake of a devastating series of overdoses, the Mayor of Belleville reached out to this government for urgent support to help prevent any further tragedies,” said Gretzky. “He asked for simple, meaningful solutions to ensure this never happens again. Incredibly, his calls were ignored by this government.”
On Tuesday, the Mayor of Belleville said that if the Province won’t help, they’ll have to find another way to open a community hub to help people. Why is the Premier leaving the people of Belleville to deal with this crisis themselves, when solutions have been presented clearly to his government?
I am joining my colleagues in calling on the Conservatives to immediately provide funding for this desperately needed service hub and detox centre and commit to reliable, ongoing support to address the addictions and mental health crisis. There’s no time to waste. We owe it to the people of Belleville and every municipality in Ontario to have their backs. Lives depend on it.
Dental Care Day of Action
Join the Toronto Centre NDP for a Day of Action to talk to neighbours about how Jagmeet Singh and our NDP team in Ottawa is delivering dental care for Canadians.
When: Sunday, March 3, 2-5 PM
Where: David Crombie Park (Sherborne & the Esplanade, Southwest Corner)
No prior canvassing experience is required, and training will be provided for first-time canvassers.
We'll meet at David Crombie Park (Sherborne St & the Esplanade, on the Southwest corner) and then canvass in the surrounding area.
Be sure to dress warmly and wear comfortable footwear. See you soon!
Community Events & Info
Strengthening Our Roots Youth & Community Mixer
Stop by Daniels Spectrum tomorrow at 585 Dundas St. East for a Black History Month Youth & Community Mixer! The event is open from 12 PM to 5 PM to all who want to come! There will be food, performances, and other fun activities to honour Black Canadians and their legacy.
If you would like to volunteer, please contact [email protected] for more details.
TNG Repair Café
The Neighbourhood Group and the St. James Town Community Centre are coming together for a Repair Cafe. You can learn how to fix computers, clothing, bikes, and more! Attend for free on February 24 from 12 PM to 4 PM at the Central Neighbourhood House.
They are also looking for handy volunteers with experience fixing items. Find out more here!
St. James Town Black History Month Celebration
St. James Town Black History Month Celebration is happening next week on Wednesday, February 28, at the Wellesley Community Centre on the second floor, from 4 PM to 7 PM.
There will be Raffle prizes, food prepared by a local vendor, Alex the Chef, and performances by Black Canadian artists.
International Women’s Day 2024 Rally and March
Beginning at OISE at 252 Bloor St West, the International Women’s Day Rally & March will be on Saturday, March 2 at 11 AM.
March for a gender-equal world! A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
Yonge Street Mission Community Impact Jam
Yonge Street Mission is hosting a Community Impact Jam for community leaders to discuss how to improve their existing tools to better serve the needs within the Regent Park community. Make a difference by helping to shape the future of YSM’s community development strategy and claim your spot by emailing [email protected].
Please RSVP as soon as you can ensure that you can attend on March 6 from 5 PM to 8 PM at YSM’s Martin Centre at 306 Gerrard St. East.
Regent Park Cafe is Officially Open!
After the Regent Park Cafe launch, they are now open and operational every Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 8 PM. If you are near Daniels Spectrum at 585 Dundas St. East, pop in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Change Make-Her Program
GOOD TO BE GOOD is pleased to announce a fifth cohort for the Change Make-Her program! This FREE interactive virtual program is for women and gender-diverse folks* interested in developing their entrepreneurship and leadership skills through mentorship-based training workshops, community building, peer support, resource-sharing, and other opportunities.
The program is a unique development opportunity explicitly created to extend the capacity of new and early entrepreneurs through a low-barrier, inclusive, and compassionate approach. Entrepreneurship is challenging to navigate—layering being a woman or gender-diverse with intersecting identities adds another path to navigate. We believe that entrepreneurism can be a meaningful pathway to confidence, community, and independence for women and gender-diverse people facing multiple barriers.
Each session provides participants with the fundamentals of growing a micro or small business in the mainstream economy on their terms while connecting them with other entrepreneurs and industry professionals in the community and accessible tools. We support participants by offering them several resources, wraparound supports (technology, internet, stress devices), and peer support. Successful participants will receive a micro-grant (up to $300) for their business needs. The seven-week program focuses on subjects related to entrepreneurship and leadership, such as essential business finance, business planning, community building, and marketing. All workshops are led by trained facilitators and Rochelle Ford-Wilson in a trauma-informed and anti-oppressive environment. Our guest mentors and speakers include Maggie Aurocco from bluboho, Nadege from IG Wealth Management, Chantaie from Ramsay & Co, Zehra Allibhai, and Opal Rowe from Stush Patties.
Participants must be available every Saturday morning (Eastern time) between April 6, 2024- May 25, 2024. Participants welcomed to join the cohort are asked to fill out a pre-survey before the program begins to gauge interests, needs, and goals. Participants will have the opportunity to meet for an orientation call prior to the first workshop.
Applications are now OPEN for the Change Make-Her program! The poster is attached to this email—please share and spread the word. To register, email Arezoo Najibzadeh at [email protected] or sign up by using this link: https://forms.gle/LuPLtsiWVDL5618u6. Please note that applications close Sunday, March 17.