In addition to the global COVID-19 pandemic, our communities continue to see the effects of another deadly public health crisis. Neighbourhoods across Toronto continue to be impacted by addictions and rising fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses. This Sunday, two middle-aged men lost their lives to a drug overdose. Both experiencing homelessness and living in Bellevue Park. Experts say we are at a pace for a yearly 516 residents experiencing a fatal overdose, an 81% increase compared to 2019.
Last week, you may have seen my op-ed published in the Toronto Sun, hoping to promote dialogue and civility in an increasingly polarized debate over public health measures during the pandemic. I shared a deeply personal story about my parents who originally refused their vaccine when their turn came up. In the process, I, unfortunately, made an honest mistake with information I shared from an August 2021 memo from the Chief Medical Officer of Health. That memo is outdated and the context in which I shared it was misleading and left the wrong impression.
When I wrote an opinion article last week, it was a genuine effort to promote dialogue and civility in an increasingly polarized debate over public health measures during the pandemic. In the process, I unfortunately made an honest mistake with the information I shared from an August 2021 memo from the Chief Medical Officer of Health. That memo is outdated and the context in which I shared it was misleading and left the wrong impression.
I am deeply saddened to hear about the tragic collision that occurred earlier today at the intersection of Dundas St. E & Sherbourne St. The loss of a Toronto Centre community member will be mourned as the resident was well known to neighbours, community leaders and service providers in the Downtown East. Another member of the community was taken to hospital to be treated for minor injuries sustained in the collision. This intersection has long been an issue which I have worked to address as it poses considerable safety risks to pedestrians in the area. It is monitored by the recent installation of CCTV cameras and the applicable video footage will be reviewed by the Toronto Police as a part of their ongoing investigation.
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.
Over the past week, we have seen new cases of COVID-19 rising once more. As more restrictions have been lifted, and the cooler weather forces more people indoors, these numbers were to be expected. The Ontario Science Advisory Table has said there are small behavioral shifts that can steady this increase. If you can, please avoid crowds, wear your mask, and work from home. These are simple shifts we have practiced which can help curb new cases.
I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Halloween weekend. I know that my family and I were able to get dressed up and celebrate. We have been very lucky to experience a new curiosity of Halloween through the eyes of our toddler.
Yesterday, the Executive Committee adopted two important sets of recommendations regarding the First Parliament site including the long-awaited First Parliament Master Plan and the staff report explaining the Expropriation of Land by Metrolinx and the Province of Ontario. The reports formally respond to the many motions that I have moved regarding the First Parliament site and the Provincial expropriation of city-owned land for Infrastructure Ontario's oversized "transit-oriented development" and the construction staging area for the building of the Ontario Line's Corktown station.
Beginning yesterday, capacity limits, including physical distancing measures were lifted on restaurants and bars and many other indoor spaces where proof of vaccination is required. On Friday, the Premier, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, released A Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term, which outlines the province’s gradual approach to lifting remaining public health and workplace safety measures by March 2022.
I want to begin by responding to the derogatory comments made by Premier Ford at a news conference yesterday. He made reference to new immigrants coming to Ontario, and immediately signing up for Ontario Works, which he referred to as “the dole”. These disappointing comments from the Premier are xenophobic and divisive. Also, they are misinformed. The majority of permanent newcomers to Canada are economic class - skilled workers, and skilled trades. These skills and the financial assets required to enter Canada, and sponsor a family, would place any newcomers well above the asset limits required for Ontario Works. Dr. Jennifer Robson, an Associate Professor at Carleton University, explains the system well, and consequently fact-checks the Premier’s dismissive and repugnant comments. Once again, Premier Ford demonstrates why he is not fit to lead the most diverse province in Canada.
This afternoon my office learned of a 2nd alarm fire at 127 Isabella Street, a non-profit rooming house. Toronto Fire Service was able to extinguish the fire quickly and, thankfully, there have been no reports of injuries.
I hope everyone had a restful Thanksgiving and was able to spend some quality time with your families and loved ones. It’s so important to find opportunities to rest amongst the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic.
On Friday, I was disappointed and disheartened to learn that the Supreme Court upheld Premier Ford’s controversial slashing of City Council in 2018 in the middle of the municipal election. Back in 2018, that was the first of many cuts Premier Ford made in order to swipe at democracy and local governance. At that time, he said it was in an effort to save costs, but there were no such savings. Instead, it cost the City $1.93 million with an increased staffing budget, and cost residents equitable representation in their local government.
Toronto’s vaccination roll out continues. As of today, 80.4 percent of individuals over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated in Toronto. This is a huge and important milestone, and we should all be very proud. While the ongoing uptake of vaccination by Toronto residents is positive, analysis and modelling of the fourth wave demonstrates that ongoing vigilance is required to both promote increased vaccination and monitor progress towards reducing COVID-19 transmission.
Today we saw 574 new cases of COVID-19 reported, and over 800 this weekend. This is to be expected as schools continue to operate with in-person classes. The Province of Ontario is now reporting hospitalizations by vaccination status as well as COVID-19 data in our schools, as over 9% of Ontario schools now have confirmed cases.