July 20, 2023 Letter to Steve Clark

You can see the letter MPP Wong-Tam sent to Minister Clark to Act Now to Support Small Businesses and Residents in Toronto’s Church and Wellesley Village here


July 20, 2023


Honourable Steve Clark

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

17th Floor, 777 Bay Street, Toronto, ON MS5G 2E5

RE: Act Now to Support Small Businesses and Residents in Toronto’s Church and Wellesley Village

Dear Hon. Minister Clark,


I am writing to you today because small businesses and people in my riding of Toronto Centre need government action. A long-established and widely beloved hardware store ⁠— Dudley’s Hardware, Paint and Decor⁠— could close because of inaction from all orders of government on the overlapping crises of chronic homelessness, untreated mental health and addictions and a failed justice system. I visited Dudley’s owner Steve Dawson to discuss what next steps he needs to rebuild trust with all levels of government and prevent his business from closing. You must choose to act on these crises and prevent Dudley’s closure, and other businesses like it.  


Community health and public safety are top of mind for many Toronto residents. Over the years, in speaking with many first responders, including the Toronto Police Service and Toronto Paramedic Services, they comment that they make daily emergency calls that deeply affordable and supportive housing would have prevented. First responders’ message is clear: adequately housing vulnerable people with robust wrap-around supports to keep them housed would empower first responders to focus on enhancing public safety. 


As a founding member of the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Association (CWVBIA), I deeply love the Church and Wellesley Village and the small businesses of Toronto Centre. I want to see people and businesses thrive. When I owned and operated a Timothy’s World Coffee store on Church Street from 1999 to 2007, I saw the need for better and smarter support for people and small businesses. I know firsthand the hard work and financial output it takes to be a successful small business owner. Those small businesses need more government support today as they recover from COVID-19 to realize their potential. 


Toronto Centre businesses give so much to Ontario. Church Street hosts the most exciting and widely attended Pride festival in Canada. Our businesses cultivate community and are an incredible safe haven for 2SLGBTQI+ communities across Toronto and Ontario. Ontario should stand strong in countering trends of anti-2SLGBTQI+ hate spreading into Canada from the United States by ensuring that businesses in Toronto Centre demonstrate the economic and social potential of letting people be their authentic selves. 


My constituents need urgent action to ensure that no businesses contemplate closing because they do not have faith that their government is on their side. Real action from the provincial government that would give my community members hope include:


  1. Committing to attend a summit of Toronto downtown Business Improvement Associations so that all orders of government can hear firsthand what Toronto businesses need to succeed.
  2. Fully funding the provincial responsibilities in the Downtown East Action Plan ⁠— a multi-year plan that I worked with community members on to enhance public health and community safety in the Downtown East.
  3. Fully funding the provincial responsibilities in the City of Toronto’s upcoming mental health and addiction strategy ⁠— an initiative that I began with the support of the previous Mayor and City Council
  4. Fully fund new supportive housing and addiction treatment beds so that housing and mental health care workers can help people break cycles of problematic drug use. 
  5. Funding Toronto’s shelter system in a way that is commensurate with demand for shelter beds.  Our shelter system is operating at or above 100% capacity every single night.
  6. Implementing real bail reform to ensure timely access to justice so that violent and repeat offenders who threaten community members and small businesses do not have the chance to cause preventable harm, without compromising fundamental rights.


While those solutions are clear to me, there will be other solutions that need to be explored and advanced. To achieve this outcome, I want to ensure my constituents are brought into this conversation in a meaningful and action-oriented manner. I would welcome the opportunity to host you and your staff in Toronto Centre to meet stakeholders, including small businesses, service providers, and community members, to hear what changes they believe must be made firsthand. Our community is vibrant, diverse, and burgeoning with creativity that requires government support to reach its fullest potential. 


Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. I can be reached at [email protected] or 416-972-7683. 



Kristyn Wong-Tam

Member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto Centre

120 Carlton Street, Suite 401

Toronto, Ontario M5A 4K2 

Cc: Minister for Children, Community, and Social Services Michael Parsa

Minister of the Solicitor General Michael Kerzner

Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo

Minister of the Attorney General Doug Downey

Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Victor Fideli

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Statement re Demonstration on March 30, 2024

March 31, 2024

Yesterday, a peaceful march for Palestine was abruptly halted by Toronto Police at the intersection of Parliament Street and Gerrard Street East. Numerous videos circulating on social media depict marchers and bystanders being obstructed by a significant presence of police officers, some mounted on horses, converging from all directions.

The right to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly are sacred in our democracy. While these rights are not unlimited, it does not appear that the extraordinarily high bar required to infringe on these fundamental freedoms was met. Torontonians have a right to demonstrate and proclaim their solidarity with civilians in Gaza. These rights do not cease to operate when they are exercised in a largely racialized neighbourhood such as Regent Park. 

Both local residents and march participants were intimidated by the swift escalation initiated by law enforcement, resulting in some individuals being forcefully pushed to the ground. I am informed that the police reportedly issued no audible or repeated warnings to the group of marchers or bystanders before these altercations and subsequent arrests.

Toronto Police have also informed me that enforcement was taken against the leading truck under the Highway Traffic Act. This explanation does not satisfy the concerns brought to me from bystanders in the neighbourhood about why people were caught in a dangerous standstill.

I want to underscore my steadfast opposition to the controversial police tactic known as “kettling”. This method has faced widespread criticism for its indiscriminate containment of crowds, often ensnaring innocent bystanders and journalists. Torontonians never want to see the regrettable events of the G20 Summit in 2010 repeated. 

I have listened to stories of what happened that substantiate how the movement for Palestinian human rights is not being policed equally with other movements. Toronto has a long history of racialized residents facing over-policing and violence. The peaceful marchers, local residents, and all citizens of Toronto deserve transparency regarding yesterday's events. To build community trust, I call on the Toronto Police to promptly provide a detailed account of their actions, including the reasons behind the arrests. Transparency and accountability are needed to begin repairing trust.

Provide Rapid Antigen Tests to Toronto Public Health

March 25 2024


Minister Sylvia Jones

Minister of Health

777 Bay Street, 5th Floor

Toronto, ON. M7A 2J3


Re: Providing Free Rapid Antigen COVID-19 Tests to Ontarians


Dear Minister Jones,


We are asking that you urgently provide COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to Toronto Public Health (TPH). TPH relied on the Province of Ontario to supply the city with free rapid tests since the Province of Ontario made the unfortunate decision to discontinue free widespread rapid test provision in July 2023. The remaining tests that TPH had expired on March 2, 2024, and the TPH website has yet to show any updates since. 

As we continue to navigate through the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, it has become increasingly evident that access to rapid testing is a valuable tool in our arsenal against the virus, allowing for more timely and targeted interventions to curb its spread. We note that provinces like British Columbia still provide rapid tests for free in hundreds of pharmacies across their less populated province – Ontario should also ensure that tests are widely available.

Simply put, the demand for testing continues to outpace the rapid test supply that the Ontario government is providing. Based on our research, the average cost of a rapid test is $3.50 – $6.00 per test. This average cost is not affordable for families made up of frontline workers, with children in school, and with elders in long-term care, especially since they require frequent testing. If the Government of Ontario wants people to test and stay home when they are sick, tests must be readily available and provided free of charge.

Testing alone might not stop COVID-19 from spreading, but testing remains a useful layer of protection. We continue to see that frontline workers are at the greatest risk of COVID-19 infection – they deserve access to free tests to keep themselves, their co-workers, and their community safe.  By providing rapid tests to Public Health Units across Ontario, we can enhance our ability to detect and contain outbreaks in high-risk settings such as schools, workplaces, and long-term care facilities. While COVID-19 infections are less deadly than they were before widespread vaccination, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in Canada in 2022 – the most recent year for which we have data. 2022 was also the third year in a row where Canada’s life expectancy declined. 

We urge you to prioritize the allocation of new COVID-19 rapid tests to TPH to address the pressing need for expanded testing capacity. Swift action in this regard will not only help to safeguard the health and well-being of our residents but also contribute to our collective efforts to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We trust that you will give due consideration to the urgent request outlined herein and take the necessary steps to ensure that TPH receives the support they deserve as they strive to fulfill their mandate of laying a robust foundation for the public health of all Ontarians.


Respectfully submitted, 

Bhutila Karpoche

Official Opposition Critic for GTA Issues

Member of Provincial Parliament

Parkdale – High Park



Kristyn Wong-Tam

Official Opposition Critic for Small Business Issues                                             

Member of Provincial Parliament 

Toronto Centre 


cc: Hon. Stan Cho, Minister of Long-Term Care                 

Keep Tenants at 16 St Joseph St. Safe


March 24, 2024


Sent By Email 


Muge Fikri, Property Manager

Akelius Residential Properties


Re:  Tenants’ Safety During Heating Failure at 16 St Joseph Street

Dear Ms. Muge Fikri at Akelius Residential Properties,

I am writing this letter because your tenants at 16 St Joseph Street need decisive action and urgent accommodation to protect their well-being during the failure of your heating systems in their homes. Please share this letter with Akelius Head of Canada Shelly Lee as I ask that she personally involve herself in this matter to ensure the health and safety of her tenants.

It is unimaginable that Ontario residents have been living in an Akelius rental building without essential heating since March 2, 2024. Winter temperatures in Toronto have remained consistently below levels that are safe. Tenants have an inviolable right to safe dwellings and this includes the vital service of an indoor temperature that is at least 21 degrees Celsius.

It is the responsibility of the property manager and landlord at 16 St Joseph Street to ensure its heating and ventilation systems are maintained and regularly serviced. The failure of the critical heating and ventilation system and any delayed response to adequately address this problem underscores the importance of proactive work to maintain all of your rental properties’ critical infrastructure. I understand from correspondence with involved parties that proactively upgrading the boiler heating system was not prioritized until the boiler failed. 

These failures are not an accident. They happen too regularly in Ontario when landlords allow critical equipment to fail by not regularly maintaining the equipment or proactively planning to replace systems as they near their end-of-use cycle. I unfortunately have extensive experience with misguided landlords deferring costs on these critical infrastructure failures from my time as a City Councillor and now as a Member of Provincial Parliament. It is always more costly and inconvenient to your tenants to let the systems fail. I know that it is your responsibility to keep your tenants safe and to ensure that they have uninterrupted access to their homes. When your critical infrastructure fails, it is also your responsibility to propose immediate and adequate solutions to keep them safe and unharmed.

As you cannot find a way to restore the heating system immediately, I demand that you provide hotel rooms in the vicinity as temporary accommodations for your affected and now vulnerable tenants until adequate heating is restored. It will be your responsibility to ensure that they can access their units, and that their units are secured from an increased risk of break-ins during this time. This is your direct responsibility as a landlord and the tenants should not be punished for the failure of your heating system – something that they had absolutely no control over.

I’m informed Akelius is offering partial rent abatements and space heaters — but your tenants have shared with my office that these measures are wholly inadequate. Fuses are regularly blowing because of the outdated electrical system. Your tenants are cold, tired and getting sicker. Their physical and mental health will be harmed for as long as they go without heat. I believe that providing them with safe and adequately heated hotel rooms or other suitable alternatives while ensuring they can access their homes, would be the least that you can do during this most challenging time for them.

I am not asking for any shortcuts to be taken that might put your tenants at risk. Providing hotel rooms is a reasonable accommodation for this situation. I even imagine that it may be covered by your insurance policy.

I need to hear back from you or Shelly Lee as soon as possible and no later than March 26, 2024.  You can reach my office at any time by emailing [email protected] or calling 416-972-7684. 


Kristyn Wong-Tam

Member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto Centre

120 Carlton St. Suite 401

Toronto, ON

M5A 2K4

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