Save Small Business & COVID-19 Updates

I know many of you share my assertion that Ward 13 - Toronto Centre is the heart of Toronto’s downtown.  We are home to some of Canada’s most iconic business districts and small businesses, from Canada’s largest gay village to the Financial District, to the re-invigorated historical districts such as Yonge Street, Corktown, St Lawrence Market and more. We also know that business across our community are in trouble. Governments at all levels have offered different programs to try to bring relief. I know that it's not enough, but I am heartbroken to hear that some commerical landlords in the ward are making it impossible for small businesses to access some of the limited support available to them

In that spirit, today's intro is a little bit different.  I wanted to share an open letter I wrote to call for commercial landlords to stop evictions and do their part to save small businesses.

 

OPEN LETTER TO COMMERCIAL LANDLORDS IN WARD 13 - TORONTO CENTRE

According to the recent Save Small Business survey, 70% of small businesses will default on their commercial rent in May as a result of the impacts of COVID-19. These numbers are confirmed in a local survey conducted by businesses in the Corktown neighbourhood. They have seen that the mandatory provincial shutdown for non-essential businesses has led to greater than an 80% loss in revenue for 80% of businesses in Corktown. 

Small businesses employ millions of Canadians and serve as the financial heart and spine of every community and its mainstreet. Like you, I have seen recently boarded up shops across the city, including those in our local neighbourhoods, as residents are taking their duty to stay home and practice physical distancing seriously. 

However, it is also a scary foreshadowing of what could be a permanent condition on our mainstreets once the physical distancing measures have been lifted, if we don’t take quick and serious measures to help small businesses survive. Some of the boarded up storefronts or soon to be closed locations belong to your tenants. They have poured their sweat and tears into building a business that can support local residents, their employees, neighbourhoods and families. In the best of times, you work in financial partnership with them and your success is tied directly to theirs. 

COVID-19 is a global pandemic unlike any other and it has radically changed the way we live, work, play, study and invest. The lockdown-induced recession that grips Canada requires each of us to do our part in supporting one another. Our ecology, social and economic well-being are more entwined than ever before. We need each other to survive.

This is why I am disappointed to learn that commercial landlords in our neighbourhoods, including a significant number in the Church-Wellesley Village, are not only refusing to apply for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program but also moving to evict the tenants. For every iconic venue that closes in the Village, we lose an important LGBTQ2S+ business and cultural space. We can not allow this to happen.

Although CECRA is not perfect, it is available exclusively to you as landlords. The economic and cultural vibrancy of the City of Toronto is relying on you to apply for,  and pass along the financial assistance to your struggling tenants. It’s a straightforward program with the Government of Canada paying 50% of the rent through a forgivable loan, your tenant will pay 25% and you as the landlord forgo the final 25%. By all calculations, 75% payable is far better than nothing - which is exactly what you will get if the tenants are forced to close their doors permanently. 

You are not in this alone. To assist residents, property owners and business operators, the City of Toronto has deferred the payment of property taxes and utility bills. Further to this, we have established the BusinessTO Support Centre to exclusively provide support to businesses navigating the different government financial programs made available during the COVID-19 emergency. We have professional staff on standby ready to help you fill out the application forms for assistance, including CECRA. 

There is no excuse for you to sit idly by, unreasonably demand full rent from your tenants and then start the eviction process. Doing nothing to help them and then legally threatening the tenants is an act of selfish recklessness and the economic harm will not only befall your tenants. If your storefront property becomes vacant as do the adjacent properties, then you have enabled your own neighbourhood decay and property devaluation.

Commercial vacancies will become the new normal if landlords don’t work with their tenants to survive the economic fallout of the pandemic together. If you refuse to apply for the government programs designed to help you and your tenants, and you evict your tenants for non-payment of rent during COVID-19, you will not easily recover. In a global recession, there will not be eager new tenants flushed with cash to pay you three times more rent than your property is worth. 

This is not going to happen. The community will name and shame you for being heartless when you could have acted with responsible compassion and good corporate citizenship.

We understand that these are difficult times for everyone which is exactly why we must work together to survive the financial destruction brought on by COVID-19. It’s the only way we can get to the other side safely. Without your cooperation, in large part, our local businesses and mainstreets will be obliterated. 

We’re in this together. We are counting on you, please do not let us down.


Virtual Press Conference with Local Small Business Leaders

Tomorrow morning, on Tuesday May 5, I will be hosting a virtual press conference at 9:30am with some of your commercial tenants to further publicly repeat this call for support. Speakers will include: Christopher Hudspeth, Chair of the Church Wellesley Business Improvement Area (CWVBIA) and Owner of Pegasus, Aaron Binder, President of the Corktown Residents and Business Association (CRBA) and CEO of Go Tours, Michael Erickson, Co-Owner of Glad Day Bookshop, and Al Smith, Executive Director of the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood Business Improvement Area.

I will be sharing a video link on social media following the digital press event. Stay tuned for more information!

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

Kristyn


Community Care in Ward 13

Today’s Community Care shoutout goes to the RamadanMealsTO’s Iftaar Program, who have, along with community partners and the Muslim Community of Downtown Toronto Omar Bin Khatab, been raising money and distributing halal cooked meals and food baskets to those in need. Community partners include Regent Park Catering Collective, Healing As One, Muslim Welfare Canada and Carrot Cache. They have been able to provide 567 meals and 40 food baskets in the first week of Ramadan. The program is running at full capacity as they are experiencing a huge need across the GTA. If you would like to volunteer please email them at ramadanmealsto@gmail.com.

I’ve had the opportunity to donate to the RamadanMealsTO initiative. I hope you will consider contributing to their fundraising campaign here. Any amount helps!

If you know any community members who may need support with a cooked meal or food basket, please fill out the form here.

RamadanMealsTO

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!


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.

Physical Distance

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. 

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 

Toronto Public Health Warns of Callers Posing as TPH staff

Yesterday, Dr. de Villa warned that there may be people calling residents in our community who are falsely claiming to be Toronto Public Health staff. In one instance, the individual was asked to provide their banking information and their social insurance number. Dr. de Villa stressed that Toronto Public Health would never request this information because it is not relevant to public health work. Anyone who receives a suspicious call requesting financial information should not give out any personal information and call the Toronto Police Service non-emergency line at 416-808-2222. Anyone with questions about public health operations can contact Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600.

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.ca/covid19 under Parking.

Regular updates are being made to the COVID-19: Changes to City Services webpage.

Targeted Spring Cleanup Across the City

Targeted spring cleanup is taking place across the city over the next few weeks. Spring cleanup activities include:

  •  Illegal dumping cleanup
  • Boulevard and laneway cleaning
  • Litter and debris removal in parks
  • Fence-line litter clearing
  • Street sweeping to clean up dirt and debris from Toronto’s streets.

During the pandemic, the City has been working hard to keep public spaces clean and safe. Staff are out each day picking up litter, emptying street and park waste bins and sweeping streets. The public can do their part to help keep Toronto clean and safe by properly disposing of items in available street bins and not littering. You can also report litter hot spots to 311. In light of the COVID-19 situation, the City does not want the public handling items that have been discarded on the ground in Toronto's public spaces or organizing community cleanup events. If residents find personal protective equipment or other trash discarded on their property, they are advised to use gloves to pick it up and to discard it in the garbage, along with the gloves and then wash their hands.

Regular Yard Waste Collection Resumes

The City is resuming regularly scheduled yard waste collection. Residents are asked to put their yard waste out before 7 a.m. on their regularly scheduled garbage/yard waste collection day. If yard waste is not picked up the day it is put out, please leave it out until it’s collected and refrain from calling 311 to report a missed collection.

Use a yard waste bag if possible. Otherwise a rigid open-top container can be used. Brush and branches should be secured in bundles no longer than 1.2 metres (4 feet), no wider than 0.6 metres (two feet) and no heavier than 20 kilograms (44 lbs).

For more information, please visit the City’s website.

Pothole Repair Blitz

Three pothole repair blitzes are planned in May to help keep roads safe and in a good state of repair. The first blitz was yesterday, and 7,700 potholes were repaired. The next repair blitzes are scheduled for May 9 and 23, weather permitting. Please read the news release for more information.

Reopening Debenture to Help Fund Capital Projects

The City of Toronto is reopening one of its recently settled debenture offerings for an additional $200 million. The City issues long-term debt to help fund a variety of key capital projects. This $200 million bond issue has a fixed coupon of 2.65% and a maturity of November 9, 2029. This reissuance brings the bond's outstanding amount to $600 million. Investors paid a price of $108.92 to yield 1.631 per cent, which is the lowest borrowing cost the City of Toronto has ever secured.

These bonds will help fund critical capital projects for a number of City divisions, including:

  • Toronto Transit Commission
  • Toronto Public Health
  • Long-Term Care Homes
  • Solid Waste Management Services
  • Toronto Public Library
  • Toronto’s Sustainable Energy Plan and many others.

Toronto has one of the largest municipal borrowing programs in Canada. It is a regular issuer in the public Canadian debt market, with several sinking fund debentures each year. Debenture issues are initially distributed and traded by several Canadian investment dealers. Retail investors can contact their financial institutions to inquire about investing in the City of Toronto’s debentures.

More information on affected city services & facilities.

More updates from the City of Toronto.


Province of Ontario Updates

Provincial Government Introduces Improvements Health Care Flexibility During COVID-19

Over the weekend, the Ontario government issued new temporary emergency orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to support the immediate needs of the province's hospitals and health care workers so they can better manage critical health care human resources during COVID-19.

The new temporary emergency orders issued today will:

  • Give hospitals the authority and flexibility to more quickly appoint, re-appoint and grant privileges to medical and other professional staff, in order to address potential surge volumes due to COVID-19. This emergency order will allow for the reduction of administrative processes and better enable hospitals to focus operational resources on providing frontline services.

  • Authorize coroners, registered nurses appointed as coroner investigators, and public health units to access the provincial electronic health record to help reduce demands on clinicians' time related to death investigations, reduce exposure to COVID-19 related death investigations, and improve the ability to monitor the spread of the virus.
  • Allow registered nurses appointed as coroner investigators to complete medical certificates of death instead of a physician or nurse practitioner, giving these medical professionals more time to focus on patient care.

Learn more about Ontario’s Action Plan here.

Provincial Government Increases Daily Lab Testing

This afternoon, the provincial government provided an update on testing and contact tracing capacity for COVID-19. The province has increased testing and contact tracing capacity, allowing health experts to identify cases of COVID-19 and support efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the community, long-term care homes, and other congregate settings. In partnership with Ontario Health, Public Health Ontario, local public health units, and hospital and community laboratories, the Ontario government has developed an integrated laboratory system which has established the province as a national leader in daily testing volumes per capita.

Testing is being carried out in hospitals, long-term care homes, group homes, shelters, emergency child care centres, and other congregate settings. 

The new integrated laboratory system will support the province's health care system and laboratory network far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The province wide testing network consists of more than 20 organizations and is coordinating and leveraging the diverse expertise located throughout the province. This is being achieved through daily check-ins and processes that address operational needs, such as:

  • Levels of supplies, expected supply consumption per day, inventory replenishment and other supply chain issues
  • Equipment information
  • Technical capacity and advances
  • Test turn-around times and the shifting of test samples to laboratories that have spare processing capacity
  • Ongoing scientific and technical review of test performance
  • Alternative approaches to processing
  • Emerging technology

See the government full announcement here.

More updates from the Province of Ontario.


Government of Canada Updates

The federal government announced an investment of $240.5 million to develop, expand and launch virtual care and mental health tools to support Canadians. This investment will be used to create digital platforms and applications, improve access to virtual mental health supports and expand capacity to deliver health care virtually, including projects to reach vulnerable Canadians.

The federal website, Wellness Together Canada, provides online mental health and substance use support. Learn more here.

Families receiving the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) will get $300 extra per child in May to help them deal with the added pressures of COVID-19. Eligible families will automatically receive this one-time increase as part of their scheduled CCB payment in May.

A new COVID-19 Supply Council has been created to ensure a continuous supply of PPE in Canada. As part of this work, the government has signed new contracts with Canadian companies to produce PPE and supplies.

A Canadian biotechnology company, AbCellera Biologics, received $175.6 million to AbCellera Biologics to assist with research into next-generation antibody drugs to fight infection and disease, including COVID-19. In addition, $850 million was announced that would be invested in Canadian and international research to support testing, vaccine development and treatment towards the global fight against COVID-19.

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 (The City is only accepting 311 requests through phone)

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