This morning I was proud to join my colleagues Councillor Gord Perks, along with MPP Suze Morrison, the NDP’s Critic for Tenant Rights, Alyssa Brierley, Executive Director and General Counsel, Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodations (CERA), Chiara Pavodani, Executive Member, York South-Weston Tenant Union and Marva Burnett, President of ACORN Canada, in a press conference to denounce the weakening of tenant protections in the provincial Bill 184, the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, 2020. Don’t let the friendly title fool you, this large omnibus bill sets out technical amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act that will make it much more difficult for working families who rent their homes.
In March, after the state of emergency in response to COVID-19 was declared, businesses were forced to close, and hundreds of thousands of residents lost their income and were unable to pay their rent. In response, Premier Doug Ford publicly reassured tenants that no one would be evicted because of COVID-19, and encouraged people who could not pay their rent to withhold it. While we are still learning the full extent of that economic catastrophe, a recent Toronto Foundation brief cited that about 10% of renters, approximately 53,000 rental households in Toronto who were not able to pay rent in May. With the prolonged lockdown recession, we know this number is now most likely much higher.
Now despite those assurances, Premier Doug Ford has moved forward with legislative changes in Bill 184 that would allow landlords to sign repayment agreements with tenants without protection or oversight from the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB). It would also allow those landlords to evict tenants without a hearing at the LTB if a single payment is missed. This could have devastating consequences for thousands of friends and neighbours across this city.
In Toronto, 47% of households are renters and many of them spend more than 30% percent of their income on rent, before adding on arrears payments. Despite the push to re-open the economy, many people’s finances have still not recovered, and the risk of missed payments is high.
Toronto also has some of the highest rents in the country and a vacancy rate that has consistently been below 1.5%, far below the minimum level that housing advocates consider healthy, making it difficult for renters to find suitable and affordable housing should they be evicted. With the anticipated number of rental arrears being accumulated during COVID-19, and without the protection of the LTB, this could result in many people being evicted more quickly with nowhere else to go.
Toronto was already facing a housing and homelessness crisis of massive proportions, and during COVID-19 the crisis of people living in unsuitable conditions has overwhelmed the region and existing municipal resources. This is evidenced in the proliferation of encampments that we have already seen spread across the city. The proposed changes in Bill 184 risk exasperating an already desperate situation.
If Doug Ford wants people to stop pitching tents in public parks, he must make immediate changes to Bill 184 to stop the pending mass evictions, restore tenants’ right to fairly defend themselves at eviction hearings, remove the ability to pursue "ex parte eviction orders" for breached mediated agreements, and restore and enhance provincial investments in legal aid.
Encampments, Homelessness and the Financial Crisis
This week City Staff have successfully moved 75 people from the encampments at George Hislop and Norman Jewison parks into a variety of hotel programs, shelters and other available options. This has been an incredible amount of work and strain for everyone including those staying in tents. A spectrum of catering, cleaning and support services have been arranged to assist people in their transition.
The City of Toronto continues to identify new housing and hotel sites as a way forward and to help people move out of the remaining encampments. These are large and complicated real estate transactions but ones that the City remains keenly interested in pursuing. Although no one municipality can alone resolve a national housing crisis, until the Provincial and Federal governments step up to do their work, the City remains committed in working hard to provide everyone access to indoor accommodations.
The COVID-19 financial pressures facing the City of Toronto in the upcoming 2021 budget process are enormous and unprecedented. Our City Manager has forecasted that we are on track to spending an unexpected $200 million this year to address the homelessness crisis as a part of the City’s COVID-19 emergency response. Further to that, we are facing an opening deficit related to COVID-19 of up to $2.8 billion dollars next year. We will need to come together quickly as Torontonians to overcome this incredible challenge, which is anticipated to worsen in the months ahead as we prepare for the anticipated second wave of this coronavirus.
City of Toronto updates on Stage 2 reopening progress
As the City of Toronto enters week three of stage Stage 2 of the provincial reopening framework, many City services are resuming. This includes Municipal Licensing Service requests related to:
- enforcement of bylaws governing sidewalk café and patios
- long grass and weeds
- dogs off-leash
- littering and dumping of residential and commercial waste
- RentSafeTO building evaluation and audits and investigation of non-emergency in-suite complaints
All service requests should be sent to 311 by phone or firstname.lastname@example.org by email.
For more information on changes to City services please visit the City of Toronto’s website.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Care in Ward 13
Today’s Community Care shoutout goes to our friends at Volunteer Toronto who have put together some tools to help non-profits begin the process of recovery and reopening. They’ve compiled a new COVID-19 Learning Library with program-specific resources on how to engage volunteers, in person and virtually, during the pandemic. They will be updating the library weekly here. Learn more about the Learning Library here.
They are also highlighting public health guideline resources from the City of Toronto, which are designed to help non-profits and community agencies re-open safely. Learn more about the guidelines here.
Feel free to share these resources widely through your networks. Thank you Volunteer Toronto for the work you do today and everyday!
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.
Over the last several weekends, the City of Toronto has seen a significant increase in the number of people at Toronto beaches late into the evening who are not practising physical distancing, or who are setting up DJ equipment, lighting bonfires, drinking excessively and leaving large amounts of litter behind.
Starting tomorrow, parking restrictions will be in place at Toronto beaches starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
The City of Toronto, at the direction of City Council, requested and has now received a new Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) from the Province of Ontario that will help ease zoning restrictions on outdoor patios while allowing for expanded patios on private property, including parking areas to implement Toronto’s CaféTO program.
The City of Toronto has launched a new online Business License & Permits Application so businesses can apply for new licences and permits virtually. The new application process allows business owners or operators requiring new licenses or permits to fill out an application, submit documentation, and complete payment in one convenient online space.
To access the online application, applicants can select the license or permit they are applying for on the toronto.ca Permits and Licences webpage, review the list of requirements, and an application link will be available on the specific license or permit webpage. Licensing staff are available by phone at 416-392-6700 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday to assist business owners and operators with licensing questions.
Implementation of Priority Bus-Only Lanes to be Accelerated Across the City; Eglinton East Identified as First Priority
The proposed plan anticipates that the improved speed, reliability and increased capacity of the new priority bus-only lanes will result in a faster and more reliable commute, which will improve access to employment, healthcare and community services, as well as transit equity and inclusion of Neighborhood Improvement Areas for residents.
Ontario Released the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act to Help Create Jobs and Opportunities, Build Stronger Communities
The province introduced the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, proposed legislation that lays the foundation to restart jobs and development, strengthen communities, and create opportunity for people in every region of the province.
This is a large piece of legislation that requires extensive review and analysis. Stay tuned!
The Ontario government announced changes to the education system intended to break down barriers for Black, Indigenous and racialized students and provide all students with an equal opportunity to succeed. As part of this action, the province will move forward with ending Grade 9 streaming into applied and academic courses, proposing to eliminate discretionary suspensions for students, strengthening sanctions for teachers who engage in behaviour of a racist nature, and providing teachers with additional anti-racism and anti-discrimination training.
The Ontario government is expanding access to reliable broadband and cellular service in underserved and unserved parts of the province. The application intake for the $150 million Improving Connectivity for Ontario program (ICON) opens today. This funding will help drive economic investment and job creation across the province, while allowing more people to work from home more efficiently, engage in online learning, and connect with family and friends.
“There have been 106,434 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 8,737 deaths. 66% of people have now recovered. Labs across Canada have tested over 3,055,000 people for COVID-19 to date. Over the past week, an average of 38,000 people were tested daily, with 1% testing positive.
As provinces and territories re-open their economies, more and more Canadians are returning to work. As anxious as we may be to “get back to normal,” it is essential that employers and employees familiarize themselves with ways to minimize their risk while working during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Today on Nunavut Day, we celebrate the 21st anniversary of the creation of Nunavut. This day acknowledges the establishment of Canada’s newest and largest Territory. It is significant, as Nunavut Day represents an historic milestone in the Inuit journey towards self-determination.
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.