I am taking this opportunity to provide an update on a weekly basis once again in view of how quickly the situation with respect to the pandemic and other issues is changing.
I understand that many of us are finding this to be a very challenging time as we once again deal with increasing numbers of infections and greater pressure on our health care system. But, as I have said often, working together we will bring this latest wave to an end. We can all do our part by getting vaccinated, securing our third dose vaccination and following as closely as possible public health directives. As you know the province has moved Ontario back to Stage Two of their re-opening plan and this will remain in effect until at least January 26th, 2022. Once again, details on what this means are contained in this newsletter.
The provincial government has announced that this coming Monday our kids will return to in-person learning. I realize that there are concerns about this but we also recognize the importance for children to attend school in person not only for educational reasons but also for the benefits they receive from interacting with each other which is such an important part of childhood. A link to the Province’s updates health, safety and operational guidance for schools can be found here.
As noted previously, we are continuing to ensure that everyone has access as quickly as possible to vaccinations, including children over 5 years of age and third dose booster shots (18+ years). There are details in this newsletter to help you arrange to get your vaccination and I encourage you to do so.
Today, the City's Budget Committee begins consideration of the City's 2022 budget. This process will review recommendations with respect to capital and operating spending for this 2022 year and more long term capital expenditures. Over the coming weeks the Budget Committee will review the City's spending priorities, hear from residents and stakeholders and prepare recommendations for Toronto City Council which will meet in February to review the budget and proceed to final approval. Residents are encouraged to submit to the Budget Committee their comments and suggestions and this can be done by e-mailing the Committee at [email protected] Further, details on the budget process can be found in this newsletter.
Also, this week at the Infrastructure and Environment Committee a motion was approved to add 25 additional Automated Speed Enforcement Cameras to the 50 already deployed on our streets. More details on this motion and Vision Zero safety strategy are included in this newsletter.
This week has also seen the return of extremely cold temperatures and we are expecting that this will return through the weekend. The City is making every effort to ensure that warming centres are open for those in our City who are experiencing homelessness. We are also encouraged to check in on friends and family members to ensure they are okay and to see if they need any assistance. More details on Extreme Cold Weather Alerts in our City can be found here.
As always, if we can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us by email at [email protected] or by phone at 416.392.7012.
Table of Contents
Vaccination and COVID-19 Updates
Step Two in Provincial Re-Opening Plan Remains in Effect Until at least January 26th
As noted in my last e-newsletter, the provincial government has moved Ontario back to Stage Two of the re-opening plan. What this entails is included in the link as a quick reference and is summarized below. While the province has indicated that these measures will remain in effect until January 26th, 2022 they have indicated that further review will take place closer to this date.
- Reducing social gathering limits to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors.
- Limiting capacity at organized public events to five people indoors.
- Requiring businesses and organizations to ensure employees work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site.
- Limiting capacity at indoor weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites and ceremonies to 50 per cent capacity of the particular room. Outdoor services are limited to the number of people that can maintain 2 metres of physical distance. Social gatherings associated with these services must adhere to the social gathering limits.
- Retail settings, including shopping malls, permitted at 50 per cent capacity. For shopping malls physical distancing will be required in line-ups, loitering will not be permitted and food courts will be required to close.
- Personal care services permitted at 50 per cent capacity and other restrictions. Saunas, steam rooms, and oxygen bars closed.
- Closing indoor meeting and event spaces with limited exceptions but permitting outdoor spaces to remain open with restrictions.
- Public libraries limited to 50 per cent capacity.
- Closing indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments. Outdoor dining with restrictions, takeout, drive through and delivery is permitted.
- Restricting the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. and the consumption of alcohol on-premise in businesses or settings after 11 p.m. with delivery and takeout, grocery/convenience stores and other liquor stores exempted.
- Closing indoor concert venues, theatres, cinemas, rehearsals and recorded performances permitted with restrictions.
- Closing museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and waterparks, tour and guide services and fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals. Outdoor establishments permitted to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy, where applicable, limited to 50 per cent capacity.
- Closing indoor horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues. Outdoor establishments permitted to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy limited to 50 per cent capacity. Boat tours permitted at 50 per cent capacity.
- Closing indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities including gyms, except for athletes training for the Olympics and Paralympics and select professional and elite amateur sport leagues. Outdoor facilities are permitted to operate but with the number of spectators not to exceed 50 per cent occupancy and other requirements.
- All publicly funded and private schools will move to remote learning starting January 5 until at least January 17, subject to public health trends and operational considerations.
- School buildings would be permitted to open for child care operations, including emergency child care, to provide in-person instruction for students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated remotely and for staff who are unable to deliver quality instruction from home.
- During this period of remote learning, free emergency child care will be provided for school-aged children of health care and other eligible frontline workers.
Expanded Opportunities to Get Vaccinated with First, Second and Third Dose Boosters
One of the most important ways to help bring this pandemic to an end, and to protect families, friends, our community and ourselves is to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated reduces the spread of Covid 19 and just as importantly protect against serious illness, hospitalization and even more serious outcomes. With the rapid spread of the Omicron, and increased pressures on our health care system, it is more important than ever to get vaccinated. Vaccinations are available for children 5 years of age or older and third dose (boosters) are available for those who are 18 years of age or older. The City maintains a web page that is constantly updated and where you can book a vaccination appointment, there is also the provincial booking site and you may also wish to review the Vaccine Hunters web page which has in the past been partnering with the City . Many pharmacies across the City and province are also administering vaccinations and you can view those currently doing so at this link. The City also maintains a web page in map format where you can enter your address to locate nearby clinics
Vaccination Clinic - Toronto Western Family Health Team and Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre - January 18th
Book your appointment online, through Toronto Western Family Health Team's web portal
Return to School on January 17th - Children and Youth Vaccinations
As our children prepare to return to school this coming Monday, January 17th, it important that we do all we can to ensure they are as safe as possible as are their teachers and families. This is why it is so important that all children who are eligible for vaccinations receive them. This week the City reported that 100,000 kids had already been vaccinated in Toronto. Children 5 years and older and young people are eligible to receive their Covid 19 vaccinations (third dose boosters are only available to those 18 years of age and over). The City maintains a webpage containing information specifically for children and youth that contains information that is very informative about vaccinations for this age group.
Vaccination Clinics for Educators and Education Workers
With the return to in-person learning taking place this coming Monday (January 17), the City has commenced specific clinics for educators and educational workers to ensure that our schools are as safe as they can possibly be for our kids and their teachers along with those who work in our schools. Details about this initiative can be found in this link.
Emergency Child Care for Essential Workers
We all recognize the work of our essential workers who have, throughout this pandemic, continued to work to support our health care system and other essential sectors. Their work has been heroic and we are very grateful for all they do for us. As of January 10th, in collaboration with the provincial government, child care services are being provided to designated essential service workers. The list of eligible essential workers can be found here. Across the City more than 40 approved emergency child care providers, including four City-operated child care centres and four Toronto Home Child Care agencies, are offering emergency child care services. More details can be found here.
City Staff Redeployment Plans
The City is taking proactive measures to ensure essential and critical City services are protected and continue to be delivered. One way to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of essential and critical City services during the pandemic is the redeployment of staff where help is needed most - both immediately and in the near future.
We know the Omicron variant spreads quickly - it's highly contagious – and the best defence against it, according to trusted medical professionals, is three doses of the vaccine.
In response to the rapidly-spreading, and highly transmissible Omicron variant, my focus and the focus of the entire City government is on continuing to implement proactive measures to protect the health and safety of residents, businesses and staff and to ensure that essential and critical city services continue.
This week, we shared our tiered staff redeployment plan should it be required as a result of a high number (up to a 60 per cent worst case scenario) of unplanned staff absences due to illness and COVID-19 isolation requirements.
Redeployed staff will first be assigned to vaccination clinics, City-run shelters and the City's 10 long-term care homes, followed by other critical and essential services as required. Already, hundreds of staff within these divisions have been redeployed to help areas in their divisions that require it the most right now.
I want to thank all City employees who are continuing to do their job and provide needed services to residents and all of those employees who have stepped forward and volunteered – sometimes for a second time – for redeployment to help us protect essential and critical services.
That said, I want to reassure Torontonians that we are laser focused on the continuation of essential and critical City services that they rely on, and on our vaccination efforts, including new initiatives meant to help get our schools re-opened.
Toronto's emergency services will continue to respond to emergency calls without interruption, and critical operations will continue so that safe drinking water always comes out of Toronto taps, the snow gets cleared, the garbage gets picked up, and of course, overall vaccination efforts continue.
Supporting At-Risk Communities
Given the increased amount of COVID-19 in the community, we’re also ramping up efforts again to help vulnerable residents impacted by the virus. The City’s community equity supports are continuing through this Omicron wave with our trusted community organizations to help residents in need of extra supports and protection against COVID-19.
To help remove barriers to vaccination, the City continues to work with multiple partners to help transport residents to get their vaccines: Ontario Health Partners, Toronto Ride, Uber Canada and the TTC, including free Presto cards to community agencies for distribution.
The TO Supports Investment Fund was established quickly in 2020, ensuring most urgent needs are met. Just last month, I announced that additional funding of approximately $1.2 million will be distributed to continue support for equity-deserving populations affected by COVID-19. These supports include:
- Target outreach and case management
- Food access
- Mental health supports
- Assisting families through isolation
- Equipping residents with masks
Mental health services and supports have been all the more important throughout the pandemic. The City’s Mental Health Support Strategy was created in partnership with more than 13 mental health service providers, including 211 Central, which provides free counselling and mental health supports to Toronto residents and frontline workers. Some funded services include:
- Wellness workshops and trainings
- One-on-one counselling
- Therapeutic support groups
- Crisis intervention supports and crisis text services
- For children and youth, seniors, frontline workers and those intersectional identities, those experiencing intimate partner violence and 2SLGBTQ+ Torontonians
In addition, the Community Coordination Plan was also established with more than 400 not-for-profit community partners to coordinate services for the City’s most vulnerable residents. The City is also maintaining ongoing partnerships with agencies such as North York Harvest Food Bank, Second Harvest, Daily Bread Food Bank, Food Share Toronto, Salvation Army, Canadian Red Cross, United Way and others to deliver food hampers, prepared meals and donated food.
For Updated COVID Information Check the City's Dashboard
The City of Toronto continues to maintain an updated dashboard of statistics and reports on Covid numbers in our City, including with a case count map. It is easy to review information on the dashboard which outlines what is occurring in our City during the pandemic. The data is updated regularly. The dashboard can be found at this link
Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant announced
The Ontario government announced the new COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant, which provides $10,000 to eligible small businesses required to close under modified Step 2 of the Roadmap to Reopen. Eligible businesses include restaurants and bars, fitness centres and gyms, meeting or event spaces and more. Businesses that previously qualified for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant will be pre-screened for eligibility and do not need to apply for the new program. Newly established and newly eligible businesses will need to apply. The application portal will open in the coming weeks.
Federal government supports available for businesses facing hardship
The Government of Canada continues to offer targeted supports for businesses and self-employed individuals facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include rent and property expenses support; wage and hiring support; Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility; Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit and more. See the supports available for businesses, self-employed individuals and sectors.
Ontario government requesting eligible businesses to host employer-led vaccine clinics
The Government of Ontario has extended its request for businesses to host employer-led clinics that meet established criteria to vaccinate their employees aged 18 and over, their families and retirees, as well as members of the local and neighbouring communities as capacity allows. If your business meets the criteria, call the Ontario Together Contact Centre at 1-888-777-0554 to learn more.
Local & City Updates
Portuguese Speaking Community Virtual Town Hall - January 25th, 6PM
2022 City of Toronto Budget Process Launches
Each year, the City's Budget Committee launches the budget process where every aspect of the coming year's spending priorities are reviewed and considered. The process examines both capital and operating priorities and recommendations from City staff and hears from residents and stakeholders. While the Budget Committee reviews proposed allocations and makes recommendations, Toronto City Council approves the final budget for the City for the coming year and beyond in the case of capital expenditures. The Budget Committee agenda can be found here. The City also has a web page where the 2022 budget details are available. The Budget Committee will meet throughout January and you can find the meeting dates here.
City Moves to Add 25 Additional Automated Enforcement Cameras
At this week's Infrastructure and Environment Committee a motion was approved to increase by 25 the number of Automated Speed Enforcement cameras across the City. This would add the new 25 ASE cameras to the 50 already in operation. This motion was passed as part of the update on the City's Vision Zero Speed Management Strategy and full details can be found at this link. The Vision Zero strategy is the City's comprehensive pedestrian, cyclist and road safety initiative. More details on the initiative can be found at this link. The City also maintains a web page specific to the ASE program which can be reviewed at this link including statistics and more detailed information on the initiative.
Planning and Housing Committee January 12th Meeting
The City's Planning and Housing Committee, of which I am chair, met this week to move forward additional important initiatives. The Committee dealt with a final report from City staff advancing our Garden Suites initiative which are additional self-contained living accommodations not attached to a main house on a property and which are intended to be rental housing or accommodation for varied households. This initiative is part of the Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods strategy which is a crucial City initiative to increase housing options in a City that continues to grow very rapidly. The EHON strategy is the means to help establish the housing that residents of our City need as our population increases. The Committee also advanced an initiative to assist in streamlining the building permit process so that permit applications are easier to submit and manage. The One Stream Preliminary Review Program will reduce confusion and improve customer service while also creating a more cost-effective fee structure. Further information on these initiatives and other agenda items can be found in the link to the Committee agenda
640 Lansdowne Avenue - Public Meeting January 30th
Click here to register
Electric Vehicle Charging Station Pilot
With the rapidly growing use of Electric Vehicles (EVs) the City recognizes that EVs will occupy a major part in reaching our net zero greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions target by 2040. Transportation has a major part in producing GHG emissions (38%) in our City. Access to public electric vehicle charging, including on-street charging opportunities, is extremely important in facilitating the emerging EV market and ownership. The City has launched an Electric Vehicle Charging Station Pilot program to study the technical challenges associated with EV charging stations, review the impact on City road maintenance procedures and to assess the market demand for on-street EV charging stations. Specific areas of the City were chosen for the pilot program and a report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee was planned for September 2021. Unfortunately, with the Covid 19 pandemic taking place, this has resulted in a request from Toronto Hydro that the pilot be extended by eight months to May 31, 2022. This will allow for further data collection adjusted to recognize that the pandemic has impacted findings to date. This important initiative was reviewed at this week's Infrastructure and Environment Committee and we look forward to the report in May of this year. More information can be found at this link.
Commercial and Industrial Property Improvement Program opens for applications
The City of Toronto's new Commercial and Industrial Property Improvement Program is available to owners and tenants of commercial and industrial properties in Toronto to improve the appearance and/or function of the property's exterior spaces. Grants cover half the costs of eligible property or site improvements up to a maximum amount of $5,000. Additional grant funding of up to $2,500 is available for exterior accessibility improvements which meet Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) design standards. Applications will be accepted until June 30 or when funds are expended, whichever comes first. Download application form [PDF] and submit.
Retail Accelerator Program information sessions
Register for an upcoming virtual information session on January 17 or February 15 to learn more about the City of Toronto's Retail Accelerator Program and how to apply. Part of the Toronto Main Street Recovery and Rebuild Initiative, the new program provides access to retail training, advisory services and mentoring opportunities, as well as a micro grant of $10,000 to help retail businesses develop and expand.
TD Park People Grants Now Accepting Applications
Park People, which supports and mobilizes community parks groups, community organizers, non-profits, park professionals and funders who activate the power of parks, has begun accepting applications for a $2,000 grant to help build connections between people and parks. The grant is to support a vision for environmental education, sustainability and stewardship programs that help connect people to their local parks and green spaces. Information and the link to submit an application is below.
What: TD Park People Grants support activities that promote environmental education, sustainability and stewardship in Canada’s parks and green spaces.
When: Applications are open from January 10 to February 28, 2022. Grant recipients are announced in April and activities take place between April 16 and December 31 2022.
Who: Community groups from cities across the country including the Greater Toronto Area. A minimum of 50% of all grants will be given to underserved community groups, ensuring equity-seeking groups are involved in shaping the natural spaces that matter to them.
TTC to Host Additional Consultation on 5-Year Fare Policy Project
The TTC is continuing customer and public engagement with respect to the development of the TTC’s 5-Year Fare Policy project. Consultations have taken place over the past year and more are now being convened.
As the 5-Year Fare Policy project enters its final phase, the TTC will be hosting another round of public engagement activities. There are two further opportunities for the public to be involved:
- The TTC's third External Stakeholder Workshop for community organizations is scheduled for Tuesday, January 25, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
- Virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, February 2, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. – 8:30.p.m.
Interested participants can:
- Pre-register or attend on the date at this link
- Join by phone by calling +1 647-374-4685
Webinar ID: 616 7443 0748
The TTC has also created a link that provides background on their 5 year fare policy including York Regional Transit which can be found here.