In the week that many of our schools are reopening, we have a rise in the number of cases – now over 300 new cases per day. This is not unexpected. Every other jurisdiction around the world has experienced cycles of resurgence of COVID-19 cases. This time, we are better prepared. Wearing our masks and our testing and tracing system will help manage the increase in cases.
We also need to learn from the countries that have been most successful in managing the pandemic – South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. They have managed it through wearing masks and robust testing and tracing regimes – including apps that alert residents if they have been close to someone who has tested positive. Our federal government COVID app is an important tool for helping to manage the increase in cases. More information is available here.
The homelessness crisis in our community has been the most frequent topic of calls and emails my office has received in recent weeks. The City of Toronto has released a plan to address the homelessness crisis, but they need the support of the provincial and federal governments to implement it. I write more about the homelessness crisis below.
With the uptick in COVID-19 cases, the Ontario government’s decision not to reduce class sizes across the province has led many parents to opt for online learning. The surge in online enrolment means that the Toronto District School Board needs another week to reorganize their online learning program. The Official Opposition continues to advocate for smaller, safer classes for this school year.
Through all of this, there are occasional good news stories. This week I met with Shelley Gautier, a local resident and Paralympic athlete, who this week received the “Road Female Athlete of the Year” award from the Ontario Cycling Association and had her Quest for Gold funding extended so she can continue to train. Shelley is interested in helping other people with disabilities get involved in cycling. If this is of interest to you, please email my office.
I wish all who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah this weekend, a very happy Jewish new year filled with sweetness, peace and renewal!
The frustrating part of the current homelessness crisis in our community is that we know the solutions but all levels of government have been playing “pass the buck” on this issue for the past 40 years. In the 1980s, the federal government was building 20,000 affordable housing units per year. In the 1990s, they downloaded this responsibility onto the cities, which do not have the tax base to build affordable housing. Cities around Toronto, in turn, send people experiencing homelessness to Toronto.
The result is that, for the past 25 years, no level of government has built affordable housing. At the same time, the cost of housing has exploded while incomes and social assistance rates have not kept pace. Ontario Works provides $635/month and ODSP provides $1050/month for single people – not nearly enough for a room, food, transportation and clothing. A recent Canada-wide study shows that the biggest determinant of homelessness rates is high rents and low incomes. Add to this mix, the opioid epidemic, the lack of supports for people with mental health issues and the global pandemic and we have our current situation of tent cities growing in our parks.
All three levels of government have failed on the housing front, but the provincial government’s actions have worsened an already bad situation. They’ve cut $160 million/year from the Ministry of Housing budget, passed legislation to speed up evictions, frozen Ontario Works and ODSP rates and erased the goal of eliminating homelessness by 2025.
It is going to take an upfront investment to fix our housing crisis, but ultimately, the research shows that providing housing is cheaper than keeping people on the streets (or in our parks). The City of Toronto has developed a plan to end the homelessness crisis, but they need the support of the provincial and federal governments to make it a reality. This is where we need to work together. We all need to push all levels of government to end the homelessness crisis.
The Minister of Colleges and Universities said the Ontario government does not currently have plans to provide a province-wide list of cases and outbreaks in post-secondary institutions. This follows news over the weekend of a community outbreak where at least 5 students of Western University, living off campus, have tested positive for COVID-19.
McMaster University has announced classes for its entire 2020/2021 school year will take place online. A letter to students from provost Susan Tighe acknowledges the news will be "disappointing to many." It states a team of academic and campus leaders have been evaluating options for the winter term considering the COVID-19 pandemic and the president and vice-presidents of the university have accepted their recommendation that online learning continue.
- The Ontario government has gradually reopened all 24 provincial centres for apprenticeship and trade-related certifications, based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and provincial health authorities. Apprentices and skilled tradespeople can now book their final exams at their local apprenticeship office.
COVID-19 test centres across Toronto are reporting a spike in demand over the past two weeks, with reports of long lines, and some people even being turned away. Gillian Howard, a spokesperson for University Health Network, said they are “experiencing long lines” at the Toronto Western site. To extend hours they would need “additional funds and staff,” she said, and will “work with Toronto Public Health and Ontario Health to determine whether the funds are available.”
Some residents waited as long as three hours to get a COVID-19 test at the William Osler Health System’s drive-thru testing centre in Etobicoke Monday. The hospital said it has been experiencing “high volumes” at its two testing centres and is asking the public for its patience and cooperation. While hospital staff told CTV News Toronto that the average wait time throughout the day Monday has been three hours, some people reported waiting as many as four to five hours just to get a test. Staff members say the high traffic of people started on Monday of last week and has been busy ever since. As a result, they’ve capped admittance into the waiting line at 3:30 p.m.
Canada desperately needs access to rapid saliva testing for COVID-19 as the country prepares to head indoors for the winter, says one of Canada's leading doctors. The former dean of medicine and president of the University of Toronto, said there is no need to panic over the rising number of cases because a reopening economy was bound to lead to that, but there are good reasons to be vigilant.
Premier Ford announced today that Ontarians who want to get tested for COVID-19 may soon be able to avoid the lineups at some assessment centres and head to their local pharmacy.
The Ontario government is investing an additional $2.9 million in eight research projects that aim to support Ontario's response to COVID-19. These projects will focus on a wide variety of areas such as supporting the mental health and well-being of families and children, assessing the long-term health effects of COVID-19, the development of an app to better manage the care of patients, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of wearing masks to block the virus.
The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO), at the request of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, has prepared a summary of the measures implemented in Ontario by the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, the FAO has identified 68 federal government measures and 70 provincial measures for a total of 138 COVID-19 response measures. Although the FAO has identified $10.8 billion in provincial direct support measures, the FAO estimates that the Province still has an additional $6.7 billion in unallocated funds that are available to be directed to new measures. The unallocated funds are included in the Province’s COVID-19 Health Sector Response Fund and the Support for People and Jobs Fund.
The Ontario government is investing $175 million this year to address critical upgrades, repairs and maintenance in 129 hospitals across the province, including $50 million for COVID-19 related and other urgent projects.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province will unveil a new strategy to address COVID-19 this fall which will take into account flu season and current capacity challenges in both long-term care facilities and hospitals.
Shelters & Affordable Housing:
- The City of Toronto’s Shelter Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) Division is moving to make the wearing of masks or other face coverings by clients mandatory in indoor common areas of shelters. This policy will be in place at all shelter locations by the end of September. SSHA will issue a directive to providers next week and there will be a transition period for compliance.
- The City of Toronto has issued the COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Recovery Response Plan — an urgent appeal to the federal and provincial governments to create 3,000 permanent, affordable homes, within the next 24 months, for homeless, vulnerable and marginalized residents. The average cost to operate a shelter bed in Toronto was more than $3,000 per month pre-COVID-19. This cost has now doubled as a result of the increased space and protective resources required by the pandemic. Moving 3,000 people out of shelters and into permanent housing with supports could provide a cost savings of up to $15 million per month ($180 million per year) assuming COVID-19 physical distancing standards remain in place for the foreseeable future. This savings is further increased when considering the reduced costs to the healthcare, long-term care and justice systems when people exit homelessness.
- I am continuing to work with city officials to find solutions to this ongoing homelessness crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed vulnerable people in our community into a desperate situation. We are fighting to ensure the tent residents get the shelter and supports they need to lift themselves out of this awful situation. Meanwhile, we are coordinating with the Councillor's office to organize community safety teams including social workers, police, etc. to protect the safety of our residents.
Tourism & Hospitality Emergency Response:
- Are you a Tourism & Hospitality Worker? Are you out of work or working less due to COVID-19? Help is available through the Tourism & Hospitality Emergency Response. Visit TourismHospitalityWorkers.ca for information on training, employment supports, and relief programs. You can also register for the Tourism & Hospitality Workers’ Registry to receive information about job opportunities, safe return to work, and regional and virtual employment services. This initiative is led by OTEC and funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre and the Government of Ontario.
ACORN Tenant Information Session:
- Toronto ACORN is presenting this session on Saturday, September 19 at 12:00 pm. Topics covered include: rights/protections related to rent, evictions and maintenance/repairs, and rights in regards to air conditioners. Questions and a discussion follow each section. RSVP at [email protected] or call 416-461-9233.
Disability Standards Survey:
- Accessibility Standards Canada has launched an online consultation. The online survey must be completed before September 18, 2020. You can also participate by email, mail, phone, and in American Sign Language or Langue des signes Québécoise! Visit the consultation webpage for more details on how to participate or call 1-833-854-7628.
- The Federal government announced that the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses will be extended by one month to help eligible small businesses pay rent for September. All provinces and territories continue to participate in this initiative, and collaborate with the Federal government to provide rent supports to those small businesses most in need. Current CECRA application deadlines will also be extended to accommodate this extension.
- The Government of Canada published the latest COVID-19 Update for Indigenous Peoples and communities.
City of Toronto News:
- Toronto’s first COVID-19 voluntary isolation site has officially opened. The centre provides a safe, comfortable place to self-isolate, primarily for people with COVID-19 infection. A stay at the centre will be offered by Toronto Public Health case managers and the decision to accept a stay at the centre is entirely voluntary. People can also qualify to stay if they are at significant risk of COVID-19 infection from someone living in their home. Toronto Public Health staff will identify those who qualify for a stay through the case and contact management process based on the individual’s needs.
- Porter Airlines is extending its suspension of all flights until Nov. 12, five weeks after its previously announced target to resume flying.
Construction & Road Closures:
Ongoing construction along Union Station rail corridor. GO Expansion continues to improve, update, and modernize our infrastructure. This work will take place over the course of one week starting on Saturday, September 12 until Saturday, September 19, overnight from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am.
- 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 evaluating the underground conditions of the area where the subway will be built. Work is done by using a small drill rig that drills into the ground, collecting soil and rock samples for further testing.
- Work is scheduled to start September 10, 2020 and last up to three weeks.
- Work will occur between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm, Monday to Friday. Specific work times may depend on permits from the City of Toronto.
Update on construction on Bathurst Street between Fort York Blvd. and Dundas St. W.
- TTC track replacement work will begin on September 21, south of Dundas St. W. This will impact traffic and parking on Bathurst from Wolseley St. to Dundas St. W.
- Bathurst Street will be closed to ALL southbound traffic at Dundas St. W.
- One lane of northbound traffic ONLY will be maintained between Queen St. W. and Dundas St. W. in the southbound curb lane (west side).
- No access to Eden Place and Carr Street (east of Bathurst St.), or driveways along the east side of Bathurst St. Affected properties will receive additional information.
- TTC will likely store track materials inside Wolseley Loop.
- Sidewalks on both sides of Bathurst Street will remain open.
- Watermain replacement work is ahead of schedule and expected to be complete in October.
- Bridge rehabilitation work is slightly delayed and will continue to be CLOSED to ALL vehicles until January 2021.
For more information, call 416-392-3074 or email [email protected].
Fun Things To Do
- Bike Month 2020: Bike Month is an opportunity for people to try riding a bike for the first time, learn new skills, or simply have fun and connect with new people. It’s taking the time to rekindle the youthful magic of exploring your neighbourhood by bike or share that joy with the next generation of bike riders. Bike Month is a celebration of biking. Stop by one of Cycle Toronto’s Commuter Stations and grab a tote bag filled with goodies:
Ontario Place: Enjoy great comedy, live music and feature films on a 60-foot screen in a safe and family-friendly setting at the water’s edge of Ontario Place. 955 Lake Shore Blvd. W.
- Toronto Shines will present the best in live entertainment, comedy and current and classic films. It is running now through October.
- Toronto Disability Pride March: The Toronto Disability Pride March is back for 2020! We will be gathering virtually this year with speakers and artists. September 19 1:00 to 2:30 pm. Register here.
- Toronto International Film Festival: The 45th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival is taking place September 10-19. For the first time in our history, TIFF has launched a digital platform, affording new opportunities to connect with audiences beyond Toronto. Over the 10 days, the platform will host digital film screenings, as well as numerous talks and special events. This year’s selection of films comprises a lineup of 50 new feature films along with five programmes of short films, as well as interactive talks, film cast reunions, and Q&As with cast and filmmakers.
Toronto Walking Tours: FREE walking tours are being offered by local resident Bruce Bell in the month of September. Reservations required and capped at 10 people per tour.
- Old Town Toronto: Wednesday September 2, 9, 16, 23,
- Downtown Toronto Architectural Tour: Monday September 14, 21, 28
- Historic Distillery District: Saturday September 12, 19
- Tours start at 10:00 am, are 90 minutes long and are all outdoors. Social distancing requirements are in place and please bring a mask in case we go inside. For more information, email [email protected].
- World Cleanup Day: The St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association Waste Reduction Group invites you to participate in their 1st Annual World Cleanup Day! Join millions of volunteers in 180 countries around the globe helping to clean up the world in one day. Saturday, September 19 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. South side of The Esplanade and Frederick streets, (one street West of Sherbourne). Gloves and collection bags will be supplied. Please bring your own mask and sanitizer. Send questions to [email protected].
Birthday & Anniversary Greetings:
- My office sends out congratulatory scrolls to people across the riding to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones! If you have a birthday coming up in the family and you would like to request a scroll, please email us at [email protected].
Calling Local Artists:
- If you are a local artist, we would love to share your work with the community by publishing it in my newsletter and on this 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). Thank you for sharing your work with us and our community.