Cycling Plan, Homelessness Response and COVID-19 Updates

Today, Mayor Tory announced that the City is proposing to fast-track the implementation of 40 kilometres of cycling infrastructure, city-wide across Toronto. I am proud to endorse this plan, and looking forward to its accelerated installation! What COVID-19 has shown us is that we need to rethink our priorities around how we design public infrastructure to support long-term recovery. We have known for years that an expanded, city-wide grid of protected bike lanes is important for achieving positive environmental, safety and health outcomes. The global pandemic has provided the urgent public health context needed to drive this work forward, without further excuses or political delays. 

During the April 30 Toronto City Council meeting in anticipation of changes in traffic patterns, staff were requested to look at more active transportation as a crucial part of the city’s COVID-19 restart and recovery. The report released today asks Council to approve the installation of approximately 25 kilometres of new bikeways, for a total of approximately 40 kilometres of on-street cycling lanes approved for accelerated installation in 2020. View the full Cycling Network Plan Installations: Bloor West Bikeway Extension & ActiveTO Projects report.

If approved, the cycling network would be expanded quickly through temporary installations by repurposing curb lanes along several key corridors. Bloor Street East, University Avenue/Queen's Park Crescent and Dundas Street East would be among the first installations. Delivery of other Council-approved 2020 Cycling Network implementation projects will continue but be on an accelerated schedule. Right as we gear up for summer, there could be brand new cycling infrastructure dropped into neighbourhoods both in the suburbs and downtown Toronto.

Cycling Network Plan Update

View the expanded map here.

I am excited to see this happen at an accelerated pace.  Instead of waiting years for new cycling infrastructure, Council now has the opportunity to direct staff to install it in a matter of weeks. For years, I have been working with residents, active transportation advocates and community groups to advance the installation of new cycling infrastructure. We have long advocated for the need to build an interconnected grid of protected bike lanes across the city, and for safe cycling infrastructure along the busy Bloor and University corridors. The bike lane on University Avenue and Avenue Road will connect to existing lanes on Bloor, College, Adelaide, and Richmond Streets, while the bike lane on Bloor Street will stretch west to High Park and east to Broadview Avenue. This infrastructure is a key component to supporting healthy and sustainable communities, and within the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic, is needed now more than ever.

The new protected bike lanes on these routes will also connect cyclists to many of the area’s hospitals and health care facilities. Doctors for Safe Cycling, representing many physicians from downtown hospitals, issued a letter earlier this month asking for protected bike lanes so that healthcare workers, clients and others can commute safely to the hospital district by bike. Major hospitals including SickKids, University Health Network and Sinai Health Systems have also expressed their support. I am committed to working closely with stakeholders, including the hospitals along University Avenue, on effective design and implementation of the bike lanes.


Homelessness Response

Shelter Support and Housing (SSHA) continue to work with Real Estate services to actively locate additional hotel rooms and housing options. Streets to Homes staff are working directly with those who are living in encampments to offer accommodations, which include access to regular meals, proper sanitation including toilets and showers, caseworkers, appropriate medical attention, medication and harm reduction services. We will continue to coordinate this work with By-Law Enforcement and Toronto Police Services.

This work is on-going and I would like to thank community members for their patience. It is carried out hourly by City staff across divisions and is unrelenting.  We will not rest until everyone has been offered safe indoor accommodations, and can safely be moved.

The chronic lack of deeply affordable, supportive and transitional housing and mental health services—along with a shelter system that is bursting at the seams—force people with nowhere else to go onto the streets and into tents and encampments. The reality is that we need a permanent housing solution. Approximately 14,000 Toronto residents live with serious and persistent mental health challenges and continue to wait for access to supportive housing. There are over 100,000 people on Toronto’s centralized waiting list for affordable housing, with waitlists up to 12 years or more for a one-bedroom unit and 10 years or more for larger unit sizes. There has been inadequate government action from all three levels, resulting in years of delay in addressing our housing, mental health and addiction crises. It has made it difficult for the City on its own to secure or build enough permanent housing to provide a home to everyone living in the shelter system or outdoors in a timely fashion.

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 at kristynwongtam.ca.


Trinity Bellwoods Park

As many of you know, images this weekend of thousands of people gathered in Trinity Bellwoods Park were circulated. Gatherings like this, where people aren’t keeping their distance from others, run the risk of setting Toronto back significantly in our efforts to stop the transmission of COVID-19.

As the lockdown is slowly being lifted, we all have a shared responsibility to keep each other safe. That means following physical distancing protocols. We want to use green and open spaces responsibly. Please think about front-line healthcare workers and essential workers who have been risking their lives to serve our society. Please also think about our most vulnerable who will be impacted by careless behaviour.  Our choices should be one about collective values.

I recognize that staying home, self-isolating and not seeing family and friends over the last several weeks has been incredibly difficult. However, gatherings like this Saturday at Trinity Bellwoods Park have the potential to set Toronto back in its efforts to beat COVID-19. More than 700 people from Toronto have tragically lost their lives due to COVID-19. Public gatherings, like what took place Saturday in Trinity Bellwoods Park, threaten to undo the difficult and challenging work residents of this city have done over the last 10 weeks in their collective effort to beat COVID-19.

Without a doubt, part of our recovery will require increasing access to public space. It is important to recognize that many in our local communities live in dense neighbourhoods, small condo and apartment buildings, with little green space nearby and lacking their own backyard. It is important to recognize the embedded equity issues that result from strict stay-at-home orders. For many, our City parks are our backyards. As the weather gets nicer and physical distancing measures remain in place, we will need to continue to develop and implement design solutions that allow residents to enjoy the outdoors while maintaining a safe physical distance. 

Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.

Kristyn


Community Care in Ward 13

Today for our Community Care shoutout, we recognize the Labyrinth Network Committee who manage the labyrinth at Trinity Square Park. Labyrinths are world-wide mindfulness tools to help in these times of social isolation and improve our mental health. Lauren Artress, minister and psychotherapist, calls the labyrinth a path of prayer, a walking meditation, a crucible of change and a mirror for the soul. The Toronto Public Labyrinth is free, wheelchair accessible, has a Braille labyrinth on site and is open at any time. To practice safe distancing, people should pace their walk or wait until there is no one else walking the labyrinth. Alternatively, the labyrinth pattern is available online and can be printed for use as a finger labyrinth. Learn more about the Toronto Public Labyrinth here. Thank you for your work today, and year round, to help maintain this gentle, mindfulness tool.

Toronto Public Labyrinth

Please continue to email my office at councillor_wongtam@toronto.ca 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!


COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. If you are sick, even with mild symptoms, stay home and self-isolate.  

As we slowly return to some sense of normalcy, we need to continue physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Everyone has a role to play. The actions you take will help protect you and everyone in our community.

Physical Distance

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 elevators, common areas, waiting rooms or shopping;
  • using transit, taxi or rideshare services; and
  • sick and going for 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 mask.wear_a_mask_.jpeg

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 the City's website or download this info sheet.


City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates 

City of Toronto Statement on Trinity Bellwoods Park

Images of thousands of people gathered in Trinity Bellwoods Park were unacceptable. Gatherings like this, where people aren’t keeping their distance from others, run the risk of setting Toronto back significantly in its efforts to stop the transmission of COVID-19. 

People are encouraged to go out, yes, but they must stay two metres apart from anyone who is not from their household. That is the science; that is what experts like Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, tell us.

The vast majority of parks across Toronto were used responsibly this weekend. Cyclists and pedestrians got fresh air and exercise as part of ActiveTO, where major roads, such as Lake Shore Boulevard and Bayview Avenue, were closed to motorists to allow people to safely get outside. The City thanks them for their efforts. Read the City’s press release here.

ActiveTO Cycling Network Plan Proposes 40 kilometres of Expanded and Accelerated Routes

During the April 30 Toronto City Council meeting, staff were requested to look at more active transportation as a crucial part of the City’s COVID-19 restart and recovery and in anticipation of changes in traffic patterns. 

An expanded cycling network aims to allow people on bikes to move around Toronto safely, to better connect those on bikes to the places they need to go and to mirror major transit routes. The proposed plan includes flexibility so that bikeway installations can be adjusted based on considerations such as changing traffic volumes and the evolving needs of residents and businesses in the wake of the pandemic. View the full Cycling Network Plan Installations: Bloor West Bikeway Extension & ActiveTO Projects. Read the City’s press release here. 

Emergency Cooling Centres During Heat Warning

Environment and Climate Change Canada today issued a Heat Warning for Toronto, which starts today and is forecasted to end Wednesday, May 27.

Starting tomorrow at 11 a.m., six locations will offer a publicly accessible, air-conditioned place to rest indoors and receive a cool drink. Staff who are trained to assist residents affected by the extreme heat will be on hand. Strict infection prevention and control measures will be in place.

Emergency Cooling Centres will operate at the following community centres from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.:

  • Wallace Emerson Community Centre, 1260 Dufferin Street;
  • Regent Park Community Centre, 402 Shuter Street (Ward 13);
  • Malvern Community Centre Arena, 30 Sewells Road;
  • Scarborough Village Community Centre Arena, 3600 Kingston Road;
  • Amesbury Arena, 155 Culford Drive; and 
  • Domenico DiLuca Community Centre, 25 Stanley Roadd.

Click here to find an Emergency Cooling Centre near you. Read the City’s press release here. 

Last of Three Pothole Repair Blitzes in May

The last of three scheduled pothole repair blitzes for the month of May happened on Saturday. Crews were repairing potholes early in the morning on Toronto's expressways, major roads and neighbourhood streets. Saturday’s blitz saw 66 crews and 162 people repairing potholes throughout the city. Read the City’s press release here.

Online Webinar for Retail Businesses, May 28, 2020

The City’s Economic Development division is working with Toronto Public Health on a number of resources to assist businesses as they work to re-open. Part of that work includes guidelines and best practices for various sectors. This Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., the City is hosting a free webinar about government guidelines and recently created City programs to support main street and retail businesses. Information that will be covered includes:

  • Overview of government guidelines and requirements;
  • Tools and resources to support businesses re-opening; and
  • Other programs to support main street and retail businesses.

Please register online for free and pass it along to your retail business networks.

More information on affected City services & facilities.

More updates from the City of Toronto.


Province of Ontario Updates

Additional Supports for Two Long-Term Care Homes in Ontario

This afternoon, the Provincial government announced that the Ministry of Long-Term Care has issued Mandatory Management Orders appointing local hospitals to temporarily manage two long-term care homes for 90 days. Southlake Regional Health Centre will temporarily manage River Glen Haven Nursing Home in Sutton, and Humber River Hospital will temporarily manage Downsview Long Term Care in North York. The orders may be extended beyond the 90 days, if necessary.

The temporary shift in management comes from a recent provincial government emergency order made on May 12, 2020. It allows the Ministry of Long-Term Care to order alternative management to temporarily manage a long-term care home where at least one resident or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. A mandatory management order helps to address the outbreak and effectively protects our most vulnerable Ontarians from COVID-19.

See the provincial government’s full announcement here.

More updates from the Province of Ontario.


Government of Canada Updates

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that applications are now being accepted for Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. The program is to incentivize property owners to reduce rent by at least 75% for the months of April and May (retroactive), and June, for their small business tenants. CECRA will cover 50 per cent of the rent, with the tenant paying up to 25% and the property owner forgiving at least 25%.

Applying for CECRA makes financial sense for property owners, as their success depends on the success of their tenants. If a tenant declares bankruptcy and is evicted, the property owner receives zero rental income and faces additional costs while they search for new tenants. With this program, property owners will continue to receive income, and small business tenants will receive the help they need to recover and come back after the pandemic.

CECRA is another measure announced by the Government of Canada to provide important relief for small businesses experiencing financial hardship, and help keep Canadians on the payroll. Applications will be accepted through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) website.

The Federal Government’s full announcement can be found here.

More updates from the Government of Canada.


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 

Telehealth Ontario
Call if you develop symptoms!
Telephone: 1-866-797-000

Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Telephone: 416-338-7600
TTY: 416-392-0658
Email: PublicHealth@toronto.ca

311 Toronto
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Telephone: 311
Email: 311@toronto.ca

Phone: 416-392-7903
Constituency Office: 100 Queen St W A5, Toronto, ON, M5H 2N2