We have just learned that the province has paused the demolition of the Foundry Buildings. This is a victory for Friends of the Foundry, a community group that has been working with MPP Suze Morrison, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Councillor Joe Cressy, and my office. The Foundry is a series of heritage designated factory buildings on Eastern Avenue. Last week, under instructions from the Ford government, demolition equipment rolled onto the provincially owned property and began demolition. Some sections of a wall have been demolished, but hopefully we can stop the demolition and those walls can be repaired.
Just down the street from the Foundry, the Ontario government has begun a process to expropriate the First Parliament Site. The site near the east end of the riding was the site of Upper Canada’s (Ontario’s) first parliament built in 1797 and is currently owned by the City of Toronto, which has been making plans for the site since acquiring it in 2012. Expropriations are expedited by Bill 197. Passed last November, the bill takes away Ontario property owners’ right to a hearing of necessity.
Our COVID-19 numbers show that the efforts you are making to stop the spread are working and we are avoiding the worst projections. But with new strains entering the picture, it is important to continue to follow the public health safety protocols. There is some confusion around what the stay-at-home order means. You are permitted to go out for essentials including work, groceries, dog walking and exercise. Details are below.
Professional dog walkers have reached out to our office stating that they are being stopped by by-law officers because of the lack of clarity in the stay-at-home order. If you are a professional dog walker, you are permitted to work. My office can provide a letter that you can show to by-law officers. Please email [email protected].
The Ontario NDP and I continue to advocate for clearer messaging within the stay-at-home order, more comprehensive financial support for tenants and small businesses, and more asymptomatic testing in workplaces and beyond.
Ontario’s small businesses are suffering during this pandemic. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that more than 20% will not survive the pandemic. Our local businesses are much harder hit. With storefront rents from $10,000 to $40,000 per month, the government supports have not been enough to help them survive. A $20,000 grant with half forgivable was announced in early December, and it may finally be arriving. This will help, but our local businesses need more. Please #shoplocal and #supportsmallbusiness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to massive job losses and has greatly affected people’s income in Ontario. Graduates are feeling the enormous pressure of having a large loan, growing with interest each day and having no money to pay it. One of President Biden’s first executive orders was to extend a pause on student debt payments and interest. As the Opposition Critic for Colleges and Universities, this morning, I held a press conference asking for a similar pause for Ontario students to help them get through the pandemic.
Thank you for all you are doing to keep us all safe!
Stay-at-Home Order and Evictions Pause
The stay-at-home and residential evictions emergency orders include changes to the sector-specific restrictions for businesses and workplaces, including construction, which you can find here.
There has been a great deal of confusion about what exactly the orders mean, and they have been criticized for having exemptions, contradictions, and vague instructions that leave it open for people to use their “best judgement”.
Please note: Toronto Police state that, under the new measures, they do not have authority to stop a car to check on compliance measures and individuals don’t have to tell officers why they are outside. Additionally, workers are not required to have proof from their employer that they are travelling to or from their workplace.
The government has introduced an emergency order under the authority of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act which places restrictions on the enforcement of residential evictions. The order outlines the following in Subsection 1:
No person shall attend at a residential premises for the purpose of enforcing any of the following:
- 1. An order evicting a tenant under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006.
- 2. A writ of possession issued by the Superior Court of Justice removing a person from their place of residence.
Subsection 2 of the order outlines that the eviction enforcement moratorium does not apply if the Landlord and Tenant Board (for an eviction) or the Superior Court (for a writ of possession) requests that the sheriff expedite the enforcement of the order.
Note on the eviction moratorium: The government’s statement says that Subsection 2 is to accommodate “urgent situations”, however the requirement for urgency, or what constitutes an urgent situation, is not outlined in the order. This leaves giant loopholes that allow for the LTB to evict tenants at their own discretion. I have called for the eviction ban that fully protects tenants during this public health emergency -- one that includes eviction hearings, notices and orders. I will also continue to push for rent relief for tenants.
If you are a tenant and your landlord has locked you out, or is threatening to lock you out, you can contact Ontario’s Rental Housing Enforcement Unit for help.
Vaccination Plan Update
The province released its plan to move to Phase Two of its vaccination plan. Phase One is expected to see approximately 1.5 million eligible people vaccinated. Vaccination of residents, staff and essential caregivers of long-term care homes has begun with the goal of having the first dose administered in all homes no later than February 15, 2021. The vaccination of all staff and residents in long-term care homes in four areas with the highest rates of transmission, Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor Essex, is expected to be completed by January 21, 2021.
Groups eligible to receive vaccines as part of Phase Two of the Ontario immunization program will include:
- Older adults, beginning with those 80 years of age and older and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout;
- Individuals living and working in high-risk congregate settings;
- Frontline essential workers (e.g., first responders, teachers, food processing industry); and
- Individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers.
Phase Two is expected to be completed by the end of July 2021 and Phase Three for the general population is expected to begin August 2021, pending availability of vaccines.
Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the Premier to take immediate action to save seniors, whose lives are on the line according to a new Science Table report showing Ford’s vaccine rollout choices are putting lives at risk.
New Vaughan Hospital to Support Pandemic
Mackenzie Health’s new Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital will temporarily be supporting the province's COVID-19 response when the new hospital is scheduled to open on February 7, 2021. The hospital will provide a total of 185 beds, including over 35 critical care beds and 150 general medicine beds, which will support patients from other hospitals and alleviate hospital capacity pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Small Business Support Grant Open
Applications are open for the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant. The grant provides small businesses with funding to a maximum of $20,000 to help cover decreased revenue expected as a result of the Provincewide Shutdown. Click here to apply.
MZO Bill 197 Feedback Requested
The Ontario government is inviting comments concerning changes to certain legislative provisions in the Planning Act now in force with the enactment of Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 that enable the Minister to address site plan matters and apply inclusionary zoning as part of a zoning order. There has been much discussion and outcry over the increased use of Minister’s Zoning Orders to override local planning bodies and conservation authorities in order to push projects through. MZOs had previously only been used rarely – and only in cases where the public good was a major consideration.
The recently enacted legislative changes to the Planning Act enhance the Minister’s authority for zoning orders across the province. This enhanced authority does not apply to lands within the Greenbelt Area. The enhanced authority allows the Minister to:
- require affordable housing (inclusionary zoning),
- remove municipal use of site plan control and require agreements between the municipality and development proponent (or landowner) concerning site plan matters, and;
- make amendments to Minister’s Zoning Orders that use any of these enhanced authorities without first giving public notice.
Metrolinx Cuts Transit Service
Starting January 23, Metrolinx is temporarily replacing select GO train service with buses and reducing service on UP Express. NDP MPP Jessica Bell (University—Rosedale), the Official Opposition NDP Transit critic, issued the following statement in response to this cut to transit service:
“Our essential workers who can’t work from home, including health care workers, PSWS and first responders, rely on public transit. They are going to work to help our province get through this crisis, and we need to do everything possible to keep them safe and prevent the virus spreading in our communities. With fewer trains and cars, we could see more overcrowding and more passengers huddled together inside stations waiting for services during the winter months, and that will only increase the risk of the virus spreading.”
Francophone Non-Profit Relief Fund
Starting January 25, francophone non-profit organizations can begin applying for financial assistance from the $1 million COVID-19 Relief Fund. The fund, which is being administered by the Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario, will provide operational funding to eligible organizations to support them during the pandemic. Interested organizations should consult the AFO website at https://monassemblee.ca/fonds-secours-ontario/ to learn more.
Tuition Free for Foster Children
Are you a current or former foster kid? Did you always want to go to college or university but money got in the way? Child Welfare PAC Canada is working with any post-secondary partners in Canada who wish to increase social mobility for current and former foster kids. Visit the website for more information.