The arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine in Canada means we’re now starting the beginning of the end of this pandemic. However, how soon we arrive at the finish line, and how many of us get there, will depend on all of us. Let’s continue to take care of each other.
As we work towards the “normal” we desire, let’s be certain to make it better and more inclusive than it was before. We cannot lose sight of the importance of combating co-existing crises including housing, opioid, social inequity, economic, mental health and climate change.
My thoughts are with those who’ve lost loved ones or livelihoods and our most vulnerable, including those who live and work in Long Term Care homes. I’m deeply grateful to researchers, scientists, frontline health and essential workers, and to everyone who continues to keep each other safe.
And as we face the many challenges of the pandemic, we cannot lose focus on the many priorities we have as a community, and a city, and here in Toronto-St. Paul’s we will continue to address them thoughtfully, creatively, pragmatically and responsibly.
As always, I hope you find this update helpful and informative. I wish you and your family good health, happiness and my very best wishes for the holiday season. I am confident we will have a far better 2021 and continue our work to improve our quality of life together.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (along with any other way you might celebrate the season) and Happy New Year.
Council Fails to Support Tenants by Voting Against RentSafe Signage Program
The RentSafe initiative approved by Council in 2017 is one of the most comprehensive, progressive, and rigorous municipal tenant protection initiatives in North America. The new multi-residential apartment by-law was the result of years of hard work with local tenant advocates and city-wide organizations, including the Federation of Metro Toronto Tenants’ Associations, ACORN, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, as well as community legal clinics.
Unfortunately, Council voted today against the colour-coded rating system, based on the DineSafe program, that was central to the RentSafeTO program. Please click here to read more about this decision and our next steps.
Rental Replacement Policy to be Investigated by Auditor General
The City of Toronto is in the midst of a housing crisis which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Landlord and Tenant Board has once again started allowing Landlords to evict residents who can no longer afford their rent.
That’s why it was an especially troubling betrayal of the public’s trust to learn that the former CEO of CreateTO offered below market rental units to staff and family members; breaking the City’s Rental Replacement policy.
Given the City’s responsibility to act quickly in this matter to restore public trust in an important program, I worked with the Mayor on a motion to have the Auditor General holistically evaluate the Rental Replacement program. It is important to determine whether the CreateTO incident is a serious, but isolated, one or a sign of a more systematic problem. If more developers are taking housing away from those in need and, instead, giving units away to insiders we must stop them as soon as possible.
I am pleased to report that the motion passed unanimously.
For more information on this issue, please see this article: Council to consider audit of city rental agreements, in wake of CreateTO ‘incident’ | The Star
Council Supports Scarborough Subway Even After SRT Shutdown Revealed
Due to politics coming before people, Scarborough residents will be left on long bus rides for years to come.
Even today, the 7-stop Scarborough LRT would provide more service, for fewer dollars, and can be up and running sooner. It’s finally time for Council to make the right decision to serve Scarborough residents.
The LRT was approved, funded, and shovel-ready when it was cancelled in 2013 for a subway that was designed on the back of a napkin. Since that time there have been many different plans and promises to deliver a subway but Scarborough residents are no closer to being delivered transit than they were 7 years ago. The Environmental Assessment for the 3-stop subway has not been completed and the province has yet to fully fund the project.
This month saw the worst outcome for Scarborough transit users as it was announced that the SRT will have to be shut down prior to the subway being built. Please click here to read more about council voting to keep Scarborough residents on the bus.
Activating Community Youth Space in Our Oakwood-Vaughan Neighbourhood Passes Unanimously at City Council
The repeated acts of violence committed over many years in our Oakwood-Vaughan neighbourhood is extremely upsetting and unacceptable. The most important initiative we can take is to invest in addressing the root causes of violence. While we need to support the police to respond when gun violence occurs and ensure that those responsible are no longer a threat to our community, enforcement alone is a short-term and reactive response that doesn’t address deeper issues that lead to the violence in the first place. We also have a responsibility to provide opportunities that support our youth which also contribute to community safety.
That’s why I’m pleased to announce that City Staff’s report on activating a new community space for youth in our Oakwood-Vaughan neighbourhood passed unanimously at City Council this week. This report responds to my motion directing City Staff to assess service needs, and in particular supporting our youth, in the Oakwood-Vaughan area and identify opportunities for creating a vibrant and sustainable community hub.
This major step that we’ve taken will be life-changing for our youth and I couldn’t be more proud of this work. Thank you to those that wrote letters to and deputed at last week’s Economic and Community Development Committee. Your support is greatly appreciated.
I will continue to inform you of any progress made on this new community space.
City-wide Heritage Survey Lists Multiple buildings in Forest Hill Village
I’m pleased to announce that City Council has supported the inclusion of 15 properties in Forest Hill Village to the Heritage Register. These properties—which include main street commercial buildings and pre-war walk-up apartments—form a distinct cultural historical fabric that significantly contributes to Forest Hill’s sense of place and character.
These buildings were first identified as having cultural heritage potential back in 2015 through my initiative to protect the distinctive main street “village” character that was being threatened by multiple development applications. The City was directed to undertake a study which resulted in a set of urban design guidelines unique to Forest Hill Village that established a higher threshold of contextual design excellence for any new development proposal in the Village. In addition, City Planning staff also recognized that the future success of the Village required preserving and protecting the urban fabric and recommended that 15 properties receive heritage listing.
Heritage listings are the first step in the process to protect buildings that mean something to us as a community and city. If a demolition application is submitted, the City now has a 60 day window to undertake more detailed research to ultimately decide whether a building merits full designation and protection under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Toronto has a shameful record when it comes to protecting its architectural and cultural heritage and the city-wide heritage survey is a step to protect our past before it’s completely dismantled.
You can read more about the Forest Hill Village heritage listings in this article.
My Appointment to the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority
I am pleased to announce that I have been selected by Council to serve on the Board of the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). From the Oak Ridges Moraine to the Don and Humber rivers, the work and jurisdiction of the TRCA importantly extends outside the municipal boundary of Toronto and includes the headwaters of the major river systems that flow into the City.
Now, more than ever, is a critical time for the TRCA and Conservation Authorities across the province. Recent legislation by the Ford government threatens to drastically weaken the powers of the TRCA to protect green space and prevent impacts in our city including basement flooding.
I look forward to working to protect our natural heritage for future generations. To learn more about the work of the TRCA, please visit their website here.
Support Needed for Small & Medium Sized Business Owners and Landlords:
Our community’s business owners have been trying to the best of their abilities to adapt to our constantly changing environment. I believe it is inconsistent, and fundamentally unfair, that small businesses have been ordered by the provincial government to close their doors while big box stores have been allowed to remain completely open, selling products other than essential services. While our favorite local shops are making sacrifices 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
For further details, please check out my webpage: www.joshmatlow.ca/bia
Send Some Holiday Cheer to Our Frontline Staff & Residents at Toronto’s Long-Term Care and Retirement Homes:
As Toronto’s Seniors Advocate, I’m very concerned about, and deeply saddened by, the devastating impact this virus is having on our senior population and on those who work and reside in long-term care and retirement homes, along with other institutions where the most vulnerable of us receive care.
The outbreaks that continue to occur in homes across our local community and city, is heartbreaking and I offer each community my love and very active support.
For those who are in self-isolation, I want you to know that we care about you and you are not alone. For those who are unwell because of the virus, I wish you our support, strength and a full recovery. And for those families and friends that have lost a loved one from COVID-19, my deepest and most sincere condolences to you.
Along with the pressing need to ensure that long-term care and retirement homes are safe and secure from the transmission of viruses, it is important to remember that isolation and loneliness also has a serious impact on the health, wellbeing, and longevity of seniors. Given the restrictions that are in place which limit the ability of friends and loved ones to visit people residing in these homes, it is more important than ever that we as a community find creative ways to reach out to them and express our love and support. It can be deeply meaningful.
Our community appreciates the heroic and caring personal support workers, nurses, doctors, health care workers, management teams, cleaners, kitchen staff, coordinators and everyone who works tirelessly to support our loved ones. No words can adequately express our heartfelt gratitude and support.
We know that this holiday season is going to be different for us all, but most importantly, for those living in long term care. Given that they will not be able to celebrate with their families, I’m encouraging our community and kids of all ages to write a holiday message to show their support to those residents and frontline staff at the following homes listed on my page. You can click on the home you want to leave a comment for and once we’ve generated enough responses, I’ll share the page with that specific home so that the staff and residents can see how much support and love they have from all of us.
Thank you for your kindness and support for the people who need us now more than ever.
Traffic Safety: Community Safety Zones Expansion
At this month’s City Council meeting, Transportation Services reported back to Council on a number of road safety initiatives that me and my colleagues had requested updates and action on. Out of the six items, I wanted to share some good news on one of them, which relates to improving road safety of school-age children via Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) and Community Safety Zones (CSZ). Please click here to learn about the expansion of the CSZ program at schools throughout Toronto-St. Paul’s.
Take Action: Stop Excessive Construction Noise
I have heard from many tenants that construction noise has become an even larger problem during the pandemic, with people staying home for longer hours than ever. Between the hours of construction being lengthened to 6am to 10pm every day of the week by the provincial government (Limitation 2 to Ontario Regulation 130/20 of the City of Toronto Act) and with multi-residential buildings having increased renovations, excessive construction noise has taken a toll on our quality of life. I have started a campaign to push the provincial government to put tenants’ health and wellbeing first.
Please participate in our campaign on this important issue by signing our petition below. Make sure to click on the resulting link as well to ensure your voice is heard by the provincial government on this important matter.
Sign our petition: https://joshmatlow.ca/construction-noise/
Outdoor Ice Rinks Update
All outdoor rinks in the ward are now open (Hodgson Rink and Cedarvale Park Ice Rink), and almost all of the outdoor rinks throughout the City. Outdoor ice rinks will be open until March 21st, 2021. Please note that there is currently a 25 person limit and reservations are required. For more information and details on how to reserve your spot at Outdoor Rinks, please visit here.
Creating a natural ice rink in a local park is another way we can maintain a lively, supportive community during these difficult times. Applications for Natural Ice Rinks are open until December 31st, 2020. COVID-19 operating guidelines for Natural Ice Rinks are in the process of being developed and will be provided to groups that have their applications approved.
For more information on the Welcome T.O. Winter plan please visit here.
Oriole Park Ping Pong Table
I am happy to announce that the ping pong table at Oriole Park was installed on December 17th. The location of the table is east of our community garden, between the two walking paths. This wonderful addition has been graciously donated by Dianne Moore on behalf of the Rotary Club of Toronto Eglinton. I want to extend my deep gratitude towards Dianne for making this possible.
Wychwood Library Opening in 2021
I’m so thrilled that the Toronto Public Library is renovating our very own Wychwood Library! Despite a handful of COVID delays, our brand new library is set to open before the end of 2021. I look forward to being able to enjoy this new community space with you.
Brentwood Towers Tenants Association Food Drive
Brentwood Towers is a high rise complex of five apartment buildings located southwest of the Davisville subway station with close to 1000 apartments. A tenant (and food bank volunteer) started a food drive for the Churches-on-the-Hill Food Bank 13 years ago. Since then, other tenants have kept the food drive going with 30 to 40 boxes of food and cash (up to $800) collected annually, prior to Christmas. This year with the pandemic, organizers switched to promoting on-line donations in lieu of an in-person food collection. The food drive has been generously supported by the Brentwood Towers Tenants Association as well the staff and management of the building owners O’Shanter Development Company Limited. To date, we have raised almost $1300. Organizers encourage other high rise buildings in the ward to do the same thing and would be happy to pass along their experience. For more information, please visit Donate – COTH Foodbank.
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.
Have Extra Colouring Supplies? Donate to the Roehampton Shelter
The Midtown Community Care Team, which is one of the many volunteer groups supporting the residents of the Roehampton Shelter, has been working over the past few weeks to collect various donations. I’m happy to announce that they’ve received a total of 35 colouring books and are looking for colouring supplies (coloured markers, pencils, crayons, etc.) to go with this mindful activity. They have asked me to share their request for any new or lightly used colouring supplies that you’d wish to donate. If you are able to make a contribution, please feel welcome to drop them off at the front desk of the Roehampton Residence (808 Mt.Pleasant Rd.)
Serving Seniors in Community Housing Better: Integrated Service Models Rolls Out Across 18 TCHC Seniors Buildings
As Toronto’s Seniors Advocate, I’m pleased to announce that the TCHC Seniors Housing Unit is moving forward with implementing the first stage of the Integrated Service Model (ISM) for seniors housing this month.
Starting on December 11, the Seniors Housing Unit will begin to implement the model in 18 buildings in the south east area of the city. More buildings will implement the model in 2021 and 2022. Once fully implemented by the end of 2022, the ISM will support more than 14,000 low-income senior tenants (age 59+) living in 83 seniors-designated buildings across the city, most of whom live alone, to age in place and enjoy better quality of life and successful tenancies. Please click here to read more about this important program.
We Want Your Feedback: Proposal to add adult exercise equipment to upcoming park near Mount Pleasant and Eglinton
I have been hearing from many constituents that there is interest in having more adult exercise equipment throughout parks in our ward, especially in the Yonge and Eglinton area. We have recently acquired new parkland (see below) near Mount Pleasant and Eglinton that may be suitable for adding this equipment, in a linear fashion.
We want to know your thoughts on this proposal. Please contact me by email or phone with your feedback by Monday, January 4th 2021.
Thank you for actively engaging in the design process for this exciting new park space!
Above: New park location. Below: An example of what the adult exercise equipment may look like. There is no finalized design for the equipment at this stage.
Oakwood Vaughan Community Organization Job Opportunity
OVCO – Oakwood Vaughan Community Organization – is looking for fabulous talent for two part-time, contract positions. The job ads and descriptions for a Tenant Organizer and a Project Coordinator are available on the OVCO website with applications being accepted until January 10, 2021. These positions will help OVCO and the Oakwood-Vaughan neighbourhood with a grant they recently won from the Community Housing Transformation Centre. Reach out to OVCO through their website or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Forest Hill Residents’ Association
The South Forest Hill Residents’ Association (SFHRA) has asked that I share the following message with you regarding this inappropriate development proposal:
The South Forest Hill Residents Association is a volunteer-run, nonprofit community group that supports responsible development in the South Forest Hill neighbourhood. Our current focus is to address the 21+ and 23+ storey tower mega development by Parallax proposed for a narrow dead end street and laneway. To learn how you can help keep our community safe and liveable contact us at email@example.com.
Oakwood Village BIA: Light Up Oakwood