In Ontario, 3,131 of our #healthcareheroes have tested positive for COVID-19. This afternoon, I was on the lawn at Queen’s Park for a unique rally that followed physical distancing rules where the Official Opposition offered support for our #healthcareheroes. Today also marks the 75th anniversary of V-E Day commemorating the end of the Second World War in Europe. In that war, more than 45,000 Canadians lost their lives and tens of thousands were wounded. Whether it’s a war or a pandemic, we owe more than just gratitude for those on the front lines. We owe them the best equipment available and reasonable pay for the work they are doing.
Although there was a spike with 477 new cases today, the rate of daily increase is now around 2% which is lower than in March when we sometimes experience a 40% increase day to day. So the measures we are taking are working and are making it possible to slowly start reopening the economy. Over the past week, the government has begun easing restrictions on workplaces. Today, garden centres and nurseries will be able to open for in-store payment and purchases, and professional sport training facilities will be permitted to reopen. Hardware stores and safety supply stores will be permitted to open on Saturday and non-essential retail stores with a street entrance can begin offering curbside pickup and delivery starting Monday.
When asked, “How are you?” most of us respond, “Fine”, even if we’re not. It’s Mental Health Week, and according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, although 77% of us respond, “I’m fine”, but when pressed, almost two-thirds (63%) of us also report that we are feeling more negative than positive. Feeling stressed during these unprecedented times is normal, but if you are feeling overwhelmed, please check these resources including Kids Help Phone, Hope for Wellness Helpline and more. You can also take a look at our Mutual Aid section below.
If you are a parent whose children have been studying at home and have questions, comments, suggestions, or just want to hear how other parents are managing, please join Trustees Stephanie Donaldson and Norm Di Pasquale and me for our Education Town Hall on Thursday next week.
Finally, I want to wish all the mothers out there a very Happy Mother’s Day!
Education Town Hall May 14
Join me for a Zoom meeting with TCDSB Trustee Norm Di Pasquale and TDSB Trustee Stephanie Donaldson on Thursday, May 14, 6:30 pm for a discussion on education issues during this pandemic. Parents, students and educators are all welcome to participate and ask questions. Simply click on this link to join.
Sidewalk Labs: Yesterday, Sidewalk Labs announced that it will no longer be pursuing the Quayside project because the real estate market’s downturn in Toronto means this project is no longer financially viable. This is a big development. In October 2017, Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto set out to plan a shared vision for the area. The plans were met with much controversy. There were concerns about the bidding process, data privacy, and the scope of the project throughout, not to mention the added questions about having a private company develop a neighbourhood. On the other hand, many were excited about this unprecedented project that would build a state-of-the-art community with a focus on sustainability and innovation.
I have always said that if Sidewalk Labs were to move forward with developing Quayside, the agreement must ensure financial fairness for the City of Toronto, and ensure that people's privacy and our public services were protected. As Sidewalk Labs walks away from Quayside, I know many who will be relieved to hear this news and many others who will be disappointed.
Healthcare: The Ontario government has announced a framework to help hospitals assess their readiness and begin planning for the gradual resumption of scheduled surgeries and procedures, while maintaining capacity to respond to COVID-19. Timelines will vary from hospital to hospital and be conditional on approval by regional oversight tables involved with planning and coordinating Ontario's response to COVID-19. The framework, A Measured Approach to Planning for Surgeries and Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic, contains clear criteria that must be met before hospitals can resume scheduled surgeries.
A union representing healthcare workers in long-term care says the Ontario government is looking at changing a directive that currently gives workers access to N95 masks, and that workers continue to be denied N95 masks in long-term care facilities. We believe removing this directive is dangerous, and the government should not withhold N95 from workers. Despite the government's claims that PPE is readily available to frontline workers, this poll shows that 87% of health care staff reported not having access to the PPE they need.
Long-Term Care Review: Long Term Care Minister Merilee Fullerton said on Twitter that there will be a “review” of the system when the pandemic is over. We will call for a public, independent review that ensures accountability and transparency as to why our long term care homes have been in such dire straits both before, and during this pandemic. In a press conference held today, Andrea Horwath said that Ontario will need an independent public inquiry into long-term care to assess how Ontario's pandemic response left long-term care homes so vulnerable, and examines the future of for-profit long-term care homes in Ontario.
Commercial Rent: While the Ontario government has temporarily halted residential evictions, commercial landlords retain the right to lock out their tenants 16 days after rent was due. Last month, the federal government announced a program which would provide commercial landlords a subsidy to cover up to 50%of their tenants’ rent for a three-month period as long as they agreed to waive at least 25% of the rent owed. The tenants would then be expected to cover the remaining 25% themselves. Canada will extend its emergency wage subsidy program past June as many businesses and labour groups say the federal government's commercial rent relief program will not help them. We have been urging the Province to freeze evictions and step up support for businesses struggling to survive.
Women Facing Challenges: The latest job numbers released Friday revealed that unemployment is surging during this pandemic, and that women in Ontario are bearing the brunt of the economic impact of COVID-19. In Ontario, 188,000 women over 25 have lost their jobs since January. Before the crisis, of all those struggling financially – relying on food banks or payday loans — 60% were women. Now during the pandemic, women, especially racialized women, are disproportionately the ones on the frontlines and at the most risk of contact with the virus.
Cottage Season: Doug Ford has issued a statement following a call yesterday with Ontario’s cottage country mayors. It is recommended to not make a trip to a cottage if you can avoid it, in order to continue to focus our efforts on flattening the curve.
Fun Things to Do
- Explore Toronto Online: To Do Canada allows you to virtually tour places like the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, art galleries and museums, and even Queen’s Park! All from the comfort of your own home!
- High Park Cherry Blossoms: Although the park is closed, you can virtually view the beautiful pink blossoms via the 24-hour BloomCam.
- Free Virtual Concert: #CanadaPerforms is a short-term relief fund that pays professional Canadian artists and professionally published authors for their online performances.
- Free Theatre from Around the World: Watch free performances including The Stratford Shakespeare Film Festival, The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, or The National Theatre in London, England, just to name a few!
Luminato Festival Toronto Goes Virtual: Luminato Festival Toronto announced that it will return from June 11-13, 2020 with three days of virtual programming, bringing artists and thinkers together with audiences from across Canada and around the world. Streaming on Luminato’s website and social media channels, the weekend will feature live and pre-recorded performances, conversations, panels, DJ sets and participatory programming, alongside key works from past Luminato Festivals. This free event will run from 7:00 pm on Thursday, June 11 until late Saturday, June 13, and will include family programming beginning at 10:00 am on Saturday.
- GDNA Help/Give Forum: Community residents can ask for help and other residents can offer assistance.
- Asian Unification Project: Targets Asian people who are disabled, immunocompromised, or 50+. Individuals can request grocery delivery or errand running
- CareMongering-TO: 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)
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
- Canadian Muslim Response Network: Anyone in need across Toronto can request emergency kits including non-perishable food items, and essential hygiene and cleaning products.
- 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
- Neighbourhood House: Help with grocery and pharmacy pickup, friendly calls, social support, information and referral, and other needs emerging in the community. Sign up to volunteer or request for help at westnh.org/help. Email [email protected] or call 416-532-4828.
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:
Health Workforce Portal
The Ontario government has launched a new Health Workforce Matching Portal that will enable retired or non-active health care professionals, internationally educated health care professionals, students, and volunteers with health care experience to join the province's response to COVID-19. The portal will efficiently match the availability and skillsets of frontline health care workers to the employers in need of assistance to perform a variety of public health functions, such as case and contact management.