My family and I wish you, and those you love, a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a joyous holiday season.
As always, I hope you find my updates helpful and informative- along with some timely information about the winter storm we are experiencing this weekend.
Stay safe, healthy and warm, and I look forward to seeing you in the new year.
Winter Storm: Update and Information
At the time of writing this update on Friday afternoon, Toronto is in the midst of a winter storm. While forecasters are predicting our city will be spared more extreme snow accumulations expected for the rest of Southern Ontario, it is anticipated that some parts of the city will see up to 15cm coupled with high winds. Toronto Police and the City’s Transportation Division are urging residents to stay home if they are able.
If you have any questions or service requests, please contact 311 via phone or their website here. Should the situation on your street require further escalation you can also get in touch with Mahan Nassery, Supervisor of Field Investigations at Mahan.firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Edison Alexander, Manager of Transportation Operations Maintenance at Edison.email@example.com with the reference number you receive from 311.
In the unfortunate event that you experience a power outage or spot a downed power line, please contact Toronto Hydro’s emergency line at 416-542-8000.
If you see someone on our city’s streets who is in need of assistance, please call 311 or call 911 in the case of an emergency.
The Fight for Local Democracy in Toronto
The news that Mayor Tory, during the municipal election, secretly requested Premier Ford to grant him the unprecedented power to approve motions with only a 1/3 of Councillors’ support has rightfully disappointed and angered residents from across Toronto.
Bill 39, which has now been approved by the provincial legislature, makes our city council the only democratically-elected legislative body (aside from Ottawa which has rejected this legislation) that can operate by minority rule. While many US Mayors have veto powers over their Council, being able to pass a motion without majority support goes against the basic tenets of democracy. While this power was rejected by Ottawa’s new mayor, John Tory still refuses to reconsider his position, now stating that he will only use it for issues pertaining to housing or transit.
However, even if we are to take his rationale at face-value, it is short-sighted and myopic. Our democracy can certainly be improved, but the answer is to make it more inclusive and effective, rather than to simply abandon it. Our commitment to democratic principles cannot be tossed aside because the current person in power claims to have our best interests at heart. And as disconcerting as it is for Tory to have these powers, what about future mayors? For example, what if Rob Ford had received these powers? Governing systems in modern democracies ensure there are guard rails in place to protect us from the worst outcomes.
Moreover, the mayor is either not conceding, or considering, that there is more than one way to deliver housing, transit, or any other city service. For instance, his signature plan to deliver affordable housing –Housing Now– has yet to see a single unit built. His signature transit plan- SmartTrack- was promised in his 2014 election campaign to deliver 22 stations, in 7 years, and without raising property taxes. How did that turn out?
I’m pleased that Council overwhelmingly rejected Tory’s move to subvert democracy by supporting several motions, including my own, requesting that he, and all future mayors, commit to majority rule. Unfortunately, all the motions passed cannot force Tory to relinquish his powers, as the province’s legislation overrides Council.
John Tory has said that “nobody” cares about the loss of their local democracy. I disagree. I know Torontonians will continue to fight this undemocratic power grab by John Tory and Doug Ford. If they won’t restore majority rule to Toronto’s City Council, let’s work to elect leaders that will.
For more information, please see this article.
City Takes Action to Address Housing Crisis
There is a broad consensus that Toronto is in the midst of a severe housing crisis. Residents across almost all income brackets and family types are being priced out of the market or unable to afford a suitable rental apartment. That’s why I applaud Mayor Tory’s motion to expand housing options across the City.
The Housing Action Plan will:
- Legalize multi-tenant homes that have too often been the site of fires and other hazards due to operating outside of by-law enforcement
- Allow single-family homes to be converted into multi-unit apartments to support aging in place and allow for more families to access neighbourhoods
- “Upzone” arterial roads to speed up the planning process
While I strongly support these and other initiatives contained in the Mayor’s plan, it does not go far enough and missed key avenues the City could explore to improve housing affordability. I moved a motion to address the gaps in the Mayor’s motion, but it was unfortunately not supported by Council. My motion included:
- The feasibility of a public builder for affordable housing to shield construction from the unpredictability of the private sector.
- Exploring municipal measures to curb speculation, including increasing land-transfer taxes for non-primary investment residences
- Rent control on any housing development receiving City funding
- Feasibility of implementing a surface parking stall tax on large malls, after a suitable timeframe to allow planning applications, to encourage conversion to new housing
- To encourage small-scale multiplex projects, create a ‘one-stop shop’ City Unit to provide a standardized Legal, Planning, and Building permit framework, and associated support, to ease regulatory burden and reduce the need to hire legal and planning consultants.
For more information, please see this CBC article.
Leaked Document Shows Metrolinx has “No Credible Plan” to Finish Eglinton Crosstown
Earlier this month, CBC news reported that a whistle blower from Metrolinx leaked an internal document to us containing the disturbing revelation that there is no “credible plan” for completion. This is just the latest setback on a project that has significantly impacted residents and businesses along the 19km construction site.
On your behalf, my colleague Councillor Colle and I moved a motion demanding the Province of Ontario launch an inquiry into the delayed, and over budget, Eglinton Crosstown project. Metrolinx and the province must be held to account for delays and cost overruns to ensure Eglinton gets completed, and their mistakes aren’t repeated as they construct the Ontario Line. The P3 model promised to protect the public from risk. In fact, we’ve seen years of rising costs and Metrolinx consistently on the losing side of court battles. We need to seriously re-evaluate which model ensures residents get the best value for their money on major infrastructure projects.
The call for an inquiry comes on the heels of a recently wrapped inquiry into an Ottawa LRT project. That inquiry provided significant insights into public and private sector missteps that informed recommendations to improve transit construction and operations in the future. Toronto could certainly benefit from the same public scrutiny.
While the motion was passed at Council, the Mayor’s allies engineered a motion that requested the inquiry only happen after the project is completed. This is absurd given that the main reason for the request is to ensure that the project is finished as fast as possible.
For more information, please see this article.
Metrolinx Reconsiders Plan to Remove Trees from Osgoode Hall
Thanks to pressure from residents across the city, including many voices from our community, Metrolinx has paused their plans to remove trees from the Osgoode Hall property for the Ontario Line. While they have only said that their decision is “delayed” at this point, we hope that this is the first step toward choosing a path that doesn’t involve destroying this historic green space.
Metrolinx does not need to destroy Osgoode Hall’s historic trees to make way for the Ontario Line. It’s not a binary choice. Let’s move now to recede the median north, reconfigure University Ave to make room for the station box and create even more public space.
Yonge-St. Clair Construction Hub Co-ordination
The Yonge-St. Clair area has a large number of active development applications with construction, in some cases, having begun. Well over 25! At many of the Community and Stakeholder consultations I hosted on a number of these developments, residents and stakeholders, such as the Deer Park Residents Group, respective Condo Boards and the BIA, have described the area as becoming the “new Yonge and Eglinton.” They have highlighted the need for co-ordinating construction activity through the establishment a Hub in order that the City can begin to proactively envisage logistical planning of the right-of-way, review Construction Management Plans, connect travellers with real-time information, collaborate with enforcement officers and communicate impacts and changes to businesses and communities in the neighbourhood.
I couldn’t agree more, and that is why at Community Council last month, I moved a motion requesting Transportation Services staff to look into the feasibility of establishing a hub along the Yonge-Eglinton model and report back in February 2023. The complete streets project on Yonge makes this more imperative as we need to take steps to protect vulnerable road users as more heavy-duty trucks begin to ply the area. Stay tuned for more updates.
SAVE THE DATE: Toronto-St.Paul’s Budget Town Hall
In Memory of Joan Atwood
Upon learning of Joan Atwood’s passing, while certainly saddened, I was above all astonished and inspired by her lifelong achievements and dedication towards bringing girls’ physical education into a reality. Although this pivotal community figure has passed away, her legacy and efforts to make Phys Ed accessible to all, sweepingly across the city, will mean she’ll never be forgotten.
In celebration of all she has done, I passed a condolence motion to celebrate her monumental contributions as a pioneer, role model and coach, and unsurprisingly, her accomplishments as an athlete herself. My condolences to Joan’s family, friends and those at Northern Secondary School whom she had moved in her 33 years of teaching there.
Humewood Community Scholarships
Woman Abuse Prevention Month
Last month was Woman Abuse Prevention Month. The Assaulted Women’s Helpline is a 24/7 telephone crisis line that can help you look at your situation and explore the options that address your needs. AWHL provides crisis counseling, safety planning, emotional support, and information and referrals. The Helpline also operates the Seniors Safety Line, which provides the same services to seniors of any gender in Ontario who have experienced any type of abuse or neglect.
Holy Blossom Temple Presents: Community Dinner, an Out of the Cold Program
Beginning Thursday January 12th, and continuing through March 30th, Holy Blossom Temple is proud to welcome our guests and volunteers once again for a dinner inspired by Out of the Cold. Holy Blossom is opening its doors, from 5:00pm-7:00pm, to those experiencing food insecurity, homelessness, and to anyone who just needs a little help and would appreciate a free hot meal. They are happy to provide a sanctuary from winter, a place to recharge, and some home baked goods to go.
Please spread the word to those in need. If you want to volunteer to serve our guests, please be in touch with Volunteer Coordinator Tabitha Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to current limitations, our guests cannot sleep over at this time. Please note that, due to ongoing building renewal, the Phillip Smith Congregational Hall is not handicapped-accessible during this program.
Visit the program website for more details.
North Toronto Memorial Community Centre Mural Project
Murals By Marg in association with North York Arts and North Toronto Memorial Community Centre wants to hear from you!
Please scan the QR code below or click this link
Toronto Giving Machine
Community Care Donation Drive from Reset Community Centre
Tips to Reduce Waste during the Holiday Season:
Celebrate sustainably and reduce the amount of waste you generate this holiday season. Check out these easy tips to reduce waste:
- Consider low-waste gifts such as gift certificates for local experiences, restaurants, online courses and subscriptions, or second-hand items.
- Choose reusable items when planning holiday meals and avoid single-use items such as plastic cutlery and paper plates.
- Decorate consciously by reusing or reviving decorations you already have or create new ones from materials found around the house or in nature.
- Try wrapping gifts with newspaper, old calendars or fabrics.
- Cut down on food waste by planning meals, storing food correctly, only buying the amount of food needed and using up leftovers.