I want to start with some good news – I am very happy with the City’s announcement today to provide permanent housing for the homeless. Over the past weeks, I’ve been visiting homeless encampments where people have been stuck due to the respite centres, shelters and even the recently acquired hotels being full. Many thanks to Councillor Cressy and Mayor Tory for your leadership on this issue.
Over the past few days I have spoken with several members of the Chinese community who have been verbally harrassed on the street. Such actions are repugnant, and I have made a video statement condemning the harassment. We are all in this together in fighting this virus and will not tolerate anyone who attacks innocent community members.
Yesterday, April 28th, was the National Day of Mourning for workers who have died, including those who have contracted COVID-19 on the job and have passed away. There are others who are fighting for their lives in hospitals right now. It’s important that we take the time to remember their sacrifice.
Do you have questions about government supports, small businesses, or the next steps in fighting the pandemic? Then please join our Telephone Town Hall on Tuesday, May 5 at 7:15 p.m. MP Adam Vaughan, Councillor Joe Cressy, BIA Executive Director John Kiru, preventative health strategist Genevieve Gee and I will be on the call to answer your questions. Dial-in information and an email address to submit your questions in advance are below.
On Monday, I hosted a local business town hall – see the report below. As well as creating the vibrancy and character of our communities, small businesses provide 70% of Canadian jobs. It’s essential that we provide the supports to help them make it through the pandemic. Please visit the website distantly.ca to see how you can help.
Remember, we’re in this together!
COVID-19 Telephone Town Hall
Join me, Councillor Joe Cressy, MP Adam Vaughan, BIA Executive Director John Kiru and preventative health strategist Genevieve Gee for our Telephone Town Hall where we take your questions regarding government supports, small businesses, or the next steps in fighting the pandemic.
On Tuesday, May 5th at 7:15 p.m., simply dial 1-877-229-8493 and enter ID number 116507 to join the call. Questions can also be emailed in advance to [email protected].
Save Main Street Digital Town Hall Review
Thank you to all those who attended our Save Main Street Digital Town Hall on Monday. We had 110 viewers tune in to watch myself, MPP Jessica Bell, MPP Marit Stiles and John Kiru of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas. We discussed a wide range of issues ranging from property taxes to programs offered by banks and the government, as well as where businesses can go for help. Last week, the Danforth BIA announced that 66% of small businesses will not survive the next 3 months with this pandemic. While most businesses reported that government supports are helpful, they say it is not enough for their cash flow as they require additional support, particularly for rent. For those who missed it, here’s a link to the recorded town hall and an attached infographic with some other insights! If you are interested in supporting small businesses through the pandemic, please click here.
- New Canada COVID-19 Models: Canadian public health officials released new modelling numbers which show Canada is making progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19, though thousands more cases, and deaths, are expected by early next month, and Canadians are urged to continue physical distancing measures.
- Long-Term Care & Seniors’ Homes: While the increase in new cases have slowed down, Canada’s forecasted COVID-19 fatality is higher than was initially predicted due to widespread outbreaks in long-term care and seniors’ homes. The Official Opposition has been calling on the Ontario government to do far more to protect seniors and long-term care workers.
- Commercial Rent: With rent due May 1, commercial property landlords and tenants have expressed confusion and doubt about Canada’s commercial rent assistance program, saying details on eligibility and the extent to which they might stand to benefit are scarce. The Official Opposition has been urging the Ontario government to give businesses desperately-needed rent relief and has been pointing out the flaws in Ontario's rent relief program.
- Hospital Capacity: Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office released its preliminary review of the virus’s impact on hospital capacity – the findings include that pre-pandemic, Ontario had a low number of hospital beds and high occupancy rate compared to similar jurisdictions, and that Ontario’s testing target is lagging. A report out by Toronto’s University Health Network finds that an estimated 35 people may have died during the COVID-19 pandemic because their cardiac surgeries were postponed. We are asking the province to cover the full cost of take-home cancer drugs for people that need them, something the Official Opposition has long pushed for, but which has taken on increased urgency during the pandemic, when many Ontarians have had their in-hospital cancer treatments put on hold.
- Ontario’s Framework to Reopen the Economy: This week, the Ontario Government released A Framework for Reopening our Province which lays out plans to reduce restrictions on physical distancing and social gatherings and open up essential businesses in three stages. It is crucial that the government takes a cautious and proactive approach prioritizing public health and that they provide more detail for businesses and individuals so they are informed.
- Pandemic Pay: On a positive note, the Ontario Government has announced a $4/hour pandemic pay top-up for front line workers. After advocating for wide eligibility, those receiving pandemic pay include staff working in long-term care and retirement homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, social services, corrections institutions, youth justice facilities, home and community care providers, paramedics, public health nurses, respiratory therapists, and addictions and mental health workers in hospitals and congregate care settings. This is really good news, and we are calling on these pandemic payments to be retroactive to the beginning of the state of emergency in Ontario.
- Business Support: The City of Toronto has opened a business support centre where you can receive one-on-one virtual support to fill out federal government COVID-19 business applications and receive general business advice.
- CurbTO: The City of Toronto has made the area around the King & Spadina intersection a temporary Parking Pick-Up Zone. This will provide an opportunity for drivers and delivery agents to expedite medicine and food pick-ups by allowing them to temporarily park for up to 10 minutes in close proximity to the desired essential business in otherwise restricted parking areas.
- Education: As a reminder, Ontario’s schools will be closed until May 31st. We have been asking the Ontario Government to help accommodate families who have limited access to computers/internet and regularly consult with teachers and parents on its Learn from Home plan. To provide more details on the agreements with teachers’ unions, the Ontario Government increased class sizes from 22.9 to 23 and they’ve said the four mandatory online courses have been reduced to two mandatory online courses with an opt-out policy that requires agreement from a guidance counsellor.
- Community Gardens: Recognizing that community gardens are an essential source of fresh food for some individuals and families facing food insecurity, I am pleased to announce the Ontario Government will be lifting restrictions on community gardens. Local public health officers will provide recommendations to help gardens maintain physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting commonly used equipment and surfaces.
This section of our update will highlight some of the many amazing and generous people going above and beyond during this crisis. If you would like to nominate someone, please send us an email at [email protected].
I’d like to take a moment to recognize and thank Julie Whitfield and Eva Rutherford, as well as the eight other residents of Toronto Island who sewed 140 masks for residents of Portland Place, a group home in our riding. This is the type of action that brings communities together as we work to support each other. Thank you all!
We have received information regarding increasing scams during this crisis. A recent one involves individuals posing as a utility representative and threatening to disconnect power. The Ontario Energy Board has taken steps to ensure that the power to your home or low-volume small business cannot be disconnected for non-payment by your utility until July 31, 2020. If you receive a message, text or phone call from someone posing as a utility representative and threatening to disconnect your power, do not respond to it. Contact your utility directly using the telephone number displayed on your bill.
Consumers with questions or concerns about any suspicious communications claiming to be from their utility are also encouraged to contact the OEB.
- Call: 416-314-2455 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
- Text: 416-544-5190
- Email: [email protected]
Consumers concerned about any suspicious communications can also contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or call 1-888-495-8501.