February is Black History Month and I had the pleasure of attending the 36th Annual Ontario Black History Society Brunch held at Beanfield Centre. Last week, the Ontario government announced that mandatory Black history will be added to grade 7, 8 and 10 courses starting September 2025. While this is a positive step, there has been an inflationary cut of $1200 per student over the past 5 years – a cut that needs to be reversed for our schools to deliver curriculum effectively.
Happy Year of the Dragon! February 10th marked the start of the Lunar New Year kicking off 15 days of festivities. The Year of the Dragon is said to be a year of prosperity, abundance, and good fortune. I have been honoured to attend many celebrations across the city.
36th Annual Ontario Black History Society Brunch and Toronto Community & Culture Centre Lunar New Year event
This week, the Ontario government announced that it will repeal Bill 124, which capped public sector wages at 1% per year. The Ontario Court of Appeals ruled that the bill violated the Charter Right to Freedom of Association, which includes the right to unionize and collective bargaining of wages.
Cutting wages during an affordability crisis led to a shortage of healthcare, education and other public sector workers. While the resulting crisis may have been part of the government’s privatization agenda, it hurt students and patients. When the legislature resumes next week, I will be pushing for a full restoration of these vital public services.
Bill 88 is another piece of legislation that attacks the rights of workers. After a tribunal declared that rideshare and other gig workers were entitled to protections under the Employment Standards Act, including the right to being paid at least minimum wage, the government introduced Bill 88, which created a separate subclass of workers who are not entitled to these protections. On Wednesday, I rallied with rideshare drivers at Nathan Phillips Square who are demanding fair wages and to have their rights as workers restored. Read more on this here.
I joined rideshare drivers holding a protest for fairer wages
The City of Toronto is demonstrating how the affordable housing crisis can be addressed. In just 6 months in office, Mayor Chow has broken ground on projects that will build more than 2,000 affordable housing units, including a 900-unit co-op that is the largest affordable housing project in the province in 25 years. In Spadina-Fort York, I am pushing the Ontario government to include affordable units in developments along the Ontario Line which are being built on provincial land. More on the city budget below.
Wishing everyone a very happy Family Day weekend! Check out my updated list of Fun Things to Do.
Community Recognition Ceremony Feb 24
I am excited to be holding the first in-person Community Recognition Ceremony on Saturday, February 24, 1-3 pm at the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre. This year, 30 nominees will be presented with certificates! If you would like to attend, please RSVP here.
Ontario Government Repeals Bill 124
This week, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled that the Ontario government’s Bill 124 was unconstitutional. This ruling has forced the government to finally repeal the bill they passed in 2019 and that they have spent more than a year defending in court. This is a victory for workers across Ontario.
Bill 124 hurt our province. It forced healthcare and education workers out of the profession, cut people’s wages during an affordability crisis, and eroded the people’s trust in their government. Now we must start fixing this by hiring healthcare workers into our public system and paying back workers for lost wages. This is money that could have been invested into our public healthcare right from the start.
Also this week, the Financial Accountability Office presented its Winter 2024 Economic and Budget Outlook that revealed significant shortfalls for public service funding, showing how much our public services have suffered. My colleagues and I are calling on the government to commit urgent funding to stabilize our public health care and community services, and to recognize the dire recruitment and retention crisis that Bill 124 has created.
Province Looking to Audit City-Run Daycares
The Ontario government recently ordered cities that operate childcare centres, including the City of Toronto, to do a value-for-money audit of their programs by the end of 2024. The Ministry of Education said that the purpose of the audit is to determine whether provincial funding is being used efficiently and effectively, and whether the childcare services could instead be offered by a third-party provider. This is deeply concerning as this is another sector where the province is looking to privatize critical services.
The ministry has also told municipalities that it is cutting administration funding by over $85 million. The system is already in desperate need of more funding, not less.
City-run programs are often considered model programs since staff remain fairly consistent. This is because they receive fair wages and good benefits. City-run daycares also serve a much higher proportion of vulnerable families than other centres.
Daycares across the province are struggling to operate and meet the need for child care. Some daycares are leaving the provincial-federal childcare program because the program doesn’t cover all the costs of running a daycare, and they can’t raise fees. Locally, Carmelite Day Nursery sadly announced it will be closing this year. Providers such as the YMCA are also warning of imminent closures.
Families deserve child care that’s affordable. The government needs to work with our local school boards to increase the number of childcare spaces available in the local school and nearby daycares. It’s also time to revise the funding so that childcare centres can provide high quality childcare and pay their workers a fair wage.
Looming Family Doctor Shortage in Chinatown
My office has been hearing from Chinese residents who are very concerned about losing their family doctor. Many of these residents are elderly and require service in Cantonese or Mandarin.
I am working with my colleague, MPP Jessica Bell in University-Rosedale, and we held a press conference in December to call on the province to address the looming shortage of family doctors in the Chinatown area. We have discovered that of the 24 doctors operating in downtown Toronto, 80% are at or nearing retirement age. Five doctors have recently retired with two more looking to retire in the coming months. This will leave thousands of residents without a family doctor.
The Ontario College of Family Physicians calculates that 2.2 million Ontarians are without primary care. That number is expected to escalate to 4.4 million in 2026. Statistics show that one in five patients who visited Ontario emergency departments were only there because they did not have a family doctor.
Every Ontarian deserves access to adequate primary care. Ontario needs to establish and expand non-profit and public primary care clinics in areas like Chinatown, increase availability of translation, fast-track the credentialization of internationally trained family doctors and nurses, increase the number of family residence positions, and reduce the administrative burden on family doctors to make the job more attractive for them.
City Passes Budget with Some Amendments
Toronto City Council passed the budget on Wednesday. This was a difficult budget for our new mayor as it aims to increase social programs and housing while simultaneously addressing a $1.8 billion operating deficit, created in part by the costs of the pandemic, inflation, and past mayors who avoided making hard choices. Our city is hurting from years of neglect and cuts to the vital programs that so many depend on. We see this as encampments have continued to grow and services have declined.
In order to pay for the services we need, the city passed a 9.5% tax increase for homeowners, an average of about one dollar a day for the average household. Qualifying lower-income residents and seniors will be able to defer their tax payments until they sell their homes. Property tax for multi-residential buildings is held at 3.75% so that renters will not be impacted.
Key amendments include the restoration of the police budget to its full $20 million, as approved by the Toronto Police Services Board. The passing of the police budget came with expectations to see results including a reduction in officer response times, increases in the number of available frontline officers, increases in the number of neighbourhood officers, and recruitment of more women and gender diverse people.
Affordable Housing and Shelters: $126 million
- Expands the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition program by $100 million over 3 years
- Implements the Winter Warming Response Plan
- Dedicates 450 new shelter beds to refugee claimant response
- Hires more staff for the Eviction Prevention Program and RentSafeTO
- Provides additional funding for the Rent Bank, Tenant Support Program, Eviction Prevention in Community Program, Multi-Tenant Housing Program, Homelessness Prevention Program and Community Housing anchor agency supports
- Provides additional funds for 22 City-supported drop-in centres for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness
Transit Services and Environmental Sustainability: $30 million
- Freezes TTC fares
- Hires 160 highly visible TTC workers to improve passenger safety, security and well-being
- Implements emissions performance standards
Caring and Safe Communities: $44 million
- Expands the Toronto Community Crisis Service
- Hire hundreds more firefighters, paramedics, police officers and civilian staff
- Implements the Open Hours plan for Toronto Public Library (TPL)
- Provides additional TPL Youth Hubs serving priority neighbourhoods
- Increases community grants focused on youth violence prevention
- Implements the Direct Care initiative for long-term care homes
Back on Track Fund
To address critical infrastructure needs and accelerate much needed capital projects, the budget includes a $50 million Back on Track Fund. Leveraging capital funding from the Ontario-Toronto New Deal, this fund will support urgent state-of-good-repair work, address infrastructure deficiencies and enhance public spaces across the city.
- Additional funding for community safety, violence prevention and wellbeing programs
- Funds to water, prune and plant more trees, and make it easier to access home energy retrofit programs
- Support for economic development and culture and artists citywide
- Restoration of windrow snow clearing services (snow that piles up at end of driveways)
- Support for the emergent priorities, unique costs and staffing needs of policing
Affordable Housing Development at Dundas/Ossington
I am happy to share the news that the City of Toronto has announced an exciting new development at 1113-1117 Dundas St W at Ossington. The mass timber, modular development will be built on what is currently a Green P parking lot, and will include a 10-storey building as well as a smaller 3-storey laneway building.
The buildings will offer 100 affordable and market rental units ranging from studios to 3-bedroom apartments. The goal is to have 30% of the units affordable, which could range between 20 and 60% of the average market rent in Toronto. Not only does this project provide much needed affordable housing to the area, the mass timber construction and geothermal heating and cooling system has negative carbon impact.
The project is part of a city pilot program to explore using mass timber to build affordable and market housing and was designed with sustainability in mind. Construction is set to start in early 2025.
Toronto Western Hospital Getting More Beds
There is some good news in health care with Toronto Western Hospital set to receive a new 15-storey tower with 82 beds and 20 operating rooms. University Health Network proposed the $1.3 billion project several years ago which will be completed over the next four years.
The tower will be located on the north side of the hospital at the southeast corner of Bathurst and Nassau where a small parking lot currently sits. The parking spots will be moved underground and the existing patient drop-off lane for cars maintained.
It will also include critical-care beds and three highly specialized, state-of-the-art operating rooms for complex neurological and spinal surgeries, such as severe brain trauma and complex care for strokes, allowing Toronto Western to expand its role as a leading centre for neurological care.
Villiers Island Exciting Addition to Port Lands
The Villiers Island Precinct Plan is part of the Port Lands Flood Protection project that will open 240 hectares of underused post-industrial land for development. Villiers Island is a new island that will be created by extending the Don River through the Port Lands. The exciting new community will be developed to include housing, an elementary school, community centre, childcare facilities, restaurants, retail and office spaces, parks, and emergency services to support the new neighbourhood.
Four new bridges will connect downtown Toronto to Villiers Island, two of which opened in January: Commissioners Street and New Cherry Street. More details here.
King-Bathurst Ontario Line Virtual Information Session
Metrolinx is hosting a virtual online webinar on February 28, 7-8 pm about the King-Bathurst station and what to expect for this area as construction proceeds on the Ontario Line. Register here.
Community members can submit questions in advance via this link. Please enter code 1572799 when prompted. Signing up for the website is not required and questions can be submitted anonymously.
Survey on Private Clinic Fees for Health Care
Have you been charged for medically needed procedures like a cataract surgery, an MRI, or a consultation with a doctor? Has a private clinic manipulatively told you to pay for procedures that are not medically needed, such as special cataract lenses or eye measurement tests?
The Ontario Health Coalition is conducting this survey and is looking for public input. Information gathered will be used to make a public report and submissions to the provincial and federal governments to stop extra user charges for patients and protect equal access to public health care for all Canadians. Patients’ names or personal information in the report or submissions will not be used without permission to do so.
Take the survey here. Survey deadline is February 29, 2024.
Toronto Noise Bylaw Update
The City of Toronto has adopted updates to the Noise Bylaw to better balance the city’s vibrancy with residents’ and visitors’ needs.
These updates include:
- Modernizing the noise exemption permit process by introducing activity-based permits to differentiate lower and higher-impact activities
- Strengthening the rules for “amplified sound” by lowering nighttime indoor limits by three decibels (from 45 dB(A) to 42 dB(A) or from 60 dB(C) to 57 dB(C)) from 11 PM to 7 AM
- Allow the City to take noise measurements from the property line of the location where the sound or noise is being heard
- Incorporating sound-induced vibrations into the prohibition of “unreasonable and persistent” noise
Council has approved the phased-in implementation of bylaw changes this year, with bylaw amendments on specific prohibitions such as amplified sound to take effect on June 1 and the rest of the bylaw amendments related to the exemption permit process to take effect on September 1.
Before submitting a complaint, residents are encouraged to exercise a reasonable degree of tolerance and consider speaking with those responsible for making the noise to give them an opportunity to correct the issue. If this approach does not work, residents can call 311 or submit a complaint online. More details available here.
Chinatown Planning Study
The City of Toronto has initiated a study to gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of Chinatown, explore ways to preserve it, and review and plan opportunities for new developments that will complement the existing neighbourhood. More details here.
Below are some ways you get involved:
- Share your feedback via a new survey.
- Nominate yourself or someone else to be a part of the Chinatown Advisory Roundtables.
Call for Artists
Art Nest Call for Proposals
- Showcase your large-scale artwork at the largest art fair in Canada. Art Nest invites emerging artists to exhibit installations and public art pieces at the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair. It’s free to apply and participating artists receive a $4,000 artist fee, which covers material costs. Deadline is February 29, 2024. Details here.
Toronto Outdoor Art Fair
- Canada’s leading contemporary outdoor and online art fair is looking for artists and makers to participate in this year’s event taking place in-person at Nathan Phillips Square July 12-14, 2024. Deadline is March 7, 2024. Details here.
Harbourfront Centre Artists-in-Residence Program
- Applications for year-long residencies that offer affordable studio spaces, mentorship, exhibition opportunities, and community. Applications are welcomed for summer and full-time programs across five disciplines. Deadline is March 8, 2024. Details here
MPP Scrolls for Special Occasions
Turning 30, 40, 80, 90 or 100? Celebrate a significant birthday with a certificate from my office.
Is there a new addition to your family? Send the name of your baby, the parents’ names and other relevant information and we’ll send a “Welcome to the World” certificate to celebrate this special event.
Chris in the House
Human Trafficking Bill Passes with All-Party Support
Richard Dunwoody and I at an Angel Tree at Billy Bishop Airport – every angel represents a survivor of human trafficking
I am very happy to announce that Bill 41 received Royal Assent in the legislature last week. Thanks to everyone who supported this bill, including Richard Dunwoody who has spent several years helping survivors of human trafficking. This bill provides a legislative framework to prohibit the collection of coerced debts, and prohibits coerced debts from being taken into consideration when determining whether to provide credit services or products to a victim of human trafficking.
Since 2021, the Concord Adex Survivors Fund, an initiative of the Seeds of Hope Foundation, has helped survivors of human trafficking. The fund provides safe, affordable housing and post-secondary education support for survivors helping to rebuild their lives post-exploitation. This holiday season, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport will host three “Angel Trees” decorated with hundreds of angels representing survivors of human trafficking.
Below are some of my recent statements at Queen’s Park:
- MPP Bhutila Karpoche and I ask the government to work with Ontarians on the redevelopment of Ontario Place. Watch here.
- Calling for more transparency on the redevelopment. Watch here.
- Questioning the Therme timeline. Watch here.
- Petition from our local schools regarding staff cuts. Watch here.
Environment and Bill 69
- Climate Critic MPP Peter Tabuns and I debating Bill 69, Reducing Inefficiencies Act and how development is taking priority over the environment. Watch here.
- Impacts on Ontario Place and the environment. Watch here.
Health Care Privatization
- The government’s funding of private, for-profit clinics will only worsen the health care crisis. Watch here.
- Culture Critic MPP Jill Andrew and I address the cuts to arts funding in Ontario. Watch here.
International Women’s Day
- Actions the government can take for pay equity, including repealing Bill 124. Watch here.
Bill 39: Red Tape Reduction and Democracy
- Is it not possible to build housing while still respecting the outcomes of our recent municipal elections? Watch my question here.
Debate on Bill 26: Misogyny in Post-Secondary Institutions
- Statistics show that 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual assault on campuses. It’s a difficult discussion we need to have to raise awareness so we can change the culture. Watch my statement here.
The Impact of Interest Hikes on Student Loans
- Ontario students have the highest debt rate and the lowest per-student funding in the country. We need to eliminate interest on student debt. Watch my question here.
Double ODSP Rates & Improve the Homelessness Crisis
- CTV recently reported that at least two Ontarians with disabilities are choosing to die through Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) because they could not pay for housing that would reduce their suffering from their disability. Current monthly ODSP payments are 47.5 per cent short of the municipal poverty line in Toronto and 30 per cent below the province's poverty line. It is not possible to survive on these amounts in Ontario and many on ODSP are ending up homeless. I asked the Ford government to double ODSP rates. Watch my statement here.
- Rents in Toronto rose 14.5% in 2021. Those in non-rent-controlled buildings are facing rent increases of $500/month. To say that housing under the Ford government is unaffordable is a huge understatement. Watch my statement here.
- In January, my daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby boy! Becoming a grandparent has further put into perspective how urgently we need to act on the climate crisis so future generations can have a sustainable world to live in. Watch my statement here.
- We need to do everything we can to support the people of Ukraine in these incredibly difficult times. Watch my statement here.