For those celebrating the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting and spiritual reflection, I wish you a Happy Eid. While it’s challenging to celebrate during the pandemic, I hope you find ways to connect with family and friends for this important day.
#covidkindness - There have been so many individuals and groups who are supporting community members through this pandemic. We acknowledge some of them below and are creating a page on our website to celebrate their contributions. Please let us know of others to highlight in future updates.
Our COVID-19 numbers creeped up this week, perhaps because of family gatherings on Mother’s Day. However, some experts have cautioned that Ontario may be opening our economy too soon. Last week, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams cautioned that we weren’t ready yet. This week, the Canadian Medical Association said that we do not have the testing, tracing and PPE in place to manage a second wave.
Seventeen million people visit the Toronto waterfront each year and the tourism economy is vital to our riding. Next week is #TourismWeek in Toronto and across Canada. It may look different than the past, but we must find ways to support the incredible businesses and people in the tourism and hospitality community, now more than ever.
The weather is finally warming and the leaves on the trees are opening up. Kudos to the City of Toronto for opening up parks and tennis courts this weekend, but please be cautious and continue to practice physical distancing. We’re not out of the woods yet.
Stay safe and have a good weekend.
- Ontario Line: Drilling work on Beverley Street near Queen Street West will begin on Friday, May 22, 2020. Work will occur between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm, Monday to Friday and will last for two weeks. Metrolinx will be evaluating the underground conditions of the area where the subway will be built. During construction hours, some lane closures will be required in these areas. Residents and businesses near the work site can expect to hear noise caused by a drill rig, trucks and other construction equipment related to this work. Questions can be directed to: [email protected] or 416-202-5100.
- The Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (OCECRA) is a program for small businesses experiencing financial difficulties during COVID-19. The government will give unsecured forgivable loans to qualified commercial property owners that agree with eligible small business tenants to forgive rent by a minimum of 75% per month for the months of April, May and June of 2020. Applications for property owners in Ontario open on May 26th with up to 10 eligible tenants and on May 27th for all other property owners in Ontario.
To receive financial assistance from OCECRA, commercial property owners and tenants:
- must be paying no more than $50,000 in monthly gross rent per location pursuant to and as defined by a valid and enforceable lease agreement;
- have temporarily ceased business operations OR has experienced at least a 70% reduction in pre-COVID-19 revenues. Revenue reduction may be calculated based on revenues of April, May and June of 2019 or the average of revenues from January and February of 2020;
- and generate no more than $20 million in gross annual revenues on a consolidated basis
This week, the Government of Canada announced an expansion to the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to include many owner-operated small businesses aimed at helping small businesses protect jobs. The program will now be available to a greater number of businesses that are sole proprietors receiving income directly from their businesses, businesses that rely on contractors, and family-owned corporations that pay employees through dividends rather than payroll. To qualify under the expanded eligibility criteria, applicants with payroll lower than $20,000 would need:
- A business operating account at a participating financial institution
- A Canada Revenue Agency business number, and to have filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return.
- Eligible non-deferrable expenses between $40,000 and $1.5 million. Eligible non-deferrable expenses could include costs such as rent, property taxes, utilities, and insurance.
- The federal government announced an extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) until at least the end of August. CEWS was previously set to expire in the first week of June. Information on the program and how to apply can be found here.
- The Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association has developed a guide with best practices for safe and successful restaurant reopening on their DineSafe.ca website. Included is a reopening guide, reopening checklist and industry resources. Restaurants Canada also released their COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Guide -- a comprehensive guide for the industry that also includes a dedicated section for marketing.
- The Ontario Government has made changes in regulations to allow corporations to conduct virtual meetings, defer certain annual meetings in specified circumstances and is allowing the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services to accept copies of documents, electronic signatures on documents, and electronic filing of documents.
Testing and Tracing:
- Today, Ontario saw the highest number of new cases in two weeks. Ontario testing numbers dipped below 10,000 this week, about half of the current test goal of 20,000. Once the curve is flattened, we move into a stage where we can open the economy and manage the spread of COVID-19 with a robust regime of testing, tracing, isolation and PPE. But the Canadian Medical Association says that we are not there yet.
- The Premier said he wants to ramp up testing to include essential workers, asymptomatic people, and conduct random testing. The Official Opposition is calling for a dramatically ramped-up COVID-19 testing regime to start immediately, including systematic testing for essential workers and people returning to work, all congregate care settings, plus mobile testing centres to start random community testing.
- The Ontario Government has announced $20 million in funding for COVID-19 related research including funding for 22 clinical trials of vaccine trials. While the investment is welcome, the government has also been criticized for a $51 million cut to Health Policy and Research a year ago which effectively leaves the research team with less funding than they would have had under a different government.
- The Federal Government will help provinces and territories ramp up COVID-19 testing and contact tracing -- key factors to reopening the economy safely. Canada is looking at adopting a single contact tracing app that the federal government hopes will be adopted across the country, a measure to slow the spread of COVID-19. The federal government has also announced pandemic funding for Indigenous people living off-reserve.
- Some health experts warn that Canada is reopening too soon, with questions remaining about the source of community transmission of COVID-19. Environment Canada research scientists say the COVID-19-induced economic slowdown is leading to cleaner air in many Canadian cities.
- Applications for post-secondary OSAP loans are now open for the 2020-2021 school year. The OSAP application also includes a new information module on financial literacy. Many students are taking the time off during the pandemic to return to school, but the Canadian Federation of Students argues that the Ontario government should restore the annual $670 million cut made to OSAP as Ontario students already face the highest tuition fees and student debt levels in Canada.
- Financial literacy is important, but students don't need more information from the Government about how badly indebted they are. Eliminating the interest on existing student debt and converting loans to non-repayable grants is what will remove students’ debt burden and allow them to contribute to our economy by purchasing homes and starting families.
- Students who have applied for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit have contacted me with concern that the income they receive will lead to lower OSAP funding for their school term. OSAP has a $5600 limit for income from other sources and CESB funds fall under this category. Please contact me if you feel this may affect you.
- Ontario's post-secondary institutions are developing their plans for the fall term - many are transitioning to online learning while exploring a range of delivery options depending on the trajectory of COVID-19.
- A plan for reopening schools in September will be announced by the end of June and until then, Public Health Authorities are planning a protocol to help facilitate the retrieval of personal belongings from school lockers. More details will be communicated on a school-by-school basis in the weeks to come. All overnight summer camps will be cancelled this year while summer day camps may be able to open in July and August, subject to key public health indicators.
- The Toronto Public Library announced details about the rollout of its curbside drop-off and pick-up service. Starting Monday, May 25, select library drop boxes will be opened to accept the return of library materials. On Monday, June 1, drop boxes at all remaining accessible branches will open to accept returns.
- The province is investing in Ontario's first Virtual Action Centre, an online counselling and training portal, to support laid off and unemployed hospitality workers, and is helping apprentices by providing grants to purchase tools, protective equipment and clothing for their trade, along with forgiving previous loans to purchase tools.
- The Canadian Armed Forces is reporting that another 28 military personnel have contracted COVID-19 while working in long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec (12 in Ontario), in addition to the five who had been found to have contracted COVID-19 last week (1 in Ontario).
- The Official Opposition and I have been calling for a full, public and independent inquiry of Ontario's long-term care system. The Ontario Government voted this down and instead ordered a commission into long-term care which lacks the public oversight that is crucial to ensure improvements are made.
- Ontarians who receive disability payments say rising food costs and the provincial government’s claw back of extra income received from the federal CERB benefit is making it tougher to survive during the pandemic.
Metrolinx and Via Rail:
- Starting Monday, May 25, there will be more weekday morning and afternoon rush-hour Go train trips on the Lakeshore East line. Schedules will be adjusted with some departures up to 15 minutes earlier. Some weekday afternoon rush-hour trains will also depart from different platforms at Union Station. Most trains along the Lakeshore East and West lines will be reduced to six coaches while ridership is low. Customers may need to adjust where they wait on the platform depending on their station.
- The Bay East Teamway at Union Station will be closed for construction until fall 2020. The Bay East Teamway will connect the new Union Station Bus Terminal with a future commercial tower at 141 Bay Street. Visit gotransit.com for the latest updates.
- Via Rail is restoring some train services out of Union Station on the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor, citing an “an increase in demand”.
The following roads will be closed to cars and other motor vehicles, beginning Saturday at 6:00 am until Sunday at 11:00 pm:
- Lake Shore Boulevard West (eastbound lanes only) from Windermere Avenue to Stadium Road
- The eastbound Gardiner Expressway off ramp to Lake Shore Boulevard West (exit #146)
Thank you to Julie Hanning, Joanne Lawrence and Susan Schnitzler, and many Toronto Islanders who responded to our call for donations of used cell phones. Julie contacted her friends and dropped off several cell phones to be donated to people who are homeless to help them be in touch with others while physical distancing is still required.
- Asian Unification Project: Targets Asian people who are disabled, immunocompromised, or 50+. Individuals can request grocery delivery or errand running.
- The Bright Spot: An online community where older adults can shine, offering everything from exercise classes and small online group discussions to trivia nights and mindfulness tutorials – all free of charge. Offered by the YMCA of Greater Toronto.
- Canadian Muslim Response Network: Anyone in need across Toronto can request emergency kits including non-perishable food items, and essential hygiene and cleaning products.
- CareMongering-TO: Community Response to COVID19. Can request or offer aid (including grocery delivery and other resources) by posting in the Facebook group, filling in a Google form (to offer aid), or filling in a spreadsheet (to request aid).
- COVIDTO GlideApp: An all-in-one community resource that is updated by volunteers
- DonateTO: The City launched this online portal, making it easy for businesses and residents to make direct donations of products, services, and funds in support of the City’s relief efforts.
- Friendly Neighbour Hotline (UHN Open Lab): Toronto seniors who live in low-income housing can request grocery and supply aid. Torontonians can volunteer after a vetting process and online training. 1-855-581-9580 (Hotline Phone Number)
- GDNA Help/Give Forum: Community residents can ask for help and other residents can offer assistance.
- Good Neighbour Project: GTA-wide, Facebook-based network of community members willing to assist with supply and grocery delivery to those with disabilities, compromised immune systems, accessibility barriers, and the elderly. Requests for aid can be made by calling the helpline (647-873-2230) or sending an email.
- Queen West Resilience Gardens and Recipe Books: With the many challenges brought on by COVID-19, the Queen West BIA has created Resilience Gardens and Recipe Books for households to grow some food at home. Sign up for your FREE kit.
- ShopHERE: Connects volunteers in Toronto’s technology sector with business owners who need e-commerce training and support in digital marketing and shipping. Tech companies and professionals who’d like to offer guidance can sign up online. To qualify for the program, a business must have fewer than 10 employees, or fewer than 25 employees if a restaurant or bar; pay commercial property taxes; and not be a chain or franchise. Eligible businesses and artists must be located in the City of Toronto.
- The 519 (Community Centre serving the LGBTQ2S community): Free takeaway meals, 7 days a week 1pm and 4pm, Monday to Friday 12:30pm, 12:30pm Saturday and Sunday. Location: In front of the Fabarnak Cafe, 519 Church St.
- Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre: Bagged meals available for pick-up only at the side door. Weekdays: Breakfast: 9:00 AM - 9:30 AM; Lunch: 12:00 PM - 12:30 PM; Dinner: 3:15 PM - 3:45 PM. Weekends: Breakfast: 9:00 AM - 9:30 AM; Lunch: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM (Sunday 12-12:30). Location: 439 Dundas St. E. at Parliament
- The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) is creating engaging and informative webinars for the non-profit sector to adapt to the changing world in light of COVID-19. All registered participants will receive a recording of the webinar and slide deck. Please contact [email protected] if you have questions.
Working with Spadina-Fort York’s Elected Representatives
COVID-19 is an unprecedented situation that requires all levels of government to work closely together. I am working closely with my Municipal and Federal counterparts to discuss how we can support Spadina-Fort York residents, businesses and other organizations. For more detail on the Municipal and Federal responses, please click the links below:
Facts and Figures
As of 4:00 pm May 20:
Thursday May 21
413 – 1.7% increase
Tests completed in the previous 24 hours
Backlog – waiting to be processed
Total tests completed
- Hospitalized: 984
- ICU: 155
- Ventilated: 117
Chief Medical Officer of Health:
- 56.8% of cases are female
- 42.0% are aged 60+
- 63.6% are in the GTA
- 4,178 healthcare workers total have tested positive
Long-Term Care Ministry Data:
- 216 active outbreaks in LTCs
- 4,656 cases among residents, 1,601 cases among staff
- 1,452 resident deaths, 4 staff deaths