This week, Ontario extended the province’s Declaration of Emergency for another 28 days until May 12th and also announced that schools will remain closed past May 4. As we near the end of week five of the pandemic, it is with great sorrow that I report that COVID-19 has entered several homeless shelters and a long-term care home in our area. I want to thank Councillor Cressy and the City of Toronto for all of the support they are providing to the homeless. Even before this pandemic began, we had a homelessness crisis and desperately underfunded, short-staffed long-term care homes with underpaid workers. All levels of government including the province need to step up and do everything we can to get our most vulnerable through this pandemic, and we need to develop the resolve to never let people be this vulnerable again.
Construction noise and parties in short-term rental units in condos continue to be a problem. The provincial government’s decision to extend construction hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. has worsened an already terrible situation for many people who are staying home where they are subjected to incessant noise. The parties in the short-term rentals are illegal under the state of emergency and the city bylaws. If you hear one, please call 311 or alert the police by calling the non-emergency line at 416-808-2222. They are prioritizing these calls.
I want to thank all of the people who are stepping up to help their neighbours. This outpouring of community support is really the light in the midst of this crisis. For those who are making homemade masks, I have reusable tote bags that can be used for fabric. We are also trying to collect 120 homemade masks for Portland Place, a home for vulnerable individuals and families. If you would like some bags to make masks, or can contribute masks to Portland Place, please email my office.
While our office has been overwhelmed by COVID-19 correspondence, Lake Ontario’s water levels continue to rise. After the Provincial Government cut the Flood Conservation Authority’s budget by 50%, residents are concerned that once again they will be forced to lead emergency preparation efforts for flooding. This is unacceptable - I will continue to work with Municipal and Federal colleagues and call on the Ministry of Natural Resources to direct funding towards flood management infrastructure.
Finally, as the pandemic continues, more vulnerable people, and the agencies that serve them, need our help. Please see the How You Can Help section below.
- Trudeau announced aid for the energy sector, plus support for rural businesses and workers in the arts and culture sectors.
- Ontario will not follow the lead of other provinces and have Public Health take over the management of private long-term care facilities, a measure to stop the spread of COVID-19 - we are asking the provincial government to raise LTC staff's wages, handle infection control, and step up recruitment, retention and scheduling of staff.
- Ontario will offer child care to staff in essential settings such as group homes and shelters, as well and law enforcement.
- The province is partnering with tech firms like Apple and Rogers to facilitate online learning for children while learning from home.
- Ontario is expected to release its latest modelling numbers on Monday, giving Ontarians a sense of what to expect in terms of projected COVID-19 case numbers and fatalities.
- A seniors’ advocacy group says the Ontario government limiting prescription refills to 30 days is hurting seniors financially – we are asking the provincial government to cover the prescription co-payments seniors have to pay for every refill.
- As of April 20, all Canadians travelling by air will be asked to wear non-medical masks or face coverings. Those travelling by other modes will be encouraged to wear face coverings as much as possible.
CERB and other Federal Government Updates
The federal government has expanded the criteria for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to include students and part-time, seasonal and contract workers who have earned $5000 last year. People who make less than $1,000 a month due to reduced work hours as well as those who have recently exhausted Employment Insurance and are unable to find work will also qualify. This is very important especially for artists in our community who are now eligible for the CERB without being limited by the amount of royalty payments for past work. CERB will be available to all residents of Canada with social insurance numbers (not just Canadian citizens). Note that CERB does not automatically renew each month. Those that are applying need to re-apply each month over the next four months.
The Federal Government has also announced a wage boost for essential workers who make less than $2,500 a month as well as made a commitment of $500 million to support arts, culture and sports sector workers. More details on these supports will be announced soon.
For businesses, they have expanded the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) which helps businesses cover non-deferrable operating costs. The new range of eligibility includes businesses who have paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019. They’ve also announced the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program to provide loans to commercial property owners who will lower or forgo the rent of small businesses for April, May and June.
COVID-19 and the Homelessness Crisis
For years now, Toronto has had an ongoing problem of a lack of affordable housing. This is only one of many reasons why Toronto has a large number of people experiencing homelessness and an extremely high occupancy rate in our city’s shelters. These individuals are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 as they do not have a home where they can self-isolate and our shelter system has been underfunded for years. It was recently reported that 30 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Toronto’s shelter system. We will continue to advocate for safe accommodation that allows for those experiencing homelessness a chance to follow physical distancing and be treated with respect and dignity.
Construction and Noise
For weeks now, we have repeatedly called for a reduction in what construction is considered “essential”. While the Province did alter its list of essential businesses on April 4th, they continued to allow construction related to transit and healthcare projects as well as residential construction where permits were granted prior to April 4.
This is unacceptable as our Spadina-Fort York riding is one of the most condo and construction-heavy areas in the country. We’ve received numerous calls of concern from those working at home and self-isolating about the disruption that construction noise makes and the negative impact on quality of life. We will continue to call for a reduction in allowable construction and bring these concerns to the legislature and Provincial Government.
Many construction workers are risking their personal health because they are concerned about earning income to pay their bills, which is why we continue to advocate for the Province to provide direct emergency support to supplement the federal programs.
I recommend that residents share construction concerns with the Premier's office ([email protected]), the Minister of Labour ([email protected]), and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing ([email protected]).
Short-Term Rentals and Airbnbs
My office continues to hear from constituents concerned about short-term rentals and Airbnb properties in their condos. As a reminder, the Ontario government has banned short-term rentals, including Airbnb, except for those “who are in need of housing during the emergency period”, such as frontline workers and those who are self-isolating. Hotels and motels are allowed to remain open and face no restrictions.
While this is a provincial order, the City of Toronto is responsible for its enforcement. Residents can contact 311 to report issues related to short-term rentals, such as noise, waste and zoning infractions and the City will investigate accordingly as Airbnb and short-term rental compliance is one of their priorities. You may also alert the police by calling the non-emergency line at 416-808-2222.
Long-Term Care and Worker Guidelines
Long-term care homes have become a huge area of focus due to the problem of healthcare staff working at multiple care homes, inadvertently contributing to the spread of COVID-19. To be clear, this is not the fault of long-term care staff and personal support workers. Even before the pandemic, these individuals should have been considered heroes, but they’ve been forced to work in extremely challenging environments taking care of our seniors for very little pay, giving them no choice but to take on multiple jobs. As a result, both healthcare and support workers as well as residents in these homes are at tremendous risk of exposure to COVID-19.
We’ve recommended comprehensive changes to long-term care homes, including additional testing for seniors and workers. The Province created new rules requiring staff to only work at one long-term care facility but they won’t come into effect until April 22, according to regulations posted Wednesday, which also contain a giant loophole, allowing temp agency staff to continue to work at multiple locations. As a result of a staffing crisis, workers from temp agencies make up a significant part of long-term care staffing. Another reason for concern is a CBC investigation that found that last year, the current government scaled back inspections at long-term care homes, so only nine of Ontario’s 626 homes got a proper inspection.
Restrictions much tighter than the current ones in place should have been put in place weeks ago, and we continue to call on the government to ensure that workers receive decent pay, full-time hours, and a ban on working at a second facility. Also troubling are the guidelines put out by the Ontario government’s Ministry of Health that allow healthcare workers who have the virus but are asymptomatic to return to work. We need our Provincial Government to truly put the health and safety of all Ontarians at the top of their priority list.
The province has amended a regulation under the Insurance Act to allow insurance companies to provide auto insurance premium rebates to consumers for up to 12 months after the declared emergency has ended. We have been calling for a 50% discount on auto insurance as physical distancing rules and non-essential businesses closing have led to fewer drivers on the road which has meant there have been fewer accidents. We believe Ontario’s residents should receive relief from auto insurance fees as the COVID-19 pandemic decreases the amount of time we’ll spend in our cars.
College and University Students
My office hears regularly from our college and university students who are in a very difficult position. Their in-person classes have been cancelled and they are transitioning to online learning. Many have lost on-campus employment and their opportunities for summer employment have also reduced significantly. Many students did not have the opportunity to earn income during the school year and thus do not qualify for the CERB. Additionally, the Canada Summer Jobs Grant expansion only allows for 25 more positions per riding across the country -- this is simply not enough. Students are concerned about paying rent, tuition fees and their living expenses for the summer and fall terms.
We continue to call on the Provincial Government to offer an emergency relief fund for students, and an increase in OSAP funding for the fall term. While the Ministry of Colleges and Universities agreed there would be a re-evaluation and likely increase OSAP funding for fall, we’re strongly recommending the additional funds come in the form of grants and not loans. Ontario’s students face overwhelming student debt and the lowest per-student funding in Canada -- they need support, not a larger debt burden.
Finally, concern has been raised about student data privacy and student health as the Ontario Government’s chosen online exam vendor E-Proctor has been using ProctorTrack to store personal data from York University students in the United States. As this is in conflict with Ontario’s privacy laws, I have informed Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner and will be in discussion with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities on this issue.
For University updates on COVID-19, please click here.
How You Can Help!
Help for Local Businesses
The City of Toronto highlighted the launch of an online donation platform that allows community members to make direct donations to small businesses to help lessen the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This platform allows customers to continue to support local main street businesses impacted by non-essential closures, such as coffee shops, restaurants and hair salons.
Grocery Delivery for Vulnerable People
Red Cross 1-833-204-9952 FREE Groceries and Delivery! Grocery hampers for people 70 and up
Emergency Grocery Delivery for Seniors 1-800-321-5973
Friendly Neighbour Hotline 1-855-581-9580 (Available in 180 languages)
For seniors living in low-income housing in Toronto; Open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
- Seniors are connected to a network of volunteers throughout the city who can help with picking up groceries, household essentials and food bank items
- Food will be delivered to lobby, where clients pick up
- No delivery fee; cash preferred
- Due to volume, orders must be 8 items or fewer
- For online orders: http://uhnopenlab.ca/hotline
Caremongering Network 289-652-7409
- No charge for food delivery
- Client must pay for groceries using e-transfer or cash
- Client is matched with a volunteer in their area who will shop for them and deliver
Good Neighbour Project 647-873-2230 Email: [email protected]
The People’s Pantry Facebook Group
A volunteer initiative dedicated to safely providing and delivering cooked meals and grocery
Virtual Farmers’ Market
Open every week from Thursday at 12:00 pm to Sunday at Midnight
Each week, we add new vendors and update the food that is available
*Will deliver to specific postal codes only
Online Chatting for Seniors
Chatting to Wellness is a FREE program that connects university students with seniors in retirement homes to help combat the isolation and loneliness many are feeling during this time.
Calls every weekday evening from 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm EST
Safehaven works hard every day to provide an exceptional place for their clients and families so that they can thrive in place from childhood through to adulthood. Colour your driveways and sidewalks in support of Safehaven and use the hashtags #havenathome, #safehaven and #ProtectTheVulnerable. Don’t forget to post on social media and tag @safehavento.
The new hub for Toronto takeout and delivery options. Restaurants can also register and showcase their delivery or takeout options.
Toronto Zoo Support
Toronto Zoo needs financial support to feed its animals
Innovative Solutions or Products: If you are a business/organization that can offer emergency products or innovative solutions to support the COVID-19 crisis response, submit your ideas/supplies here
Toronto Arts Council resources for artists during the COVID-19 crisis
Community Legal Education Ontario has released a guide to legal issues that arise out of the COVID-19 crisis
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has created a COVID-19 Toolkit for businesses
- Ask the Experts – video answers by medical professionals to common questions
- Demandez aux Experts – answers in French to commonly asked questions
- Diabetes Canada COVID-19 resources
- An infographic describing how those with diabetes can best prepare during the COVID-19 disruption
#HowsMyFlattening: A centralized data analytics and visualization hub monitoring Ontario's response to COVID-19
Working with Spadina-Fort York’s Elected Representatives
COVID-19 is an unprecedented situation that requires all levels of government to work closely together. I am working closely with my Municipal and Federal counterparts to discuss how we can support Spadina-Fort York residents, businesses and other organizations. For more detail on the Municipal and Federal responses, please click the links below:
Health Workforce Portal
The Ontario government has launched a new Health Workforce Matching Portal that will enable retired or non-active health care professionals, internationally educated health care professionals, students, and volunteers with health care experience to join the province's response to COVID-19. The portal will efficiently match the availability and skillsets of frontline health care workers to the employers in need of assistance to perform a variety of public health functions, such as case and contact management.