I hope this finds you and your family healthy and well.
Although the pandemic’s impact on people has understandably been our focus over the past few weeks, we have actively been working on the many public policy priorities and issues that need our attention in our community.
And while the pandemic has been obviously shocking and unprecedented, it has also exposed many pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequities in our society. However, we do have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to create a new “normal” that’s far better than what we knew before.
If we choose to, we can create a healthier and more equitable society. We can respect and protect our elders, build safer and more accessible public spaces, finally address the roots of violence and existing bigotry and inequities, adapt our main streets for success and ensure that the new “normal” is a better normal for everyone- no matter where you live, how much money you have, who you love or what you look like.
The actions we’ve been taking together to combat COVID-19 have come from a place of personal responsibility, and they’ve been a collective act of kindness. We’ve each made decisions to take care of our own loved ones, but also many people whom we’ve never met before. It’s clear now, more than ever, how interdependent we are.
Now, as we “get through this” together, let’s build towards a “normal” we can really be proud of – and that includes us all.
P.S. My daughter Molly has an idea: when we beat the virus, let’s celebrate our frontline workers and scientists with a global holiday called “COVID-19 Helpers’ Day”. To watch her video, please click here.
A Call to Reform Ontario’s Long Term Care Homes:
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been particularly devastating to our elder population, especially in long term care homes where, in too many cases, it has been running rampant. As Toronto’s Seniors Advocate, to better support and help ensure that an outbreak of this magnitude never happens again to seniors and those living with accessibility challenges in our province, I wrote a letter to the Premier and Minister of Long Term Care to adopt three recommendations: initiate an independent, objective and impartial inquiry into Ontario’s long term care homes, make immediate changes made to the level and quality of care in long term care homes with respect to pandemic relief and finally, so that we never lose sight of improving residents’ quality of life, adopt emotion-centered approaches to care into Ontario’s Long Term Care Homes Act, 2007 (LTCHA) and Ontario Regulation 79/10.
In light of the Canadian Armed Forces report released on May 26th, which debuted the horrifying conditions documented in 5 long term care homes across our province, I wrote a letter to the Premier, once again, to urge him to call for an independent public inquiry.
We owe it to our long term care homes staff and residents, along with their families and friends, to take the necessary steps to ensure that they are provided the highest standards of safety and care. Those who we’ve lost to COVID-19 deserve nothing less than transformational change. Let this be their legacy.
Earlier this week, the Ontario government announced that they will be expanding the mandate of their Incident Management System Long-Term Care Table, which 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. In April, an Incident Management System (IMS) structure was established to coordinate operational support to long-term care homes. The IMS table meets daily to organize efforts across multiple providers and government to make rapid decisions that support long-term care homes in need. Homes identified for support are those struggling to control outbreaks, complete infection prevention and control assessments, ensure appropriate staffing levels, access personal protective equipment (PPE), and complete the testing of all long-term care home residents and staff. To learn more please click here.
ActiveTO: Cycling Infrastructure Acceleration
This week, City Council made a historic move by greenlighting an acceleration to the approved Cycling Network Plan. This will lead to over 40km of new cycling infrastructure being delivered in the next couple of months. This was done to both support the City’s recovery in the coming months and to reflect the fact that fewer people will be able to use public transit for a period of time, but also to ensure the health and safety of Torontonians.
To ensure that a vital north-south corridor is considered in the next phase of the ActiveTO program, I moved a motion for staff to study Avenue Road and Oriole Parkway’s ability to serve as that corridor. This does not preclude staff at looking at any other streets (Yonge Street and Mt. Pleasant Road are popular suggestions), but I did want to build off of what is already approved and in the works. Today, Council approved a temporary bike lane on University Avenue/Queens Park between Adelaide and Bloor, and my motion requested them to study the option of extending that up to Eglinton, creating that vital connection between Midtown and downtown. You can see the staff report, motions, and final approvals at this link.
CurbTO: Pedestrian Space Expansion on Mt. Pleasant Road and at Storefronts
In other good news, my office has been actively advocating for the City to implement ActiveTO and CurbTO measures in Toronto-St. Paul’s at locations that residents, neighbourhood associations, and businesses have been identifying. For more information on the ActiveTO program please click here, and for more information on the CurbTO program please click here.
I am happy to let you know that we have managed to secure approval for more pedestrian space on both sides of Mt. Pleasant Road, between Merton Street and Moore Avenue. The approval came this Thursday, so it will take several days to get the implementation in place, but I wanted to make sure to share the news with everyone ahead of time. There have also been several storefront locations across our ward that have been approved for extended pedestrian spaces to allow for safe social distancing and queueing.
If you have any additional locations you would like for Transportation Services and Toronto Public Health to investigate for additional pedestrian physical distancing measure, please let my office know by emailing us. Also, if you wish to see where ActiveTO and CurbTO measures are being implemented, you can see them all on the map at this link. Please note, there may be locations that have been approved and/or implemented, but have not been placed on the map as of yet.
Our Campaign for Rent Control on City-Supported Development Gains the Support of Mayor Tory:
In a press conference this week, Mayor Tory stated that he supports rent control on developments that receive city funding. This announcement comes after many of you participated in a year-long campaign to protect tenants.
This issue arose in January 2019 as Council approved 11 City-owned sites for development as part of the Housing Now program. During the debate, I moved a motion to ensure that the tenants in these new developments would be protected from the provincial government’s changes to the Residential Tenancies Act that exempted all new apartments from rent control. Unfortunately, this motion was not approved.
Last November, residents of a Weston development that received over $7 million in public funding, including over $600,000 in City tax breaks, were notified of an over 20% rent increase for month-to-month tenancies and 6% for year-long lease holders. Through the efforts of the local Councillor and community members, the property manager has reversed its decision on the 20% increase, but the 6% increase still threatens to push already high rents into the unaffordable range for too many residents.
In light of the shameless Weston rent increase, I worked to revisit this issue. Due to Council procedure that prohibits a member on the losing side of a debate to reopen an item, I worked with Councillors Nunziata and Bradford, and Mayor Tory, on a motion. The motion requested City Staff to report on requiring landlords of Housing Now sites to follow the guideline rent increase amounts as prescribed in the Residential Tenancies Act, just as is required by all other landlords of apartments built prior to the province’s exemption. The Staff report was supposed to be delivered to Council in January of this year but was unfortunately delayed. The report is now expected at the next Planning and Housing Committee meeting next month.
Already wealthy property owners are laughing all the way to the bank because of Doug Ford’s rent exemptions. The City should provide reasonable protection for tenants on its own land as the guideline rent increase provides landlords with inflationary increases while not subjecting tenants to the constant threat of economic eviction.
I will provide an update next month when this issue comes to Council. Thank you for your advocacy and my gratitude to Mayor Tory. For more information, please see this article.
Support Needed for Small & Medium Sized Business Owners and Landlords:
I speak with small and medium sized business owners every day of this crisis, and many of of them are financially devastated. The challenges and struggles that our local businesses face demonstrate the need for every level of government to step up to support them.
Our community’s business owners have been trying to the best of their abilities to adapt to our constantly changing environment. While our favorite local shops are working to protect our health and safety, let’s shop local to support them. We need our main streets to survive this pandemic. Please join me in sharing the following graphic with your family, friends and neighbors to remind them to shop local and use the hashtag: #SaveMidtownMainStreets.
To learn more about the supports offered to small businesses, please check out my e-newsletter from last week.
Check Out What’s Open in Toronto-St. Paul’s and Find Out How to Donate to Your Favourite Business!:
Our Toronto-St. Paul’s community is home to some of the most unique and remarkable shops, bars and restaurants. Many of them do online sales and food take out and delivery. The following BIAs have put together a list of businesses that remain open amidst this crisis- Dupont By the Castle BIA, Oakwood Village BIA, Eglinton Way BIA, Mt. Pleasant Village BIA ,Yonge+St.Clair BIA, York-Eglinton BIA, Midtown Yonge BIA, Uptown Yonge, Upper Village BIA, Rosedale Main Street, Wychwood Heights BIA, Hillcrest Village BIA and Forest Hill Village BIA.
In case you’re looking for a way to support your favourite local shop right at home, you may want to consider making a monetary donation to them (if they’re listed) on Distantly. For business owners looking to create a profile, you may do so by clicking “Add My Business”, located on the top right section of their home webpage.
Have Your Say: Expanding Restaurant Patios This Summer Season:
I wanted to share an update on the exciting prospect of using some curb lanes in Toronto for outdoor dining. While allowing for safe distances, this could create fun and active streetscapes, support our local businesses that would have to cap their indoor capacity and meaningfully contribute to our happiness and quality of life.
I have just received an update from City staff in charge of this project, notifying us that there will be an official announcement about the program in the next couple of weeks. My office will make sure to share any updates with you as they become available. I do want to remind everyone that any patio extensions would be done on a trial basis and would be further monitored and reviewed by City staff. If one works, it should continue. If one doesn’t, it can be removed. Every decision should be based on the reality we experience. As a consequence of this pandemic, our local businesses are in desperate need of our support.
My office has received quite a bit of feedback with suggested locations and approaches to the program, and I want to encourage all local residents, business owners and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) in our ward to reach out to my office and provide feedback as to where they would like the City to investigate the possibility of expanded patios. Please email me at email@example.com or reply to this e-newsletter. I look forward to hearing from you!
Oakwood Village BIA Artist Call Out
The Oakwood Village BIA has been awarded a City of Toronto Street Art grant to repaint the 3 benches located on the Vaughan and Oakwood traffic island and adjacent commercial lot. Their inspiration is to improve the ambiance of the island and create a more welcoming space in the neighbourhood. The proposed theme should be modern, eye catching and bold in design using high contrast colours. They are inviting artists to forward proposals by June 22nd to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more details, please click here.
AppleTree Markets Proudly Presents “Tuesdays in The Park”:
Our very own AppleTree Markets, a local Toronto-St.Paul’s non-profit organization that in normal times, would transform our June Rowlands Park into a vibrant farmer’s market, is hosting weekly webisodes featuring info-tainment from AppleTree farmers, community partners, chefs and local celebrities! Catch a new episode every Tuesday on their Youtube channel.
Midtown Supports New Tenants In Critical Need of Housing
Everyone needs a safe place to live. This has always been true, but the need has never been greater than now as we face an unprecedented global health pandemic. As part of the fight against COVID-19 and to help stop the spread of the virus, our City Staff worked diligently to secure interim housing options in our Midtown community for people who had been living in congregate and encampment settings that were not deemed safe. Providing those in critical need a place to self-isolate not only protects their health and safety, but that of our entire community.
These new residents, will be provided with on-site supports including meals, 24/7 staff support, security and case management focused on long-term housing and other immediate needs, including harm reduction supports. Health and safety are a priority: active and ongoing screening for COVID-19 symptoms, infection prevention and control measures, and enhanced room and common area cleaning will be undertaken.
This interim housing will help act as a bridge to more permanent housing options for these residents. The City is actively working to increase the supply of long-term supportive housing by fast tracking new modular housing and securing existing Toronto Community Housing Units.
Since new residents started moving in last week, I’ve been deeply touched by the kindness and generosity the Yonge and Eglinton community has offered. While specific strategies to safely collect and distribute donations have been put in place, please email me at email@example.com if you would like to be provided with information on what items will be needed. If you have time to spare and would like to help coordinate the acquisition of some of these items, the Republic Residents’ Association (RRA) has offered their leadership to coordinate volunteers with Shelter Support and Housing staff. They can be reached at: RepublicResidents@gmail.com
Please visit my webpage here to learn more about how you can support the new tenants in our community get settled by providing new or gently used items, or a monetary donation.
Please DO NOT drop off or leave any donations out in front of the building, the street or on anyone’s property. There are specific items that are required and need to be acquired in a safe and coordinated way.
Show Your Support for the Frontline Staff & Residents at Toronto’s Long-Term Care and Retirement Homes:
Many of you have asked how you can offer your support from a physical distance to our frontline staff and residents at Toronto’s long term care and retirement homes. I’ve created this page to allow residents to leave a comment and show their support for our seniors and frontline staff at the following homes below. You can click on the home you want to leave a message of encouragement, love and gratitude. Once we collect your responses, I’ll share the page with that specific home so that the staff and residents can see how much support they have from all of us. Thank you for your kindness and support for the people who need us now more than ever.
Feeling Lonely? We Care About You:
During the COVID-19 crisis, and even during “normal times”, too many seniors are isolated. I’ve organized a team of caring volunteers who are ready to reach out to seniors in our community who feel lonely. Please feel very welcome to post this notice in your building or street. For a printable version, please click here.
Community Food Table-Donate What You Can Give & Take What You Need, No Questions Asked:
Please donate non-perishables foods between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Please feel free to also receive and take what you need from the food table.
When: Sat, May 30th, 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Where: 729 St. Clair west
If interested in volunteering please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you would like to organize, please let Joanne know as this will be the last week or two at this location. Please remember to keep social distance and be safe!
Play4All.MertonProject is a grassroots project initiated by residents of Hospital Workers’ Housing Co-operative (HWHC) whose goal is to make play accessible for youth, children, and adults residing at HWHC. Play4All is raising funds to rebuild a playground where children, youth, and families can keep physically fit, mentally healthy, and build life-long memories.
You can help make Play4All.MertonProject come to fruition. You can help the children of this community make lifelong friends and forge timeless memories.
Want to donate to Play4all.MertonProject directly? Please visit our GoFundMe page here.
Want to learn more? Visit our website here or email us at email@example.com
Feed the Frontlines TO Needs Your Support!
Over the past 2 months, Feed the Frontlines TO has served 14,000+ meals to 29 hospitals, social service agencies and long-term care homes, helping 5 restaurants stay open and keep staff employed during an unprecedented time of crisis in our community. With over 1 million Torontonians now expected to be reliant on government support, and 40% of food banks closed due to COVID, they are expanding to include individuals and families facing food insecurity as the pandemic’s economic impacts deepen.
Feed the Frontlines TO will contribute to existing efforts to address food insecurity in a *targeted way* by partnering with local community hubs and increasing the number of restaurants they support to provide culturally-preferred meals to people who can’t avail themselves of existing traditional and emergency food options due to health conditions, disabilities, lack of access to kitchen space, and/or other such factors.
Local restaurants will prepare locally-preferred meals, delivered to local residents who need them, by locally-hired residents impacted by pandemic-related job loss, with all benefits arising from and accruing to the local community. Whether you’ve already donated or are new to their work, please consider supporting this evolved mission! To donate, please click here.
Toronto’s Office of Recovery and Rebuild-COVID-19: The Recovery, Rebuilding and Reimagining of Toronto:
While the City of Toronto continues to work on reducing the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring the delivery of essential and critical City services, it is also working to prepare for Toronto’s recovery in the weeks and months to come. The City is inviting input on how we can all work together to recover and rebuild our city during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. Your input will help the City develop strategies and actions to rebuild and reimagine the way we deliver programs and services.
Share your ideas with us on ways Toronto can effectively recover and rebuild, and what actions your community has taken that the City can learn from and build on. Learn more and take the online survey at here. The survey closes June 30. Toronto’s recovery and rebuild will be guided by the advice and direction of public health officials. Ensuring the health and safety of all residents remains the City’s top priority. For this reason, consultation will primarily be done online to maintain physical distancing.
Ontario Opens Up COVID-19 Testing Across the Province: Strategy Expands Testing for General Public, Frontline Workers, First Responders and Workplaces:
As the province carefully and gradually reopens the economy, the Ontario government is implementing the next phase of its COVID-19 testing strategy to detect and quickly stop the spread of the virus. Testing will now be available to more people in more locations across the province.
Today, the Ontario government, 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.
To help enable increased access to routine symptomatic testing, people will no longer need a referral to go to any of the more than 130 assessment centres across Ontario. Information about the assessment centres is now easily accessible on Ontario’s dedicated COVID-19 website.
Ontario will also expand proactive surveillance testing to detect outbreaks and more actively monitor any spread among our most vulnerable populations in hospitals, long-term care homes, group homes, shelters, emergency child care centres, correctional facilities and other shared living spaces. This will include testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and frontline staff in long-term care and retirement homes, as well as those working with priority populations, including first responders, essential workers and other workplaces as the economy gradually reopens.
Moving forward, the province expects that private-sector workplace testing will leverage private and public resources as the government works with private-sector employers to develop the appropriate models for each sector and workplace. Further proactive surveillance testing will also be conducted in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.
In response to a declaration of an outbreak in a specific neighbourhood, region, institution or workplace, the province is also developing agile testing resources, such as mobile testing teams, that can be rapidly deployed to communities across Ontario to enhance existing outbreak management.
Ontario will also soon release a renewed strategy to support public health units with case management and contact tracing, including launching a new exposure notification app that will alert Ontarians when they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and would recommend appropriate actions, such as monitoring for symptoms, self-isolation and/or appropriate next steps on getting tested. For more details, please click here.
Illegal, False or Misleading Advertising of Products Related to COVID-19
The health and safety of all Canadians is Health Canada’s top priority and they are taking urgent measures to protect consumers from illegal, false or misleading advertising of products claiming to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. These practices are deemed non-compliant with Canadian laws on advertising or marketing of health products.
To reflect their commitment to openness and transparency, the following table, accessed here, lists products and corresponding companies or advertising media found to engage in non-compliant marketing, which are currently under review or have been resolved. Health Canada took compliance and enforcement actions against these organizations, as required.
City of Toronto Strongly Recommends Face Coverings or Non-Medical Masks Be Worn When Physical Distancing Cannot Be Maintained
To help stop the spread of COVID-19, today Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa strongly recommended that the public wear a face mask or face covering to protect others when in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Wearing a face mask or face covering could help protect others from your germs while indoors, in spaces such as elevators, grocery and retail stores, on public transit, and in a taxi or ride share service where maintaining physical distancing may be a challenge. In outdoor settings where there is plenty of space while walking or running, a face mask or face covering is not recommended. At this time, face masks or non-medical masks are not mandatory in Toronto.
Face masks and face coverings should allow for easy breathing, fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops, maintain shape after washing and drying, include at least two layers of tightly woven cotton or linen and cover the nose and mouth without gaping. Masks should not be shared with others. Cloth masks should be washed after each use in a hot cycle and non-reusable masks should be discarded after use.
Not everyone should wear a mask. This includes children under the age of two, anyone who has a medical condition that makes wearing a mask difficult, or who cannot remove the mask without assistance.
Medical masks, including N-95 masks, should not be worn by the general public so the supply of medical masks is available for use as personal protective equipment for healthcare and frontline workers.
Check Out My COVID-19 Webpage:
To learn more about COVID-19 related resources such as how to protect yourself, supports offered to tenants and small businesses, financial assistance programs available, access to community supports, volunteer opportunities and much more, please click here!
If You Require Assistance or Information:
My team and I remain actively working. However, our physical offices will be closed until further notice and my staff will be working remotely. In the interim, the best way to connect with us is by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, rather than phone, and we’ll respond to you at our earliest opportunity.
Due to the high volume of correspondence we’re receiving, there may be a delay in our response, but we’ll certainly following up with you. We deeply appreciate your patience.
For any information related to COVID-19, please click here for the Toronto Public Health website to learn more and for important contact information.
NEW: Accessibility Link Available:
As part of my commitment to ensuring that my community updates are available to all residents in Toronto-St Paul’s, my e-newsletter can be viewed with a variety of accessibility features. Options include changing text size, colour options, fonts and more. To access the accessibility panel, view this newsletter on my website by clicking here and then clicking on the person shaped icon on the left of your screen.