For a city that’s slow to build bike lanes, yesterday Toronto City Council voted to add 25 kilometres of new cycling infrastructure this summer. This is a big deal! To everyone who ever deputed, called the Mayor and other Councillors, sent emails, signed petitions and took a lane, this victory is yours! We have been advocating for years to advance critical cycling infrastructure, and yesterday’s decision is landmark.
Toronto City Council also approved the second phase of Housing Now to get more affordable housing built, faster. These are both steps in the right direction, and we should be proud of such victories, with hopefully more to come.
These are also both small pieces of the much bigger challenge facing the City of Toronto and municipalities across Canada. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, the City of Toronto has been losing an average of $65 million dollars a week, and we are projecting a $1.5 to $2.8 billion budget shortfall by year-end as we continue to ramp up and sustain emergency services to protect the health of Torontonians.
I need to emphasize the responsibility of the Provincial and Federal governments during this crisis. I represent three of the lowest-income postal codes in the city, where 50% of children in Toronto Centre live below the poverty line, and our neighbourhoods are home to the greatest number of shelter beds and street-involved individuals in the region.
The province has failed Toronto by not investing in deeply affordable and supportive housing, mental health and addiction programs - and this is before COVID-19. I am incredibly disheartened by what we are seeing for folks that are living on the streets and in encampments. I am discouraged by the fact that there has been practically no progress about safe supply and getting people into treatment centres where they can get adequate recovery services. Without these actions, we will never be able to make our neighbourhoods healthy and safe for all residents.
Unlike the Federal and Provincial governments, the City of Toronto is not permitted to run operating deficits: we must balance our operating budgets and cannot borrow to fund current operating expenses. That means if we do not get immediate funding from the Federal and Provincial governments, the City will be forced to make devastating service cuts.
To give you a sense of the scale of these cuts, a $2.5 billion cut to services would mean that the City of Toronto would have to eliminate over 40,000 child-care subsidies, close half of the shelter spaces added for physical distancing, close half of our community centres and libraries. Long-term care would lose over 1,000 beds. It would mean a 50% reduction in TTC service.
We know everyone is feeling the impacts of COVID-19, but for those of us in Ward 13 who are experiencing first hand the absolutely unacceptable outcome of years of under-investment in social services, these cuts would be devastating to our well-being and safety.
There is only one possible outcome if these cuts happen. The encampments will continue to grow. The unacceptable harms inflicted on the communities living outside and the neighbourhoods that are living next to these encampments will continue to grow, and the frustration and tension we are all feeling will only escalate.
And these are just tangential issues as a result of COVID-19. There is a racialized and gendered dimension to who is actually getting sick. It is low income, racialized women and other vulnerable people living in congregate settings, working in very difficult, essential employment, who are bearing the brunt of this crisis. We see this in the disproportionate number of positive cases in our neighbourhoods like Moss Park and St James Town.
I completely support Mayor Tory as he works with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Mayors across the country in advocating for critical funding from the Federal and Provincial governments. But I also know that a one-time bailout will not fix the challenges that we will face in Toronto.
The City of Toronto is being asked to bear the responsibility for the other orders of government. We need to name that, call it out and make sure that we don’t settle for a one-time bailout. We need to demand a complete structural re-thinking around our safety net and the social programs that we are mandated to deliver. Until the Provincial and Federal government pick up their slack, the City, public workers and Torontonians are going to continue to feel the download.
As a downtown resident with a young family myself, I share the incredible pressure that communities are facing, and I will continue to advocate for the necessary investments in addiction and mental health services, supportive housing and affordable housing.
Here is where your support is critical.
If thousands of us take action by signing this petition we can convince the Federal and Provincial governments to provide immediate financial relief to cities and commit to a new deal, a new relationship, with our city to help us build a Toronto that works for everyone. Although we are all in different boats, we are in the same storm together.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Today’s Community Care shoutout goes to Neighbourhood Information Post and Toronto’s Rent Bank. The Toronto Rent Bank Program, funded by the City of Toronto, and available to low-income households, provides interest-free loans to cover rental arrears or the need to move to more suitable housing. The application is simple and can be completed on the phone from home and supporting documents can be submitted by email. There is no credit check and repayments are deferred for 12 months. To start pre-screening, please call 416-397-7368(RENT).
New changes to the rent bank program:
- The rent bank application can now be completed on the phone (without an in-person interview)
- Applicants no longer need to demonstrate steady income
- Maximum amount of loan available is now $4,000
- Loans are interest-free but repayment is deferred for 12 months
Thank you for all your hard work today and every day. Learn more about Neighbourhood Information Post and their Rent Bank program here.
Please continue to email my office at [email protected] to share examples of community care in your neighbourhood and ways you are supporting your community at this time. I’ll be happy to promote it, space permitting, in our communication to the residents and business owners in Ward 13. Every bit goes a long way!
COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. If you are sick, even with mild symptoms, stay home and self-isolate.
As we slowly return to some sense of normalcy, we need to continue physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Everyone has a role to play. The actions you take will help protect you and everyone in our community.
When you are unable to keep a six feet/two-metre distance from others, wear a mask or face covering. This includes when you are:
- in elevators, common areas, waiting rooms or shopping;
- using transit, taxi or rideshare services; and
- sick and going for a medical appointment.
Be respectful of others who choose not to wear a mask. Some health conditions make it hard to breathe when wearing a mask.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
Yesterday, Toronto City Council approved recommendations to help address the unprecedented challenges threatening live music venues in Toronto. Council expanded the Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclasses to provide property tax relief for live music venues. The new category will apply to live music venues that meet specific eligibility criteria.
The City of Toronto continues to safely and gradually open services and amenities for residents to enjoy this weekend, following guidance from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health.
Residents are encouraged to head outside in their local neighbourhood for fresh air and exercise, but are reminded to follow public health advice to practice physical distancing or wear a face covering or non-medical mask to protect others when in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Please visit the City website for a full list of City services and amenities that are open and which remain closed this weekend
Today, Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, released the next phase of the province's COVID-19 testing plan, Protecting Ontarians Through Enhanced Testing, which includes three branches of testing:
- Assessment Centre Testing: expanding who gets tested to now include asymptomatic individuals concerned about exposure and continued routine symptomatic testing at assessment centres.
- Targeted Campaigns: detecting and containing cases by expanding asymptomatic surveillance for vulnerable populations, including in long-term care homes and other shared living spaces like shelters and group homes, as well as targeted testing of workplaces in priority sectors which work with priority populations and where it may be difficult to physically distance.
- Outbreak Management: testing to ensure rapid and agile response capacity for outbreak management, including in specific neighbourhoods and regions or at hospitals, institutions and workplaces.
All commercial landlords in Ontario can now apply for rental assistance to help their small business tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative will keep more small businesses in operation and more people employed as the province gradually and safely restarts the economy.
The Ontario government, in partnership with the federal government, has launched the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. The province is committing $241 million to the program, which will provide more than $900 million in support for small businesses across Ontario during this difficult time. To find out how much rent support you may be eligible for, visit Ontario.ca/rentassistance.
Ontario Takes Further Action to Protect Seniors and Staff in Long-Term Care Homes during COVID-19 Outbreak
To further protect seniors and staff in long-term care homes, the Ontario government announced today that it is extending the mandate of the Incident Management System Long-Term Care Table. This table is composed of health care professionals who make immediate decisions to deal with issues related to staffing levels, infection management and resources during the COVID-19 outbreak
Government of Canada Updates
Prime Minister Announces Additional Funding for Health, Economic, and Cocial Cupport for Indigenous Peoples and Communities
The Government of Canada is working with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities to support their immediate public health response, with the flexibility to address their specific needs through community-led solutions, while also identifying opportunities to provide longer-term support. Today’s investment builds on the work already being done through the $305 million Indigenous Community Support Fund, and the additional $75 million provided for communities and organizations working with Indigenous peoples living in urban areas and off-reserve.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Speaks with Premiers on Continued Efforts to Address the Impacts of COVID-19
Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland held their eleventh call with premiers to discuss the evolving COVID-19 situation. The leaders discussed the collaborative efforts by federal, provincial, and territorial partners to combat the pandemic and protect the health, safety, and economic well-being of all Canadians. They also discussed the recent reports by the Canadian Armed Forces on long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec, and agreed to take action to improve care for seniors
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]
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Email: [email protected]