Yesterday was a historic day in Toronto, as City Council we participated in our first virtual Special City Council meeting. I am very impressed and grateful to the City Clerk and her staff who worked so diligently to make this possible. It was certainly no easy feat!
At the meeting, City Council voted unanimously to extend Mayor Tory’s emergency powers until the crisis is over. While I was hoping to restrict the extension to 30 days, the Council agenda for this meeting was released only two days before the meeting, there was not enough time to organize support from my Council colleagues.
Decisions like these, as well as the one to cancel May’s standing committee meetings, are exactly why we will have to keep working to make sure that community voices are heard and local priorities are met. Without local resident input and oversight, government responses to address the impact of COVID-19 on issues related to health, social services or financial recovery will be subpar. The Mayor’s new powers were extended and let’s work together to ensure that any additional emergency by-laws invoked are going to be appropriate, fair and effective.
Other notable items approved at this meeting included the plan to build 110 modular (container) homes by September for people experiencing homelessness, and the installation of new bicycle lanes and cycle tracks, including improvements coming to Shuter Street, as part of the 2020 Cycling Network Plan. The Mayor and City Council voted against studying the feasibility of implementing new technology including heated pavement to promote year-round cycling.
Today is also May 1 and rent is due. When 50% of Canadians and up to 70% of business owners fear they can’t pay rent today, the health crisis in one that created a ripple effect that has left no facet of life untouched. Many of the legislated programs that can truly help residential and commercial tenants must come from the provincial and Federal governments, including moratoriums on evictions and rent abatements passed along from mortgage deferrals and renegotiations. I will be working with my Council colleagues, our local elected representatives and many of you in the days ahead to ensure that all tenant needs, both residential and commercial, are going to be adequately addressed by the powers with the authorities to do so.
We are scheduled to have a full City Council meeting within the next 30 days to address other City business. I look forward to the opportunity to bring forward and champion issues critically important to our community.
Addressing the Needs of Those Experiencing Homelessness
After working tirelessly with City staff, the City has begun methodically working to help move people who are sleeping outdoors in tents into furnished apartments. This long anticipated announcement came out on Wednesday and without rest, the City staff and community partners have been carefully executing the plan to prioritize housing for those with complex needs and long histories of deep homelessness.
The street-involved residents will be moving to newly refurbished self-contained apartments, with all the customary supports offered in a typical shelter environment provided. These supports include:
- 3 healthy meals per day (although each unit includes a kitchen and residents may choose to cook)
- Weekly room cleaning and daily common area cleaning
- 24/7 staff support and security
- At least three room checks per day
- Case management focused on long-term housing and other immediate needs, including health and harm reduction supports
This is exactly the kind of full service program we need in Toronto. We could not have done this work without housing advocates who have been calling on this action for weeks. It is the right thing to do, and I am very proud to see it getting done. We know that no single city can solve a national homelessness crisis and that this new service will not be sustainable with provincial and federal funding. It’s my hope and I will work hard to see this through, that the three orders of government work together to build adequate housing for all.
I am happy to hear that people who have accepted the new apartments are excited about the move into a home, as it gives us indication that we are on the right track. It is important that we remember that people are mostly not living on the streets by choice. Thank you to Liam Casey and the CBC for sharing the stories of some of those residents.
Currently access to units will be prioritized for clients in encampment sites where a lack of sanitary and food resources present health and safety concerns to them and the general public, and for people who are chronically homeless and identified as higher risk to COVID-19. We also received confirmation that Sanctuary at 25 Charles Street East, George Hislop Park, and several other downtown and Yonge Street Linear Parks, have been identified as priority locations for the offering of these new homes.
The City’s Streets to Home staff have been actively engaged with Sanctuary clients to offer them the opportunity to move inside to apartments, shelters and hotels. My staff and I have been working hard with the City’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) staff to help provide everyone living outside with adequate and secure housing. I am grateful to the many community and health partners involved in helping move people into safe accommodation. It’s the essential first step in a long path to full recovery.
While there is still an overall moratorium on encampment clearing during the pandemic, the City has amended this policy to clear specific encampments on public property, but only after the Streets to Homes outreach team has approached clients who sleep outdoors and offered indoor accommodations in the interim housing program, shelter or hotels; this includes critical supports to access permanent housing. These are at sites where it has been identified that it is not safe for people to stay. We have received reports of overdose deaths in some of these encampments, and tragically, got confirmation this morning of a person found dead following a fire at an encampment in Rosedale.
It is clear that the initial 125 units is not nearly enough to house everyone currently living on the streets, so like many other social services we need to scale this program up to reach more people, and it must be done faster.
Until the time that we can safely house everyone currently sleeping outdoors, I will continue to advocate for access to safe and clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation facilities, resources to ensure fire safety and waste management, and social supports and harm reduction services.
At yesterday’s meeting I once again called on all levels of government to step up to address the structural funding deficit, and come together to adequately fund the rapid expansion of supportive housing, mental health supports, and housing and homelessness supports for the long term. If we are really all in this together, it is time for all elected officials to work together and prove it.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
"Future of Cities" Webinar
Presented by our friends at the Urban Land Institute Toronto in partnership with Ryerson CBI, the “Future of Cities” webinar discussion series brings together notable urbanists and Ryerson academics for insightful discussions of how the COVID-19 pandemic will change the way we live. Please join Dr. Anne Harris (Epidemologist, Ryerson University) and Dave Harvey (Executive Director, Park People) for this FREE in depth discussion on public realm, moderated by Cherise Burda (Executive Director, Ryerson Building Institute).
In dense urban centres, like ours, residents have been flocking to parks for fresh air and exercise during the pandemic, while others have taken to the sidewalks for essential travel. But parks facilities are closed due to overcrowding, while sidewalks have proven too narrow to safely accommodate growing pedestrian volumes with physical distancing requirements. COVID-19 has highlighted the value of our public realm, and the urgent need in many cities for more public space. What can we learn from COVID-19 about how to design and distribute public space in our cities?
When: May 6, 2020 from 12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Where: ZOOM, limited to 1,000 guests
Community Care in Ward 13
Our Community Care shoutout goes to Chatting to Wellness, a youth run non-profit organization that connects seniors residing in retirement homes to university students in the community to chat through weekly phone calls. Chatting to Wellness have launched a program to connect seniors and youths through these Chatting Sessions. With restrictions of group activities and non-essential visits for seniors living alone and in retirement/long-term care homes, they saw a need to offer this program to allow seniors to remain socially engaged during this very challenging time. These conversations are 45 minutes in length and led by the senior. Plus, they are FREE! Calls are scheduled Monday to Friday between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.EST. Seniors can either sign up directly, or have a family member sign up for a call on their behalf at chattingtowellness.ca/phonechats.
Please continue to email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org to share examples of community care in your neighbourhood and ways you are supporting your community at this time. I’ll be happy to promote it, space permitting, in our communication to the residents and business owners in Ward 13. Every bit goes a long way!
Keep Practising Physical Distance!
As the City of Toronto evokes these new measures for public health, please remember to keep practising social distancing. I know it’s challenging, and I thank you for your continued hard work. Please remember to stay off of closed parks amenities and facilities, or you may be subjected to a fine. If you must leave your home, please stay at least 6 ft (2 metres) away from others on the streets. These measures are crucial to protect the greater public health.
The single best way for Torontonians to support each other right now is to stay home and practise physical distancing to prevent COVID-19 spread.
- If you have symptoms of illness, do not leave your home under any circumstance until you have spoken with a medical professional and been given the all-clear.
- If you have just returned from travel, do not leave your home under any circumstance for 14 days.
- And even if you are not sick and have not travelled, unless you work in an essential industry, stay at home except for essential trips.
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 toronto.ca/covid19.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
Extending the State of Emergency
Yesterday, Toronto City Council unanimously voted to extend Mayor Tory’s State of Emergency declaration in the City of Toronto until the COVID-19 municipal emergency has ended, in accordance with advice from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health and the Office of Emergency Management.
This includes extending the new physical distancing emergency bylaws to retain physical distancing regulations in parks and public squares for the duration of the COVID-19 municipal emergency. This extension is meant to ensure the municipal government can continue to respond quickly to the emergency, administer other necessary City business, plan for recovery and focus on protecting the health of all residents. In extending this declaration, the City strongly encourages residents to continue staying home as much as possible, keeping their distance from one another, protecting the vulnerable and reducing the impact on our health care system.
Youth Violence Prevention Grant
Today, Mayor Tory announced that the City of Toronto will launch a youth violence prevention grant to support the de-escalation of youth violence in Toronto communities. The grant will see $2 million in funding allocated to community agencies for youth violence prevention projects in nine communities.
The nine communities identified for funding are:
- Mount Olive-Silverstone-Jamestown (Priority: Pittsboro/Orphington)
- Lawrence Heights (Priority: Neptune)
- Regent Park (Priority: Regent Park, St. James Town, Yonge & Gerrard and the Esplanade) (Ward 13)
- Malvern/Morningside/Woburn (Priority: Empiringham, Orton Park, Cedarbrae and Danzig)
- Rexdale/Kingsview Village (Priority: Willowridge, Capri, East Mall and West Mall)
- Dorset Park (Priority: Glenmorgan, Canlish)
- Steeles L'Amoureaux (Priority: Glendower, Bay Mills and Chester Le)
- Oakwood Village (Priority: Eglinton West, Little Jamaica, and Vaughn Road)
To be eligible for a grant, the:
- projects should be aimed at programming that is responsive to violence prevention and intervention for youth ages 10 to 29;
- agency must have a proven track record (three or more years) of working with youth most vulnerable to being involved in serious violence and crime;
- agency must display success with violence intervention and de-escalation strategies;
- lead agency must be a Toronto-based, incorporated for public benefit organization with audited financial statements for the last fiscal year.
Given the complexity of the initiatives, partnership applications are highly encouraged.
Agencies can apply for up to $200,000 for their project. Successful applicants will begin activities in July and should be flexible to adhere to public health guidelines during the pandemic. Apply here before May 25 at noon.
Property Tax and Utility Bills
The 60-day grace period for property tax and utility bill payments and late penalties ends May 15. Customers already enrolled in the City’s pre-authorized payment plan don’t have to re-enroll – payments will start again automatically after the grace period ends. Property owners will be receiving a letter in the mail regarding payment due dates. Please visit Property Tax and Utility Bills section of the COVID-19: Changes to City Services webpage for more information.
Residential Permit Parking Renewal
The May 31 deadline for residential permit parking renewal applications has been extended until further notice. Toronto Police will continue to use discretion when enforcing permit parking areas. Learn more at toronto/covid19 under Parking.
Regular updates are being made to the COVID-19: Changes to City Services webpage.
Planned Construction and Maintenance
The City of Toronto will accelerate as many important construction projects as possible by alleviating restrictions on roads and intersections during peak and off-peak hours. City-led construction is considered an essential service by the Province of Ontario and is necessary municipal work to ensure Toronto’s infrastructure remains safe now and in the future.
Some of the major projects that will be accelerated include:
- Bathurst Street from Front Street West to Fort York Boulevard, bridge rehabilitation, TTC track rehabilitation resulting in full vehicular road closure, set to begin the week of May 17, 2020
- Bathurst Street from Front Street West to Queen Street West, replacing a 143-year-old watermain
- Church Street at Richmond Street East, replacing a 143-year-old watermain and TTC track requiring a full intersection closure (Ward 13)
- Don Mills Bridge over the Don Valley Parkway, bridge rehabilitation and
- Completing the replacement of a 146-year-old watermain on Richmond Street from York Street to Bathurst Street.
In addition, other projects that the City will look to accelerate this spring through working with contractors and advancing the tender process include:
- Midland Avenue from Danforth Road to Lawrence Avenue East, road reconstruction and water service replacement
- Martingrove Road from Finch Avenue West to Albion Road, road resurfacing, sidewalk and curb construction
- Shuter Street from Sherbourne Street to River Street, road reconstruction, sidewalk construction and upgrading cycling infrastructure (Ward 13)
- Bathurst Street from Front Street West to Queen Street West, replacing a 140-year-old watermain and
Ossington Avenue from Dupont Street to Bloor Street West, replacing a 131-year-old watermain.
Continuing with the planned projects for this year is important to support the industry and the local and Provincial economy. Contractors are expected to continue to make informed decisions under the evolving circumstances and follow the guidelines of the Ontario Government and health officials.
Province of Ontario Updates
Provincial Government to Allow Certain Businesses to Reopen Under Strict Conditions
The Ontario government is allowing certain businesses and workplaces to reopen as long as they comply with strict public health measures and operate safely during the COVID-19 outbreak. Those permitted to start up include seasonal businesses and some essential construction projects
The Chief Medical Officer of Health has provided general recommendations on how the openings of businesses and workplaces could be implemented to support safe operations, including strict adherence to health and safety requirements.
The government, in partnership with Ontario's health and safety associations, has developed more than 60 guidelines in response to COVID-19. These sector-specific measures will help employers prepare their workplaces so they can be reopened safely and ensure workers, customers and the general public are protected.
By following the proper health and safety guidelines these businesses will be permitted to begin operations on Monday, May 4 at 12:01 a.m.:
- Garden centres and nurseries with curbside pick-up and delivery only;
- Lawn care and landscaping;
Additional essential construction projects that include:
- shipping and logistics;
- broadband, telecommunications, and digital infrastructure;
- any other project that supports the improved delivery of goods and services;
- municipal projects;
- colleges and universities;
- child care centres;
- schools; and
- site preparation, excavation, and servicing for institutional, commercial, industrial and residential development;
- Automatic and self-serve car washes;
- Auto dealerships, open by appointment only;
- Golf courses may prepare their courses for the upcoming season, but not open to the public; and
The province remains in Phase One of Ontario's Action Plan in response to COVID-19, Protect and Support, allowing certain businesses and workplaces to open under strict guidelines. This is being done to balance the needs of the economy with the health and safety of the people of Ontario.
Government of Canada Updates
The federal government is placing restrictions on the sale and use of many assault-style guns effectively immediately. Approximately 1,500 “military style” weapons will fall under these new restrictions. Owners will have a two-year amnesty period, with a compensation program that will need to be passed through Parliament.
Efforts by Canadians to reduce the curve of the pandemic are working, but vigilance remains necessary. Please also do your best to #StayHome, eat well, exercise, sleep well and take measures to reduce your stress. The Federal Government is reminding Canadians that COVID-19 is not a reason to put off treatment of other health concerns, so please inform your doctor about any health concerns you may have. Many doctors are providing consultation over the phone, so please reach out.
Landlords are also being asked to “show compassion” to renters who are facing rent payments today due to COVID-19 difficulties. Banks are also being asked to help support those with mortgage payments through these difficult times.
The Federal Government has programs for both residents and businesses, so please work with your tenants. For commercial landlords in particular, the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance is available. Please learn more on how to apply here.
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
Telephone: 311 (The City is only accepting 311 requests through phone)