Tomorrow, City Council will virtually meet for the second time since COVID-19 was declared a state of emergency in Toronto.
While this still isn’t a full meeting—only items deemed urgent by the Mayor will be discussed—there are a number of important initiatives we will be voting on. These include the Cycling Network Plan we discussed on Monday and, critically, a plan for creating new affordable housing opportunities through Phase Two of the Housing Now Initiative.
We are in the midst of a housing crisis and without adding new affordable rental housing urgently, the situation will only get worse. Increasing access to a wide range of housing options by unlocking the City’s own real estate enables us to build the housing we really need faster. I am pleased to see that a minimum of two-thirds of all residential units created on the Phase Two sites will be purpose-built rental housing with at least half of them designated as affordable rental housing. We can’t eradicate homelessness overnight, but this much-improved phase of the Housing Now Initiative is definitely moving in the right direction.
While the City works hard to secure new housing and shelter sites, I will continue to push for more immediate solutions. These include enhanced emergency services at the encampment sites to ensure the safety of those living in the encampments as well as the surrounding neighbourhoods. These supports must include enhanced cleaning, access to proper washrooms, focused street outreach, harm reduction services, onsite security and neighbourhood officers.
Without any support from the Provincial or Federal Governments, cities and neighbourhoods across Ontario and Canada are left to grapple with the shelter and housing crisis on our own. You should know that supportive housing, mental health services and addiction recovery programs are the legislative responsibility of the upper orders of governments. It’s important that they hear from you, please copy your correspondence to MPP Suze Morrison and Federal Minister of Finance, MP Bill Morneau so they can advocate on behalf of the residents and business owners of Toronto Centre.
Despite the lack of support from the other orders of government, the City of Toronto is on track to spend more than $200 million from mid-March to the end of the year on emergency shelter responses, ranging from new shelter beds, respite centres and interim housing. These funds were unbudgeted when we approved the 2020 Operating Budget in January. The city-led effort to tackle Provincial and Federal responsibilities will be unsustainable unless Premier Ford and Prime Minister Trudeau step in to address the homelessness challenge.
Yesterday, like many of you, I read the report released by the Canadian Armed Forces on the state of five facilities in the Toronto area with horror. Watching the impact of COVID-19 in long-term care homes was devastating. To read about the levels of cruelty and neglect many long-term care residents were already living with is deeply tragic. My heart is with all of the families who have had loved ones abused and mistreated in these facilities.
COVID-19 continues to lay bare the deep existing inequalities in our society. While horrific, I want to be clear that these revelations are not new.
In July 2019, as a result of the tragic murder of eight long-term care residents, the Province of Ontario released the final report of a two-year Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the long-term care homes system, which included 91 recommendations.
By February 2020, the provincial government had only implemented 18 of these recommendations and had also scaled back comprehensive, annual inspections of nursing homes. Only nine out of 626 homes in Ontario actually received resident quality inspections.
Across Canada, it is estimated that over 80% of deaths from COVID-19 have taken place in long-term care homes.
We need to radically re-imagine how we fund and support those living and working in long-term care homes. On Monday, before the report was even released, Canada’s largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), launched a campaign to fix Canada’s broken long-term care system, by making it a part of our public universal health care system.
CUPE is demanding the federal government lead the way by making long-term care an accessible, publicly funded and universal health care service, much like visiting a hospital or a family doctor. The union is also calling for national standards to make sure the needs of residents are being met and for a dramatic increase in the number of long-term care beds and staff to ensure access and quality of care.
You can get involved, and add your voice to the campaign, at FixLongTermCare.ca
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Today’s Community Care shoutout goes to our friends at The Period Purse. Tomorrow, May 28, marks Menstrual Hygiene Day, and these days health and safety have taken on a whole new meaning. I am keenly aware of the difficulty of trying to afford expensive period products while living in poverty or experiencing homelessness. The Period Purse wants to ensure that people have access to the items they need when it’s their time of the month. Please check out their recent blog post, where I spoke about my ongoing support for their critical work to overcome period poverty and stigma, especially during COVID-19.
Menstruation matters to everyone, everywhere. Thank you for all the work that you do today and everyday. Learn more about how you can support.
Please continue to email my office at [email protected] 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.
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.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
Housing Now is a key component of the City’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, HousingTO, and contributes towards the City's target of approving 40,000 affordable rental homes, including 18,000 supportive homes, over the next 10 years. HousingTO is a comprehensive blueprint to assist more than 341,000 households over the next 10 years by addressing the need across the housing spectrum, from homelessness to affordable rental and ownership housing. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an even greater number of residents experiencing housing challenges while also underscoring the importance of having a home in order to practice physical distancing and self-isolation. The City is looking to expedite delivery of the HousingTO plan in partnership with other levels of government in order to quickly provide more housing options for residents.
The Ontario Government continues to protect the health and safety of the public during the COVID-19 outbreak by extending all emergency orders in force under s.7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
Current emergency orders include the closure of outdoor playgrounds, play structures and equipment, public swimming pools and outdoor water facilities, as well as bars and restaurants except for takeout and delivery. Additionally, there continues to be restrictions on social gatherings of more than five people, and staff redeployment rules remain in place for long-term care homes and congregate settings like retirement homes and women's shelters.
The Ontario Government outlined key findings from the Canadian Armed Forces report on the five long-term care homes at which the military has been assisting. The report details serious concerns around infection prevention, safety, staffing and level of care. The report also indicates that these five homes are beginning to stabilize with the support of the armed forces.
Ontario's volunteers and small businesses are rising to the challenge and helping seniors and other vulnerable people during the COVID-19 outbreak. Thousands of people are generously giving their time and resources to make and deliver food, run errands and check in on those who are self-isolating.
Government of Canada Updates
As of Wednesday, May 27, there are now 86,939 cases, including 6,671 deaths and 45,766 or 53% have now recovered. Labs across Canada have tested over 1,528,000 people for COVID-19 to date, with about 5% of these testing positive overall. Over the past week, the country has been testing an average of 22,300 people daily.
The Chief Public Health office is also reminding people to exercise caution when dealing with extreme heat this summer. It can affect how the body regulates its core temperature and can result in heat illnesses.
As part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to refocus existing innovation programs to support the fight against the spread of COVID-19, the Department of National Defence (DND) announced today the first of a series of calls for innovations aimed at addressing some of the key challenges Canada is facing.
With an initial commitment of $15 million, the first three challenges focus on:
- Viable and effective processes and methods for safely and rapidly decontaminating enclosed work environments (e.g., buildings and modes of transportation) containing sensitive equipment;
- Innovative material and designs to aid in decontamination of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), operational clothing and equipment for personnel responding to events involving biological hazards; and
- Data gathering solutions to support the early detection and community-based monitoring of outbreaks of contagious diseases.
Government of Canada Enhances Youth Employment and Skills Program to Help Create New Positions for Youth in the Agriculture Sector
The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, today announced an investment of up to $9.2 million to enhance the Youth Employment and Skills Program and fund up to 700 new positions for youth in the agriculture industry.
This additional funding will help the agriculture industry attract Canadian youth, ages 15 to 30, to their organizations to assist with labour shortages brought on by the pandemic. This program aims to provide youth, and particularly youth facing barriers to employment, with job experience in agriculture that will provide career-related work experience.
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.
Email: [email protected]
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Email: [email protected]