For several months now we have been dealing with the very significant challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This included re-opening certain sectors of the economy from construction to retail stores and restaurants. As a community and City we now have the challenge of safely re-opening our schools for our kids who have been away from classes for the most part since mid-March.
While the City has no direct role in this school re-opening process, it is managed and under the control of the local school boards and the provincial Ministry of Education, we have been working closely with the school boards to support them in every way possible. This includes offering City spaces and amenities and the waiving of permit fees among other actions. The City will continue with any assistance it can offer to the boards and provincial education officials.
I fully understand how concerned parents, teachers and others in the education system are about the realities of this pandemic balanced against the need to have our kids back in school learning either in person or virtually. All of us have no greater responsibility or commitment that is more important than protecting our kids. I know that we will all work together in every way we can to support the school boards and our local schools as they re-open and this includes Toronto Public Health updating parents with respect to any cases of Covid-19 within schools or any outbreaks that might occur.
Included in this e-newsletter is some information that may be of assistance in terms of schools re-opening.
Also, this week I have joined with my colleagues (remotely) in participating in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board of Directors meetings that were originally scheduled to take place in Yellowknife. As well as being one of the City's representatives to FCM, I am the Chair of the Standing Committee on Social-Economic Development. FCM is an important organization that brings together municipal governments from across our country to work collaboratively to improve and move our cities forward. As you can imagine, the focus of this year's meeting is our recovery from the pandemic and the need to meet the critical equity issues and financial challenges that have been exposed due to this public health crisis.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I spend a lot of time in my home office every week. This week, I also participated on FCM‘S Board of Directors meeting.
As Chair of the Standing Committee on Social-Economic Development, I have been working closely with my colleagues on the issue of affordable housing. Today, FCM has released a call to action paper entitled "Critical Need, Urgent Opportunity" which recognizes that the Covid-19 pandemic has created "a narrow window of opportunity to cost-effectively and permanently expand our stock of affordable and supportive housing—in a moment of extraordinary need." This call to action asks of the federal government that they support the efforts of other levels of government and affordable housing providers to use this opportunity to advance significantly the acquisition of affordable housing stock across this country. As noted, this opportunity will likely only last a short time and it is imperative that the federal government recognize this and take the action that is recommended.
I recognize that this continues to be a very challenging time for many as schools re-open, businesses struggle to recover, families try to meet their own financial and other challenges and our City and other governments work to meet the needs of our residents during this period. We all need to continue to work together as we strive to create from this challenging time a more just, equitable and fair society.
Photo: Students read heartwarming messages as I sat with parents and administrators at Pauline Public School's 100th Anniversary in 2014.
Re-opening Our Schools
There has perhaps never been a more challenging time for our educators, support staff and students as we re-open our schools this fall. Our children are going back to school in an environment that is vastly different from the one they left last March. Public health protocols alone will make our schools look and operate very differently. The City has a very limited role in the management and control of our schools, this is the responsibility of the school boards and the Ontario Ministry of Education. The City has however been very proactive in working with the school boards to offer any support we can including City owned spaces, amenities, community and library space and other supports. The City will also be waiving all permit and permit fees for the boards. Below are some helpful links for you in terms of school re-opening. This week, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health confirmed that Toronto Public Health will notify parents if there is a positive Covid-19 test in their child's school and if there are any outbreaks. This information will not identify the person who has tested positive for privacy reasons but general details will be published online.
I would also suggest:
- Toronto District School Board
- TDSB Trustees
- Returning to School Guide (TDSB)
- Toronto District Catholic School Board
- TDCSB Trustees
- Return to School Guide Questions and Answers (TDCSB)
- Ontario Government – Ministry of Education Return to School
- City of Toronto Public Health Return to School Guidance
This Federation of Canadian Municipalities is one of the most important collaborative municipal organizations in the country. It brings to together municipalities of all sizes and from all regions to work collaboratively on meeting the challenges facing municipal governments and the residents of our cities and towns. I serve as one of Toronto's representatives to the FCM and also work as Chair of the Standing Committee on Social-Economic Development, a committee that is working very directly on the significant challenges facing Canadians and their municipal governments across the country including issues of housing, homelessness and social and financial support. Our work this week has been dedicated (virtually) to creating a united voice as we move forward to meet these challenges and to engaging our respective provincial governments as well as the federal government whose support we need to succeed in making our cities and our country a more equitable, just and fair place to live where everyone has the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest potential.
As part of the Board of Directors Meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities this week, I was pleased to work with my colleagues on the pressing need for further and expedited action on affordable housing. As Chair of the FCM Standing Committee on Social-Economic Development this was a main issue of focus for meetings this week. Today, FCM released a report which is call to action by the federal government to use this unique opportunity to act through an acquisition strategy to expand the availability of affordable housing stock in this country including our City of Toronto. These are unique times and there is a potentially once in a lifetime opportunity for this kind of action and the FCM report outlines the need for this action by the federal government while the opportunity exists. The report is available at the link with this article and I join with my colleagues at FCM representing municipalities across the country as we advocate for this support as it is needed in a way not seen in our City and country since the Great Depression.
Questions from the Community!
Each day, we are working to answer important questions from our community. To keep you all informed, we will feature some of these questions each newsletter. Have a question you think would be good to share? Reach out to us at [email protected].
Question: I understand that anyone can now get a Covid-19 test. Is there a central site where I can go to find Covid-19 testing locations here in Toronto?
Answer: Yes, Covid-19 assessment centres are open across the City at different locations. Some are open 24 hours a day. Covid-19 tests are now available to anyone who wishes to have a test done. This link provides additional information as well as testing locations.
School Crossing Guards
The School Crossing Guard Program was shifted from the police to the City of Toronto's Transportation Services section fairly recently. Since this shift began, I have been pushing for revisions to this program in light of the long assessment timeframes and the resulting lag times between request and implementation. As we continue to work on systemic changes to these programs and their selection criteria, I also continue working together with parents and administrators to bring forward community identified locations for approval.
I am pleased to announce that the following new locations will have a crossing guards when the schools are re-opened:
- Dewson Public - College and Ossington
- St. Paul VI Catholic – Laughton and Hounslow Heath
- Ecole Elementaires Charles Sauriol – Pelham Ave and Uxbridge
We are expecting updates on the following locations shortly:
- Rawlinson Community School – Glenholme and Millerson
- Regal Road Public – Regal and Springmount
Thanks to parent groups, teachers, administrators and kids for working together to help improve safety in our community!
For the first time in Toronto’s history, the City’s 50 Automated Speed Enforcement cameras will be fully operational throughout the back-to-school season to protect the health and safety of children returning to school by curbing speeding and providing an opportunity to walk and cycle in a safe environment. On July 6, 2020, all 50 speed cameras began issuing tickets to vehicles travelling in excess of the posted speed limit. Between July 6 and August 5, one month following the start of issuing tickets, the speed cameras issued a total of 22,301 tickets.
Registration for City of Toronto fall recreation programs as well as December holiday camps starts Saturday, September 12 and continues next week. Torontonians can expect to see many of their favourite registered recreation programs, including swimming and skating lessons, on offer this fall. The City is Toronto’s largest provider of safe, fun and high-quality recreation programs for people of all ages, skill levels and interests.
Extended hours are available to help residents get ready for programs by calling customer service at 416-396-7378 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on September 9, 10, 11 and 14.
Registration begins at 7 a.m. for the following areas:
- Saturday, September 12 for Etobicoke/York
- Sunday, September 13 for Scarborough
- Tuesday, September 15 for North York
- Wednesday, September 16 for Toronto/East York and West Toronto/York
Residents are asked to plan ahead and confirm the district for their programs before registration starts. Registration districts can be found online.
900 Dufferin Residents Working Group Meets Chief Planner for Community Benefits Brainstorming
On August 27th, my office gathered residents along with our Chief Planner Gregg Lintern to discuss possible section 37 benefits (a provision that secures community benefits as part of development applications) at the 900 Dufferin Street (Dufferin Mall) site. It was great to resume limited in-person meetings and we appreciated theWorking Women Community Centre hosting the discussion and giving a presentation as well. We will continue working with City Planning and the developer as this project works its way through the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) to ensure we maximize community returns from this development.
Good Food Market Week - Thanking Volunteers at the Stop Community Food Centre
The Stop Community Food Centre’s Good Food Market is part of a network of community markets that sell high quality, culturally appropriate, affordable vegetables and fruits. These markets bring healthy produce to neighbourhoods where it might not otherwise be available, and where farmers’ markets aren’t viable because sales are too low to cover farmers’ costs. This week, I visited the Stop's 1884 Davenport location to see the market in action, to drop off goodies for the volunteers and thank them for their service. Good Food Markets week is on now! For more info about the markets, check out the Stop's blog post. You can also view my video on facebook.
"Ask the Expert" Clean Laneways Chat: September 16th, 10AM
Overnight Metrolinx Work
Over the September long weekend, crews tied the diversion track into the main line and installed a temporary diamond at the GO Rail / CP Rail intersection to align with the new track. While Barrie GO trains are running successfully on the new diversion track, some additional welding and destressing work needs to be carried out overnight while trains are not in service. Crews initially anticipated this would be done by September 9, but due to unforeseen circumstances, must continue working overnight to complete the work. Due to concerns about the impact of this work on residents I have been reaching out to Metrolinx repeatedly to advocate for changes to the way the provincial transit agency is undertaking this work. I realize it is very disruptive and the City is limited in what it can do but we will continue to raise these issues with Metrolinx. The notice below provides more information (zoom in).
Dovercourt Road Watermain Replacement and Road Reconstruction – Sudbury Street to College Street
Starting September 21, 2020, the City of Toronto will replace the watermain and the City-owned portion of substandard water services on Dovercourt Road from Queen Street West to College Street. Given that work on both Dovercourt Road and Lisgar Street will happen concurrently, the City's contractor will divide work on Dovercourt Road into two phases. The phasing will allow for distance between the two contracts in an effort to minimize traffic and parking impact. This work is expected to be completed by Summer 2021.
Dufferin Grove Park Sand and Water Play: Improvements Coming in October 2020
Dufferin Grove Park is such a special place largely because of the adventure playground area in the southeastern corner. Few neighbourhood parks offer this kind of play and nowhere in Toronto has it been done better and for longer than in Dufferin Grove. Thanks to an active local community, some great ideas and a City that's willing to work together to help implement, I am happy to say that major improvements are being made to the sandplay area. Once this season ends, staff will begin adding new logs, special drainage and an automatic tap that will reduce erosion and prevent pooling. Work will begin in early October and we will have draft plans to share in the coming weeks.
Toronto Environmental Alliance Zero Waste High-Rise Project
The Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) is recruiting participants for the Zero Waste High-Rise Project! TEA has developed an online step-by-step program to help Toronto multi-residential buildings reduce waste and become zero waste leaders. If you are a high-rise building resident, or staff member, and want to take action, you can join the project. Learn more here or join an upcoming information session.
Today, the City of Toronto has launched a new online registration system for short-term rental operators who rent their homes on a short-term basis for a period of less than 28 consecutive days. Short-term rental operators must register with the City in order to operate in Toronto. Operators are only allowed to rent their principal residence on a short-term basis. A principal residence is the residence where they live and the address used for bills, identification, taxes and insurance. Registration for short-term rentals must be completed online.
As Toronto prepares for a possible resurgence of COVID-19 this fall and winter, City Manager Chris Murray today announced that Chief Matthew Pegg will resume his role as Toronto’s COVID-19 Incident Commander on a full-time basis. Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop will be acting Fire Chief. Prudent and ongoing planning is critical as the city heads into the colder months. Chief Pegg will work closely with Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa in coordinating the City’s response to any resurgence. Chief Pegg will join Mayor Tory and Dr. de Villa on Monday, September 14 at 2 p.m. at the next City of Toronto media briefing.
Today, Mayor John Tory announced that the installation of the City of Toronto's new, more durable Toronto Sign on Nathan Phillips Square has begun. An iconic Toronto attraction, the Toronto Sign has been a popular spot for selfies and group photos among residents and visitors alike. The removal of the temporary sign, installation of the new sign and the wrap application will take approximately one week. The new Toronto Sign will be unveiled in the coming days.
As students, teachers and staff return to school, the Ontario government is providing up to $1.3 billion in critical supports and has delivered more than 37 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to safely reopen classrooms across the province. These investments are part of Ontario's comprehensive back to school plan which was developed in consultation with medical experts, school boards, and educators.
The Honourable Mélanie Joly and the Honourable Caroline Wawzonek,—Co-Chairs of the Canadian Council of Tourism Ministers (CCTM)—hosted a successful virtual meeting of Canada's tourism ministers. During the meeting, ministers continued their dialogue and collaboration that have taken place amongst the CCTM since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Ministers recognized that the travel and tourism sector is one of the most heavily impacted sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic.