This past week has been horrifying, complicated, and scary for so many people in our communities.
I am mortified and heartbroken by the violence in Israel and Palestine. I am grieving alongside everyone who has been affected during this week of brutal violence. My own sister, an employee with Air Canada, was working in Tel Aviv during the initial hours when the war broke out. Panic and fear gripped me as over the phone she relayed the awful experience felt on the ground. She and her colleagues participated in their hotel's safety drills along with other guests as they awaited an aircraft to bring them home. Our family was relieved when my exhausted sister returned home on the last Air Canada flight out of Tel Aviv on Sunday night.
The terrorist attacks by Hamas on thousands of innocent Israeli civilians are unjustifiable. I am shocked by the brutality, missile attacks, kidnappings, and targeting of civilians including the elderly and children. These are war crimes and must be prosecuted. I call for the immediate safe return of all hostages and call on the government of Canada to do everything in its power to ensure the release of Canadians among the captives.
Israel’s military operation into Gaza commenced several days ago and continues now. Innocent civilians in Gaza are caught in a horrific cycle of violence; like the Israeli civilians killed over the past few days, Gazans are victims of Hamas’ brutality. Israel’s bombardment of civilian homes and infrastructure in Gaza, where over half the population are children, has killed hundreds of Palestinians with entire families wiped out. Israel’s total blockade of Gaza, stopping the flow of food, fuel, water, electricity, and medical supplies, as well as the lack of a humanitarian corridor out of Gaza, is causing massive suffering and casualties. Canada must urgently insist that Israel respect international law and protect the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians who bear no responsibility for Hamas’ terror.
Jewish Canadians and Palestinian Canadians are terrified, devastated, and worried for family and friends. I share that despair and worry what the days to come may bring.
In the past few days I have also seen people around the world, including some here in Canada, celebrate attacks on civilians. This is abhorrent and has profoundly hurt Jewish and Palestinian members of our community. Violence against civilians is never justified. Community spaces important to Toronto’s Jewish communities have been threatened. We have seen racist anti-Palestinian vandalism and messages equating all Palestinians to Hamas and encouraging genocide, including shocking calls by members of the Israeli Parliament for a new Nakba. This too is unacceptable. In these dark times, we must treat each other with compassion and empathy and recognize our common humanity.
A decades-long cycle of violence has already taken the lives of too many Palestinians and Israelis. This year has been brutal for all in the region; with an extreme right-wing Israeli government and the absence of real democratic Palestinian leadership, and with the dangerous influence of external states like Iran, there is no clear pathway to peace.
Canada and the international community must urgent push for a ceasefire, a humanitarian aid corridor to save innocent lives, and work towards a sustainable solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace, security, and mutual self-determination.
And that solution can only be political. There is no possible military solution to this decades-long conflict.
I am calling on our federal government to do everything in its power to ensure the protection of civilians and respect for international law. Canada must now support international justice efforts by the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes by all military actors in Israel-Palestine. All war crimes, by all parties to this conflict, must be prosecuted.
Our collective focus must now go to building the conditions of a just peace in the region. The international community, Canada included, must work towards a credible peace process that will finally bring peace and security to all in the region, while respecting the humanity and rights of all civilians, Israeli and Palestinian.
I stand with all people in Israel and Palestine who yearn for peace, freedom and security.
May we achieve this peace in our lifetimes.
MPP, Toronto Centre
My Small Business Press Conference with CFIB
Today I joined with local business owners and advocates to call on the Federal government to fix the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program. You can watch the full press conference here.
During the height of the pandemic, CEBA was a lifeline for small businesses. It allowed small businesses to stay solvent, paying their rent and keeping their staff employed. On September 14, 2023, the federal government – after a long wait – announced an 18-day extension to the forgivable loan deadline from December 31 to January 18. If businesses do not repay their loan in full by this deadline, they are no longer eligible for the up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness offered by the Federal government for on-time repayment.
An 18-day extension is utterly useless. Small businesses across Ontario are still struggling. COVID-19 lockdowns hit them hard, even as communities rallied around them. This botched announcement has been an enormous letdown to the small business community. Julie Kwiecinski, CFIB’s Director of Provincial Affairs for Ontario shared that 87% of small businesses that took out a CEBA loan told CFIB they need this extension
The federal government has upended the helpful and timely CEBA program and I am asking them to fix it. Graham Hnatiw, owner of the Old Spaghetti Factory said it best: “The reality is that the government is telling businesses that can’t repay the loan in the next 100 days to take on another loan from a bank at a much higher interest rate and overall payment in order to secure the forgivable portion. This is not realistic or fair.”
I was glad to be joined by small business owners and advocates here today to flesh out the true cost of not extending these loans. Right now, CEBA is a life raft for small businesses. As a provincial representative, I cannot stand by and watch it become a deadweight that drags our main streets underwater and into further debt.
Watch and share my full press conference here!
Auditor General’s Investigation into Government Use of MZOs
In response to an Ontario NDP request, the office of the Auditor General has confirmed that they are investigating the Ford Conservatives’ process for selecting and approving Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs). I welcome the eventual report that will help shine light on this process.
I believe that Ford’s routine use of MZOs has created a “two-tier” planning system where certain favoured insiders can bypass the normal rules and due diligence required of everyone else.
With Ford’s Greenbelt grab, we’ve seen a troubling pattern of corruption and preferential treatment for well-connected land speculators. People have questions about whether that pattern extends to other decisions – such as urban boundaries and this government’s frequent use of MZOs. I am committed to answering these questions and bringing ethics and transparency back to Queen’s Park.
RCMP investigation into the Conservative’s Greenbelt Corruption Scandal
The RCMP has launched a criminal investigation into the Ford government’s $8.3 billion Greenbelt land swap. This is a huge victory for all Ontarians who pushed back against the removal of lands from the Greenbelt and won!
I am proud that Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles and our team have kept up the pressure on this issue. Our requests launched the Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner's investigations into this corruption scandal. And now the RCMP will be able to use their considerable scope to investigate even further.
It is shameful that Ontario’s Premier is under criminal investigation – that there is enough evidence that this investigation was launched. This Conservative government is spiraling out of control.
For over a year, sign after sign has pointed towards a cash-for-access culture of corruption and collusion at the heart of how this government makes decisions, putting the private interests of a select few of their insiders ahead of everyone else. I hope that this investigation will get us even more answers.
The Conservatives' Culture of Corruption and Handouts
This week I spoke to the Investigative Journalism Foundation to share my insights into the patterns I have seen with this Conservative government’s patronage appointments. I have been pointing out for months that the majority of tribunal appointees have close ties to Ontario’s Conservative Party. I am glad that the pattern is beginning to be recognized widely.
While tribunals across the province continue to experience high backlogs of cases and increased wait times for people seeking justice, this report reveals that six out of nine appointed chairs of Ontario’s tribunals have either donated money to, served as a high-ranking staffer for, or run for political office under the banner of a Canadian conservative party.
Ford is continuing to prioritize cronyism and the bank accounts of his friends over helping everyday Ontarians. Stacking Ontario’s tribunals with Conservative insiders is eroding people’s trust in the fairness of our tribunals system. I will not stand by while that happens.
The Ford government has been corrupting the political process ever since they took office in 2018. This is not new, but it is deeply concerning. I am glad to continue to stand with Tribunals Watch and to join them in calling for an independent Adjudicative Tribunal Justice Council. Yesterday’s report only makes this call more urgent.
Ontario NDP’s Motion to Save Ontario Place
Next week I will be proud to join my colleagues in the Ontario NDP in the Legislature to table a motion to save Ontario Place. I will update you on the outcome in my next newsletter and will be posting information about the motion on my social media accounts throughout the week.
I am looking forward to speaking to this motion. Ontario Place deserves to be saved. It’s true that it deserves some love, care, and investment to live up to its full potential, but the government is going about it all wrong. This government should listen to the people of Ontario by holding public consultations about the direction of Ontario Place. That is what we need. What we don’t need is a massive private, for-profit spa on public land, subsidized to the tune of $650 million public dollars.
We also don’t need a government that makes deals in back rooms, refuses to release business cases, or cares more about making their friends wealthy off of public assets than about creating a province where everyone thrives.
Sign the petition to keep Ontario Place Public here!
New COVID Booster Updates
Information is becoming more clear about how to get a new COVID-19 booster dose in Toronto. My office has heard multiple anecdotal reports of community members who successfully walked in to the Metro Hall vaccination clinic and received a new updated booster shot without an appointment. I obviously recommend that everyone book an appointment, but feel this information is worth sharing.
Pharmacies are expected to begin receiving the new booster shot — this new shot closely matches the COVID-19 variants circulating in Ontario — over the next week.
Starting on Oct. 31, all Toronto residents will be eligible to receive their updated COVID-19 vaccine and annual flu shot at the same time at fixed-site vaccination clinics, pharmacies, or with primary health care providers. Members of the general public will be able to book an appointment through Toronto Public Health starting on Oct. 25 and only one appointment will be required to get both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot.
Toronto Public Health encourages all Torontonians to get their COVID-19 and flu vaccines as soon as it is their turn. Getting vaccinated is an easy and effective way to be protected. Both vaccines are free for people six months of age and older who live, work or attend school in Ontario.
Public health confirmed that while an OHIP card is not required at TPH clinics, it may be requested by other health care providers.
Rent-Geared-to-Income Housing Applications
The provincial government’s Housing Services Act is requiring housing providers to review eligibility of applicants and to take action to cancel applications if there is no response from applicants to outreach attempts. In order to help applicants to streamline their application process, complete annual reviews, view housing options, and connect with the City of Toronto’s RGI team, the city has created an online portal called MyAccesstoHousingTO.
The City is working to connect with applicants to ensure they register and are active on the portal. There are approximately 30,000 applicants who aren’t yet registered on the online portal, leaving them at risk of having their applications cancelled. If you need assistance with registration, please go to Help for RGI Applicants.
With the motions adopted on September 28th by the Planning and Housing Committee meeting, Access to Housing will not cancel any unregistered RGI applications until City Council has considered the proposed deadline of January 31, 2024.
If you are having trouble registering for the portal, please reach out to my office and my staff will direct you to appropriate resources.
Thanksgiving Weekend in the Community
I was thrilled to join both Muslim Welfare Canada at 40 Oak and Salvation Army at their Harbour Light location to serve Thanksgiving dinners. My favourite way to celebrate this holiday is by sharing a meal with the community. I am thrilled that I was able to do so twice!
Upcoming Community Events
TDSB Trustee Williams' Ward Forum on School Community Safety
Please join us for a Ward 10 Forum with Trustee Williams to discuss School Community Safety. We will also have updates from the Trustee and Superintendent. Everyone is welcome. Refreshments and childminding are provided.
Dear Future Me’s Resilience Program
Calling all youth in grades 7 and 8 in Regent Park, Moss Park, and St James Town!
Join the Dear Future Me 2023-2024 Resilience Program to meet new people, attend enriching workshops, fun trips, and more!
Eligibility for the program:
- In grade 7 or 8
- Reside in Regent Park/Moss Park/St. James Town
- TCHC resident
- Available one Saturday every month from October to March
Quill Writing Workshop
Toronto's First Post Office will lead a quill-writing workshop on October 14th — write a letter as they did in the Town of York in the 1830s! The event is free with a Pay What You May donation option, and 100% of proceeds go to material costs for the program. Don't forget to bring an address!
RSVP here for a ticket, as spaces are limited. All ages are welcome.
Friends of Regent Park Community Clean-Up
Join the Friends of Regent Park next Sunday, October 15th, from 10 am-12 pm for a Community Clean Up of the Big Park at 620 Dundas Street East!
No registration required; meet at the Bake Oven.
519 Self Defence Workshop
The 519 is hosting a free self-defense workshop next Sunday, October 15th, from 1:00-4:00, facilitated by Chris James! Register here to join!
City of Toronto Short-Term Rental Bylaw In-Person Public Consultation
Virtual consultation: Tuesday, October 17th, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Location: Online Webex meeting
Click HERE to register for the virtual event
In-person consultation: Tuesday October 24th, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Location: Metro Hall (55 John St, Toronto, ON M5V 3C6) in Room 308/309
Click HERE to register for the in-person event
The location for the in-person consultation is fully accessible. Please email [email protected] or 647-632-4073 at least 72 hours in advance to help ensure availability.
Access to Justice Week
The Law Society of Ontario’s Action Group on Access to Justice is hosting their annual Access to Justice Week from October 23-27, with a mix of online and in-person sessions. Their calendar for the week is packed with events that will be interesting to community advocates and individuals in addition to legal professionals. I encourage you to register for sessions that interest you.
See their full calendar here
David Crombie Park Revitalization Meeting
David Crombie Park is being revitalized and Phase 2 is currently underway. The City will be working on the park revitalization alongside cycle track improvements on The Esplanade for a seamless integration of the park and public realm.
Public Meeting: Thursday, October 26
125 The Esplanade (the Tent)
- Session 1: 3 PM - 4:30 PM
- Session 2: 6 PM - 7:30 PM
The same information will be shared at both sessions.
Friends of Regent Park October Funfest
Join the Friends of Regent Park for their annual October Funfest!
Date: Saturday, October 28, 2023
Time: 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Location: The bake oven in the "Big Park"
This event includes a halal BBQ, pumpkin carving, music, dancing, candy, and apple crisp from the bake oven.
Small Business Forum to Support Local Businesses
The City of Toronto is hosting a Small Business Forum on Monday, October 30 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This free, full-day, in-person event supports Toronto small businesses by providing them with access to information, connections and resources to build and grow their enterprises. Register here.
When: Monday, October 30th, 8:30am-4pm
Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, South Building, Level 800, Exhibit Halls F & G
The Forum will focus on the theme “Future-Proofing Businesses through Innovation & Sustainability” and will feature leading entrepreneurs as keynote speakers, panel discussions on trends facing small businesses, concurrent programming sessions and a trade show area. The Forum will also provide information about government resources and links to small business experts, product providers and other tools and services to assist small business.