This pandemic is the greatest challenge that we have faced in our lifetime. The second wave and the current lockdown are impacting people and businesses. We’ve gotten this far in the pandemic by supporting each other.
At this time of year, it’s particularly important to support small local businesses. I’ve launched a Shop Local campaign (see Small Business Support below). If you would like a SHOP LOCAL poster for your window, please email my office.
I commissioned this fun holiday mask from local textile artist Louisa Milan! #shoplocal #supportsmallbusiness
The lockdown is, however, saving lives. In November, the growth rate was 5%, which would have led to 6,500 cases per day by mid-December. The growth rate over the last 14 days has slowed to 2.4% and we have 1,800 cases per day (see COVID-19 Modelling Data below).
The first shipments of the newly approved Pfizer vaccine are arriving in Canada, which is good news and means that there is light at the end of this tunnel.
Affordable housing and homelessness continue to be the top issues in our riding. The current situation is not safe for anyone. The real solution is safe affordable housing for everyone and mental health and addictions supports. I have formed a homelessness workgroup and we are developing and advocating for viable solutions. If you would like to receive updates from this group, please email my office.
Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, began last night, and for those celebrating, Chag Sameach!
Saturday evening, I am hosting Holi-palooza, a virtual holiday celebration. Join me for a performance from the lead singer of the local band Phusion, an opportunity to carol along with Newchoir, a trivia challenge and a visit from Santa! Be sure to register soon.
As always, stay well!
If you missed our holiday social on Saturday, December 12 at 7:00 pm, HOLI-PALOOZA, you can watch it here:
• Experience an exciting performance by the lead artist from Toronto trio, Phusion!
• Sing along with Toronto's first rock choir, Newchoir!
• Test your knowledge with an interactive trivia challenge!
• Plus, a special visitor from the North Pole!
Community Recognition Awards
Nominations for my Community Recognition Awards are now open!
The awards will recognize and thank residents, businesses and organizations for their outstanding efforts in the community. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the amazing things that people are doing to help others and that make the Spadina-Fort York riding such an incredible place to live.
During these challenging times, there have been many moments of hope and we have seen incredible generosity that has inspired our community, while often going unrecognized.
Do you know someone that has gone above and beyond to help our community? Has someone gone out of their way to be a great neighbour?
Nominating someone is easy! Click here to complete the online form.
Deadline for nominations is December 31, 2020. We hope to recognize all of our great neighbours early in the new year. Email my office at [email protected] if you have any questions.
COVID-19 Orders Extended:
- The Ontario government is extending all orders currently in force under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA) until January 20, 2021. The government also made amendments to O. Reg 82/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 1) under the ROA, which applies to public health unit regions in the Stage 1 lockdown. These amendments, which came into force December 4, 2020, permit indoor farmer's markets that primarily sell groceries, to be open. For post-secondary institutions, the amendments increase the limit on the number of persons permitted in an instructional space at any one time for in-person instruction or in-person exams from 10 to 50 people for certain programs critical to supporting the health care workforce as set out in the order. The list of orders under the ROA that have been extended can be found here.
COVID-19 Modelling Data:
- There will be more than 200 COVID-19 patients in intensive care in Ontario hospitals for the next month in the best case scenario and the number could cross 500 if public health restrictions are relaxed, new modelling released by the Ford government suggests. The modelling looked at four different paths that the province could take depending on the growth in cases between now and early January. It suggests that if infections grow at a rate of 3% over the next month, which is a slightly accelerated pace compared to the 2.47% growth rate we have seen over the last 14 days, we would end up with roughly 5,000 daily cases and nearly 400 people in the ICU by January 8. But it says that if the rate of growth were to slow to 1% we would only have about 2,500 daily cases and under 300 people in the ICU by then. The worst case scenario, which is based on the 5% growth rate that Ontario briefly saw in November prior to lockdowns being put in place in Toronto and Peel, points to nearly 10,000 daily cases by early January with more than 500 COVID-19 patients in the ICU. View the modelling slides here.
The key findings of the latest modelling:
- Cases continue to grow while percent positivity appears to be flattening. The impact of the Pandemic still varies widely across and within public health units.
- Long-term care and overall mortality continue to increase and may exceed 25 deaths per day within a month.
- The reproduction number is fluctuating around 1 which means that we are at a critical juncture where case rates may change quickly.
- ICU occupancy will continue above 200 beds for the next month and may go higher, particularly if public health interventions are relaxed. Access to care deficits will persist.
- For Ontarians with access to suitable housing and employment outside of essential services, case rates have increased at a slower pace.
- Current lockdown has not had nearly as much impact on mobility (and likely contacts) as lockdown did in March. Relaxation of public health interventions with a widening prevention gap will likely lead to even higher case growth.
- Ret. General Hillier said 3000 health-care workers from nursing homes and hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa will get their first shots starting Tuesday after 6,000 doses arrive Monday. As many as 175,000 more doses could arrive by the end of December depending on the timing of anticipated Health Canada approval for a second vaccine from Moderna. The first vaccination sites will be at University Health Network in Toronto and at The Ottawa Hospital but will soon be extended to 13 more hospitals with ultracold freezers for the Pfizer vaccine and up to 23 locations eventually. Workers in nursing homes hardest hit by outbreaks in the pandemic that has killed about 2,300 residents and eight staff to date are being notified they will be first in line and given appointment times.
- Some hospital staff working in high-risk situations will also be given shots. Because the Pfizer vaccine requires storage at -70C and the manufacturer has advised against moving it from initial delivery sites because it can lose effectiveness with jostling, vaccinations for residents in their nursing homes will have to wait until the Moderna vaccine arrives. Between 35,000 and 85,000 Moderna doses are expected by the end of the year, Hillier said. In total, that means Ontario could receive up to 181,000 doses from the two manufacturers by December 31, enough for 90,500 health-care workers and nursing-home residents in the early stage of the first phase of the vaccination plan that does not anticipate inoculations for the general public until April.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Government of Canada will cover 100% of the cost of procuring vaccines for all Canadians, and the supplies needed to administer them.
COVID-19 Testing Pop-ups:
- The Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre will be hosting a pop-up testing site on Monday, December 14, 12:00 - 6:30 pm. If you have any symptoms, or think you may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, get tested. No appointment needed and there is no cost. 627 Queens Quay W. More information available here.
- The City of Toronto announced that six decommissioned TTC buses, which have been retrofitted to create mobile COVID-19 testing sites, will be heading out to the city’s hardest hit areas. This approach will bring fast, easy testing to the doorsteps of those at highest risk.
Financial Accountability Office Report:
- Ontario has yet to spend $12 billion that it set aside to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the province’s spending watchdog said in a new report. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released its report on the first two quarters of the 2020-21 fiscal year on Tuesday. The report found that during the second quarter, from April 1 to September 30, Ontario increased its pandemic-spending plan by $13.9 billion. Of that new money, 96% was allocated to pandemic measures, including $3.9 billion for municipal operations and the Social Services Relief Fund, $4.1 billion for the COVID-19 Health Sector Response Fund, and $1.9 billion for the Support for People and Jobs Fund (SPJF). Another $3.3 billion went to the province’s new pandemic consistency fund, which it says will be used to tackle unexpected costs of the pandemic. The remaining 4% went to health, education, justice, and children’s and social services.
- The Premier says that the province has only dispensed a fraction of the money from a $600 million fund meant to support shuttered businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and he is blaming a lack of applications for the delay. The Conservative government set aside $300 million for businesses forced to close or significantly curtail their operations back in October and then doubled the fund to $600 million when it decided to move Toronto and Peel into a lockdown in November. The money is intended to help eligible businesses offset fixed costs, including property taxes, hydro and natural gas bills. The Premier, however, said that the distribution of the funds has been slowed by a lack of applications in the early days of the program. Applications for money from the provincial fund opened on November 16, but Ford said that only a “few million” has been dispensed so far. This money shouldn’t have been withheld from the people of Ontario. We could have fewer illnesses and fewer deaths and fewer locked-down communities right now. This money should be used to give people paid sick days, help for small businesses with the rent, more COVID testing and contact tracing, more hospital capacity, Isolation centres, and smaller safer classrooms for our kids.
- The FAO released another report that provides an overview of municipal budgets, estimates the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on municipalities, and assesses the adequacy of federal-provincial financial support. The COVID-19 pandemic will result in significantly lower revenues and higher expenses for municipalities in 2020 and 2021. Before taking into account cost savings measures implemented by municipalities and federal-provincial financial support, the FAO projects a negative financial impact on municipalities’ budgets of $4.1 billion in 2020 and $2.7 billion in 2021, for a combined negative impact of $6.8 billion over two years. The most significant revenue losses for municipalities are from transit fees and fees from recreation, culture and other services. On the expense side, municipal spending will increase largely for temporary housing and homeless shelters, public health, and social and family services (including long-term care facilities).
Bill 229 Attack on Conservation:
- The Ontario government passed Bill 229 on Tuesday, including Schedule 6, which amends the Conservation Authorities Act, stripping power from local conservation authorities. Schedule 6 is a small part of the omnibus COVID-19 recovery bill and now gives final say on zoning and building permits and other environmentally sensitive issues to the province. Conservation authorities, environmental groups, cottagers’ associations and thousands of Ontarians are standing with the Greenbelt Council members who resigned to demand the Premier remove Schedule 6 and stop his attack on the environment.
Bill 229 Impact on Small Business:
- Bill 229, the Ontario government’s budget bill was passed yesterday. Most of the media attention has been focused on Schedule 6, which strips Conservation Authorities of the power to protect flood plains from development, but there are other parts of the bill that affect small businesses that you should be aware of. A copy of the bill is available here. A summary is available here.
- Commercial Eviction Ban (Schedule 5)
Ban Reinstated: The ban has been reinstated. It is retroactive to October 31, and landlords who have entered premises and seized equipment since that date must return it or compensate the business owner.
End date: There is no end date specified for the period of the ban. The legislation expires in 2 years, but the Minister has the power to make an end date for the ban at any time through regulation.
Eligibility Criteria: The two previous iterations of the commercial eviction ban specified that the landlord must have been eligible for the commercial rent relief program. This iteration gives the minister the ability to expand the eligibility criteria and the need for another bill going through the legislature. There are many businesses impacted by the pandemic and the previous criteria left many ineligible for assistance. If any BIA or business in Spadina-Fort York needs the eligibility criteria expanded, I can assist you in putting your case before the government.
- MPAC (Schedule 3)
The Minister now has the power to give municipalities greater control over the definition of "current value" of a property. This may allow the City of Toronto to determine commercial property rates based on “current use” rather than “highest and best use.” This could allow municipalities to protect small businesses whose property assessments have been driven up unreasonably due to nearby development.
This is something Main Street businesses have been fighting for since the Harris government introduced the current regime in the mid 1990s. It also reflects recommendations made by David Crombie in 1996 (see page 5 in the PDF). But we are a long way from actually getting relief for businesses impacted by "highest and best use" property assessments. This legislation has passed, but now the Minister must pass the necessary regulation, and then the city must pass the necessary bylaw. I know that MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) assessments have been making many businesses untenable. I have and will continue to advocate for changes to these unreasonable MPAC assessments, and again, I can support BIAs and businesses in Spadina-Fort York who are affected negatively by MPAC.
Click here to see my statement in the legislature last week calling on the Premier to provide more support for small businesses. I want to reiterate that my staff and I are here to help you. If you require further information or would like assistance, please email my office.
Small Business Support:
- Every day, my office hears from small businesses that are struggling to get by and are worried about surviving the lockdown. It’s been difficult to see so many businesses in Spadina-Fort York close due to a lack of government support during these difficult times.
In an effort to promote small businesses in the riding, I am distributing “SHOP LOCAL” signs that you can place in your windows. If you would like a free sign, please email my office.
Click here to read more on the Ontario NDP's Save Main Street plan.
- The Ontario government has announced that it will permanently allow liquor-licensed establishments to sell alcohol with food takeout and delivery orders. Other permanent changes include allowing businesses to extend their patios, allowing licensed boat operators to serve alcohol while docked, reducing the minimum pricing requirements for spirits sold as part of a takeout or delivery order, as well as allowing licensed liquor delivery services to deliver to any private place. Learn more about AGCO's licensing changes.
- The Ontario government announced it will be permanently increasing the Employer Health Tax payroll exemption to $1 million. This would mean 90% of employers would pay no EHT.
Tourism Industry Funding:
- Through the Reconnect Festival and Event Program, Ontario is investing more than $3.4 million to support 27 local events and initiatives. These events are the first to be approved through the program, which was launched in October 2020. This funding will support festival and event organizers as they adapt to new public health measures with virtual, drive-through and other safe offerings. Events include reverse holiday parades with drive-by static floats, drive-in music concerts and movies, holiday tree lightings and New Year’s Eve sky light displays.
- The Ontario government is also investing more than $912,000 in 14 initiatives through the Tourism Economic Development and Recovery Fund. The $1.5-million fund is an application-based, cost-sharing program designed to provide funding for projects that encourage the development of innovative new tourism products, support tourism investment or build the capacity of Ontario's tourism industry. Applications are being accepted on an on-going basis until December 22, 2020 at 5:00 pm.
- My colleague and Official Opposition Tenant Rights Critic Suze Morrison, MPP for Toronto Centre, put forward a motion on Tuesday that called on the government to stop residential evictions during the pandemic. The motion passed in the legislature, however, unless the Premier issues an emergency order, evictions will continue. The legislature adjourned two days ahead of schedule, cutting off opportunity for debate on the motion. Sign my petition.
- I continue to host advocacy meetings for residents, business owners and people experiencing homelessness to share their experience. We invite health experts, homelessness advocates and city staff to present to the group to share their insight on what policies could resolve the homelessness crisis. While we fight for legislative solutions, I also work with the Spadina-Fort York Community Care Program to provide meals and basic essentials to those who need it the most. This includes people experiencing homelessness living in tent encampments, low-income families and seniors. If you would like to get involved, please send us an email.
- Researchers are hoping to recruit participants starting next week for a study that will look at how big a problem COVID-19 is among people experiencing homelessness in Toronto. Dr. Stephen Hwang, director of the MAP centre for urban health solutions at St. Michael's Hospital, will lead a research team on what is being called the Covenant Study. The year-long project has received $1.9 million in federal funding through the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, an organization formed by the federal government in late April to track virus spread in Canada.
- A government-commissioned report says the effect of COVID-19 on the number of homeless people in Canada won’t be felt for three to five years, giving policy-makers a chance to prevent the pandemic from putting people on the street. One reason for the delay is that people in need will first max out government supports before exhausting their savings. They then would fall behind on payments like rent, leading to evictions. The author of the report says it wouldn’t surprise him to see homeless counts rise by 10-15%in some cities depending on what happens in the labour market. But given the lead time before the effects are fully felt, the report requested by Employment and Social Development Canada recommends more funding for prevention strategies like expanding a federal rent supplement. The report also recommends the Canada Revenue Agency take a light touch when it comes to having pandemic aid recipients repay overpayments, particularly those on social assistance.
- Teachers and education workers at the Toronto District School Board have called on the province to halt in-person learning for the first two weeks of January and conduct asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in all schools across the city following the break. In an open letter sent to the province and the school board earlier this week, TDSB employees asked for all Toronto schools to be moved to online learning for at least the first two weeks after New Year’s Day. Education Minister, Stephen Lecce, said that the government does not believe extending the holiday break is necessary at this time.
- MPP Joel Harden, the Critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, attended my Special Education and Disability Advocates meeting last week. He has been working with disability rights organizations to ask the Ontario government to clarify their COVID-19 triage protocol and release a distribution protocol for the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Homes You Can Afford, the NDP’s comprehensive housing plan, includes a commitment to mandating universal design principles for building codes, ensuring that newly built homes are visitable and adaptable. Not only would this mean expanded options for people with disabilities looking to rent or buy, it means that more seniors can stay in their own homes for longer. At the same time, the NDP’s proposals to overhaul home care would help thousands of people with disabilities who need health care and support services to live their fullest lives.
- The Opposition has also tabled a bill that would make the Chief Medical Officer of Ontario an independent officer of the legislature.
- The NDP is also fighting for an increase of 15% in ODSP and for benefits to be stacked rather than clawed back.
Federation of South Toronto Residents Association (FOSTRA):
- I have been reaching out to co-ops and residents, community and neighbourhood associations in order to create a FOSTRA. Working together will allow us to have a more powerful voice when advocating for changes in legislation. FOSTRA will focus on municipal and provincial legislation. If you are a member of a neighbourhood association and are interested in joining, please email my office at [email protected].
Lake Ontario Flooding:
- The International Joint Commission (IJC) has approved the Board’s request for authority to deviate from Plan 2014. The risk of high water on Lake Ontario in 2021 is moderate due to persistent high-water levels on Lake Erie and the upper Great Lakes. This will cause inflows to Lake Ontario from Lake Erie to remain high over the coming winter months. Seasonal factors such as precipitation and snowpack runoff will be the main drivers of a high-water event in Lake Ontario.
Since June, Lake Ontario levels have steadily declined to just above the seasonal long-term average. The Board and IJC recognize the continued threats posed by high water supplies into the system and the risk of another high-water event in 2021 and will implement a deviation strategy to take advantage of opportunities that may arise through the winter. More information is available here.
Driver’s Licence Renewals Online:
- The Ontario government is temporarily waiving driver's licence renewal requirements so that all Class G and M drivers can now safely renew their licences online. Senior drivers aged 80 and above are able to renew their driver's licences without completing a Group Education Session and driver's licence photos can be renewed online using a current photo. It is strongly encouraged that everyone renew their driver's licence and licence plate stickers online at ServiceOntario.ca. In-person appointments can be booked online in advance for services at 43 ServiceOntario centres. Please visit Ontario.ca/Appointment for more information or to book an appointment.
Union Station Bus Terminal Officially Open:
- Transit riders will have full access to the new two-level, indoor terminal located on the north-east corner of Bay Street and Lake Shore Boulevard. It will provide riders travelling in and out of the Greater Toronto Area with more direct connections to GO trains, the TTC, VIA Rail and UP Express. Improved amenities include over 200 indoor seats for customers, 270 bike parking spaces, charging ports and Wi-Fi.
Ontario Line Early Works Report:
- As you may know, the Ontario Line involves a new subway stop at the Exhibition GO station. A new update on the environmental assessment and plans, the Early Works Report, is now available. With the release of this report comes a 30-day consultation period. Metrolinx is encouraging the community to review this report and provide feedback here. All feedback will be addressed and summarized in their final Early Works Report which will be released in 2021.