Yesterday Premier Ford announced plans and guidelines for moving into Phase 3 of the Province's reopening framework. This includes opening indoor service for restaurants, movie theatres, fitness centers and gyms. Phase three expands the number of people who can gather outside to 100, and up to 50 people inside. For now, this does not include Toronto, but we can expect to hit this milestone soon. I know everyone is eager to return to a sense of normal, but I continue to urge caution and vigilance. We have seen cases rise in other jurisdictions where bars and restaurants have re-opened so your adherence to public health measures - enhanced hand washing, wearing a mask, staying physically distanced - are more important than ever if we want to avoid another lockdown.
The COVID-19 lockdown has been a very difficult time for many of the communities that I have the privilege to represent in Ward 13. Neighbours are struggling and facing dire financial hardship as a result of the lockdown, through no fault of their own.
On top of the stress and anxiety of a global pandemic, Premier Doug Ford’s mass evictions bill, Bill 184, is potentially going into its third reading this week. When enacted into law, it will become a horrific scenario for tenants, effectively fast-tracking evictions by taking away a tenant’s right to a hearing if a single arranged payment is missed. After Premier Ford publicly reassured the public that no one would be evicted because of COVID-19, and encouraged people who could not pay their rent to withhold it, he has turned around and proposed legislation in Bill 184 that would undermine what little protection tenants had, by making it easier for landlords to evict tenants who have been unable to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Economic hardship has already fallen upon many since the beginning of the COVID lockdown. People have lost jobs, parents are working precariously while trying to raise children, and many more people are living from cheque to cheque. Tenants who have been scraping by, just barely hanging on, are now faced with additional uncertainty and threat.
Bill 184 has the potential to cause the biggest mass eviction in Ontario and it will leave Toronto and other municipalities coping with the largest homelessness crisis we have ever seen, during a devastating and lethal health pandemic. Lawyers, academics, experts and tenants are calling this a humanitarian crisis, of which the City of Toronto is not prepared to address, because we are already struggling to cope with COVID-19 and the stresses that have already put on our shelter housing system.
COVID-19 didn’t cause our housing crisis. Many people, who have been struggling for a long time, have been identifying the cracks in our social net for years. Only now the impacts of years of austerity and under-investment are visible to more Torontonians. Many people who were living quite comfortable lives prior to the pandemic saw how quickly that safety net could be taken from them, and are witnessing first hand what happens when shelter and housing becomes unavailable.
I am incredibly worried about the impacts of Bill 184. I am incredibly worried about the families who have lost their incomes and are unable to pay their rent. I am incredibly worried about the impacts to those who are already living with harm. The tragedy here is that Bill 184 is entirely political and entirely preventable. If there is going to be a path forward for this city, we are going to have to be much, much louder in our opposition to this harmful legislation.
There is no polite way of saying this to Premier Ford and the Provincial government. Bill 184 is going in the wrong direction. At the Planning and Housing Committee yesterday, we passed a motion asking City Legal to consider all legal options so that we can defend tenant rights and challenge Bill 184 in a court of law. I support this direction, but I also know it will take time - time we do not have. The only efficient way I see for us to avert this worsening humanitarian crisis is for the Provincial government to listen to the hundreds of thousands of tenants who are at risk, and to immediately course correct.
Since the beginning of the pandemic and the shut down, I have been calling for a larger and more urgent response to the shelter and homelessness crisis. I am proud that in the last 4 months Toronto has moved 1016 people out of homelessness and into permanent housing. Permanent, supportive housing has to be the goal, and we have shown with proper investment it is possible.
But as we have seen with the persistent encampments, we must do more to support those living outside and in congregate settings and protect them from a potential second wave of COVID-19.
Since Sunday, City Staff have been assisting those staying in the Moss Park encampment by offering a range of indoor accommodations. This is the first and most important step in the pathway to permanent housing. Fifty-eight individuals have accepted the City’s offer of support and 26 tents have been moved. The work of City Staff is supported by a range of community partners whose primary objective is to provide people the help they need and to keep them safe. The critical work of moving the remaining vulnerable individuals staying at Moss Park safely indoors, where they will receive regular meals, clean accommodations, and essential health checks, will continue this week. Please visit the City’s website for more information on the City’s ongoing work to house those living outside.
To support this work, early in June, The City of Toronto and United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT) announced that they have partnered to develop a COVID-19 Shelter Interim Recovery Strategy. While the report from the United Way has not been finalized, an early estimate shows that we will need around $1 billion dollars from the provincial and federal government if we are going to have a chance to combat chronic homelessness and move people out of shelters or encampments and into permanent housing.
This funding has to be part of any municipal bail out from the Federal and Provincial Government. For the City of Toronto to recover, we need to prioritize the recovery of those who have been most impacted, and those who are most vulnerable.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
Our friends in the Bay Cloverhill community may notice an installation happening at Bay Street and Grenville. There will be a brand new signalized intersection! A signalized intersection is one where there are stop lights, and allows for pedestrian crossings. Many residents have reached out with concerns about speeding along Bay Street as they walk their children to school, or as they move through their neighbourhood. This signalized intersection will allow the residents, and visitors to the Bay Cloverhill community to feel safer as they navigate their neighbourhood. The signal is expected to be activated in August.
The City of Toronto’s Vision Zero program has offered feedback and is working with staff at Transportation Services, in consultation with my office and the Bay Cloverhill Community Association, to ensure that this intersection meets the safety needs of the community. While the work is still ongoing, I am optimistic this installation will be a step forward in the City of Toronto’s Vision Zero efforts. Thank you to staff at Transportation Services, Vision Zero, and the Bay Cloverhill Community Association for their ongoing advocacy.
COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread
As we begin to ease our public health measures, we will all be living a new normal. 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 indoor, enclosed public spaces or where physical distancing is difficult to maintain; and
- Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.
When you are unable to keep a six feet/two-metre distance from others, wear a mask or face covering. This includes when you are:
- In any indoor, enclosed public space;
- In elevators, common areas, waiting rooms or shopping;
- Using transit, taxi or rideshare services; and
- Sick and going to a medical appointment.
Be respectful of others who choose not to wear a mask. Some health conditions make it hard to breathe when wearing a face covering.
How to Create a Safe Social Circles
As we continue our shared fight against COVID-19, you can now establish a family or social circle of no more than 10 people who can interact with one another without physical distancing. Social circles are a way to safely expand the number of people with whom you can come in close contact. Think of your social circle as the people you can hug and touch, or those who can become part of your daily and weekly routines.
The City of Toronto continues to monitor and analyze the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the municipal budget, while at the same time fiscally preparing for recovery and rebuild in the months to come. The report notes that the City anticipates a financial impact of $1.9 billion by the end of 2020, prior to any offsets through mitigation strategies, including spending and workforce restraints. With these mitigation strategies in place, the City projects a reduced total year-end shortfall of $1.35 billion.
Mayor Tory announced that Riverdale Farm, High Park Zoo and the City’s conservatories will open Tuesday, July 14. The farm, zoo and conservatories were closed in March to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Riverdale Farm is home to domestic farm animals and representative of a turn-of-the-century Ontario farm. The farm is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. More information is available at toronto.ca/zoos or by calling 311
City of Toronto Launches DriveInTO to Bring Entertainment Experiences Across the City; Festivals and Events Adapting to New Changes with City Support
The City launched DriveInTO which will allow for temporary drive-in entertainment experiences across Toronto this summer. From films to concerts to sports broadcasts, drive-in entertainment will offer an opportunity for Torontonians to re-engage with their city. Toronto residents will be able to experience DriveInTO at the following locations:
- Ontario Place, featuring screenings. Free DriveInTO nights will include programming by Hot Docs, imagineNATIVE and TIFF.
- CityView Drive-In at 20 Polson Pier, featuring concerts, screenings and broadcasts. Free DriveInTO nights will include programming by Inside Out LGBTQ Film Festival, Reel Asian Film Festival, Reelworld Film Festival and Regent Park Film Festival.
- Friday Night Lights at Downsview Park, presented by Canada Land Corporation and MADE, featuring free made-in-Canada films.
- CF Movie Night at CF Sherway Gardens.
The Ontario government announced nearly all businesses and public spaces will reopen in Stage 3 of the province's reopening framework with public health and workplace safety measures and restrictions in place. As Ontario continues down the path to economic recovery, decisions on which regions will enter Stage 3 and when will be made in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts and based on trends of key public health indicators. Learn more about the restrictions that will remain in place during Stage 3, as well as the public health guidance necessary to keep the people of Ontario safe here.
Last week the Province introduced the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act. This legislation is the first step in our made-in-Ontario plan for growth, renewal and economic recovery. If passed, this bill will help get shovels in the ground faster on key infrastructure projects, lead to the creation of more jobs and investment, and cut red tape to help businesses adapt to the new environment.
Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced $1.5 million in funding to support Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) to expand its Market Greens initiative to approximately 30 locations across Canada. This initiative aims to support healthy eating and increase food access among Canadians in low-income neighbourhoods. It will do so by establishing and increasing access to low-cost fresh produce markets and offering fruit and vegetable vouchers that can be used at participating local affordable markets.
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
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. In the past, by diligently reporting criminal activity, residents were able to see our community policing and other service levels increase. You can do your part: see it, report it.