Education Minister Lecce announced today that March Break will be postponed until the week of April 12. This decision was said to be made due to the threat of the variants in the province and the possibility of increased transmission due to travel between regions and out of province.
The provincial government announced this week that while some regions of Ontario will be moving to the green “prevent” zone, the stay-at-home order for Toronto, Peel and York regions remains in effect until at least February 22. Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said that, “this is not a re-opening or a ‘return to normal’ and we must continue to limit close contact to our immediate households and stay at home except for essential reasons.”
The Stay-at-Home Order has reduced cases to just over 1,000/day vs. 3,000/day at the beginning of January. Although these numbers indicate a positive trend, new COVID-19 variants have been found in several Ontario communities.The B.1.1.7 variant is believed to be at least 30% more contagious than other strains and the province would need to get its reproductive number down to 0.7. The problem is that the province’s reproductive number has hovered between 0.8 and 0.9 in recent weeks and has only approached 0.7 once, even with parts of the economy largely shut down. New modelling released today suggests that, with no restrictions in place, Ontario could see between 5,000 to 18,000 cases a day by the end of March.
To prevent this we are asking the provincial government to make the reopening of schools and the economy as safe as possible through asymptomatic testing, capping class sizes and paid sick days for all workers.
This Saturday is Lunar New Year and ushers in the year of the ox. If you’d like to know the story of the ox, click here.
新年快樂 Sun Nin Fai Lok!
新年快樂 Shin Nee-an Kwai Le!
Happy New Year!
Recap of Community Recognition Ceremony
Last Saturday, I hosted my virtual Community Recognition Ceremony and was joined by more than 120 community members via Zoom and social media. It was a wonderful opportunity to recognize and celebrate the amazing things that people are doing in the riding. Thanks to all of you who attended and to Phusion and Newchoir for their uplifting performances!
For those of you who were not able to join, you can view the recording here.
Congratulations to all the award recipients:
Outstanding Youth Leadership:
Angela Bischoff, Director, Ontario Clean Air Alliance
Community Building through Arts and Culture:
Isorine Marc, Executive Director, Jamii
Rob Sysak, Neighbourhood Director, West Queen West
Sri Selvarasa, Manager, Little India
Angelo Bertolas, Co-chair, York Quay Neighbourhood Association
Eli Brown, Founder, Shine the Light On
Richard Dunwoody, Executive Director, Project Recover
Bill Dyck, Toronto Alliance Church
Carolyn Johnson, Co-chair, York Quay Neighbourhood Association
Suzanne Kavanagh, St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association, West Don Lands Committee
Alicia Liebregts, Liberty Village Cares
Curtis Priest, Garment District Neighbourhood Association
Joan Prowse, Chair, Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood Association
Cynthia Wilkey, West Don Lands Committee
Outstanding Community Service from a Group:
Alexandra Park Volunteer Cooking Team
Spadina-Fort York Community Care Program Volunteers
Outstanding Leadership in the Chinese Community:
Simon Zhong, Executive Director, Toronto Community & Culture Centre
Outstanding Community Leadership:
Mohsin Khattak, Director, Scadding Court Community Centre
Donna Harrow, Executive Director, Alexandra Park Community Centre
Kevin Lee, Executive Director, Scadding Court Community Centre
Stay-at-Home Order Extended
The Ontario government is moving to a regional approach and maintaining the shutdown in the majority of the public health regions in Ontario, including the Stay-at-Home Order and all existing public health and workplace safety measures. The province will gradually transition each region from the shutdown measures to a revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open. The following three regions will be moving back to the Framework at the Green-Prevent level on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. and will no longer be subject to the Stay-at-Home Order: Hastings Prince Edward Public Health; Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health; and Renfrew County and District Health Unit. Due to the fact that public health trends are improving in some regions faster than others, the current Stay-at-Home Order will be amended and individual orders making it applicable to each public health region will be made except for the three above. It is proposed that the Stay-at-Home Order will continue to apply to 28 public health regions until Tuesday, February 16, 2021. For Toronto, Peel and York regions, it is proposed that the Stay-at-Home Order will continue to apply until Monday, February 22, 2021. Final decisions will be subject to review of the trends in public health indicators at that time.
Enforcement of residential evictions will remain paused in the public health unit regions where the provincial Stay-at-Home order remains in effect. In regions where the Stay-at-Home order is lifted, the regular process for residential eviction enforcement will resume. Orders currently in force under the EMCPA have been extended to February 23, 2021 and will be extended further if necessary. O.Reg.55/21 (Compliance Orders for Retirement Homes) is currently in effect until February 19, 2021.
NDP Tenant Rights and Housing critic Jessica Bell (University—Rosedale) said that among the government’s mixed messaging is the news that the eviction ban will start to be lifted Tuesday, with a plan to allow all evictions to be enforced again within two weeks. The eviction ban was full of loopholes — but Premier Ford should be fixing it, not scrapping it. For those who have lost income due to the pandemic, a rent subsidy and legislated eviction ban are absolutely as necessary as ever.
Off-Peak Electricity Rates Extended
The Ontario government is once again extending electricity rate relief for families, small businesses and farms to support those spending more time at home while the province maintains the Stay-at-Home Order in the majority of public health regions. The government will continue to hold electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour until February 22, 2021. This lower rate is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week for Time-Of-Use and tiered customers.
Schools Reopening Feb 16
Elementary and secondary schools in Toronto, Peel and York regions will return to in-person learning on Tuesday, February 16. Ontario has introduced the following measures to protect students and staff in the classroom:
- Provincewide access, in consultation with the local PHU, to targeted asymptomatic testing for students and staff;
- Mandatory masking requirement for students in Grades 1-3, and masking requirement for Grades 1-12 outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained;
- Providing 3.5 million high quality cloth masks to schools as back-up supply for Grade 1-12 students;
- Enhanced screening for secondary students and staff;
- Guidance discouraging students from congregating before and after school; and,
- Temporary certification of eligible teacher candidates who are set to graduate in 2021 to stabilize staffing levels, following high levels of absenteeism.
Under the federal Safe Return to Class Fund, additional funding will be used to improve air quality and ventilation in schools, support online learning, promote student mental health and hire additional staff. In total, Ontario has provided schools with more than $1.6 billion to protect against COVID-19.
Province Releases Third Quarter Finances
The Ontario government released the province’s 2020-21 Third Quarter Finances. The government says the 2020-21 Third Quarter Finances show that extraordinary contingencies of $13.3 billion in 2020-21 were fully allocated in the third quarter. The government is now using the fiscal reserve to top up the standard contingency fund, making an additional $2.1 billion available for spending before the end of the year. The 2020-21 Third Quarter Finances project a deficit of $38.5 billion in 2020-21, unchanged from the deficit outlook projected in the 2020 Budget and the 2020-21 First Quarter Finances. The government will provide its next update on Ontario’s finances and the government’s plan to continue the fight against COVID-19 in the 2021 Budget, to be delivered no later than March 31, 2021.
This fiscal update also shows that the province is underspending on social services by $427 million. Catherine Fife, Finance critic for the Official Opposition NDP said, “There are opportunities for the government to make real impacts on peoples’ health and well-being by spending contingency funds strategically. We know there is enough money available to give Ontarians paid sick days – which would prevent outbreaks and save lives. Funding could also be used to ramp up contact tracing, testing, and the vaccine rollout.”
FAO Winter 2021 Economic and Budget Outlook
The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released its 2021 Winter Economic and Budget Outlook. This report provides an update on the economic and budget impact of the COVID-19 pandemic including the recent second wave of infections. The historic negative shock to Ontario’s economy resulted in a record $35.5 billion budget deficit in 2020-21 due to a sharp drop in revenues coupled with a significant increase in program spending. As the provincial economy rebounds strongly from the pandemic, the budget deficit is expected to improve to $24 billion by 2022-23 but remain around $16 billion thereafter. To learn more, read the full report here.
Bill 239: Stay Home If You’re Sick Act
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, and a growing number of businesses across the province recognize the need to have a minimum standard of paid sick days that applies to all employees. This bill, introduced by NDP Labour Critic, MPP Peggy Sattler, will amend the Employment Standards Act to provide permanent, legislated paid sick days for Ontario workers, now and after the pandemic is over. The bill will be debated in the Ontario Legislature soon after Queen’s Park returns on February 16, 2021. You can add your support for this bill here. The Association of Local Public Health Agencies (ALPHA) which represents 34 public health units, their medical leaders and each area’s board of health is also asking the Ford government to permanently legislate paid sick leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ford government backtracked today and said that the first round of vaccines have been administered in most, but not all, long-term care homes in the province. They say that 62,000 residents are now partially vaccinated, and more than 34,000 residents are fully vaccinated. Our office received confirmation today that all eligible residents at Maynard Nursing Home have received both doses. Mon Sheong Home for the Aged also confirmed that 47 out of 53 (88.7%) of its residents received their second dose of the vaccine on February 6.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, produced in Europe, are the only ones currently approved in Canada. Moderna promised to deliver 230,000 doses of the vaccine to Canada in its first shipment this month but instead, only 180,000 were sent. Federal officials have said the next shipment to Canada will be on the week of February 22. With Pfizer having scaled back the number of vaccine vials to Canada, Health Canada has agreed to change labels on the vials to reflect the fact that six doses, not five, are inside each container, meaning that next week’s shipment will be counted as 400,000 doses, not 336,000. Canada has ordered millions of syringes in order to extract the sixth dose from the vials. Pfizer has a contract to deliver 40 million doses to Canada this year with 4 million to be shipped by the end of March. Data on other vaccines, including AstraZeneca, are still awaiting approval by Health Canada. Vaccine shortages have forced the government to focus on providing first doses exclusively to long-term care home residents as well as high-risk retirement and First Nation elder care home residents.
Toronto COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics
Mayor John Tory announced the locations of the following nine city-run COVID-19 immunization clinics. The locations will be ready to open once the Province of Ontario provides direction, and vaccine supply is secured by the Government of Canada. A map of locations is available here.
- Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front St. W.
- Toronto Congress Centre, 650 Dixon Rd.
- Malvern Community Recreation Centre, 30 Sewells Rd.
- The Hangar, 75 Carl Hall Rd.
- Scarborough Town Centre, 300 Borough Dr.
- Cloverdale Mall, 250 The East Mall
- Mitchell Field Community Centre, 89 Church Ave.
- North Toronto Memorial Community Centre, 200 Eglinton Ave. W.
- Carmine Stefano Community Centre, 3100 Weston Rd.
While the clinics are not yet open to the public, the target is set for early April, pending vaccine supply and direction from the province. The clinics will be operated by Toronto Public Health and will be open seven days a week. The City is also planning targeted vaccination campaigns for high-risk and vulnerable populations which includes mobile clinics to service those experiencing homeless and clients of the shelter system, as well as in high transmission neighbourhoods.
Esplanade Shelter Community Information Session
Thursday, February 18, 2021, 7-9 pm
As part of the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for physical distancing in the shelter system, 45 The Esplanade has been leased by the City of Toronto to serve as a temporary municipal shelter and will be operated by the Homes First Society. The temporary shelter will open in late February 2021 and has been leased until December 2021 as one of more than 40 additional sites in 13 different wards opened across the City as part of the COVID-19 response. The City is reviewing related services in the neighbourhood as 45 The Esplanade opens. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
The link to the online session will be available at the following website one day before the session:
Or join by phone: 416-915-6530 Access code: 177 715 0524
Resist Renovictions Workshop by ACORN
Monday, February 22, 2021 at 6:00 pm
This workshop will cover details around renovictions, what to look out for and what tenants can do to organize to fight them. Register here to attend.
Email [email protected] or call 416-461-9233 with questions.
Waterfront East LRT Extension Community Consultation Meeting
Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 7 – 8:30 pm
Join the virtual Community Consultation Meeting and learn more about ongoing work for the Waterfront East Light Rail Transit (LRT) Extension and help plan the future of Toronto’s waterfront community. Click here to learn how to join the meeting virtually or by phone.
Materials for the virtual Community Consultation are now live. You can view the pre-recorded video presentations from the project team, presentation slides, and a discussion guide. All materials are available on the project website.
Winter Clothing Donation Drive at The Bentway
Saturday, February 13, 2021, 12 – 2 pm
Have any gently-used winter clothing you are not using? Consider donating them and helping your neighbours. A winter clothing donation drive will be held at The Bentway. Also accepting donations of blankets, snacks, hygiene products and hand warmers.
Keep up with the latest news in our schools via our local trustees’ newsletters:
Trustee Norm Di Pasquale, Toronto Catholic District School Board
Trustee Stephanie Donaldson, Toronto District School Board