City Council met last week to discuss important issues shaping the civic landscape of Toronto as we continue to navigate the next steps in our pandemic recovery. As COVID cases gradually rise, please consider how you can make your trips outside safer. If you have not yet, I would encourage you to get vaccinated. The colder weather is here, and flu shots are now available as well. Please consider getting your flu shot this year as it will keep you and our communities safer together. Many pharmacies in our neighborhoods are offering walk-in appointments, and it only takes a few minutes. I was happy to get my flu shot this weekend from my local pharmacy.
My colleagues and I continue to expand affordable housing tools at City Hall. Last Tuesday, as I mentioned in the previous EBlast, City Council voted to add Inclusionary Zoning to the Official Plan in an effort to make affordable housing mandatory and integrated into applicable new developments. I successfully moved a motion to create a public education campaign to dispel misconceptions, and misinformation about Inclusionary Zoning perpetuated by the powerful development industry. While much more needs to be done, if we are to really address housing affordability then this is still a necessary first step. Although I wanted more ambitious targets, I am still pleased that Toronto is the first city in Ontario to adopt Inclusionary Zoning. If Toronto’s Inclusionary Zoning plans are approved by the Province, we are on track to approve 12,000 units of new affordable housing units in 2022 and this number will rise to 25,000 in 2030.
As we look towards the winter months, the shelter and affordable housing crisis continues to be top of mind. As part of the City’s plan to end homelessness, I was proud to see my motion accelerate this work adopted by City Council. I have instructed staff to identify a breakdown of the costs necessary to ensure everyone living in a shelter, hotel shelter, and 24-hour respite centre could start by receiving a one-year rental subsidy to enable independent living and cost analysis for additional funding needed for housing supports for individuals who are unable to live independently. Further to this, I have asked that the information be forwarded to the Provincial and Federal governments for funding consideration. Although my motion may sound aggressive, I want you to consider that the cost of shelter service is now double what it used to be in pre-pandemic times. In a nutshell, it now costs the City $40,000 a year to place someone in a shelter or program akin to it and $24,000 if supportive housing was offered instead. An annual rental subsidy would cost even less and it would allow the City to divert money from the exorbitant and unsustainable costs of operating shelters and shelter hotels.
We have seen international success stories wherein municipalities provided housing and support to residents experiencing homelessness which both set vulnerable residents on a path to recovery as well as present a cost-saving to the city. Many vulnerable residents are caught in a vicious cycle wherein they have no permanent address, and cannot get a job. By ensuring housing as a human right, we can take great steps in reducing homelessness. I look forward to the coming report in January 2022 and working with our Provincial and Federal partners to finally add a missing piece of the solution to end homelessness.
In addition to addressing housing and homelessness, I was proud to see my motion adopted for a mental health and addictions strategy for the City of Toronto, including the feasibility and necessity of a new dedicated executive office to implement this plan. This is necessary work that our Provincial and Federal governments are failing to do in addressing the ongoing crisis in Toronto. I am especially proud that my work to create Toronto’s own Mental Health and Addictions Strategy was endorsed by the City’s leading mental health experts in this op-ed article.
City Council has previously called on the Federal government to provide over $300 million in dedicated funding to mental health and addictions. These calls have gone unanswered. We cannot continue to allow our vulnerable residents to suffer and we need to consider how we can better serve our neighbourhoods in the absence of help. To add your voice to this campaign, please visit my webpage at www.kristynwongtam.ca/homelessness.
Additionally, my colleagues and I voted to adopt a Small Business Tax Subclass, supporting our hard-hit small business community over the course of the pandemic, including my motion directing staff to create an educational and public outreach campaign outlining the program and eligibility criteria. Many businesses and their owners are unaware of this option, how it works, and who it impacts. This educational campaign will be critical to ensuring our business community is better served. I have worked on this new financial policy reform since 2017 when Yonge Street businesses saw their property taxes jump in some cases by 400-500%. It’s taken a long time to get here, but I’m very happy that approximately 25,000 qualifying small businesses, including many in our ward, will see their property taxes be reduced by 15% resulting in tens of thousands of dollars for many small business operators in 2022.
Through the course of the pandemic, City staff continued to issue business licenses to drivers for private transportation companies (such as Uber), without the training program as mandated by City Council in 2019. This was wrong and it was making our city streets unsafe with over 40,000 untrained Uber drivers on the road. I was proud to see my motion adopted directing staff to immediately pause the issuance of new licenses until the City-approved training is up and running. This training is anticipated to be ready by the first quarter of the new year.
My colleagues and I additionally adopted to extend CafeTO and begin the process to ensure a permanent program delivery. While staff continue to consult with stakeholders, including people living with disabilities, on guidelines to facilitate smooth program delivery, I am optimistic that this new iteration of CafeTO will help improve our public realm and support businesses through the pandemic and beyond. While we are still living with the COVID-19 pandemic, I will continue to champion the needs of residents and businesses to support them through recovery.
This week, people and organizations around the world are participating in Transgender Awareness Week to help raise the visibility of transgender people and address issues that members of the community face.
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), is an annual observance on November 20 that honors the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence that year. Each loss to anti-transgender violence is preventable. We can commit to honouring trans lives by ending the horrific epidemic of institutional violence that plagues our communities. For those who want to learn more, check out this resource from GLAAD.
Finally, some long overdue and excellent news was announced today with an end to the ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood. This discriminatory ban is set to be recommended within weeks in favour of new screening criteria based on sexual history and behaviour. I’m thrilled to see that the Canadian Blood Services is finally preparing to ask Health Canada to end questions about gender or sexuality. This decision is sure to help save more lives, and I am grateful it is finally here and to the many advocates who worked to make this happen.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
What’s In Today’s EBlast?
- Save the Date: Clean Up and Rally for the Ravines
- Unveiling of Nightshift at the Church Street Public School
- Have Your Say! Yonge Street Mission Development
- Distillery Winter Village
- Illuminated Perspectives by Jamii
- COVID Testing in St. James Town
- Grief Support Service for Youth
- Free Peer Support and Overdose Response Training Dates
- Wellington Construction Update
- St Lawrence Strategic Plan Public Survey
Save the Date: Clean Up and Rally for the Ravines
Don't Mess with the Don's Clean Up and Rally for the Ravines promotional poster
Join our friends at Don’t Mess with the Don for a clean-up and rally for our ravines. After 70 years, the Don Valley is again in danger of being returned to its polluting industrial past. Metrolinx has plans to construct and operate a GO Train service and storage facility in restored lands which will devastate the nearby wetlands meadows and 1,100 trees along with the diverse wildlife habitat this natural ecology provides.
Don’t Mess with the Don and other community partners will raise voices in opposition to this assault on Toronto’s most urban river valley and cherished green space. Please meet up at St Matthew’s Clubhouse at 450 Broadview Ave. As always, the clean-up will include draws, prizes, and refreshments.
When: Sunday, November 21, 2021
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where: St. Matthew’s Clubhouse, 450 Broadview Avenue
Rally to follow from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Learn more at [email protected].
Old Town Toronto is bringing back ShopOTT2Win with weekly prizes now through December 19th. Save your physical and digital receipts from local OTT businesses and upload photos of them no later than Sunday each week at shopott2win.com for a chance to win $500 for yourself and $500 for the local business the receipt is from.
This is not limited to retail and restaurants. Services from your dry cleaner, dentist, massage therapist and the like count too. Learn more, including contest boundaries, weekly draw dates and entry deadlines at shopott2win.com. Thank you for supporting local!
The Unveiling of Nightshift at Church Street Public School!
Group photo in front of the new illuminated Church St public school fence!
On Friday, November 12, 2021 students and neighbours joined Toronto District School Board Trustee Chris Moise, artist Dereck Revington, and I to celebrate the unveiling of Nightshift, the brand new illuminated fence at the Church Street Junior Public School.
The renovation of the Church Street Public School fence once haggard now breathes new life into the community. Bringing renowned artist Dereck Revington, whose work is featured internationally in Rome, Lisbon, New York, Madrid and in Toronto on the Prince Edward Viaduct, to develop a transformative and beautiful piece of public infrastructure.
Each glass panel is impact-resistant and controlled by motion sensors on the North and south ends of the fence. The lights are activated by speed of movement and create a crossing of colours resulting in a metaphor of exchange. Each of the colours falls along the colour wheel reflecting the rainbow inspired by the spirit of the Church Wellesley Village.
A photo of community members celebrating the newly illuminated Nightshift fence
Years of coordinated work as well as $1.8 million allocated from development community benefits with the support of Councillor Wong-Tam’s office to ensure this beautiful fence, and surrounding streetscape improvements, will be enjoyed for years to come. After a very challenging two years, this support will help give Church Street Public School and local residents a luminescent piece of artwork to enjoy for decades to come. As 2021 is the Year of Public Art, this is a shining example of how community collaboration can create beautiful streets and how critical infrastructure can not only be functional but a piece of art in our neighbourhoods.
Have Your Say! Yonge Street Mission Development
An artist drawing of the YSM development
The Yonge Street Mission is working on a new redevelopment plan for a mixed-use, affordable, and market-rental housing complex and community gathering space, called the YSM Opportunity Centre, at 306-310 Gerrard Street East.
As a valued member of the community, you are invited to join the public meeting scheduled to learn more about the redevelopment proposal and share your feedback
When: Thursday, November 25, 2021
Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Register to attend
For more information and to register for the event, please visit www.ysm.ca/opportunitycentre.
Distillery Winter Village
A photo of the Distillery District
The countdown for the Distillery Winter Village is on! Tickets are required for the tree lighting event this Thursday, November 18 after 4:00 p.m., and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after 4:00 p.m., and between December 20th - December 23rd after 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $8 each (age 6 years and up). This is to help manage capacity during peak hours. At all other times, access is free of charge and tickets are not required.
For those attending the Winter Village, please note that parking is very limited. The best way to get to The Distillery Winter Village is to take public transit, walk, rideshare, or use Bike Share Toronto. For more information about how to get to the Winter Village, read here.
COVID protocols to ensure safety for all guests will be in place throughout the event, including sanitizing stations, reduced guest capacity, and social distancing. All guests 12+ will be asked to show proof of double vaccination and government-issued ID at entry points (to save time, it is recommended that you show your government QR code).
The Winter Village is taking place from November 18 to December 31, 2021. Learn more about the Winter Village and purchase tickets on their website. I can’t wait to see you there!
Illuminated Perspectives by Jamii
Illuminated Perspectives photo exhibit
Created in partnership with Ontario Culture Days and the Toronto Public Library, Illuminated Perspectives is the name of Jamii's latest community photo exhibit. The photos were submitted by 4 Pikangikum First Nation photographers, while 11 local girls from our community came together to select and curate the images that can be found in the courtyard of the Toronto Public Library, St Lawrence branch.
The girls from "Illuminated Perspectives" came together and shared their ideas and visions of how to showcase the photos. They dreamed about how these pictures would transform the courtyard space; how they would share stories through the images; and debated, exchanged ideas and challenged one another to create a cohesive exhibit. The older girls helped the younger girls and the group came together on a curatorial journey.
COVID Testing in St. James Town
COVID Testing in St. James Town poster
Our friends in St. James Town are offering COVID-19 testing for residents of St. James Town and surrounding areas who require a COVID-19 test. Please note that this is not for travel-related purposes.
Where: The Corner (200 Wellesley St. East)
Time: 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
When: Tuesday afternoons starting November 16 2021 to December 7, 2021
Walk-ins and appointments are available. To book an appointment, please call 416-254-4006. Results are available in 1-2 business days. Bring your OHIP card if you have one (however, it is not required).
Grief Support Service for Youth
Grief Support Service for Youth information poster
Starting November 30th from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Yorktown Family Services is providing a grief support youth service for Toronto youth. This 10-week outdoor grief group program is for youth aged 13-21 who have experienced the death of an immediate family member.
Referrals and inquiries about this support service can be made to the YFS Intake Coordinator at [email protected].
Free Peer Support and Overdose Response Training Dates
Free Peer Support and Overdose Response Training poster
The Community Responder Network, funded by Heart to Heart First Aid CPR Services Inc. is offering a free Peer Support and Overdose Response training program in Downtown Toronto East - 216 Carlton St. From November 16th to December 14, 2021. It is a direct response to the ongoing opioid poisoning crisis. This training is recommended for those who are most likely to encounter, witness or experience opioid poisoning. Types of Responders may include frontline outreach, harm reduction, shelter support workers, or emergency response teams of volunteers in a high-risk apartment complex, neighbourhood, or community housing. The responder can also be an individual (family member, friend, peer, neighbour, resident) who may be acting as a “monitor” for someone who is using drugs. They may also be individuals who use drugs themselves and have agreed to take turns with their peers to monitor each other.
Heart2Heart’s goal is to save lives by providing FREE training and supplies. Each responder will receive an emergency response backpack that includes a Bag-Valve Mask with HEPA filter, hard-case pocket mask, mini-first aid kit, and 4-piece PPE.
Wellington Construction Update
City of Toronto contractors will be returning to Wellington Street to repair the sidewalk and road areas where ponding is currently occurring. Repair work will begin on Monday, November 22 and last until Wednesday, November 24. This restoration work will occur between Yonge Street and Church Street on Wellington Street, and on Front Street from Church Street to 50m to the west. Work is anticipated to take 3 days to complete, weather pending.
Please expect significant noise disruption and obstructions to the sidewalk area and traffic on Wellington Street during work hours.
St Lawrence Strategic Plan Public Survey
The City of Toronto and St. Lawrence Market Precinct Advisory Committee are working to enhance the St. Lawrence Market Precinct, an area of Toronto between King St., Jarvis St., Wilton St., and Market St. by undertaking a strategic plan that will help guide the future of the St. Lawrence Market Precinct. They are currently conducting a survey that will help them better understand how they can enhance the visitor experience at the Precinct.
This survey will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Your answers will help inform a new Strategic Plan for the Precinct that will build on the previous work, address change, and establish a new set of goals and objectives. Fill out the survey by the end of day on Friday November 26, 2021. Fill out the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/StLawrencePrecinct.
COVID-19: Vaccine Information
For updates about Toronto’s vaccination rollout and booking system, please visit my website.
Book an appointment at a City-operated vaccination clinic by phone through the provincial call centre, 1-888-999-6488.
Book an appointment at a City-operated vaccination clinic online at www.toronto.ca/covid-19. For online bookings, you will need:
- Information found on your Government of Ontario photo health card;
- Postal code; and
- Email address or phone number.
The provincial system will verify your eligibility to book an appointment for vaccination based on this information and will then guide you to the scheduling system.
Please do not call 311 or Toronto Public Health to book an appointment. The City 311 contact centre and Toronto Public Health staff do not have access to the booking system.
Vaccinated Against COVID-19? What Does It Mean For Me?
By getting vaccinated, you benefit from the protection you get against COVID-19 and the easing of restrictive measures in your community. You still need to follow local public health advice in public settings (e.g. workplaces, public transit). Their advice considers community risk levels.
A majority of people in Canada have now had their first shot and many will soon be fully vaccinated. Below is a handy chart created by Public Health Canada to inform your actions depending on your vaccination status. This advice is based on the current state and will be updated as vaccination rates continue to increase and cases decrease.
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.
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]
311 provides residents, businesses and visitors with easy access to non-emergency City services, programs and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 311 can offer assistance in more than 180 languages.
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
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.
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.