In yesterday’s eblast, I shared my open letter to commercial landlords, urging them to take advantage of all the options available to help save our local businesses. Some landlords have been in touch to say that they are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) because they are not currently paying a mortgage on their property. According to the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Company, an alternative mechanism will be implemented for those property owners who do not have a mortgage. Further information will be outlined in the near future. I hope eligible landlords will take advantage of that program when it becomes available and that, in the meantime, they help share the burden of lost income with their tenants.
Today, I hosted a virtual press conference with several advocates for small business asking the Federal and Provincial governments to do more. They include Christopher Hudspeth, Owner of Pegasus Bar and Chair of the Church Wellesley Village BIA; Aaron Binder, Chief Experience Officer of Go-Tours and President of the Corktown Resident and Business Association; Michael Erickson, Co-Owner of Glad Day Bookshop; and, Al Smith, Executive Director of the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood Business Improvement Area. In the absence of a legislated moratorium on commercial evictions which can only be invoked by the Provincial government, we jointly called on commercial landlords to stop evictions and do their part to save small businesses by applying for the government-issued financial assistance packages.
I want to thank all the speakers for their time, passion and hard work in keeping Toronto and Ward 13 - Toronto Centre a vibrant and wonderful place to live and work. You can read their own words below, or watch today’s press conference here.
“Business owners aren’t asking for a handout, they're asking for consideration after years of paying taxes and supporting the economy. After all, 70% of Canadians own or are employed by small businesses. These businesses are the heart and passion of Canadian commerce which is why we're asking the Provincial and Federal governments to support them now so they can thrive again later.” - Aaron Binder, Chief Experience Officer, Go Tours and President of the Corktown Residents and Business Association (CRBA).
“Small businesses in Canada are extremely important to the local economy. All across this country small businesses are working hard to stay alive. Many of us will have even more struggles to get reopened in the future. Bars and other gathering spots will be some of the last to be able to restart. We need help! The other government programs have had issues. Many of them have been corrected. I ask today that the Provincial and Federal government step up and fix the CECRA program so it will work for the commercial tenants. The Federal government has put the money aside; give tenants some way to access this help if the landlord won’t. Small businesses are the backbone of this country.” - Christopher Hudspeth, Owner of Pegasus Bar and Chair of the Church Wellesley Business Improvement Area (CWVBIA).
“Running this subsidy through landlords who want to hide their real finances or maximize their profits was a mistake. This needs to go to businesses directly--with proper reporting and transparency--if we want to save the small businesses and communities that make up a city. I am concerned that the Federal government is out of touch with commercial rent rates in Toronto and Vancouver. The first phase of financial support treated everyone the same. Now it is time to treat us differently: different businesses with different rents, different revenue streams, different fixed costs and the need for different levels of financial support. If we stick with a one-size-fits-all system, it will mean the end of most storefront businesses in cities." - Michael Erickson, Co-Owner of Glad Day Bookshop.
“CECRA must be amended to support tenants and landlords so that both can survive. We have asked our members and landlords to work together. The health and viability of our mainstreets make a recovery more plausible. The proper time for aid is now. An integrated plan to support our businesses financially while we get back on our feet is necessary.” - Al Smith, Executive Director of the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood Business Improvement Area.
It is clear that with many landlords already expressing an unwillingness to cooperate, the Provincial and Federal governments need to step up and legislate a moratorium on commercial rental evictions and restructure the CECRA to allow tenants to directly access the 50% government relief if their landlord indicates they will not apply. The government should also look at expanding the amount of money eligible through the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA). In urban centres such as downtown Toronto with high rents and operating costs, the $40,000 loan available is not going to be enough for many business owners.
I know that residents in Ward 13 are doing everything they can to help sustain small businesses. I have seen take-out and delivery activity from neighbourhood restaurants and local online storefronts. These individual actions are important but, without urgent and proportionally targeted assistance packages that are geographically-responsive, our individual support for local business operators won't be enough.
Today I am asking you to take another action, and join our campaign to Save Local Small Businesses. Please sign this open letter calling on the Provincial and Federal governments to make the necessary legislative changes we need to save our small businesses and our main streets.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Care in Ward 13
Today’s Community Care shoutout goes to the Toronto Public Library who are now offering a new Instant Digital Card, which will make their collection of ebooks and audiobooks available to folks without a library card. This temporary card is available to people age 13 and older with a Toronto cell phone that can receive texts. New customers can enjoy this access until September 1, 2020. Learn more here.
What you'll need:
- Our campaign code: TPL2020
- A cell phone, with a Toronto area code (416, 647 or 437), that can receive text messages
- Either a computer with an internet connection, OR
- A smartphone or tablet with one of OverDrive's ereading apps: Either Libby (most customers) or OverDrive (customers who use screen reader software)
Thank you for making your amazing collection available for the community!
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
Revised Due Dates Property Tax and Utility Bills
The 60-day grace period for property tax, utility bill payments and late penalties extended by the City during the COVID-19 response ends on May 15. There are important changes to instalment amounts and due dates for customers on all payment schedules. All customers will receive a mailed notification of their revised interim bill due dates. Final tax bills will be mailed in mid-May as usual.
Property taxes for the remainder of 2020 will be due on the following dates:
- Two-instalment plan: August 4;
- Six-instalment plan: June 1, July 2, August 4, September 1 and October 1; and,
- 11-instalment plan: June 15, July 15, August 17, September 15, October 15, November 16 and December 15.
Customers on the 11-instalment plan will have their original May and June interim instalment amounts combined with the final billing and spread evenly over July through December payments.
Customers who are already enrolled in the City’s pre-authorized payment plan don’t have to re-enroll – payments will start again automatically on the new due date. Customers who have sent the City post-dated cheques do not need to re-send cheques for the revised due dates, as any cheques previously submitted will be processed on the new due dates. Any cheques received after April 1, 2020 will be cashed according to the date on the cheque.
Those who pay their taxes via their mortgage payment should contact their mortgage company or financial institution to understand how this grace period will affect their mortgage amount and/or mortgage payment schedule.
Customers who paid their property tax and utility bills during this time will see any payments made reflected on their account. Property owners can access their property tax account details by using the online Property Tax Lookup tool. For utility bill customers, due dates appearing on utility bills have been automatically adjusted to reflect the 60-day grace period.
Opening Community Gardens and Allotment Gardens
On April 25, the Province of Ontario announced amendments to an Order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that permit the use of allotment gardens and community gardens. To help increase the resiliency of food security for Toronto’s residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto will open its community and allotment gardens for the 2020 gardening season. The City will follow a phased approach in opening its 81 community gardens and 12 allotment gardens to ensure public safety while providing access to an essential source of fresh food.
Community gardens will begin to open this week on a location-by-location basis. Allotment gardens will begin to open during the week of May 11.
Each year, the City’s community gardens and their volunteers support more than 25 community agencies and provide them with 1,133 to 2,267 kilograms (2,000 to 5,000 pounds) of fresh, Toronto-grown produce. Annually, more than 1,300 people use the City’s allotment gardens to grow their own food and plants. The gardens typically open in early May for planting activities but were previously included in the Province’s ordered closure of all recreation amenities in Ontario.
As part of the amendment, the Province directed local Medical Officers of Health to provide advice and instructions that gardens must meet in order to operate safely, both for the benefit of those using the garden and for the general public. Learn more about the guidelines.
Province of Ontario Updates
Earlier today, the Provincial government announced the expansion of virtual mental health services to support people in Ontario in need of support. The expansion of services includes support for frontline health care workers, as well as mental health support services include internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
As part of the government's recent $12 million commitment to mental health during COVID-19, the emergency funding is helping mental health agencies hire and train more staff, purchase the necessary equipment and technology they need to help patients and support the creation and enhancement of virtual and online supports for mental health services including:
- Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT): Clients can self-refer to programs through the various service providers listed and be guided through their client journey to find the appropriate supports they need. Online iCBT is supported by therapists and available in English and French;
- Supports for frontline health care workers: Online iCBT is available to frontline health care workers experiencing anxiety, burnout or post-traumatic stress disorder. Those requiring intensive levels of care could be referred to virtual face-to-face care, as well as weekly online peer discussion groups and access to confidential support from a clinician; and,
- Virtual mental health support services: These include BounceBack telephone coaching and workbooks and Kids Help Phone for children and youth.
The province has also established a Mental Health and Addictions COVID-19 Response Table, led by the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence at Ontario Health, to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on access to public mental health and addictions services. Its members include representatives from across Ontario's mental health and addictions sector, who are working collaboratively to focus on maintaining services during the outbreak. The response table is identifying concerns and implementing quick solutions, supporting virtual care strategies, sharing best practices and connecting with other COVID-19 regional and provincial tables to ensure any issues impacting the province's mental health and addictions system are quickly resolved.
Government of Canada Updates
May 5 is STOP! Clean Your Hands Day, a day to highlight the importance of proper hand hygiene. While we do our best to #StayHome, it is important to practice proper handwashing when we return from outside. Learn more about proper handwashing technique from The Canadian Patient Safety Institute here.
Today, the federal government announced $252 million in financial assistance for food and agriculture industry. This includes $125 million for beef, poultry and pork producers, $77 million for food processors and $50 million to fight food insecurity. The federal government will also launch a $200 million credit line for dairy producers. This funding for agriculture and food industry is an initial step and does not provide a specific allocation for grain, vegetable or fruit farmers.
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)