Last Friday morning, I stationed myself at the corner of Wellington and Draper Street to participate in a press conference asking the provincial government to stop overriding municipal noise bylaws, resulting in construction noise between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm every day. Since this decision, I have received many calls from residents living near construction sites who are overwhelmed with construction noise starting at 6:00 a.m. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, this impacts their mental health and quality of sleep. Learn more about my colleague MPP Jessica Bell’s motion asking the provincial government to stop overriding noise bylaws and sign our petition to show support.
After the announcement of the province’s decision to close indoor dining and gyms just over a week ago, I received several emails asking whether the measures were necessary and why we weren’t following the approach used in Sweden. I forwarded these questions to Genevieve Gee, an epidemiologist and health strategist who recently became famous when her children walked in on her during a media interview! Genevieve believes that Ontario’s government did not use the first lockdown to properly prepare for a second COVID wave. She says the focus should have been on ensuring faster testing and contact tracing which could have mitigated the impact of the second wave, reducing a need for a lockdown.
This week the NDP introduced a motion in the legislature to improve care for Ontario seniors by making all long-term care homes public and not-for-profit and to provide more funding for home care. Two thousand seniors in long-term care homes have died during the pandemic. Research shows that those in for-profit homes were twice as likely to die as those in not-for-profit homes. Despite this, the Conservative government voted the motion down.
As always, we must be thinking about the environment for the next generation. This week is Waste Reduction Week and there are many ways you can participate, including EcoFair Toronto which has gone online this year. Yesterday, I dropped by the Fall Fashion Harvest clothing drive held at Scadding Court Community Centre. The event collected and distributed gently-used clothing for people in need. Thank you to Munira Abukar for organizing this worthwhile event.
The homelessness crisis continues to grow in our city. After coming together with residents, business owners, housing advocates and people experiencing homelessness to host a press conference, I have formed a workgroup that meets regularly to discuss how we can address the situation and help people find shelter before the cold weather arrives. Sign my petition to end homelessness and show your support or contact [email protected] if you want to be involved in the workgroup.
With the second wave of the pandemic, it is very disappointing that Ontario Public Health has recommended against door-to-door trick-or-treating on Halloween. However, community members are stepping up. Jagger from Liberty Village has organized a pumpkin patch in the park where parents and kids are taking pictures. Other buildings, including my own, are planning pumpkin-carving contests. Halloween won’t be normal (normal, as in dressing up in scary costumes and asking neighbours for candy!) but it can still be an opportunity to build community.
Today is ECE Appreciation Day and I would like to thank all the Early Childhood Educators for the incredible work they do in child care centres and schools to give little ones a great start to their education, even during this incredibly challenging time.
Ontario Line Town Hall
Thank you to everyone who joined me last week for this very informative discussion with Metrolinx representatives. If you missed the meetings, you can view both recordings on my Youtube channel here and here. I have included some helpful links about the project below:
- Ontario Line – Environmental Assessment Process Overview here
- Draft Ontario Line Environmental Conditions Report here
- Ontario Line Initial Business Case here (includes information on ridership projections)
More information about the Ontario Line can also be found here including an option to sign up for e-newsletter updates from Metrolinx here. The Metrolinx Engage website here also hosts detailed information about the project including neighbourhood-specific updates on the “Get Engaged” page here. You can also submit questions directly to Metrolinx here or post comments or questions on the public forum here.
- The Ontario government is extending most orders currently in force under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA). This extension will be in effect until November 21, 2020. We have heard from several constituents on the controversial reopening of dance studios as well as concern about condo gyms being closed. We will be asking the Ministry of Health and Toronto Public Health for more clarity and data around these measures.
- The Ontario government released an action plan to make government services simpler, easier to use, and more convenient and accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Ontario Onwards: Ontario's COVID-19 Action Plan for a People-Focused Government includes more than 30 projects that will improve the way people and businesses interact with government. Starting in January 2021, the government will consult with industry on how the province could introduce a secure digital identity for Ontarians by the end of 2021, allowing citizens to safely verify their identity, online or in person.
- The Chief Medical Officer of Health, issued a statement outlining public health advice for Halloween this year. Given the high transmission of COVID-19 in the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions of Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York Region, traditional door-to-door trick or treating is not recommended and people should consider alternative ways to celebrate.
- The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released its 2020 Fall Economic and Budget Outlook. The report provides an update on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will deliver a significant negative shock to Ontario’s economy, resulting in a record deficit and debt burden, and the highest unemployment rate in 26 years. The FAO projects Ontario’s budget deficit will increase to a record $37.2 billion in 2020-21, up from $8.7 billion last year, due to a sharp drop in revenues coupled with a rapid increase in program spending.
Long-Term and Seniors’ Care:
- The Ontario government is introducing the Supporting Ontario's Recovery Act, 2020, that if passed, will provide liability protection for workers, volunteers and organizations that make an honest effort to follow public health guidelines and laws relating to exposure to COVID-19. At the same time, it will maintain the right of Ontarians to take legal action against those who willfully, or with gross negligence, endanger others. Many are concerned that this new law fails to protect families who have lost loved ones and will serve to help insurance companies save money. If a long-term care home failed in its duty to protect a resident, it should be liable.
- Yesterday, the government voted in favour of protecting for-profit companies’ role in Ontario’s long-term care system, rather than replacing them with a better non-profit and public system. That vote was in response to a motion tabled by Official Opposition leader Andrea Horwath.
- NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo’s bill to establish an independent Seniors’ Advocate in Ontario was passed in the legislature this week. While the bill has been passed, we will monitor government action to ensure it becomes an effective position for the betterment of seniors in our province. To show support for the initiative, sign our petition here.
Ontario Electricity Rebate:
- The Ontario government announced that customers eligible for the Ontario Electricity Rebate (OER) will automatically receive a 33.2% reduction off their energy bill when new electricity rates for Regulated Price Plan (RPP) customers come into effect November 1, 2020. However, the Ontario Energy Board announced that time-of-use electricity prices will increase almost two per cent on Nov 1, an increase of $2.24 to the average customer. While the premier stated it is the rate of inflation, critics have accused him of breaking his promise to cut hydro rates by 12 per cent. Customers will have the option to move from time-of-use pricing to a tiered pricing system that bills at a lower rate for the first 1,000 kilowatt hours and rises after that. We have a petition against the hydro rate hikes that condo and apartment residents have seen in Toronto.
- Last Friday, I took part in a press conference in support of MPP Jessica Bell’s motion asking the provincial government to reverse its decision to override the City’s noise bylaw. The current government issued an emergency edict to override municipal noise bylaws, initially to allow the construction of emergency hospitals to deal with the potential overflow from COVID-19, but expanded to include the construction of condos. As many constituents have told us, with the edict, construction noise often begins as early as 5:30 a.m.
Community groups, the City and MPPs have been asking the current government to restrict the edict to the construction of emergency hospitals and respites, but they have not listened. Here is a partial timeline of advocacy:
- The April 8th edict, intended to apply to essential hospital and public housing projects, was quickly expanded to include luxury condos and office towers.
- On June 17th, a letter from 43 residents associations in Toronto was sent to the Office of the Premier and received a canned auto-response.
- On June 30th, a motion to repeal this edict was submitted to Toronto City Council, was passed and forwarded to the provincial government.
- On July 23, Toronto’s NDP MPPs called on the Province to repeal this edict, but there was no response from the government.
With help from Rick Green from the Garment District Neighbourhood Association, here are some of the points raised for the government to answer in the press conference:
- Why was 18 months proclaimed as the effective duration, at the very outset of the pandemic, when all other pandemic planning measures were working with a 2-4 week window?
- There is little evidence to suggest that construction sites are using the extended hours as intended (by shifting planning to decrease worker density) and, for the most part, it appears they are simply starting earlier so that they can finish earlier.
- Already stressed by extended isolation and forced to spend more hours at home, residents are being jolted awake at 6:00 a.m. every single morning and often earlier, as sites receive supplies. The negative effects of extended and prolonged construction noise on overall mental health are well documented.
- If 1) the effectiveness of these measures is in question, 2) construction sites are largely abusing them, and 3) the practice is actually harming residents, why is this edict still in existence? Who is really benefiting here?
- Top of mind for many residents is the potential risk of flooding in the Spring of 2021 due to high water levels in Lake Ontario. The International Joint Commission (IJC) and the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board (Board) offered the following information for constituents:
The IJC and its Board recognize and empathize with the severe personal and financial impacts that homeowners, businesses and municipalities have endured with the last two years of record-high Great Lakes water levels and the 2017 and 2019 Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River high water events. Reducing the flood risk above and below the dam has been our foremost concern during the past three and a half years.
It is worth noting that Lake Ontario’s peak elevation this year at 75.40 metres (247.38 feet) was a full 82 centimetres, or 2.7 feet below where the lake would have peaked without regulation of Lake Ontario outflows (i.e., under pre-project outlet conditions). It is also worth noting that the overwhelming majority of this reduction resulted from the fact that Plan 2014 directed high outflows as the plan responded to the high inflows from the upper Great Lakes. Of the 82-centimetre (2.7-foot) reduction, 18 centimetres (7 inches) resulted from deviations from the Plan 2014 flows during the 12-months from May 2019 to May 2020, particularly during January, February and March, when favourable ice conditions allowed the Board to release record outflows for these three months, and during April and May, when the lack of flooding downstream allowed the Board to sustain high outflows. Favourable natural conditions throughout the system this year were the primary reason the Board’s strategy was effective in reducing Lake Ontario water levels. If winter conditions had been different and it had it been a rainy spring this year, no strategy would have been successful in significantly lowering Lake Ontario, especially considering the high, sustained natural inflows from Lake Erie.
The Board is monitoring conditions on a continuous basis and regularly reviewing the range of possibilities to reduce the risk of flooding. Lake Ontario is currently at elevation 74.68 meters (245.03 feet), which is six centimeters (2.5 inches) above its long-term average level at this time of year, and 36 centimeters (14 inches) below its level a year ago. At its meeting on October 20, 2020, the Board thoroughly reviewed a range of outflow strategies and evaluated the degree to which they could reduce the risk of flooding next year under different water-supply scenarios that might occur in the coming months, ranging from the dry conditions that prevailed in 2012 to the extremely wet conditions of 2019. The Board determined that Plan 2014 is aggressively setting high Lake Ontario outflows in response to the continuing high inflows from Lake Erie, and that the ability to reduce the risk of flooding next year by deviating from Plan 2014 flows is minimal at this time. In effect, the Board concluded that there are no meaningful opportunities, at this point in time, to reduce the risk of flooding next year beyond what the plan is already doing. The Board will continue to monitor hydrologic conditions on an ongoing basis and review outflow strategies on a regular basis.
Thank you again for sharing your concerns. We would encourage you to follow regular updates posted on our website at IJC.org, the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board’s website https://ijc.org/loslrb and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/InternationalLakeOntarioStLawrenceRiverBoard, as well as the IJC’s social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter.
Schools & Post-Secondary Education Update:
- As several school boards in Ontario decide to scrap exams during the pandemic, universities are reassuring students that the move won’t affect their post-secondary plans. The University of Toronto will be “as flexible as possible” when it comes to processing admissions. The university recognizes that not all Ontario high school applicants will be able to provide final grades on typical timelines, and will make conditional offers of admission throughout the year on the basis of available Grade 11 and 12 marks. Ryerson University will accept final grades that are based on whatever method of evaluation high school teachers deem fit, whether they include final exams or not. The University of Waterloo will consider available results submitted, regardless of adjustments to grading practices during the pandemic.
- TDSB elementary school students will no longer be able to switch between in-person learning and virtual instruction before the end of the calendar year, the Toronto District School Board has confirmed. Officials had initially said there would be three dates for students to make the switch between the two options throughout the school year, but the board decided to eliminate the November date "in the interest of stability" for staff and students.
- The TDSB says it’s virtual high school cannot support more students, and is telling brick and mortar principals they’ll have to determine how to accommodate students wishing to switch to online learning. In a memo sent to high school principals on Wednesday, senior staff say the anticipated demand of online school for the next term — scheduled to begin in one month — could leave in-person schools short-staffed, force redeployment of teachers and result in the cancellation of classes students may require to graduate.
- A schedule in Bill 213 is expanding degree granting privileges to Canada Christian College, a religious school known for espousing Islamophobic and homophobic views. The NDP and I oppose this, believing that any institution whose degree-granting privileges are expanded and who may apply for public research funding must abide by the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Limits on travel between Canada and the United States will continue for at least four more weeks until November 21, 2020.
- Statistics Canada is conducting surveys to provide valuable information about the repercussions the pandemic is having on Canadian families and our economy. Participating in Statistics Canada surveys is important. If you have been selected for a survey, there are several ways to verify that the survey is being conducted by Statistics Canada:
All surveys are conducted under the authority of the Statistics Act, which guarantees that all information provided by participants remains confidential and is used only for statistical purposes.
The Federal government has created three new recovery benefits to help support Canadians who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. This legislation includes:
- The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks, to workers who are self-employed or are not eligible for EI and who still require income support.
- The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) of $500 per week for up to two weeks, for workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19;
- The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household, for eligible Canadians unable to work because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19, or because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine.
City of Toronto News:
- Mayor Tory said the city is trying to make it as easy as possible for Toronto restaurateurs to construct winter patios as indoor dining rooms remain closed in Ontario’s four COVID-19 hot spots. On Tuesday, the city’s planning and housing committee recommended that city council continue to allow patios in Toronto to operate on a “more liberal basis” during the winter months.
- The City of Toronto has issued a statement after the Ontario Superior Court of Justice refused to grant an injunction that would have required the City of Toronto to suspend the enforcement of its Parks Bylaw that prohibits camping in City parks during the current pandemic.
- The TTC is looking at a number of significant changes to various bus routes throughout the city for 2021. Route 121 on The Esplanade may eliminate the west end of the route (west of Yonge St.). Details of the proposed changes are available on the TTC's consultation discussion guide.
- 125R Mill Street Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment - Virtual Community Consultation Meeting is being held on Monday, November 2, 2020 at 7:30 pm. More information can be found here.
Construction & Road Closures:
Ongoing construction along Union Station rail corridor. This work will take place over the course of one week starting on Saturday, October 17 until Saturday, October 24, overnight from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
- Retaining Wall construction from Spadina Avenue to York Street.
- Bungalow Foundation construction from Spadina Avenue to York Street.
- Cable containment from Bathurst Street to York Street.
- If you have any questions or concerns, please email [email protected] or call 416-202-6911.
To advance the Ontario Line project, Metrolinx will be conducting investigative drilling work on Queen Street and Victoria Street and Duncan Street.
- Work is scheduled to start October 19, 2020 and last up to four weeks.
- Work will occur between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday to Friday. Specific work times may depend on permits from the City of Toronto.
- For more information, sign up for the newsletter at metrolinx.com/OntarioLine, email [email protected] or call 416-202-5100.
- Construction update on Bathurst Street between Fort York Blvd. and Dundas St. W:
Rehabilitation of the Bathurst Bridge (Sir Isaac Brock Bridge) from Fort York Blvd. to Front St. W. The City of Toronto and TTC will be renewing the aging streetcar tracks from Fort York aging streetcar tracks as part of the bridge rehabilitation work. Work will begin after 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 18, 2020 for up to a 3-night period. The following work onsite will take place 24/7:
- Excavation activities and heavy breaking will be carried out at various times throughout the day. All concrete breaking and loud activities will occur between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Concrete breaking work is the most disruptive and will typically last the first 1-2 days for each phase of the construction.
- Around-the-clock work during rail installation by TTC is required to preserve the integrity and quality of new rail and concrete and to support the daytime work. Overnight rail work by TTC may consist of moving new rail into position, rail installation and rail welding/grinding.
- Watermain Replacement on Bathurst Street (Front St. W. to Queen St. W.). Work has been completed between Front Street West and King Street West. The contractor is currently undertaking several deficiency repairs north of King Street West, which should last a couple of weeks.
- TTC Streetcar Track Replacement (Wolseley St. to Dundas St. W.) Work has been completed with the exception of several deficiencies, which will be completed by the contractor over the next couple of weeks. This may result in minor traffic disruptions, at times, between Wolseley Street and Dundas Street.
Contact [email protected] or 416-392-4044 with questions.