Downtown Economic Recovery, Pandemic Pay, and COVID-19 Updates

After citing record transmission levels on Tuesday, Dr. de Villa took the difficult and decisive action to address the rising cases of COVID-19 in Toronto by keeping indoor dining, indoor fitness classes closed and urging all residents in Toronto to only see members of their households. While these were necessary and urgent actions, I want to recognize how confusing the shifting messaging, and directives have been from the Province. As reported yesterday by the Toronto Star, the Premier has chosen to ignore scientific health data, foregoing public safety in favour of perceived economic recovery. It is becoming increasingly challenging to navigate best practices.

I would encourage you to follow the most recent advice from the City of Toronto and Toronto Public Health. Dr. de Villa has been clear in her messaging. Stay home, only leave for essential trips and stick to seeing only those in your household. Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from those outside your household. Wash your hands frequently and wear your mask. The City of Toronto and the Emergency Operations Centre has a press conference every Tuesday and Thursday which you can watch here. If you missed the press conference, you can always read Dr. de Villa’s statements and recommendations. By following local directives, you can simplify the messages you receive to the most critical information for your community. 

Currently, Prime Minister Trudeau’s Federal government is funding 97 percent of all COVID-19 supports for Ontarians. This is unacceptable and unfair because with Ontario residents and municipalities suffering, Premier Ford is dodging his responsibility as Premier. Throughout the pandemic, he has downloaded the hardest choices and most unpopular decisions to each municipality. We deserve better leadership from our Provincial government, especially in this moment of crisis. 

I know that if you are reading this EBlast regularly, you are already doing your best to protect your family and our community as a whole. I thank you for your continued care. We also know that in some of the hardest hit neighbourhoods in Toronto Centre, such as neighbourhoods like St James Town, Regent Park, Moss Park, the Village and Cabbagetown South, many residents are essential frontline workers. It is impossible to ask them to stay home when we depend on them. It is even more critical that those who can work from home, do stay home, to show our thanks and support for their continued service. 

Surviving this pandemic will take more than individual action. At the October City Council meeting, my colleagues and I adopted a motion requesting that the Provincial government reinstate pandemic pay to support our frontline and essential workers. I recognize that asking workers to risk their health is a terrible situation, and supporting them with pandemic pay is the least our government can offer. This increased pay is not enough for the sacrifices they are making for our communities. 

Despite the ongoing, daily risk we ask of our frontline workers, grocery chains such as Loblaws continue to report increased profits throughout the pandemic. This article from Kitchener Today cites Loblaws’ third quarter revenue totaled $15.67 billion. Reinstating pandemic pay is the right step that profit-making corporate employers should take to support our essential workers. 

While some sectors are seeing incredible growth through the pandemic, I’ve visited and spoken to many in our small business community who are just trying to survive. They can not afford their rent, many still being unable to pay for November. These businesses cannot rely on tax credits in 2021 when they’ve already shuttered their doors. I know these restaurants, cafes and fitness studios are doing their best to keep us safe while we shop and return to our favourite activities. I know we all want to support independent, local businesses, and that’s impossible to do while being forced to stay home. 

Premier Ford thinks that providing a property tax and hydro credit in 2021 and 2022 will keep our businesses afloat today. But he is wrong, as business operators will need urgent support immediately; it cannot wait until next year or the following. We need broadly available and much larger financial support for our Downtown businesses. Additionally, these supports should be retroactive and directly targeted for those financially struggling. Premier Ford has announced these future financial programs to facilitate tomorrow’s economic recovery, but he has yet to release any further details, or applications on how owners can access them. 

As revealed on The Herle Burly, a podcast hosted by Canadian political consultant David Herle, Peter Weltman, Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer confirmed that the Province of Ontario had over $9 billion in unallocated relief funding as of June.  It is outrageous to learn that as our small businesses and vulnerable residents continue to struggle, Premier Ford is allowing this funding to sit quietly, unused. Unfortunately, the Premier will not navigate Ontarians out of the economic devastation from this pandemic with his wishful thinking. We need clear Provincial legislative action to support the health of each and every person, especially as we look to rebuild our economy. There is no economy without thoughtful care for each individual and their unique circumstances.

As we examine what the coming years look like, we need to incorporate a nuanced and tailored approach to support the economic recovery of our Downtown. Our Downtown businesses have relied on fully occupied office towers, universities and tourists populating our busy Downtown streets. We need a comprehensive Downtown Economic Recovery Strategy to bring back the consistent stream of people walking and visiting our neighbourhoods. We need intergovernmental coordination and targeted programs to bring back our safe, inclusive streets and neighbourhoods. With a population of 2.9 million people, Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America and our Downtown communities have been financially hit the hardest. We will also be the slowest to recover without targeted government support.

The Toronto Office of Rebuild and Recovery has issued their report, and it is up to us to ensure the follow-up work represents the needs of Downtown. That includes equitable access to our sidewalks, streets and public realm through the winter as well as a strong retail strategy to help our storefronts who risk being boarded up forever. My staff and I continue to advocate for your needs, and we continue to demand that Premier Ford stand by Toronto and invest in our recovery. 

The recent Fallout Report released by Toronto Foundation cites that people earning less than $30,000 a year are 5.3 times more likely to catch COVID-19 than those making $150,000 or more. Black, Latin American and Arab, Middle Eastern or West Asian Torontonians have COVID-19 infection rates at least seven times higher than white residents. It is clear that while we are all in the same storm, we are not in the same boat. While our Federal partners have directly invested in Black and Indigenous businesses, our Provincial counterparts have given us nothing but vague announcements with convoluted messages. Where is the Province’s equitable recovery or financial support?

I’d like to thank NDP Leader Andrea Horvath for her press release today, urging modified Stage 1 restrictions in what’s being called a circuit breaker approach. With this approach, businesses would receive direct funding to support a partial closure while schools remain open. I believe that this strategy is the best way to keep our communities safe, and will ensure our small businesses and residents have the financial support they need to survive. 

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

Kristyn


Community Corner in Ward 13

The Green P surface parking lot located at 405 Sherbourne has been identified as part of the City of Toronto’s Housing Now Initiative. This City-wide initiative with 17 locations across Toronto identifies where new mixed-income, mixed-use development will be built to support complete communities. This project would include about 216 residential units, including 116 affordable units. It would be 22 storeys, with approximately 75 proposed parking spaces. The City of Toronto is inviting you to the first community consultation meeting about this proposed site, where you can learn more and provide feedback to CreateTO and City staff. If you’re unable to join this first meeting, there will be another opportunity for feedback in 2021.

Image description: a graphic of a map of 405 Sherbourne

When: Monday, November 23, 2020

Time: 7:00 p.m.  to 9:00 p.m. 

Where: You can join virtually or call in! 

Image description: a graphic of a map of 405 Sherbourne

Learn more about the project and how to get involved.

If you have any questions or comments, you can contact Thomas Rees, City Planner at Thomas.Rees@toronto.ca or 416-392-1791


Making Cents: Talking City Budgets with Councillor Wong-Tam

Image description: promotional poster for Making Cents Budget Series panel event with Councillor Wong-Tam

Since the pandemic began in mid-March, the City of Toronto has experienced significant financial impacts in the form of both added costs and revenue losses as a direct result of COVID-19. This pandemic has exposed and brought attention to a number of gaps in the system, and has applied significant strain on our social programs and community supports. We cannot look to recreate the same systems that failed us before the pandemic. We must emerge and create a new path forward, with an economic and social recovery that leaves no one behind.

In the fall, Toronto begins its budget planning process for 2021. We know that the City of Toronto is under immense financial pressure because of COVID-19. Join us on Monday, November 23rd from 3:00pm- 4:00pm EST for our final panel as we look to the future and discuss a vision for our city that works for everyone. Building on each previous panel, we can take what we’ve learned and consider what recovery looks like for the City of Toronto. What have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and how can we move forward creating a City that works for everyone? How can our municipal budget evolve to support the creation of this new vision for our City? This panel will explore these questions and more, as we look towards recovery for all. 

When: Monday, November 23rd 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm EST

Where: Registrants will receive a link to watch

Special Guests:

Brittany Andrew-Amofah, Senior Policy and Research Analyst, Broadbent Institute

Brian F. Kelcey, Consultant, Urban Public Policy

Dr. Notisha Massaquoi, Provost Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work

Ajeev Bhatia, Policy/Community Connections Manager, Centre for Connected Communities

Dr. Kaitlin Schwan, Director of Research, The Shift

Learn more and RSVP here.


COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread

As we begin to again restrengthen our public health measures, we will all continue to live in this new normal. Wearing a mask or a face covering is mandatory in all public indoor spaces and on the TTC. Our commitment must be to continue minimizing the impact of COVID-19, especially on our most vulnerable residents, while reducing negative social, economic, and broader health impacts on our community. In the coming months what this means for our residents is:

  • Continuing to work remotely, wherever possible;
  • Maintaining physical distance from people outside our household or social circle/bubble;
  • Avoiding crowds and congregations in closed indoor settings;
  • Wearing a cloth mask or face covering in any public indoor setting, including stores, transit, offices; and where
  • physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
  • Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.

Face Masks and Coverings Offer Best Protection

Image description: Informational graphic from Toronto Public Health titled, "Face Masks & Coverings Offer Best Protection." Through visual examples, the graphic shows recommended and not recommended ways of wearing a mask. The recommended way for wearing a mask says, "should cover your nose, mouth, and chin without gaping." The following are not recommended: face shields, masks with exhalation valves, or clear plastic masks.

How to Safely Wear a Mask

Image description: Toronto Public Health infographic about how to safely wear a mask. Information on the infographic is listed below.

  • Do wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off
  • Do make sure it fits to cover your mouth and nose
  • Do wash your cloth mask in the laundry
  • Do clean surfaces that a dirty mask touches
  • Don’t touch your face or mask while using it
  • Don’t use masks on children under 2 or those who can’t breathe with them on
  • Don’t share your mask with others
  • Don’t wear medical masks, keep them for health care workers
  • The best protection is to stay home, keep a 6-foot distance, and wash hands often.

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

The City of Toronto continues to urge you to stay home. Please regularly check news releases for the latest information.

More information on affected City services & facilities.

More updates from the City of Toronto.


Province of Ontario Updates

Ontario Takes Steps to Make Government Services More Convenient, Reliable and Accessible

The Ontario government is investing $500 million over four years to make public sector services more customer-focused, and more efficient and cost-effective. The funding is flowing through the Ontario Onwards Acceleration Fund to support modernization projects such as making government services more digitally accessible, reducing red tape and simplifying policies, and improving government purchasing to save both time and money.

Ontario Investing Additional $761 Million to Build and Renovate More Long-Term Care Homes

The Ontario government is investing an additional $761 million to build and renovate 74 long-term care homes across the province, creating close to 11,000 safe, modern spaces sooner for residents to call home. 

More updates from the Province of Ontario.


Government of Canada Updates

Canada Condemns China’s Decision to Remove Democratically Elected Hong Kong Legislators

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, yesterday issued the following statement.

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: 1-866-797-0000

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)

Support for People Living with Homelessness

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 on my website at kristynwongtam.ca.

Toronto Police

If you or someone else is confronted with life-threatening danger, please call 911 immediately. Alternatively, the Toronto Police request that online reports be submitted at torontopolice.on.ca/core or to torontopolice.on.ca/community-complaints. You can also call their non-emergency line at 416-808-2222. 

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