As we round the corner into December, it’s becoming apparent that this will not be a normal holiday season, but many of our local businesses and event venues have come up with creative ways to get in the holiday spirit.
Buy a Bag of Toronto, shop at the One Of A Kind Online craft show or visit the Distillery District’s online Winter Village in place of its usual Christmas Market. You can also shop the St. Lawrence Market and Old Town at ShopOldTownTO2win or the Trinity Bellwoods Virtual Christmas Flea Market. And for cat lovers, there’s the Meowy Catmas Virtual Show. See “Fun Things To Do” for more holiday events.
If you are looking for guidance on how to plan for the holiday season while keeping family and friends safe, check these guidelines to celebrate safely.
So many people have stepped up to help our neighbours through this pandemic. If you know of someone who is making a difference in our community, please nominate them for our Community Recognition Awards (see below).
I want to take a moment to recognize the people in my office: Nancy, who is largely responsible for putting together these updates; Benna, who answers hundreds of phone calls and emails every day; and Pranav, who keeps track of the Legislature and plays a pivotal role in the Spadina-Fort York Community Care program. These are only partial statements — they work long hours and do whatever it takes to serve our community.
While many of us have been out there supporting people who are experiencing homelessness, we need to advocate for long-term solutions. If you’re interested in joining our homelessness workgroup, please email my office.
In light of National Housing Day on November 22, I have posted videos throughout the week to raise awareness of the housing & homelessness crisis in Toronto. Check them out below!
- I asked the Conservative Government why they aren’t supporting the NDP bill to create more protections for tenants.
- I asked why the Liberals spent 15 years with a majority government and still left Ontarians with a housing crisis.
- Ford's Bill 184 made it easier to evict tenants, but housing was an issue well before, with the Liberals admitting they simply did not do enough.
The Premier’s Bill 184 made it easier to evict tenants, but housing was an issue well before, with the Liberals admitting they simply did not do enough.
The provincial government has come under fire from the Auditor General for its handling of the pandemic. Check out this and other news below, and be sure to scroll down to see local artist Monianne Barrat’s Remembrance Day photograph.
Every day there is good news about vaccines that are being developed to control COVID-19. We won’t be rolling up our sleeves just yet, but it’s a sign that we are getting through this. Please continue to support each other — call seniors, vulnerable residents and friends who live alone just to let them know that you are thinking of them.
Community Recognition Awards
Nominations for my Community Recognition Awards are now open!
The 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.
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?
Nominating someone is easy! Click here to complete the online form.
Deadline for nominations is December 31, 2020. We hope to recognize all of our great neighbours early in the new year. Email my office at [email protected] if you have any questions.
Auditor General’s Report:
- Ontario’s Auditor General published a special report on Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Faced Systemic Issues and Delays. Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk says the province’s response to COVID-19 in the winter and spring of 2020 was slower and more reactive relative to other provinces. The audit looked at three areas: emergency management and pandemic response; outbreak planning and decision-making; and laboratory testing, case management and contact tracing. It found a number of contributing factors leading to this slower pandemic response, including outdated provincial emergency plans, insufficient staff and significant changeover in leadership at Ontario’s Provincial Emergency Management Office (EMO), as well as systemic issues such as the lack of lab surge capacity and outdated IT systems. A new governance structure to respond to the pandemic was not presented until a month after the state of emergency was called. The Auditor General says much of this was avoidable as Ontario failed to act on key lessons identified after the 2003 SARS outbreak that had not been implemented.
This report reiterates what the NDP has been saying for months – the Ford government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been ineffective and riddled with confusion and delays. The report also sheds light on the fact that, after the SARS epidemic, the Liberals had a majority government for 15 years and yet failed to implement necessary improvements and investments in our public health infrastructure. It is imperative that we invest in public health and take a proactive approach to emergency issues – if we had, lives could have been saved.
You can read the report in full here:
- Chapter 1: Special Report on Emergency Management in Ontario— Pandemic Response
- Chapter 2: Special Report on Outbreak Planning and Decision-Making
- Chapter 3: Special Report on Laboratory Testing, Case Management and Contact Tracing
Protecting Ontario's Human Rights:
- Canada Christian College is a religious school in Ontario that has applied for the ability to confer arts and science degrees in Ontario. The owner, Charles McVety, is well known for his support of the Premier, his anti-science views, and his homophobic and anti-Islamic statements. The NDP and I believe any college or university with the ability to grant cademic degrees should follow the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights. From questioanable academic integrity and credentials, to murky finances and a lack of a transparent process, there are many concerns we have raised about this application. This is why I called on all members of the Legislative Assembly to oppose this application.
The work of the NDP caucus, as well as the advocacy of organizations such as the National Council of Canadian Muslims, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, and pro-LGBTQ2S+ groups, has been tremendously valuable as our motion to condemn McVety’s hateful views passed 29-27 in the Ontario Legislature yesterday. Moments after just 27 government MPPs voted on this motion, 57 of them re-appeared to vote on another matter, so by abstaining, it is clear they were also troubled about the Premier's support of Canada Christian College, though they didn’t vote against it. We stood up for marginalized and oppressed communities, and called out the Ontario government for prioritizing a favour to a political ally during a pandemic. This is a win against hatred and bigotry, but it is not enough. We need your voice to keep our momentum and ensure the will of the legislature is not overridden.
The government is still moving forward with Bill 213 in which schedule 2 includes the ability for Canada Christian College to confer arts and science degrees. I encourage you to add your voice if you are interested in providing a written submission for this bill. The timeline is very short. There are two days of hearings for public input happening now on Friday, November 27 and Monday, November 30. The discussion has been contentious, but as an Official Opposition member of the Committee, it has been reassuring to hear so many Ontarians speak up about their concerns around Canada Christian College. You can provide a written submission by applying here before Monday, November 30th at 7 pm.
Financial Accountability Office Report:
- The Financial Accountability Office reports that about one third of the province’s infrastructure, worth about a quarter of a trillion dollars, is in bad shape. The repairs are estimated to cost $64.5 billion over the next decade - roughly $6.5 billion a year. However, the province set aside only $47.7 billion for capital repairs in its budget. The report finds that almost half of hospitals are in poor repair, made worse during this pandemic. Highways and bridges are projected to be the only sector with sufficient funding.
COVID-19 Vaccine & Rapid Tests:
- The Ontario government has deployed new COVID-19 rapid tests to provide faster results in regions of high transmission and rural and remote areas. As an additional tool to help keep essential workers safe, rapid tests will also be used to screen staff in long-term care homes and select workplaces.
- The Ontario government announced the creation of the Ministers' COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force. General Rick Hillier (ret.), former Chief of Defence Staff for the Canadian Forces and Commander of the NATO-led forces during the War in Afghanistan, has been named Chair of this new task force. Helen Angus, the province’s deputy health minister, and Mario Di Tommaso, the deputy minister of community safety, have been named vice-chairs of the task force.
- The first COVID-19 vaccine could be approved for use in Canada within two weeks, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser said Thursday. The department’s medicine review team is currently reviewing three COVID-19 vaccines — one from Pfizer and BioNtech, a second from Moderna and a third from AstraZeneca. Dr. Supriya Sharma said at a briefing to reporters in Ottawa Thursday that the Pfizer review is the most advanced of the three. Canada will not receive any of the millions of pre-purchased vaccine doses the federal government has ordered unless and until Health Canada approves the vaccine’s safety, says the minister in charge of vaccine purchase contracts.
COVID-19 Modelling & Projections:
- The number of COVID-19 cases in intensive care at Ontario hospitals will break the 200 bed threshold sometime in early December, severely hampering the healthcare system’s ability to follow through with all scheduled surgical procedures, new provincial modelling data suggests. Even with slower case growth than what has been observed in recent weeks, Ontario government epidemiologists said Thursday the ICU bed occupancy due to COVID-19 will hit 200 somewhere in the first week of December, and could near 300 in the worst case scenario by the end of that month. ICU bed occupancy of more than 150 in Ontario challenges the healthcare system’s ability to keep up with scheduled surgeries and makes it difficult to complete additional surgeries already delayed once during the first wave of the pandemic. You can view the modelling slides here.
Schools & Universities Update:
- Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the application portal to receive the second payout will open within the next week. Parents of children aged 12 or younger will again be able to receive a one-time payment of $200 per child, and $250 for children 21 years of age or younger with special education needs. Last week, Lecce said that Ontario schools will not have an extended winter break.
- The Ontario government is providing $13.6 million to enable school boards to hire more teachers and staff in regions recently moved to the Red-Control level and providing stabilization funding for school boards, if needed.
- Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that the government will be adjusting the COVID-19 testing guidance for school staff and students in Toronto, York Region, Peel Region and Ottawa to allow voluntary asymptomatic testing for the next four weeks in a bid to better track how the virus is spreading in and around schools. Since late September, Ontario’s assessment centres would not test asymptomatic people unless they were tied to a previous known case in some way. Official Opposition Education Critic Marit Stiles said, “This testing is too small and comes too late. To date, 4,350 children, teachers and education workers have gotten sick from COVID-19, and two education workers have died. Half the schools in the province have already had cases of COVID-19.”
- One in three Toronto public schools have an active case of COVID-19 – more than double the provincial average being touted by Ontario’s education minister as he promotes the government’s school safety strategy and the picture worsens at other boards in pandemic hot spots. In Toronto’s public board, 35% of schools, some 206 facilities, have at least one student or staff member who are reported as actively sick with COVID-19. Of Toronto’s Catholic schools, 40% – or 79 institutions — have active cases. In Brampton, 48% of all schools, both public and Catholic, have active cases.
- University professors and students feel isolated and stressed by online learning during the pandemic and are worried the quality of post-secondary education has deteriorated, a new survey says. The survey, conducted by Navigator, found that while everyone on campus understands the need to hold online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are concerned students are being put at a disadvantage because of it. It was commissioned by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and was released Tuesday.
Long-Term Care COVID-19 Tracking Map:
- Dr. Samir Sinha along with a team of researchers and volunteers at the National Institute of Ageing (NIA) developed a COVID-19 tracking map in collaboration with Empower Health. You can access the tracker and other resources at this link. The map will facilitate the prevention and management of COVID-19 among nursing and retirement homes, emergency responders, hospitals, regional health authorities and public health units.
- With the increased restrictions and several regions now classified as “red zones”, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) has decided to pause property inspections in Toronto and Hamilton, as well as the regions of Halton, York and Peel.
- Businesses, non-profits and charities hit financially by the pandemic are now able to apply for the federal government's new rent subsidy program. The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, CERS, which replaces the federal government’s Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, will provide up to 90% support for qualifying businesses. The new CERS program allows tenants to apply directly to the federal government. Under the new program, organizations that have seen a decline of 70% or more in their revenues because of the pandemic are eligible for a 65% subsidy. The subsidy rate declines gradually for organizations that have seen declines below 70%.
- The Ontario government announced it will introduce new legislation to protect restaurants from high delivery fees. The Supporting Local Restaurants Act, 2020, would cap fees charged by food delivery companies in areas where indoor dining is prohibited. Minister Sarkaria said restaurants should expect a cap of 15% for delivery fees, similar to what has been put in place in New York City, with an overall cap of 20% inclusive of all fees. Official Opposition Critic for Economic Growth and Job Creation Catherine Fife asked the government to take this action months ago. This news may come too late for the many restaurants and bars that have been forced to shut their doors.
- The City of Toronto has re-opened registration for CurbTO temporary parking pick-up zones to help support main street businesses while Toronto is in the Grey – Lockdown category of the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework. Main street businesses and BIAs can register or learn more about the program at toronto.ca/curbto.
Monianne Barratt, a local photographer, captured this beautiful image in Coronation Park on Remembrance Day. In a conversation, Monianne taught me the meaning of "photography" - she says it comes from the Latin words for "drawing with light".
If you are a local artist, we would love to share your work with the community by publishing it in my newsletter and website. If you’re interested in sharing your art, please email us at [email protected]. Art submitted must be accompanied by a short description (50 words or less).