Free Ukraine Square and Actions to Support Ukraine
Earlier this month, it was my honour to unveil “Free Ukraine Square” with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, accompanied by Mayor John Tory and MP Carolyn Bennett in front of the Russian consulate at 60 St. Clair Ave E. Yesterday, City Council was honoured by the virtual presence of the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko. As the bloody and murderous Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, The City of Toronto will keep its website updated with services we can provide, working with the federal and provincial governments, including refugee support. Please click here for more information.
In these difficult times for our Ukrainian friends, I encourage you to consider donating to the UNHCR and the Canadian Red Cross in support of humanitarian efforts with helping Ukrainian refugees flee the horrors of the Russian invasion. I also want to give thanks to IC Savings, including our local Hillcrest Village branch, for matching donations to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.
Ramadan: a Month of Restraint and Reflection
To everyone observing Ramadan throughout our city’s Muslim communities, I wish you and your family peace, success and good health. Ramadan Mubarak!
Committee Vote on Clean, Safe and Healthy Apartments Loses on a Tie
RentSafe was approved by City Council in 2017 after years of hard work by local tenant advocates and city-wide organizations, including the Federation of Metro Toronto Tenants’ Associations, ACORN, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, as well as community legal clinics. Unfortunately, Council has yet to deliver on the most crucial measure promised to Toronto renters
Too many Torontonians live in homes that have mold, pests, appliances that don’t work, and inadequate heat. That’s why, as part of the RentSafe program, Council approved an apartment rating system similar to the City’s “Dinesafe” program that required landlords to post a colour-coded sign that displays the City’s rating in a prominent, publicly you identifiable location, along with posting the same information to the City’s website.
Colour-coded signs act as an incentive for Landlords to do necessary repairs and raise awareness among tenants that they have a right to a safe and healthy home. A sign on the outside of a building provides validation from the City on what the conditions are inside. Big Landlord lobbyists and others that don’t want to see this program move forward have said this will “stigmatize” renters. Tenants are stigmatized by cockroaches and mold, not a sign.
Unfortunately, the initiative lost on a tie at Planning & Housing Committee last week. I will continue fighting for this program and will bring it back at the earliest opportunity.
Reimagining Community Safety: Launching the Community Crisis Pilots
I’m pleased to announce that the advocacy from so many of you these last years is resulting in meaningful action. Last year, Council approved a pilot project that will see teams of mental health professionals become the first response when Toronto residents are in crisis. This week, the first of these community crisis pilots were launched.
The new service, which is person-centred and trauma-informed, focuses on harm reduction. It will be geographically-based and operate in areas of Toronto where there is a demonstrated need and calls for people in crisis are the highest. The Toronto Community Crisis Service, led in partnership with community partners, will be launched in the northeast and downtown east areas of the city. The service will:
- Feature mobile multidisciplinary teams of trained crisis support specialists (e.g. community health nurses, crisis counsellors, harm reduction workers, peer workers).
- Initially operate 24 hours a day, six days a week, Sunday to Friday and move to a 24 hours a day, seven days a week operation.
- Provide case management support including follow-up support, primary health care, referrals, holistic support, trauma counselling, housing and other individualized supports.
The downtown east pilot led by Gerstein Crisis Centre, will launch on March 31 and the northeast pilot, led by TAIBU Community Health Centre on April 4. In addition, the northwest and downtown west pilots, to be led by the Canadian Mental Health Association and 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations will kick-off in July.
While this is a good first step there are other populations including racialized youth, homeless individuals, and those struggling with substance abuse who would be better served by alternatives to policing. We need to keep rethinking what it means for a community to be safe, listen to those with lived experience and experts in these fields, and act to end injustice. For more information on the crisis response service, please click here.
Ford Government’s Housing Bill will make Affordable Housing Crisis Worse
The Ford government’s Bill 109, More Homes for Everyone Act, is an irresponsible and disappointingly immature response to a serious issue. The Act, introduced in the provincial legislature on March 30th, 2022, is of particular concern to the City of Toronto as it financially penalizes municipalities for not approving a development within 90 days. This could have the perverse effect of slowing the development process down as more developments will end up at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). To read more about the issues with Bill 109, what solutions are genuinely needed to the housing crisis and what action you can take to help, please click here.
Have Your Say! Expanding Housing Options Consultation
Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods is a City of Toronto initiative to facilitate more low-rise housing in residential neighbourhoods to meet the needs of our growing city. The City is working to expand opportunities for “missing middle” housing forms in Toronto, ranging from duplexes to low-rise walk-up apartments. All of these housing types can be found in many parts of Toronto today, but they are also limited in where they can be newly built. Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods is one solution among a range of City initiatives to increase housing choice and access and create a more equitable, sustainable city. Please feel welcome to have your say at one of the consultation events which can be found here.
Councillor Matlow’s Compost Days & Environment Days
Toronto Needs to Improve Snow Clearing: Demanding Accountability
The City’s response to the snowstorm on January 17th, 2022 was completely inadequate and unacceptable. While I understand that it could take several days to clear out from a major storm that dumped 55 centimetres on Toronto in just over 16 hours, many residents still had not had their street cleared two weeks later. That is simply not good enough.
The City’s inability to provide timely service limited many Torontonians’ mobility. Uncleared sidewalks and parking in front of long-term care homes left many seniors and caregivers homebound. Pick-up/drop-off areas and sidewalks around schools left many students and parents with no choice but to walk in live lanes of traffic to and from school. In fact, local roads across our city were left untouched for weeks.
I am grateful that my motion at City Council on February 2nd has made progress in getting residents the answers that they deserve. Most recently, staff came to the March 29th meeting of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee with the intent to report back to Council on updated response strategies to future Major Snow Events in the first quarter of 2023, exactly a year after the January 17th storm. We all know to expect snow before January 2023 and cannot afford another Major Snow Event without a proper plan.
That is why I moved a motion at Council this week asking staff to come back to council in July 2022 with immediate action plans that can be implemented in the short term and present the longer term report on the originally proposed date of January 2023. Unfortunately, rather than supporting my effort to ensure that there is a plan before the next snowfall, and before the next budget is considered, the Mayor and council chose to put off receiving a report until next year. I believe that was a serious failure.
Residents cannot be left in the dark again by inadequate services that they have, rightfully, come to expect. The Major Snow Event of January 2022 laid bare the inequities that exist in the current snow clearing regime and do not meet the standards for safe travel in one’s own neighbourhood, let alone across the city. I am hoping that we can continue to use the feedback and experiences of residents to push for greater clarity on what exactly happened during the snow clearing operations and how we can improve the City’s approach.
Combatting Antisemitism Together: Public Meeting
Since May 2021, Toronto has seen an alarming rise in antisemitic harassment and targeted hate crimes. These attacks on the Jewish community are entirely unacceptable and have absolutely no place in Toronto-St. Paul’s or anywhere in the city. I was proud to have sat on the Mayor’s antisemitism round table along with members of the Toronto Police Services Hate Crime Unit, my colleagues on Council, and representatives from the United Jewish Appeal, Centre for Israel Jewish Affairs, and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
These discussions, as fruitful as they were, required the voices of local leaders within our community to comment on how the events of the last year have impacted all of us. That is why I am honoured to be hosting a roundtable discussion on Wednesday, April 27th at 7:00 PM about Antisemitism in our community, what we are currently doing at the city and what more we could be doing. I will be joined by Detective Lauren Pogue from TPS hate crimes unit, Shelley Laskin, TDSB School Trustee, Rabbi Steve Wernick from Beth Tzedec Synagogue, and Jamie Kirzner-Roberts from Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
Feel welcome to reach out to my office at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the event and how to participate.
Addressing the Digital Divide Through the City’s ConnectTO Program
In the recent years, it has become apparent that access to high-speed internet is necessary for residents to equitably participate in day to day life. Geographically, almost all of Toronto can connect to home internet, but not everyone has sufficient service. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted gaps, vulnerabilities and the need for internet services to be more accessible and affordable for everyone.
That is why I’m thrilled to support the City’s ConnectTO program which aims to centralize stewardship of municipal resources and assets to deliver the City’s goals on equity and connectivity, including creation of a City of Toronto broadband network.
Since 2013, I’ve been advocating at Council to create a strategy that provides free public Wi-Fi in City parks and squares. I’m excited to review from a recent report, which was sent to March’s Executive Committee, that City Staff are currently piloting Wi-Fi in parks adjacent to community centres and are planning to leverage experience from this approach to implement Wi-Fi in free-standing parks.
As Toronto’s Seniors Advocate, I moved additional amendments at last year’s City Council meeting to request an expansion of the City’s Digital Canopy program by extending free Wi-Fi to 25 retirement communities located in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas, accelerate the current Wi-Fi pilot that Toronto Community Housing Corporation is exploring in select seniors designated buildings, and to request the Federal and Provincial Governments to provide funding to support the extension of Toronto Public Library’s Seniors Tech Help program. I’m pleased to hear from City Staff and through this report that progress has been made on each amendment
I appreciate City Staff’s efforts on this and look forward to continuing to work with them to see these initiatives through to fruition. To read my letter, please click here.
Advocating for & Supporting the Future of Little Jamaica
At March’s Economic and Community Development Committee, City Staff delivered an introductory and status report on the Little Jamaica Master Plan and Aligned Initiatives. On behalf of the community, I submitted a letter regarding the importance of supporting the future of Little Jamaica- and a respectful, but candid, reflection of concerns we’ve heard from the community about the slow pace of progress. I’ll continue to work closely with City Staff and community stakeholders like BlackUrbanismTO, CP Planning and elders such as Kojo Rakanwu Geb and his wife, Debra to ensure that we move forward with preserving the past and protecting the future of Little Jamaica. If we don’t act now, it will be too late! To read our letter, please click here.
Update: ActiveTO and CafeTO on Yonge
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all been forced to rethink how we operate our lives and the many ways in which we get around our city. As many people began shifting their travel habits to fit their comfort within the public health emergency, the City launched the ActiveTO program, installing protected cycling infrastructure in various key transit corridors around the city. The ActiveTO Midtown Pilot Project is one of those installations city staff introduced, seeking to redesign Yonge Street between Davisville and Bloor into a “complete street”, combining protected cycling infrastructure and the CafeTO installations to support local businesses.
Since its installation in May 2021, we have heard a lot of feedback from many people in the community with both positive and negative perceptions – including concerns regarding traffic congestion and fears regarding emergency vehicle response times. We’ve also heard about the positive impact its had on improved safety for bicycle riders, along with potential impact on TTC shuttle bus service during subway closures.
As one of the many programs that City Staff implemented as a response to the public health emergency, consultation and installation was done very quickly, and left many feeling like they weren’t consulted on alternative routes and potential impacts to traffic.
At City Council this week, I moved a motion to ensure a transparent and evidence-based process by requesting the City provide a strategy for community consultation with neighborhood residents, along with providing granular data on emergency response times. There will also be further analysis of safe site lines and the affect on TTC operations. It will be important to take an honest look at how this pilot is operating, and be open to changes, especially now as more people return to the office.
Ultimately, along with city staff‘s recommendations, Mayor Tory moved a motion to extend the pilot to January 2023, when a report will be considered by council.
If you have any questions, and to directly provide your feedback, please feel very welcome to contact the City Staff conducting the pilot at email@example.com to ensure your voice is heard.
Our Calls to Save the Regent Theatre Have Finally Been Answered!
Like many of you, I was very concerned about the sale of the iconic and historic Regent Theatre on Mt. Pleasant. In addition to the theatre being listed on the Heritage Registry, I successfully moved a motion in 2017 at Community Council to have Heritage Preservation staff evaluate its full designation which would provide it with even greater protection. However, there were still concerns that its future could be threatened. That is why, in 2018 I held a Town Hall Meeting with local residents to look into every creative option that can be considered to protect its use and built form. As we fast forward to present day, I’m thrilled to announce that Terra Bruce Productions, a production company based in St.John’s Newfoundland, has purchased the Regent Theatre and plans to use the space for live theatre! I was pleased to join Davisville residents and my colleague Councillor Jaye Robinson to meet our new neighbours at a meeting held this past month! To learn more, please click here.
Improving Safety at McMurrich JPS
Late last year, we were all deeply impacted when a driver hit a 3-year old McMurrich student, while driving a car at the intersection of Benson and Hendrick Avenues. As a father of a young child myself, I can certainly appreciate and relate to the fear and anxiety that have gripped parents and the school community.
Shortly after this incident, which brought to light serious safety flaws at that particular intersection, and around the school zone in general, I arranged a virtual traffic safety meeting with Trustee Laskin, the School Council, the administration, and other parents who reached out to my office. At this meeting, we put our heads together and focused on the safety issues around McMurrich while also discussing potential solutions. I also assembled a team of City staff and the Police, who attended to hear directly from the community. A top priority was for my office to reach out to City staff to advocate for a school crossing guard at Benson and Hendrick. We were successful at this!
A week ago, I organized a walkabout with all the stakeholders earlier referenced to identify, first hand, the design improvements that need to be undertaken to improve safety for our kids. We all now have a better and clearer idea of what exactly needs to be done. Stay tuned for updates on design improvements. Nothing is more important than the safety of our kids!
Fair Pass Transit Discount Program
The City of Toronto announced it is expanding phase two of the implementation of the Fair Pass Transit Discount Program to make transit more affordable for more low-income residents. With this expansion, residents in receipt of a Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) subsidy are now eligible to apply for the program.
Phase one was launched in 2018 and includes Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program clients. Phase two, launched in 2019, includes residents receiving a child care fee subsidy and living with a household income under Low-Income Measure plus 15 per cent. Now that the new online Fair Pass application has launched, phase two has been further expanded to include residents receiving housing supports. The third and final phase will extend the Fair Pass Transit Discount Program to all low-income residents age 20 to 64 years and will no longer depend on participation in specific income assistance and other subsidy programs.
More information, including how to apply, is available on the City’s Fair Pass Discount Program webpage: http://www.toronto.ca/transitdiscount.
Clean Toronto Together
Clean Toronto Together invites residents, community groups, schools and businesses to spend 20-minutes picking up litter and recycling that’s accumulated in local parks and other public spaces over the winter. Join the City of Toronto on April 22-24! For more information, please click here.
Join the Friends of Cedarvale for a Community Clean-Up: Saturday April 30th
Come and join the Friends of Cedarvale, MP Carolyn Bennett and myself in cleaning up our park! Meet 11:00 am on Saturday April 30th in the parking lot of the Phil White arena, off Arlington Rd (note it is one-way south). My office will be providing gloves and garbage bags. The Friends of Cedarvale will have an information table and provide refreshments. Hope to see you there!
Oakwood-Vaughan Drop-In Music Program
Ringing in Spring with The AppleTree Group
STEMTECH 2022: BIPOC Youth in STEM
Braintech Robotics STEM Learning Centre opens its doors at The Fort York Museum to launch STEMTECH 2022. It features two events for the month: TechTalk – an engaging opportunity for teachers, STEM practitioners, and parents to listen to discussions between Patrick Monize. Braintech Robotics President, and thought leaders; and The Droneology Challenge – an event team building and friendly competition for young minds to participate in an introductory program to build, program, and control Braintech Robotics exclusive LEGO-Type Drones.
Works-in-Progress Spring Swap 2022
Have you been going through your closets as Spring approaches? Works-in-Progress art collective is organizing a FREE Clothing Swap April 16th in Davisville Village as part of the Ringing in Spring Celebration at June Rowlands Park. Donate what you don’t want, take what you want. Donations accepted the night before or on the day of the swap, clean and dry donations in good shape, sorted into bags labelled by size. Swap located in yards and driveways in the Davisville neighbourhood, one size/ yard. There is enough for all!
All the details on the Works-in-Progress website, including a Map (in progress) and a volunteer signup sheet. The more the merrier, high school student volunteers welcome.
Check out the website, follow on instagram: @works.in.progress.to or reach out to organizer Tanya Murdoch directly via email with any questions or if you want to be involved: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Neighbourhood Group: Employment Services Reopen!
The Stop’s Farmer’s Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns
Please consider stopping by Wychwood Barns this weekend to check out the selection of local products and treats at the indoor/outdoor Farmer’s Market (located at 601 Christie Street). You can locate them every Saturday from 8:00am to 12:30pm, year round—support and shop local!