Ontario has now consistently seen more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases per day and our intensive care unit (ICU) use is expected to surpass 300 by the end of December, with the worst case scenario seeing us pass 1,500 by mid-January. The government has said that with more than 300 COVID-19 patients in the ICU, even medical care not related to the disease becomes nearly impossible to handle. These projected increases would overwhelm our hospital system, forcing the cancellation of surgeries, delayed access to ICUs etc.
Because of the rising numbers, the Premier announced that the lockdown we are currently under will be extended to the rest of Ontario starting at 12:01 a.m. on Dec 26th, and the lockdown in Toronto and Peel will be tightened. The following are some of the measures being taken:
- Indoor events and social gatherings are restricted, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
Businesses and Services
- In-person shopping in most retail stores are prohibited, but curbside pickup and delivery can continue.
- Big box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25% capacity in store
- Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50% capacity for in-store shopping.
- Indoor and outdoor dining is prohibited. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only.
- Indoor access to shopping malls is restricted
- Patrons may go to a designated indoor pickup area by appointment only. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
- Essential retail stores are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), and food courts offering a takeout option
- Ontario Passenger Road tests are cancelled until January 23, without penalty. DriveTest clients will receive a credit in the system in order to rebook their test when the provincewide shutdown period ends.
- Elementary schools will close until at least Jan 11 and secondary schools until at least Jan 25
- Both the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) have been preparing for various scenarios including system-wide closures because of the pandemic. If your child attends a TDSB school, information is available here, and if your child attends a TCDSB school, information is available here.
- During this period, child care centres, authorized recreational and skill building programs and home-based child care services will remain open. From January 4-8, 2021, when elementary students move to remote learning, before and after school programs will be closed and emergency child care for health care and frontline workers will be provided.
- Schools boards will be required to make provisions for continued in-person support for students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated through remote learning.
- In January 2021, students aged 13 - Grade 12 will be eligible for funding under an expanded Support for Learners program. Parents or guardians will receive a one-time payment of $200 per eligible student to help offset education expenses - Apply here starting Jan 2021.
Here are guidelines from Toronto Public Health specific to those of us in Toronto. Here, the lockdown will continue until at least Jan 23, 2021.
Small Business Supports
- Starting at $10,000, the Ontario Small Business Support Grant will be released in Jan 2021, and will provide businesses with dollar for dollar funding to a maximum of $20,000 to help cover decreased revenue expected as a result of the Provincewide Shutdown. Eligible small businesses include those that:
- Are required to close or significantly restrict services subject to the Provincewide Shutdown effective 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020;
- Have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level; and
- Have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
- Businesses that are impacted by the Provincewide Shutdown will also be eligible for property tax and energy cost rebates. Business can apply for rebates here.
- The Government is also lowering electricity prices to a discounted off-peak rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour 24/7 for all time-of-use and tiered customers. The off-peak price will automatically be applied to bills of all residential, small business, and farm customers who pay regulated rates.
- Food delivery companies will be required to limit the rates they charge to 20% for each transaction — with no more than 15% for commission for food delivery services. The cap applies in areas where indoor dining is prohibited, to help restaurants stay in business.
This lockdown extension isn’t the news that any of us wanted. In the midst of the holidays, we must do more to support those most affected by the pandemic. Please call friends, family, and especially seniors and people who live alone to let them know you are thinking of them.
Affordable Housing and Homelessness
While some of us are self-isolating at home, others are fighting to stay in their home. Toronto’s homelessness issue has reached crisis levels and we must do all we can to stop people from becoming unhoused and provide access to permanent housing and mental health/addictions supports for those who need it most. Please click on the links below to learn more.
- Fortunately, the City has voted to approve a “vacant home” tax and announced a plan to open overdose prevention sites in shelters
- We need the provincial government to put an end to the eviction blitz that is happening at the Landlord & Tenant Board
- Read my open letter to the community with background on the homelessness crisis
- Let the Ontario Government know you support the fight against homelessness by signing my petitions on homelessness here and here
This is a difficult time and the extension of the lockdown may feel disappointing, but our actions are saving lives and by supporting each other we can get through this. I want to wish everyone a happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year! I know our celebrations will look different, but let's still find a way to find joy and gratefulness in our lives!
This Christmas Eve there is a global movement to ring bells from our porches and balconies at 6 p.m. If you are in the mood for some Christmas entertainment and carolling, you can also enjoy our Holipalooza event where we had musical performances, a trivia challenge and a visit from the North Pole’s most famous resident - Watch here!
Community Recognition Awards
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?
These 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.
Deadline for nominations is December 31, 2020. We hope to recognize all of our great neighbours in the new year.
Nominating someone is easy! Click here to complete the online form.
- Because of the rising numbers, the Premier announced that the lockdown we are currently under will be extended to the rest of Ontario starting at 12:01 a.m. on Dec 26th, and the lockdown in Toronto and Peel will be tightened.
- Mayor Tory said he is in talks with the Ford government and surrounding area mayors about increasing restrictions after December 21, when the 28-day lockdown was scheduled to end. He said the restrictions must cover an area larger than just Toronto, as people are passing between different GTA municipalities in different levels of the province’s five-tier coronavirus response framework. Premier Ford acknowledged that a widespread lockdown is needed to stop the alarming rise in COVID-19 infection across the province, suggesting the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area could be targeted.
- Dr. David Williams said he and provincial health experts had made recommendations to the government on new restrictions, but would not say on Thursday what they were. He said he’s spoken to the medical officers in Toronto and Peel to see if the lockdown zones need to be a “darker shade of grey,” meaning more restrictions.
- Ontario doctors, as well as the Ontario Hospital Association, have also expressed the need for an expanded lockdown to stop the alarming rise in COVID cases that threaten to overwhelm hospitals and other health-care services.
- The NDP has been calling on the Premier to stop sitting on a $12-billion COVID fund the Financial Accountability Officer says is largely unspent, and use it to implement powerful COVID-stopping measures like paid sick days, isolation centres, in-school and in-workplace testing, smaller class sizes capped at 15, and more contact tracing.
- Canada expects to have enough doses on hand next year to vaccinate every Canadian that wants a shot by the end of September, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). The statement comes amid confusion over competing information released to reporters last week about vaccination timelines. The PHAC now says it believes Canada's vaccine supply will be sufficient to allow all Canadians wishing to be vaccinated to get their shots by the end of September. Prime Minister Trudeau confirmed today that Canada has secured agreements for up to 417,000 doses ahead of schedule. This includes over 200,000 early doses of the Pfizer vaccine scheduled for next week and 168,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of December. In January, another 125,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive each week for a total of about 500,000 doses that month.
- Ontario will be distributing additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 17 more hospital sites over the next two weeks, including regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 infection. This is part of the initial phase of the government’s three-phase vaccine implementation plan that began on December 14.
Ontario is expecting to receive up to 90,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses from the federal government before the end of the year to continue vaccinating health care workers and essential caregivers who work in hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate settings caring for seniors. To prepare for the rollout of these next shipments, the following Toronto area hospital sites will be receiving the vaccine:
- William Osler Health System
- Trillium Health Partners
- Humber River Hospital
- Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
- Toronto East Health Network
- Unity Health Toronto
- Scarborough Health Network
- Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott announced that Ontario residents who receive the COVID-19 vaccine will receive documentation when they receive their first and second dose of the vaccine. The format has not yet been finalized.
Small Business Support:
- Every day, my office hears from small businesses that are struggling to get by and are worried about surviving the lockdown. Over the last few months I’ve advocated for a commercial evictions ban and have called on the Provincial Government to provide immediate financial relief. 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 is launching a new "Support Local" campaign. The new campaign will launch on TV, radio, digital and social media starting mid-December and run until mid-January 2021. MPP Catherine Fife, Official Opposition NDP critic for Economic Growth and Job Creation, responded to the announcement by saying: “This marketing campaign will provide little comfort to local businesses who are barely clinging on and racking up more debt, while big box retailers stay open and malls extend their hours. Awareness campaigns like this one will not be enough to save Main Street. What small businesses really need is direct financial support and a ban on evictions until the pandemic is over. While this government sits on $12-billion of unspent and unallocated COVID-19 funds, more businesses will be lost, and more livelihoods will be destroyed.”
- To support the hospitality industry and other hard-hit industries, the government is creating a special industry regulation allowing employers to negotiate alternative arrangements with unions for putting termination and severance pay into trust for laid-off employees. Employers with laid-off unionized workers need to put all potential termination and severance payments in a trust after 35 weeks while employees wait to be recalled to their jobs.
- For employers with non-unionized employees, the government is extending regulatory changes brought forward under the Employment Standards Act to July 3, 2021.The regulation's changes include putting non-unionized employees on job-protected leave during the COVID-19 outbreak any time their hours of work are temporarily reduced by their employer due to the pandemic to prevent temporary layoffs from becoming permanent. Under the Act, temporary layoffs become terminations when they exceed the permitted period. Previously set to expire on January 2, 2021, the extension of this amendment ensures that workers remain employed while providing relief to employers.
Ontario Place Update:
- Minister Lisa MacLeod unveiled a five-year list of priorities for the hard-hit tourism industry including a focus on revitalizing Ontario Place, offering year-round activities across the province, promoting Indigenous and LGBTQ tourism events, as well as e-gaming. The government said it will hold consultations and hopes to have a firm strategy in place by the spring.
In Minister MacLeod’s White Paper, she promised that “key heritage and recreational features will remain, such as the Cinesphere, the pods, Trillium Park and the William G. Davis Trail.” While this is a step in the right direction, it is important that this government acknowledges that Ontario Place is some of the most valuable public property that the province owns. Any changes that are going to be done must be done in consultation with the public that owns the property. I want to thank community members and grassroots groups such as Ontario Place for All that advocated for protecting this special site.
Homelessness Open Letter:
Second only to the pandemic, homelessness is the biggest crisis facing our community. This problem has been growing for decades as all levels of government have failed to build adequate affordable housing, offer essential mental health supports, and address the opioid epidemic. The Provincial Government, in particular, downloaded the responsibility of building and maintaining affordable housing to the City of Toronto in the late ‘90s, which does not have the tax base to build new affordable housing or even maintain the existing stock.
The recent fires in tent encampments near Gore Park, Lamport Stadium and others show how dangerous this issue has become. I want to thank the First Responders (firefighters, paramedics and police) who put themselves at risk to fight these fires and protect the health and safety of residents in and around the encampments. Generators used for heat, cooking, etc. have often been found responsible in causing the fires, but I also understand some incidents are still being investigated.
Long-Term Care Update:
- The province has released its long-term care staffing plan that sets out actions to hire more staff, improve working conditions for existing staff, drive effective and accountable leadership, and implement retention strategies. Acting on expert recommendations, and building on the government's 2020 Ontario budget commitment to increase hours of daily direct care to an average of four hours per day for each long-term care resident, the new staffing plan focuses on six key areas of action to be delivered over four years.
- The staffing crisis in long-term care is urgent – not a problem to be put off to 2025. NDP leader Andrea Horwath says we need an emergency mobilization to add thousands of PSWs to nursing homes right now. British Columbia spent $1.6 billion to hire and train 7,000 health care workers before the second wave hit. Quebec hired and trained 10,000 workers for long-term care homes before the second wave. Both achieved that in just weeks. Ontario’s plan also doesn’t say how the government intends to incentivize people to join the field. Personal support workers (PSWs) are terribly underpaid, with some earning barely more than minimum wage.
- The Ministry of Education sent a message to school boards advising students that they shouldn’t leave important items in their desks when school is dismissed for the winter break on Friday just in case a sudden switch to online learning is necessary in January. The Ministry of Education stressed that no decisions have been made on extending the holiday break or moving to online learning only, but it wants pupils to be prepared in case they can’t get back into their classrooms.
- Dr. David Williams said that he is “leery” about students returning to the classroom in January “in the midst of a maelstrom” when it comes to COVID-19 cases in the community.
- The City has announced that all holiday camps in Toronto have been cancelled for 2020, including skating and instructional ski programs, amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases. Leisure or drop-in sessions at Toronto’s outdoor skating rinks or parks are not affected.
Grant & Training Opportunities:
- The Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto (CHFT) 2021 Diversity Scholarship is an exciting scholarship opportunity for eligible co-op members in the riding. Apply now for the 2021/22 academic year. The 2021 Diversity Scholarship application form is now open until February 17, 2021. For more information, email [email protected].
- The Ontario government is providing $77 million to help people who were laid off due to the impact of COVID-19 find in-demand jobs in their local communities. This funding is being provided through the redesigned Second Career grant program and will help more than 2,750 job seekers with up to $28,000 for tuition, training materials and living expenses.
Ontario Line Update:
- The province released a preliminary design business case for the Ontario Line, along with two requests for proposals to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the line. It appears that the line is now expected to be completed in 2030 with less service and smaller trains than promised. The province took over the downtown relief line project from the city with the “Building Transit Faster Act.”
- NDP transit critic MPP Jessica Bell stated: “Doug Ford is learning the hard way that it’s easy to draw lines on a map, but building quality transit requires listening to the experts and working in partnership with all levels of government. What’s so tragic is the relief line – the plan that was scrapped – was ready to go. All levels of government were on board and shovels were supposed to hit dirt in 2020.”
Bentway’s “Safe in Public Space” Survey:
- The Bentway has launched a Safe in Public Space initiative. Seeking to understand who feels safe/unsafe in public spaces within the neighbourhood, why, and when The Bentway has launched a survey that was designed with the assistance of PROCESS – a team of urban planners, designers and artists – to answer these questions. The information gathered will inform practices and policies and help build a safe space for all users. All neighbours are encouraged to participate via the survey.
- Reduced Home Enrolment Fees
Following public feedback received earlier this year, Tarion is moving forward with a reduction in home enrolment fees under the new home warranty and protection program. Effective February 1, 2021, Tarion will be lowering enrolment fees by $55 per enrolment which will reduce the average enrolment from $1,080 to $1,025. Tarion is proposing to collect the HCRA Regulatory Oversight Fee, on behalf of the HCRA at the time the builder enrols the home with Tarion.
On February 1, 2021, the HCRA will be designated as the regulator of new home builders and vendors under the New Home Construction Licensing Act, 2017. At that time, Tarion will no longer be responsible for registering builders and vendors of new homes but will continue to administer the warranties and protections under the Ontario New Homes Warranties Plan Act. Due to these changes, Tarion will need to adjust its operational policies. For further information on the proposed changes, please refer to the consultation page or the discussion guide. Comments should be received by January 15, 2021 at [email protected].