Food Insecurity, Provincial Overreach in West Don Lands and COVID-19 Updates

On Sunday, the Province of Ontario reported a record breaking 1,042 new cases of COVID-19. This is well above what we had seen in the spring. As before, Toronto Public Health following Provincial directives have enacted restrictions on gatherings and we have yet to see the effects of that action. That doesn’t mean it’s not working. We know it can take weeks before we see a dip in cases.  Please continue practicing physical distancing, frequently washing your hands and only leaving your home for essential trips. I know this feels tedious, but remember that we are saving the lives of our neighbours, friends and loved ones in working to reduce community spread. 

I’ve said before that the pandemic has exposed systemic inequities through our neighbourhoods and we continue to see this trend. According to CTV News, as of earlier this month, one in seven Canadians are experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic. With the rise of unemployment, families and single adult households are falling through the cracks of our social safety nets. According to this report by the non-profit Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC), even before the pandemic, 4.5 million Canadians experienced food insecurity, and advocates have seen that increase. 

To look after our own communities in Toronto Centre, I have fostered partnerships between organizations and corporate donors to address food insecurity. Early in the pandemic, I worked with Broccolini Construction delivering hot meals from Mengrai Thai to the Meals on Wheels program at Dixon Hall and the Rekai Centre. These prepared meals were welcomed by the vulnerable seniors confirmed by the pandemic lockdown. 

This was on top of the $365,000 successful fundraising campaign that I helped launch for the largest food bank in the Downtown East operated by Yonge Street Mission. Led by Capital, the fundraising relay brought out the generosity of many corporate citizens. Thousands of families in Toronto Centre were able to put groceries in their pantries and meals on their dining table because of this early effort by so many.

Further to that, we successfully distributed $5000 of grocery gift cards to newcomer families in St James Town and Moss Park for Thanksgiving. This generous donation allowed the families to purchase their cultural foods that weren’t always able to get at the food banks. Big thanks go out to the corporate leadership from Diamond Corp, Sox and Alterna Saving for their support.

At the end of last week, my office partnered with Medallion Corporation to make more food deliveries, enough to feed 1,600 families for one week. Before COVID-19, Medallion Corporation would host an annual community BBQ for residents in their buildings. Unfortunately, while we couldn’t gather for a BBQ, Medallion Corp with the support of their tenants generously donated $50,000 worth of groceries to local downtown east organizations.

Image description: a photo taken outdoors during the day of a group of people, including Councillor Wong-Tam in front of a pile of non-perishable food being donated.

Food donations were delivered to Yonge Street Mission, St. James Town Community Corner, Neighbourhood Information Post, Allan Gardens Food Bank and All Saint Church- Community Centre, agencies that serve families and individuals in the Moss Park, St. Jamestown, Regent Park, Garden District and Church-Wellesley neighbourhoods. COVID-19 has exacerbated many challenges, particularly in the downtown east, which has seen an alarming increase in need for food services and corporate support is imperative to ease some of these challenges.

Late on Friday, October 23, City Planning uncovered recent Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) quietly issued for three development sites in the West Don Lands. These MZOs are a tool that can be used by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to bring zoning changes - such as height and density - into immediate force and effect without community consultation or City Council approval. In the past, MZOs have been used sparingly by previous provincial governments, as they sidestep consultation and prevent appeals, unlike a normal development application process. 

Using an MZO should require care, as used poorly they can create long-term impacts that municipalities become forced to grapple with. At the bare minimum, a provincial government should consult with a municipality before choosing to unilaterally impose them. 

Unfortunately, the province chose not to even do the bare minimum. Neither my office, Councillor Cressy’s office nor City Planning was notified about the MZOs coming into regulation. These MZOs were discovered by a member of City Planning by chance Friday afternoon conducting routine research on another unrelated matter. 

There was no prior discussion about the use of an MZO on any of the three sites, one of which has a serious concern about tower separation that was to be approved by City Council today. Another site is subject to an application that has yet to have a community meeting, and the last has no application on it at all. The latter, the site of the Dominion Foundry Complex--one of the largest concentration of heritage buildings to be preserved within the West Don Lands-- is now pre-approved for three buildings of approximately 45-storeys (141 m.).

This is yet another example of the Premier’s overreach to interfere in the City of Toronto’s own governance, much like he did in the 2018 Municipal Election and with his recent announcement to forego ranked ballots

Zoning determines land use of a site; size, height, location of the buildings or structures, parking and loading spaces. It determines whether or not residences, retail or mixed-use are permitted on the site. Once a land use is delegated permitting a specific type of zoning, either through a city by-law or MZO, this is final. The City of Toronto’s hands are tied. 

I am as frustrated as you are. When the City collaborates with local residents, the result is better community planning. Without a chance for the community or the City's professional planners to review and respond to the development, it is impossible to identify and address the range of issues that need to be considered for every new development, from water and sewer capacity to wind impacts to safe vehicular access points. A good process is critical for good planning and for building a desirable, equitable and economically dynamic community. 

Yesterday, Councillor Cressy and I released a joint statement and we will be moving an urgent motion at this City Council. This motion will be asking for a framework on the appropriate use of MZOs in order to help arrive at an outcome that City Council would have adopted, including public consultation, respect for the Ontario Heritage Act and that site plan applications be left with City Planning and City Council. It will also be asking to confirm an alternative process for the City to be compensated for any existing or negotiated community benefits, as there is no mention of this in the MZOs. 

I know this is complicated and unfair. It is emblematic of the Premier’s disdain for Toronto and his inability to work collaboratively with municipalities. 

Lastly, I’d like to offer my sincerest apologies to Good Shepherd Ministries for a typo in my latest print newsletter. Thank you again for all the good work you do. 

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


Community Corner in Ward 13

On Sunday October 18, the FreshCo at Parliament and Dundas celebrated their 10th Year Anniversary of being in the Regent Park neighbourhood. Since they’ve arrived in the neighbourhood, Hamza Rizwan, store owner and his staff, have been active members of the community. They have been providing food donations to local organizations, food banks and supporting community events. 

Image description: a photo taken outdoors during the day of a group of people, including Councillor Wong-Tam delivering donated groceries.

For a decade, this location has been hiring locally, providing work opportunities to local residents. This is incredibly helpful to build thriving communities, and trust in the neighbourhood. In line with their charitable nature, and to celebrate their 10th year anniversary, Freshco partnered with Toronto Police 51 Division and the Muslim Welfare Centre for a “Cram a Cruiser” event. Hundreds of items were donated to help those in need. 

Image description: a photo taken in a FreshCo of a group of people, including Councillor Wong-Tam, cutting a long ribbon to celebrate FreshCo's 10 year anniversary. 

All year around, FreshCo promotes a food drop-off box to provide donations to local food banks. Congratulations to everyone involved, we look forward to your many more years of success in the neighbourhood!

Community Care in Ward 13

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on us all, and this is true even for our youngest residents. Future Possibilities for Kids surveyed families and found that children, parents and caregivers are frustrated, isolated and not feeling supported. Connection is a key component of the human condition and we are all missing it, but especially children. They want to connect with other people and kids outside of school. Even with the return to school, kids are not feeling connected. 

Image description: a promotional poster of Future Possibilities for Kids Ready Set Goal program. Program information included below. 

Future Possibilities for Kids continues to run important and free social service programs for children ages 9 to 12 from underserved communities in the GTA. Their Ready, Set, Goal! program matches children with adult volunteer KidCoaches who will speak with them weekly on the phone, supporting them in achieving a community service project while connecting to the community. This year’s program is 100% virtual, but based on recent months, we have found that even virtual programming when done properly can yield increases in feelings of connection and confidence for children.

The program begins in November and includes four activity days on Saturday between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. As well, the program offers weekly phone calls with participants and their KidCoach. 

If you have any questions, please contact Eric Tam at [email protected] or by calling 416-923-0777 ext. 239. For more information, please visit

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

City of Toronto Marks Milestone in Delivery of First Modular, Supportive Housing

Mayor John Tory was joined by the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development; Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão (Ward 9 Davenport) and Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest) to mark a key milestone in the delivery of the City’s first modular housing building. At the 11 Macey Ave site, the modular homes are being installed this week by crane, bringing the project a significant step closer to occupancy, which is anticipated to take place next month. The City’s Modular Housing Initiative is building affordable rental homes that also offer support services, designed for people who are currently experiencing homelessness.

City Urges Drivers to Slow Down and Watch out for Pedestrians and Cyclists Ahead of Time Change

The City of Toronto is urging all road users – drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians – to stay alert and obey the rules of the road as daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 1.

City of Toronto Partnership with Ritual – Open For Business – Supports More Than 1,000 Local Businesses With Free Delivery Until November 8

Mayor John Tory announced that starting today, more than 1,000 local businesses that have enrolled in Open For Business – the City of Toronto’s collaboration with Ritual and DoorDash – will receive free delivery until November 8.

City Council Unanimously Approves Framework to Create New Permanent, Supportive Housing in Parkdale in Partnership With The University Health Network and United Way Greater Toronto

Today City Council approved a framework to activate the Social Medicine Initiative (SMI) housing partnership that will create new permanent supportive housing in the Parkdale neighbourhood.

More information on affected City services & facilities.

More updates from the City of Toronto.

Province of Ontario Updates

Ontario to Release 2020 Provincial Budget on November 5

The Ontario government will release its 2020 Budget on Thursday, November 5, 2020.

Ontario Takes Action to Reduce Plastic Pollution in the Great Lakes

The Ontario government is providing Pollution Probe with $375,000 to collect plastic waste from marinas around the province using innovative plastic-capture technology. This will be the largest initiative of its kind in the world to tackle plastic pollution in provincial lakes and waterways. Every year an estimated 22 million pounds of plastic pollution end up in the Great Lakes.

More updates from the Province of Ontario.

Government of Canada Updates

Government of Canada Marks Important Milestone to Bring Electronic Logging Devices into Commercial Vehicles

Yesterday, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau announced that FPInnovations has been accredited as the first third-party organization to certify electronic logging devices. This is a critical step that ensures an electronic logging device is safe, reliable, and approved for use in Canada.

Government of Canada Invests in Regenerative Medicine, Genomics Research to Support Canadians’ Health

As the Government of Canada focuses on responding to the challenges of COVID-19, the importance of investing in science and research is clearer than ever. These investments allow researchers to produce the breakthroughs that improve our daily lives, from delivering cutting-edge therapeutics for treating diseases and chronic conditions to developing new technologies that will help Canadian farmers better protect their crops and livestock.

Canada Emergency Business Account Now Open to Businesses Using Personal Banking Accounts

The Government of Canada is providing continued support to small business owners and entrepreneurs to help them adapt and position their businesses for recovery. Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland announced that as early as October 26, 2020, the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) will be available to businesses that have been operating out of a non-business banking account.

Supporting Media Literacy to Stop the Spread of Online Disinformation

A strong digital citizenship relies on diverse and reliable sources of information. To address the increase in online disinformation, we must support independent organizations who dedicate their efforts in educating citizens on how to be more critical of online information. The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, invite Canadians to participate in Media Literacy Week 2020.

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:

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: [email protected]

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

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 or to You can also call their non-emergency line at 416-808-2222. 

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