The Cressy Courier January 31 - Staying Informed About Coronavirus, 2020 Budget Updates, and More

Dear friends,

As I’m sure you’re aware, there have been many headlines over the past number of days regarding the new novel coronavirus, most recently with the news yesterday that the World Health Organization has declared that coronavirus is an emergency of international concern.

While I understand that this news may cause some concern for Torontonians, it’s important to know that we have a strong and capable public health system in place for just this reason and the risk of contracting the virus in Toronto remains low.

There was also news earlier this week that there are two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Toronto. The individual with the second confirmed case recently travelled to Wuhan and is the spouse of the individual with the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. Since arriving in Toronto, this individual has been in self-isolation. Toronto Public Health continues to monitor the situation and provide updates. 

Toronto Public Health has a strong and experienced communicable disease surveillance program. They do this work each and every day. The TPH team is working with the affected individuals and their health care team to follow up with all known contacts who may have been exposed to the virus. TPH is coordinating closely with provincial and national health agencies, hospitals, airports, and community agencies.

As Chair of the Toronto Board of Health, I have full confidence in our Medical Officer of Health and the Toronto Public Health team and will continue to work closely with them to ensure the public remains protected and informed.

Unfortunately we were also made aware this week of a rise in xenophobia and discrimination towards Chinese Canadians in reaction to coronavirus news. We cannot allow this to continue. On Wednesday I joined community leaders, fellow Councillors, and Mayor Tory to speak out against this unacceptable reaction. As a city we must stand against all forms of discrimination, and work together to stop the spread of misinformation.  

Again, the risk of contracting the virus in Toronto remains low, and Toronto Public Health continues to work closely with provincial and national health agencies to monitor the situation. Residents should obtain updates and information directly from Toronto Public Health, which can be found online at toronto.ca/coronavirus.

 

Please read on below for local and city-wide updates, including information on the 2020 budget as we enter the wrap-up phase of that process.

 

Sincerely,

Joe


Staying Informed - Coronavirus Updates and Information 

As mentioned above, Toronto Public Health (TPH) is actively monitoring coronavirus and coordinating closely with provincial and federal health agencies, local hospitals, and other partners. TPH has a strong and experienced communicable disease surveillance program, and is well prepared to ensure the health of Toronto residents. It is a regular part of their everyday work to prepare for and respond to the appearance of new communicable diseases in our city, like this virus. If a new case of the virus appears in Toronto, TPH will notify the public without delay.

TPH is recommending that you take the normal steps to reduce the risk of transmitting the flu and other common respiratory illnesses, which are already prevalent in Toronto at this time of year:

  •   Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer,
  •   Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze,
  •   If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm,
  •   Stay at home if you are ill, and
  •   Get your yearly flu vaccine, available from clinics and pharmacies.

More information about coronavirus is available at toronto.ca/coronavirus

For the above TPH advice in simplified Chinese, click here. 
To view the latest TPH statement in simplified Chinese, click here. 


Toronto’s 2020 Budget


At its core, the annual budget debate is about people. Decisions made during the budget process immediately affect how we live in our city; how we interact with our parks and greenspaces; how we get around – whether on foot, bike, transit or car, and how we support each other. In this budget, we need to ask the critical questions – are we building a fair and supportive city?

Earlier this month I held a joint budget town hall with Councillors Wong-Tam and Layton in order to hear from our constituents on these very questions.

We heard loud and clear that Torontonians are ready to invest in our city again. We have all seen that over the last number of years, cracks have continued to grow in our city: a longer wait for affordable housing, an extra full bus or streetcar passing you by in rush hour, parks that just aren’t maintained like they used to be. It’s the cost of a low-tax city.

For years, we’ve demanded better. We hosted meetings, made deputations, and wrote op-ed’s. We made the case that to build the city we want and deserve, we must pay for it. 

Finally, last month Mayor John Tory introduced a motion at City Council to increase property taxes an additional eight per cent over the next six years to fund $6.6 billion in transit and housing.

For Torontonians who simply can’t afford longer waiting lists for childcare and affordable housing, or endless waits for the bus or subway to arrive, this was good news. For those of us who have long advocated to invest in our city again, this was a victory.

When we invest in the city, everyone wins. It means better public transit, better bike infrastructure, and better roads. It means better and more parks and community centres, active libraries and vibrant communities. And it means that the most vulnerable members of our community have access to the supports they need.

But this is just a start, and we have a long way to go.

Again this year I will be pushing for more measures to increase the City’s revenue, and to put those funds towards addressing the housing crisis, and investing in affordable and supportive housing. More information on these measures is included below.  

Toronto is a great city, there's no question about that.  But, in order to build a city for the future, we're going to need to invest again – in people, services, and infrastructure. Let's get it done, together.


Addressing Our City’s Housing Crisis - Housing paying for Housing and Introducing a Vacant Home Tax

On any given night, over 8,000 people rely on our shelters, emergency respites, overnight drop-ins, and Out of the Cold programs to find a safe place to spend the night. And, in a city that continues to become rapidly unaffordable, the cost of housing is skyrocketing.

There is no one solution to truly addressing homelessness. We need a continuum of programs and initiatives to create stable and supportive housing for every person in our city who needs it. 

One critical tool to addressing chronic homelessness is our city's Housing Allowance program. A housing allowance is a fixed-amount portable housing benefit that is provided directly to eligible households as a monthly benefit, ranging from $250-$600/month, to address homelessness, eviction prevention, and targeted households on the centralized waiting list. Shelter, Support and Housing Administration's 2014-2019 Housing Stability Plan points out that housing allowances are an important tool for the City to provide housing stability to homeless, vulnerable, and precariously housed populations in Toronto. The homelessness stream directly targets households experiencing chronic homelessness (that have been homeless for 6 months or more), who are connected to the program through our shelter and respite system, Streets to Homes workers, and community agencies.

Housing Allowances can be the difference between stable housing and an emergency shelter. Without new investment, thousands of households that might have been able to move out of homelessness with this crucial support will be unable to access it. For every additional investment of $1 million, approximately 200 new households could begin receiving a housing allowance. With 181,000 people on the waiting list for subsidized housing, 15,000 people on the waiting list for supportive housing, and a strained rental housing market, Toronto clearly needs to expand the delivery of housing allowances in 2019.  

It is critical that we review options to expand the delivery of housing allowances as an important initiative to address homelessness throughout our city. This is why I introduced a joint motion last year with Councillors Bailao and Bradford, asking City staff to report on funding options to increase the housing allowance program, including the establishment of a new top tier of the Municipal Land Transfer Tax (MLTT). 

In 2008, the City of Toronto implemented the MLTT. At the time housing, while expensive, hadn’t reached the levels it has today.

In 2010, only 171 residential properties were sold for more than $3 million. By 2018 that number had increased by 353 per cent to 774 properties. Meanwhile, the highest tier of the Municipal Land Transfer Tax is a 2.5 per cent tax on homes sold for more than $2 million.

It’s time for a modest adjustment to the MLTT program to reflect changes in housing prices, and to make housing more affordable for everyone.

If we were to establish a new MLTT rate of 3 per cent for homes sold for more than $3 million – a Housing Affordability Rate — Toronto would raise more than $5 million every year for 1000 new housing allowances. That’s 1,000 fewer people every year in our shelters, and instead in housing.

Simply put, people who are doing very well and have benefited from the rise in the housing market would in turn help to ensure that those Torontonians struggling to live here can afford a home. I will again be pushing for this adjustment to the MLTT program when City Council votes on the budget next month. 

Another important action that our city can take to address the housing crisis is to introduce a vacant home tax. This tool has already been used successfully in other cities. Vancouver’s 1% vacancy tax raised nearly $40 million in 2018, and the number of vacant units decreased by 22% from the previous year. Toronto has approximately three times as many residential units than Vancouver. Further, if revenue can be reinvested into affordable housing initiatives like it has been in Vancouver, we will increase both housing affordability and the number of homes that go back on the market.

We need to put the needs of residents before the needs of real estate investors who are making huge profits by sitting on empty units. We cannot wait - we need to do this now. Sign the petition by Progress Toronto to show your support for a vacant home tax and send a strong message to other Councillors and the Mayor. 


Advancing the Implementation of Rail Deck Park


You have to imagine the city you want before you can build it. Rail Deck Park is a once in a generation city-building opportunity to transform Toronto. We are now taking the critical next step in securing the first phase of Rail Deck Park -- making it a reality.

At this week’s meeting, City Council approved the recommendation from City staff to continue negotiations to acquire the air rights for the first 3 acres of Rail Deck Park, but also to initiate expropriation of this first phase – 3 acres above the Union Station Rail Corridor, between Spadina Avenue and Blue Jays Way – if negotiations remain unsuccessful. Combined with a private parkland proposal to the immediate east and the existing city-owned Northern Linear Park to the south, this acquisition of phase 1 of Rail Deck Park could mean 7 acres of new parkland above the rail corridor with construction starting as early as 2022.

Simply put, this Rail Deck Park approach means more parkland, faster.

Public spaces make cities liveable. In downtown Toronto, they are not only critical, they are desperately needed. In the next 25 years the population of downtown and the number of employees are both expected to roughly double, not to mention the increasing millions of annual visitors to destinations like the Rogers Centre, Aquarium, and central waterfront. Meanwhile downtown Toronto already has the lowest level of parkland in the entire city. For residents, for workers, and for visitors from across the country and around the world, Rail Deck Park will be transformational.

Young people understand the critical necessity to invest now in the future we want to create. They will live in the downtown Toronto that we imagine and plan today. I was proud to be joined by several students from Orde Street Public School this past Thursday at City Hall, to advocate for Rail Deck Park and to present their park designs to the mayor’s Executive Committee.  


Great cities invest in their future. Rail Deck Park is bold, it is ambitious, and it is necessary if we aspire to build a truly 21st Century city.  With this proposed next step, we can take one big step closer to getting it built.


Osler Playground Revitalization - Online Survey


With more and more people moving into the downtown core, it is critical to ensure that our green spaces function to meet the needs of all park users.

Osler Playground is an important green space in the Ossington neighbourhood, with many local residents who enjoy the park on a daily basis. Many families with young children and dogs share the space, so it is crucial that we ensure the safety of everyone in the park. Over the last few years, Councillor Mike Layton who previously represented the Osler Playground area, had been working with local residents on solutions for a dogs-off-leash area at Osler.

I was pleased to announce that we have been able to identify funding for a full-scale revitalization of Osler Playground, which will include the addition of a dogs-off-leash-area (DOLA), playground upgrades, track improvements and other water feature and park improvements. In addition to these improvements, a unique opportunity with Osler Playground is to collaborate with the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), who own a portion of the land where the track is currently situated. Through this partnership, we will be able to transform a portion of the school yard in order to expand the public park, and work with the community to create a new masterplan for this full-scale revitalization.

Late last year in partnership with City Parks staff, we hosted the first Community Visioning Session to start our work together in re-visioning this critical community space. Staff have now also launched an online survey to continue to gather community feedback.

To read more about the Osler Playground revitalization and complete the survey, click here!


Love Park at York Street Design Moves Ahead

Our brand new York Street Park, where the Gardiner loop ramp formerly stood, has been re-envisioned as a beautiful green oasis in our waterfront community. Landscape architects Claude Cormier + Associates submitted the winning design, “Love Park.” The design includes a large, shallow heart-shaped pond in the centre of the park surrounded by new and existing greenery, a small dog relief area, ample seating, and playful sculptures of Canadian wildlife animals.

On January 13th Waterfront Toronto and City of Toronto Parks staff held an information session on the exciting design for the new park at York Street. The board materials can be viewed here

Detailed design is now proceeding, and the project will be moving ahead to construction this year. The current timelines for completion are:

Detailed design and tender: Early-mid 2020
Construction begins: Late 2020
Construction completed: Spring 2022


Ontario Line Information Sessions

Over the past number of months, our city’s transit planning has been plunged into chaos by the Provincial government, which announced a planned upload of the city’s subway system and a new transit expansion with the Ontario Line, instead of the Relief Line. Earlier this fall, City Council supported the plan put forward by the province and City staff to move forward with the Ontario Line instead of the Relief Line, while simultaneously cancelling plans to upload to the TTC to the province.

While some aspects of the new line remain the same as the Relief Line, there are changes and additions to the Ontario Line within our Ward 10 communities, including: changes to the previously planned Relief Line stops between the Don River and Yonge Street; the intention for underground stops at Queen and Bathurst and King and Bathurst; and above ground sections in two areas in Ward 10 (east of the Don River in Ward 14 continuing to west of the Don River, and from somewhere west of Bathurst and near Front Street to Exhibition Place/Ontario Place - the exact location is unclear and yet to be determined).

There are some positive components of the plan: new transit for our rapidly growing neighbourhoods, inter-governmental commitment of funding for relief for Line 1 (including the expansion north of the Danforth), and the cancellation of the upload. However, I remain concerned with the details and with the many unanswered questions that remain, including final routes and alignments, technology, fare integration, future operations and funding, community consultation, above-ground sections, and more.

To respond to these concerns, a number of things have been added for consideration during next steps with Metrolinx, the Provincial transit agency responsible for the planning and construction of any new Ontario Line. These include: mitigating potential local impacts and reviewing potential impacts of the above-ground sections (including constructability), ensuring full and affordable fare integration between all lines and technologies - especially critical for our Liberty Village and Fort York communities, prioritizing affordable housing as part of any transit-oriented residential development, and more. Read more on my website here.

Recent information sessions

Metrolinx held information sessions on the proposed Ontario Line toward the end of January. Many members of our community attended to ask questions and raise concerns. If you could not attend any of the meeting in person, you can download the presentation materials here: https://www.metrolinxengage.com/en/engagement-initiatives/ontario-line-open-houses.

Metrolinx has promised a further round of public meetings in the spring of this year.

New: More Provincial Changes Expected

City of Toronto staff submitted a new report to the recent meeting of City Council with an update on the status of discussions with the Province about how the Ontario Line and other transit projects will be planned and built in our city. This new information is extremely concerning.

The Province has indicated that new legislation will be introduced at Queens Park this winter that they claim will speed up the construction of transit projects. There are few details at this time, but City staff understand that the legislation may affect how much study and consultation is required prior to final approval, how private land is expropriated by the Province to build the transit projects, how underground utilities are physically relocated, and what the Province can do in terms of construction in the City's public roadways. There is a risk that these changes could reduce the quality of planning and public oversight of decision-making on the Ontario Line, and limit how much protection affected communities have from construction and operation decisions by the Province.

In addition, the Province is pursuing "Transit-Oriented Development" (TOD) at new rapid transit stations, including along the Ontario Line, with the goal of using private development to offset some of the cost to the Province. In principle, adding more homes and jobs near rapid transit is a good idea because it means fewer people using cars that contribute to climate change. But as is the case with all new development, getting the planning details right in collaboration with the local community is extremely important, along with ensuring that new development is matched by adequate investments in infrastructure – including water, sewer, electricity, schools, community centres, libraries, and parks. Considering the way that the Province recently unilaterally removed the policies protecting good planning and adequate infrastructure from our new Downtown Plan, we must remain alert and prepared to take action as more details emerge in 2020.


Digital Infrastructure Working Principles report

Cities are at the forefront of technology innovation. They are also the closest democratic institution to people. It’s time for Toronto to lead the global conversation on data, digital governance, and smart cities.

Last year Councillor Ainslie and I moved a motion directing city staff to develop a Data, Digital Governance, and Smart Cities policy framework and governance plan. At this week’s meeting, City Council approved Draft Working Principles for our city’s Digital Infrastructure Plan, as recommended by City staff, placing Toronto at the global forefront of ensuring that technology innovation serves the public interest. Grounded in public consultation and thorough research, five overarching Working Principles are now the guiding part of the Plan: equity and inclusion; a well-run City; social, economic & environmental benefits; privacy and security; and democracy and transparency. Following City Council approval, these working principles will immediately begin to be applied to all of the City's decision-making. In parallel, City staff will advance to the second phase of this work, turning the Working Principles into a draft Digital Infrastructure Plan for further consultation, and approval in 2021.

As technology advances, the collection of personal data is becoming commonplace in everyday life. Smart Cities – urban areas that use technology and data collection in order to manage resources, infrastructure, and day-to-day operations – are just one example of the increasing interconnectedness of technological advancement and cities. To date, the private sector has led the conversation on digital governance. Now, the City of Toronto is stepping up to provide leadership and protect the broader public interest in an area where governments must.

This is the starting point. Toronto should aspire to lead the global conversation on digital infrastructure & governance. We must develop a model that instills trust in the residents we serve. Over the coming months we’ll develop a plan to do just that.


The Fife and Drum - new issue

The Fife and Drum is the newsletter of the Friends of Fort York and Garrison Common. To read the latest issue for December 2019, please visit https://www.fortyork.ca/resources/newsletter-archive.html.

Contents include new information about the “CityPlace schooner,” wartime industries that surrounded the Fort, and a 108-year old recipe for macaroni and cheese.


Winterlicious reservations open now


You can now make reservations at more than 200 participating Toronto restaurants for this year’s edition of Winterlicious, running January 31 to February 13. 

Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made online or by telephone directly with the restaurants. Three-course prix fixe lunch menus are priced at $23, $28 and $33, and dinner is priced at $33, $43 and $53. The list of participating restaurants, and their menus, are available at http://www.toronto.ca/winterlicious


Avoiding Frozen Water Pipes

You can take steps to help avoid the freezing of water pipes in your home during winter weather. Frozen pipes can leave you with no water or cause your pipes to burst, which can cause expensive damage.

Visit www.toronto.ca/frozenpipes to learn more about how to avoid frozen pipes, and for advice on what to do if your pipes freeze.


New “No Water Map” Interactive Web Page

The City has created a new interactive web page to help give you quick access to emergency and planned water service disruption information. If you’re experiencing no water services to your home or property, you can visit the web page and navigate to your area or search by address to find out the cause and estimated restoration time. 

Visit www.toronto.ca/nowater to use the No Water Map.


Not Down the Drain

Do you know what can and can’t go down your drain? Putting the wrong things in your pipes can cause basement flooding, pollute rivers and Lake Ontario, and clog municipal pipes.

To help keep pipes working well, please do not flush or put the following products down the drain:

  • Hygiene products (i.e. sanitary supplies, condoms, wipes).
  • Fats, oils and cooking grease.
  • Medication (i.e. pills or liquid).
  • Household hazardous waste (i.e. paints, pesticides, cleaning products).

For more information, please visit http://www.toronto.ca/notdownthedrain


Public Meetings & Community Events

 

Marine Use Strategy Public Information Meeting
Monday, February 3rd
6:00pm-8:30pm drop-in
6:30pm presentation
Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West, Brigantine Room
Come by to provide your feedback to update the Marine Use Strategy. A collaboration with Ports Toronto, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and the City of Toronto, this strategy will be used to guide the planning and design of future shoreline improvements. The current focus of this study is Toronto’s Inner Harbour, which includes a balance of commercial shipping, cruise ships and tour boats, recreational water-related uses and water-based transportation.


Development Public Meeting for 462 Wellington Street West
Thursday, February 6
6:30-7pm (Open House)
7-8pm (Presentation/Q & A)
City Hall, 100 Queen St W, Committee Room 2
The Toronto City Planning Division is hosting a meeting to discuss a proposed 17-storey (63.0 metres) mixed-use building with retail, office and retirement residential uses, including independent, assisted living and memory care units. The proposed development would conserve the existing heritage building on the site. View the meeting notice here.


LOOP
January 15 - February 9, 2020 9AM-10PM
York Street Park (corner of York Street & Queens Quay)
A popular winter festival by the waterfront, presented by Winter Stations, LOOP is a much-needed splash of colour and fun. LOOP is a public art exhibit that’s free, family friendly and interactive to enjoy the outdoors. This year’s installation is a retro-futuristic playground, that’s a cross between a music box, zoetrope, and a railway handcar. Visitors can hop two at a time into one of the six illuminated cylinders and pump a lever to activate the music and lit up animated fairy tales.


DJ Skate Nights
Saturdays until February 15, 2019
Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West)
Sharpen your skates and skills as Toronto’s number one outdoor winter party returns with another stellar lineup of DJs that will bring the heat to your Saturday nights. Visit the website here


Sugar Shack TO
Saturday March 14 - Sunday March 15, 11am-5pm
Sugar Beach , 11 Dockside Drive
Tap into your inner Canadian this March break at the 5th annual Sugar Shack TO, presented by Redpath. From March 14-15, Sugar Beach will be transformed into a maple wonderland that will include; two sugar shacks, ice activities, delicious maple-infused food, a Lumberjack show, fire pits and much more. Visit the website here


Get in Touch with Trustee Stephanie Donaldson

Municipal Ward 10 (Spadina-Fort York) is part of TDSB Ward 9, Davenport and Spadina-Fort York. Stephanie Donaldson is the School Board Trustee for TDSB Ward 9. Stay up to date and get in touch with her here.


Follow Joe