This week Canada hit another upsetting milestone with 200,000 cases of COVID-19, bringing the total cases in Toronto to 24,624 since March. Yesterday, Dr. de Villa confirmed yet again that our caseload is worryingly high. The local data paints a picture of resurgence telling us we have to remain on guard, however wearying or tedious or even normal the pandemic may feel.
Yesterday at the Executive Committee, my colleagues and I got the opportunity to hear from City Manager, Chris Murray as well as the Toronto Office of Rebuild and Recovery (TORR) presenting their economic recovery report.
This report is meant to guide the City of Toronto’s recovery efforts from COVID-19. While it’s a good first step, there are a number of important pieces missing.
For example, with all of the emergency programs initiated through the City of Toronto over the course of this pandemic, those living with a disability, including the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, have not been consulted. We’ve learned that 22 percent of the general population lives with a disability and largely have not been represented through any recovery planning.
Without robust consultation from this community, the City has added barriers to the sidewalks and changed the landscape of our right-of-way. This makes travelling the city for essential services or getting outside for fresh air very challenging for those with low vision or blindness, using mobility assisted devices including wheelchairs.
Many of those living with disabilities are also ineligible for Federal support programs, and have yet to receive their promised disability payment of $600. Those living with a disability are still in the height of an emergency, without adequate access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), and mobile testing centres. They do not have the luxury of isolating as many require personal support workers to manage their essential day-to-day tasks. If we do not use a disability equity lens when examining this report, and adequately consult those living with a disability, I know we will see many preventable deaths.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve also seen how women are disproportionately affected. I’ve written about it many times. Women are not adequately included in this recovery strategy. It’s not enough to have a paragraph on the importance of equity. It needs to be woven through and embedded in every step of recovery. There needs to be a holistic examination of the TORR report using an intersectional equity lens to ensure that no one gets left behind. This report proposes a desire to ‘Build Back Better’ but who is ‘better’ for and what exactly does ‘better’ mean?
Back to normal is not an option. This status quo highlighted how affordable, rent-geared to income housing is scarce; homelessness is skyrocketing; food insecurity growing, and the effects of climate change undeniable. We can no longer accept these state-sanctioned problems. Now is the time for all levels of government, including the City of Toronto, to course correct.
In my own examination of this report, I also noted that there is no proposed robust strategy on how to address the massive financial deficit the City of Toronto is facing. Yes, the report concludes that there needs to be an intergovernmental and regional approach to recovery, but what are the responsibilities and priorities at the city? We can not rely solely on other governments who have yet to follow through on financial assistance before the pandemic. We need to consider how to assert control over our future.
In order to recover without cutting essential services, we need to be adaptable, creative and take responsibility for our priorities. As a City, we need to consider alternatives like tax reforms including a vehicle registration tax, sales tax, and a vacant homes tax. We need to consider the strategies we’ve seen from other cities around the globe to find sustainable financial solutions.
The TORR report is a good start, but there is still lots of work to do in addressing equity, affordable housing, and climate change if we truly want to build back better. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues on Council in ensuring an equitable recovery.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
This May 2020, a horrendous arson attack destroyed the parkette at 227 Ontario Street. This well-loved petite parkette was used by children and families. After nine long months of extensive repair, last week it opened once more to be enjoyed by the neighbourhood. I’m sure we can expect to see many residents enjoying these last warm days in their park. I want to extend my sincerest thanks to the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Staff who worked hard to remove all the damaged equipment and complete all the necessary construction. I deeply appreciate your dedication to our parks, and their facilities. I look forward to working with the Cabbagetown South Residents Association in hosting a formal re-opening celebration next spring.
Image description: a picture taken during the day of the arson damage at 227 Ontario Street parkette
Community Care in Ward 13
The City of Toronto is consulting on a proposed Official Plan policy that would require a certain percentage of affordable housing units in new residential developments, creating mixed-income housing. Inclusionary zoning is one policy solution to help address the housing needs of Toronto’s low-income and moderate-income households (earning roughly between $35,000 and $88,500 a year depending on household size).
This inclusionary zoning policy would require new residential developments to include affordable housing units, creating mixed-income housing. Our city is growing and we want to make sure new housing is affordable for those who call Toronto home. Inclusionary zoning is one solution among a range of City initiatives to help address Toronto’s housing needs.
Join us at one of three Virtual Public Meetings to learn more about Inclusionary Zoning and provide your feedback to staff.
When: October 29, 2020, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Online, you can register here.
When: November 5, 2020, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Online, you can register here.
When: November 10, 2020, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: Online, you can register here.
Making Cents: Talking City Budgets with Councillor Wong-Tam
Image content: promotional poster for Making Cents Budget Series panel event with Councillor Wong-Tam
Before the COVID-19 global pandemic, Toronto was already facing a homelessness crisis of massive proportion. During the pandemic, the crisis has become more visible and incredibly more acute. Advocates and frontline workers supporting encampments continue to ring alarm bells about inhumane conditions. Residents who live adjacent to the encampments and shelters are demanding that the City do more to find more affordable and permanent housing solutions for people who are under-housed. Chronic underfunding and failed policies have created the housing and homelessness crisis that is before us. The homelessness emergency is a public health crisis that requires an intergovernmental funding response, and concentrated efforts to invest in permanent affordable and supportive housing.
Join us virtually on Monday, October 26th from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST to learn from panelists with a range of expertise and backgrounds about housing and homelessness. This panel will discuss how our municipal budget can be used alongside provincial and federal funding to end the homelessness crisis and increase long term investments for permanent affordable and supportive housing in the City of Toronto.
When: Monday, October 26, 2020, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Registrants will receive a link to watch
Special Guests Include:
Dr. Trevor Morey, Palliative Care Physician, Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless
Patti Pettigrew, Founder and Executive Director, Thunder Woman Healing Lodge Society
Kira Heineck, Executive Lead, Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness
Dr. Kaitlin Schwan, Director of Research, The Shift
Mina Fayez-Bahgat, Director Program Support, City of Toronto Social Services and Housing Administration
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.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice refused to grant an injunction that would have required the City of Toronto to suspend the enforcement of its Parks Bylaw that prohibits camping in City parks during the current pandemic.
The City of Toronto pledges to plant 50 trees to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day as part of the Earth Day Canada 2020 Tree Relay. Toronto joins more than a dozen other Canadian cities in making this commitment. As part of the relay, each city announces their commitment on the 22nd day of a month and then ‘passes the baton’ to another city the following month. Toronto will invite Nanaimo, BC to make the pledge in November.
Province of Ontario Updates
The Ontario government is providing $24.3 million in targeted investments to hire additional staff, increase access to counselling and therapy, create new programs to help manage stress, depression and anxiety, and address eating disorders and other challenges facing children and youth. This funding is part of the government's $176 million investment in the Roadmap to Wellness, a comprehensive plan to build a fully connected mental health and addictions system across the province.
Ontario is investing $6.52 million into more than 40 agri-food research projects that will support the production of safe, high-quality food, stimulate economic growth, and contribute to even more environmentally friendly agriculture practices.
The Ontario government is introducing a package of legislative and policy measures that would, if passed, accelerate the building of key infrastructure projects to create jobs and lay the foundation for a strong economic recovery. The Ontario Rebuilding and Recovery Act, 2020 would support the construction of better-connected highways and public transit networks, transit-oriented communities, and affordable housing.
Government of Canada Updates
Today, the Government of Canada introduced a Bill to amend the Citizenship Act to change Canada’s Oath of Citizenship. This Bill proposes to insert text into the Oath that refers to the rights of Indigenous Peoples. It continues to fulfill our government's commitment to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, specifically Call to Action number 94.
The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities continues to grow. As had been reported by October 21, the weeks of October 4-10 and October 11-17 have seen weekly increases in the number of new cases of COVID-19 in First Nations communities, with 160 new cases reported each week.
Ministers Bains, O’Regan and Wilkinson to Announce Investment to Accelerate Clean Technology Adoption in the Energy Sector
The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources, and the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, will announce an important investment in Canada’s oil and gas sector to foster innovation and reduce emissions. Ministers O’Regan and Wilkinson will participate in the event virtually. A media availability will follow the announcement.
Minister Chagger to Announce Anti-Racism Action Program Funding in Quebec and Meet with Community Stakeholders
Minister Chagger will make a virtual visit to Quebec to announce 16 anti-racism projects and meet with community stakeholders.
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)
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.