City Hall & Community Update

If someone had asked me even a couple of months ago whether I thought "defunding the police" was a sound policy choice, I would have likely dismissed it as radical without thinking it was worth much thought. I had also heard of efficiencies, and reallocation, but “defund” was not a word I was accustomed to.

I certainly believed I had been doing my best to listen to members of marginalized communities about their different experiences with the police. But only recently have I really heard, and better understood, what they’ve been saying. It’s been a journey. Defund is the word they’ve used. I decided to be an active listener.

I had taken for granted that when I walk in my neighbourhood at night, I don’t even consider the possibility that I would ever be stopped and asked where I was going. Far too many members of our community, including Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, don't have that privilege.

Seeing the killing of George Floyd, and then hearing from Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in Toronto about how similar experiences aren't confined to the United States, has opened my eyes.

Whether it be unjustified brutality, or the wrong response to someone suffering from mental illness, Dafonte Miller, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Ejaz Choudry, Andrew Loku, Sammy Yatim, D'Andre Campbell, Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan, Jermaine Carby, Ian Pryce, and Junior Manon are just the most recent victims locally.

Black people are 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police in Toronto than white residents. Despite making up only 10% of our city’s residents, Black Torontonians were victims in 61% of all cases where police used force that resulted in death and 70% of all shooting deaths.

Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour are telling us that the current model of policing is the result of, and reinforces, systemic racism in our city. They are asking us to defund the police and reallocate that money toward community supports and alternatives to policing - and the evidence tells us they're right.

New York implemented a community-based public health approach to policing termed "Cure Violence" in 2015. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that gun injuries were down 36% in the South Bronx and 50% in Brooklyn as compared to control areas with similar demographics during the same period.

Research from NYU shows that, in a hypothetical city of 100,000 people, "each new non-profit community organization created directly leads to a 1.2 percent drop in the homicide rate, a one percent reduction in the violent crime rate, and a 0.7 percent reduction in the property crime rate".

More importantly, we need to rethink what it means when we talk about keeping communities safe.

For instance, the Chicago heatwave of 1995 killed 739 people – mostly lower income, Black residents of the south side of Chicago. Erik Klinenberg, author of Palaces for the People, found that certain areas within the South Side of Chicago had similar outcomes during the heat wave as affluent areas.

These areas with fewer deaths had more community institutions such as libraries and community centres. These supports had built resiliency within these areas – neighbours knew one another and checked on the elderly and other vulnerable neighbours.

By investing in these communities we will make them holistically safer so that residents will not only be less likely to be a victim of crime but are able to thrive. That's why I moved a motion at Council that led to the creation of the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy and have been advocating for youth hubs since 2013.

Studies such as the seminal Roots of Youth Violence Report by Dr. Alvin Curling and Justice Roy McMurtry in 2009 showed that programs that offer skills training, trauma counselling, recreation activities, and mentoring can reduce crime over the long-term, and also offer vulnerable young people opportunities to succeed.

While the evidence is clear that investing in communities reduces crime and improves resiliency, there's absolutely no evidence to suggest that the number of officers or the amount we invest into police has any effect on crime.

Between 2001 and 2012 the number of Toronto police officers per capita declined five per cent, while crime in the city dropped 41 per cent.

Further, we are asking police to do too many tasks that they are ill-equipped to perform. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police estimates that up to 80% of calls to the Police are "not related to offences reported as criminal, but are related to social disorder, mental health and other issues." Police in our community have told me that they are asked to be youth workers, addiction counsellors, and mental health professionals despite insufficient training to deal with these issues.

Over the last couple of decades there has been a significant reduction in funding for critical mental health supports, social housing, school and municipal-based recreation programs, social assistance and other community supports. As a result, individuals suffering from mental health and addiction issues, youth-at-risk, those experiencing homelessness, and low-income individuals have become increasingly marginalized.

Successive governments have chosen to increase police budgets and criminalize these vulnerable populations instead of re-investing in after school programs for young people or adequately addressing the challenges faced by those living in poverty. Police officers are not provided the adequate training or resources necessary to meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we are asking them to deal with. By making vulnerable residents law enforcement's "problem" we are too often putting police and these residents in difficult situations with devastating results.

One of the reasons I believe governments continue to increase the police budget is that it’s easier to announce that a certain number of police officers have been hired, or CCTVs have been purchased, rather than to demonstrate within an electoral cycle the improvements made to community safety by investing in our youth and provide them opportunities to choose the right path in the first place. It’s also hard for many of us, who grew up with TV shows and movies featuring police, to understand that somehow the status quo isn’t the way things are meant to be.

I believe we can be courageous, and most importantly fact-based, and create alternatives to status quo policing that will make communities more resilient and safer for all of us, including Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.

Professionals trained in supporting youth-at-risk, people experiencing homelessness, individuals suffering from mental health crises and addictions, should be addressing the needs of these vulnerable populations instead of them being criminalized, or even brutalized.

One model that Toronto will look to emulate as a result of a successful motion at this week's Council meeting is the CAHOOTS program that has been operating since 1989 in Oregon. The program sees teams of medical professional and crisis workers provide first aid in case of urgent medical need or psychological crisis. They assess, provide information, referrals, advocate for people and even bring them to other non-profits where they can get additional support. Last year, CAHOOTS were called to deal with crises about 24,000 times and only needed to call 911 for police back-up 150 times, or .6% of all calls. Pilot programs of the CAHOOTS model have been established, in part, in Oakland, New York City, and Denver.

However, if we are to support alternative models like CAHOOTS, they need to be funded.

That's why I moved a motion, with my colleague Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, to defund the police budget by a minimum of 10% and reallocate those funds to professionals who are trained in deescalating and supporting residents in mental health crisis, youth at risk, sex workers, homeless involved individuals, those suffering from addiction, and other vulnerable populations.

While New York City's Mayor made a commitment this past weekend to reallocate $1 billion from the police budget toward community safety alternatives and Los Angeles City Council voted 12-2 to defund the police by $150 million and re-invest that money toward social services, Toronto City Council unfortunately didn't follow suit.

Instead, Council chose to support the Mayor's motion, which contained a number of positive reforms that I supported. However, his motion did not fundamentally address the changes to community safety that are needed and actually increased the police budget through the purchase of body worn cameras, despite little evidence of their effectiveness. In fact, an article released in March 2019 in the Journal of Criminology and Public Policy that reviewed 70 empirical studies found that body cameras have not had statistically significant or consistent effects on most measures of officer behaviour nor on citizens’ views of police.

While my initiative to reallocate a portion of the budget didn’t happen this year, I'm happy to report that my motion to wrest control over the police budget was supported by Council.

By provincial statute, City Council is tasked to fund the preponderance of the police budget, the largest single line item in Toronto‘s operating budget. However, at present, City Council only has purview over the budget envelope that is provided to the Toronto Police Service.

As a result of provincial legislation, Council cannot direct how the funds the City provides are spent, nor does it even see a line-by-line budget. It is time for this absurd and unaccountable situation to change.

I deeply appreciate all the letters of advocacy many of you sent in the last month to the Mayor and other members of Council expressing your support for positive change.

It seems very unlikely that the status quo approach to community safety will look the same in 10 years and society is moving in the direction of community-led alternatives to policing. We are just starting on this path.

I look forward to speaking with many of you over the coming weeks and months about how we can build an improved and more sustainable model for community safety that supports every Torontonian. And we will.

City of Toronto Makes Masks or Face Coverings Mandatory in Enclosed Public Spaces: 

Masks or face coverings are mandatory in all enclosed public places as of July 7th to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The measure was based on advice from the Medical Officer of Health, who recommended Council use its authority to legislate for the protection of the health, safety and well-being of persons in Toronto to enact a temporary by-law requiring businesses and facilities to have a policy that ensures masks or face coverings are worn by the public in the enclosed spaces under their control to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests the use of masks and face coverings will help control the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is spread through contact with the respiratory droplets produced by someone who is infected when they cough, sneeze, or even when they laugh or speak, including by individuals who may not have symptoms – known as being asymptomatic. Evidence suggests wearing a mask reduces the likelihood of droplets infecting those around an individual.

The new bylaw will apply to all indoor spaces that are openly accessible to the public, including:

  • retail stores

  • convenience stores

  • malls, shopping plazas

  • grocery stores, bakeries, farmer's markets (enclosed areas)

  • restaurants, bars (when permitted to open for indoor service)

  • indoor recreational facilities, gyms, swimming pools (when permitted to open)

  • libraries

  • community centres

  • community service agencies

  • personal service settings

  • churches, mosque, synagogue, temples and faith settings

  • art galleries, museums, aquariums, zoos

  • banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums, and other event spaces

  • real estate facilities such as open house, presentation centres

  • common areas in hotels, motels and short-term rentals (e.g. lobbies, elevators, meeting rooms)

  • entertainment facilities including concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos

  • business offices open to the public

The by-law will include exemptions for those who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, children under the age of two, and other reasonable accommodations. The by-law will also permit the temporary removal of a mask or face covering when receiving services, having a meal, or engaging in athletic or fitness activity. The by-law will not apply to apartment buildings and condominiums, child care facilities and schools, and areas that are not enclosed (i.e. restaurant patios).

Prior to Council's decision, the TTC Board had voted to make masks or face coverings on TTC vehicles and premises as of July 2. Face masks and coverings do not replace the need to keep a distance of six feet from others, wash hands often, and stay home when sick. A fact sheet on how to properly and safely wear and care for a non-medical mask is available here.

Fore more details, please click here.

Health and Safety Measures Approved to Protect Residents of Apartment Buildings from COVID-19:

At the beginning of the pandemic in Toronto, I worked with the Mayor, the Medical Office of Health and the Executive Director of Municipal Licensing and Standards, on new health and safety guidelines and a rigorous cleaning routine to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for residents in apartment buildings.

Unfortunately, several months later, those that were applauding the City's initiative to protect tenants from COVID-19 are now reporting that very little has been done to implement these critical guidelines. In a recent poll, the Federation of Metro Toronto Tenants' Associations (FMTA) found that 50% of landlords had not provided any new cleaning practices to address COVID-19.

Of further concern, in response to COVID-19 concerns in their community, residents of Crescent Town in East York engaged in a building clean-up and posted signage throughout the complex encouraging residents to practice social distancing and hygiene. The landlord took down the signs within a few days.

It has become clear that landlords are not voluntarily complying with the guidelines established by the City to protect tenants. This is particularly concerning in light of recent data released by Toronto Public Health showing that the majority of new "sporadic", or community, cases are occurring in low-income neighbourhoods with a significant percentage of racialized people that disproportionately work outside of the home in congregate settings. These areas tend to be dominated by high rise apartments.

Social distancing is difficult in vertical communities. That's why I'm pleased to report that my motion requiring Landlords to adopt rigorous hygiene and cleaning regimens was supported at Council this week. The new rules, which will come into effect on July 15, requires Landlords to:

  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer or a hand washing station with soap and water at building entrances and common areas that remain open such as laundry areas.

  • Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces in common areas, including doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, toilet handles, counters, hand rails, touch screen surfaces and keypads, with common household cleaners and disinfectants.

  • Post signage as recommended by the Medical Officer of Health

For more information, please see this article

City Council Urges Province to Support Toronto Tenants During the COVID-19 Pandemic: 

The Provincial government needs to provide support for tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to lost income because of the COVID – 19 crisis. Renters and Landlords in Ontario are in need of assistance to ensure that they are not in financial ruin when the crisis is over.

It is unacceptable that renters have been completely left out of provincial support plans in Ontario. Even with federal government income assistance, far too many tenants are being forced to choose between paying rent and buying groceries. The average rent for a new 1 bedroom is now $2,250, more than the $2,000 monthly CERB payment from the federal government.

While eviction orders are frozen during the course of the pandemic, Landlords are still allowed to proceed with eviction notices (N4s). Far too many renters have had their housing threatened during this pandemic. The province's formal advice for tenants to "speak to your landlord about whether rent can be postponed or if other payment arrangements can be agreed to," has not proven effective.

To make matters worse, the province has moved forward with Bill 184 which, if passed, will make it easier for Landlords to evict tenants once the Landlord and Tenant Board resumes operation.

That's why I'm pleased my motion urging the Province of Ontario to provide a clear strategy to support tenants was supported at Council. The motion requested to provincial government to:

  • Provide rent forgiveness for vulnerable tenants: Offset payments for Landlords to forgive rent for tenants who now qualify for federal income supports. Deferrals could lead to mass evictions and financial ruin when the COVID – 19 crisis is over.

  • Ban COVID-19 evictions and eviction notices: No one should lose their housing due to job loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, while eviction orders have been suspended, landlords are still allowed to file eviction notices and are "entitled to collect compensation from a tenant for each day an eviction order is not enforced," according to the province. If allowed to continue, this measure will leave a threat of eviction over the heads of tenants; exacerbating a public health and financial crisis.

  • Not allow rent increases: Many Landlords are still issuing Guideline and even Above the Guideline Rent Increases (AGIs). There should be a pause on these increases during the course of the pandemic.

Many renters have done their part by staying home – the province must now do their part to support tenants.

Council Fails to Stand-Up for Rent Controls on City-Owned Land:

Early last year, Council approved 11 City-owned sites for development as part of the Housing Now program. During the debate, I moved a motion to ensure that the tenants in these new developments would be protected from the provincial government’s changes to the Residential Tenancies Act that exempted all new apartments from rent control. Unfortunately, this motion was not approved.

This motion was necessary as the the current Government of Ontario brought back exemptions to new rental units from rent control in November of 2018. Tenants living in rental units built after this date are not protected from rent increases above the mandated inflationary cap that applies to all other renters in the province.

After a building in Weston that had received City money raised rents over 20%, City Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of requesting the province to provide rent control for all tenants, not only because the exemption is unfair to already overburdened tenants, but the move is also unnecessary. Claims that returning the loophole will increase apartment supply, eventually leading to lower rents, are not supported by evidence.

According to Urbanation, a leading condo & rental market analysis firm, the rental construction rate in 2018, prior to the exemption from rent control being re-instated, was the highest seen in at least 30 years:

  • new purpose-built rental construction surged in Q2 2018, with 2,635 starts recorded during the quarter, raising the total inventory under construction to 11,073 units, 69% higher than Q2-2017 (6,539) before the loophole was closed

  • The inventory of rentals underway in 2018 was higher than all units in apartments built since 2005 (10,871).

  • During Q2-2018, new applications totaling 5,920 units were proposed for purpose-built rental development, nearly 3.5 times greater than the number of new units proposed during Q2-2017 (1,719)

  • As of Q2-2018, the inventory of proposed purpose-built rentals totaled 120 projects and 37,403 units, nearly doubling in size over the past two years to reach the highest level recorded by Urbanation since tracking began in Q1-2015.

This recent data showing that the removal of rent control has little effect on rental housing starts follows the longer term trends in Ontario. Purpose-built rental provision per capita continued to fall even after the Mike Harris government eliminated rent controls for units built after 1991, as the CMHC chart below demonstrates.

Rent controls have little effect on rental housing starts because developers and Landlords are still able to set their initial rent at whatever amount they choose. Moreover, in addition to an annual guideline increase, Landlords are able to have tenants pay for capital repairs through Above the Guideline Rent Increases and are able to charge a higher amount when a tenant leaves through vacancy decontrol. A 2 percent increase above the inflationary guideline just provides an unnecessary cash grab for Landlords.

Toronto City Council took a strong stand to demand that the Provincial government only allow inflationary rent increases in new builds. Unfortunately, the Mayor and a majority of my colleagues did not follow their own advice on land that we control and voted against my motion to protect tenants with rent control.

Council Stands up for Toronto residents against Construction Noise:

As part of the Provincial government's emergency orders to address COVID-19, THE City of Toronto Act was amended to allow for any "construction activity in the City between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m."  This represents a significant departure from the City's by-laws, which permit noise from construction between 7 am to 7pm from Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm on Saturdays, and not at all on Sunday.

I have heard from many of you that the constant noise during unreasonable hours has had a significant impact on your quality of life. That's why I'm pleased to report that Council supported my motion to request the province to rescind Limitation 2 to Ontario Regulation 130/20 , enacted April 7, 2020, which took away the allowance of the City to regulate or prohibit noise in connection with construction to the detriment of our residents.

It is now up to the Premier to do the right thing for Toronto residents.

Pools and Splash Pads Reopen:

Parks, Forestry & Recreation staff reopened most of the City's outdoor pools and all 140 splash pads last week.  The fifteen outdoor pools that opened include:
•    McGregor Park
•    Heron Park
•    Parkway Forest
•    Goulding Park
•    Oriole Park
•    Stanley Park
•    Sunnyside – Gus Ryder
•    Riverdale Park East
•    Alex Duff Memorial
•    Greenwood Park
•    O'Connor
•    West Mall
•    Pine Point
•    Rotary Peace Park
•    Domenico DiLuca

Fore more details, please click here.

A Call to Reform Ontario's Long Term Care Homes:

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been particularly devastating to our elder population, especially in long term care homes where, in too many cases, it has been running rampant. As Toronto's Seniors Advocate, I moved a motion at City Council to better support and help ensure that an outbreak of this magnitude never happens again to seniors and those living with accessibility challenges in our province. I'm pleased to announce that my motion was adopted and I'll be sure to keep you updated on next steps. Thank you to all those that wrote letters of support!

We owe it to our long term care homes staff and residents, along with their families and friends, to take the necessary steps to ensure that they are provided the highest standards of safety and care. Those who we’ve lost to COVID-19 deserve nothing less than transformational change. Let this be their legacy.

As many of you may already know, the Province announced that family and friends will be allowed access to long-term care homes, retirement homes, and other residential care settings beginning June 18, 2020. Long-term care homes will allow outdoor visits of one person per resident each week at a minimum. Retirement homes will resume indoor and outdoor visits in designated areas or resident suites when physical distancing can be maintained. Other residential care settings will be able to allow outdoor visits of two people at time. Physical distancing will be required for all visits. This approach will ensure the health and safety of residents, staff and visitors.

Support Needed for Small & Medium Sized Business Owners and Landlords: 

I speak with small and medium sized business owners every day of this crisis, and many of of them are financially devastated. The challenges and struggles that our local businesses face demonstrate the need for every level of government to step up to support them.

Our community's business owners have been trying to the best of their abilities to adapt to our constantly changing environment. While our favorite local shops are working to protect our health and safety, let's shop local to support them. We need our main streets to survive this pandemic. Please join me in sharing the following graphic with your family, friends and neighbors to remind them to shop local and use the hashtag: #SaveMidtownMainStreets.

Moratorium on Commercial Evictions:
After months of advocacy to the Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction- Minister Sakaria (please see my letter here), the Ontario government finally proposed a temporary ban on commercial evictions. For more details, please click here. This is a major win for small businesses across our City!

Placing a Pause on New Cannabis Shop Licence Applications:
At last months City Council meeting, I was happy to support my colleague Councillor Mike Colle in moving a motion that requests the Province, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, to put a pause on new Cannabis shop licence applications filed after March 15 when the COVID-19 Pandemic was declared, until City of Toronto residents are able to have input and be properly consulted during the 15 day public notice period, as promised by the legislation. Stay tuned for updates on this.

Ontario Supporting Indigenous-Owned Businesses During COVID-19:
The Provincial government is providing up to $10 million to Indigenous-owned small and medium sized businesses to help them with much needed capital as the province begins to safely and gradually reopen the economy. Loans of up to $50,000 will be available to businesses that are either ineligible for, or unable to access, existing federal and provincial COVID-19 response initiatives for small businesses. The funding is being delivered through the Support for People and Jobs Fund. For more details, please click here.

Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses Releases Comprehensive FAQ:
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is the country’s champion of small business. With over 110,000 members, they're Canada’s largest non-profit organization devoted to creating and supporting an environment where your business can succeed. Check out their comprehensive FAQ for small businesses here

To learn more about the supports offered to small businesses, please check out my e-newsletter .

CaféTO: Summer Patios for 2020:

This week, City Council approved the CaféTO program, which aims to provide more outdoor dining areas to help some restaurants and bars create physical distancing for patrons on patios during the summer months. You may have already noticed patios opening up both in our ward as well as across the city, but those are only the patios that had been approved prior to 2020. This program aims to provide more options to businesses that have not had patios before. There are several patio options that you will see taking shape on our streets and sidewalks – for more detail, please see the CaféTO program website at this link, which features useful graphics as well as Guidebook.

I wanted to take this opportunity to support and promote our local BIAs and their businesses, and share what they have been doing to adjust to this new reality we are all living in. As the Council program just got approved this week, the on-site inspections and logistical determinations of each site are underway so we do not have an exact list of all the locations where the program will take place. My team will make sure to share that information as it becomes available.

For the time being, the Yonge + St Clair BIA has already shared some patio updates, highlighting the already open six patios, and pending further approvals and installations through CaféTO. You can see more location-specific information at the link here.

The Forest Hill Village BIA also has several CaféTO patios open already, and invite you to join and enjoy some Al Fresco Dining in the Village. They will also have some live solo acoustic musicians over the course of the summer on Friday and Saturday evenings during dinner service. You can see more detail about this and upcoming patio openings at the link here.

If you are interested in supporting our local businesses and BIAs, you can find a map of the BIAs in our ward at this link, along with contact information.

Josh at the CafeTO patios open in the Forest Hill Village BIA

Check Out What's Open in Toronto-St. Paul's and Find Out How to Donate to Your Favourite Business!:

Our Toronto-St. Paul's community is home to some of the most unique and remarkable shops, bars and restaurants. Many of them do online sales and food take out and delivery. The following BIAs have put together a list of businesses that remain open amidst this crisis- Dupont By the Castle BIAOakwood Village BIAEglinton Way BIAMt. Pleasant Village BIA ,Yonge+St.Clair BIAYork-Eglinton BIAMidtown Yonge BIAUptown YongeUpper Village BIARosedale Main StreetWychwood Heights BIAHillcrest Village BIA and Forest Hill Village BIA.

In case you're looking for a way to support your favourite local shop right at home, you may want to consider making a monetary donation to them (if they're listed) on Distantly. For business owners looking to create a profile, you may do so by clicking "Add My Business", located on the top right section of their home webpage.

Photo of The Rose and Crown patio located at 2335 Yonge St, taken by Josh

Shop & Win with the Hillcrest Village BIA:

Thanks to two local Moms-Kim Lesperance and Mary Pattison, a contest sponsored by the Hillcrest Village BIA and others, has been created in support of the St.Clair businesses from Bathurst to Dufferin to Davenport! Shop local and post your receipt on the contest's website for your chance to win $1000. For more details, check out their website here.

Update on St. Mike’s Site (1467 Bathurst Street):

The northeast corner of Bathurst and St. Clair West has sat fenced off and vacant for many years after a large, monolithic redevelopment proposal, approved through the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in 1998, never came to fruition. Ownership changed hands, the site was reconfigured, and a new application was submitted to the City in 2017.

In 2018, I became the area’s new City Councillor and heard from many local residents that they were not satisfied with Kingsett’s (the developer) new vision for this important intersection in our community. These concerns included the height and density, resulting traffic impacts adding to existing congestion, lack of green and open space, the need for community space and real affordable housing, as well as legacy environmental issues from the former gas station. In addition, you expressed very valid concerns over future, ad-hoc redevelopment pressure and the need to create a vision that is actually informed by the community, and not by the whims of developers.

One of the first things I did as the new Councillor, was to direct the City to work with residents on creating the first comprehensive planning document for the Bathurst and St. Clair Community (completed plan here). This plan sets goals and principles, that while recognizing we cannot completely stop new provincially mandated growth around St. Clair West Station, it must be supported by a remarkable public realm, open space and well-designed buildings. Affordable housing and community services must be a component to any new development, our main streets must remain vibrant and attractive, and the adjacent natural environment must be protected.

This new plan, along with the community working group who met five times to review different components of the plan, helped inform the changes that led to the revised proposal we met at a well-attended public meeting at the Forest Hill Jewish Community Centre about this past December.

Through my discussions with city planning staff during this process it became very clear that due to the OMB-approved heights and densities approved in the 1990s, and subsequent provincial growth policies, multiple tall buildings were permitted on this site. Recognizing that the question of whether a large development would be approved had already been decided by the OMB, our focus remained on how to ensure that the development itself would ultimately contribute to the local neighbourhood’s quality of life.

I worked with the working group, other community stakeholders and city planning and community facilities staff to achieve:

  • A non-profit childcare facility

  • A community agency space for a future seniors’ centre

  • In addition, a 772 m2 city park, a 640 m2 Publically Accessible Open Space (POPS) resulting in nearly double the open space on site

  • 9m wide sidewalks on St. Clair and nearly double the current width of sidewalk which is currently on Bathurst

  • a mid-block  pedestrian path that will finally connect St Clair and Heath

  • some mix of affordable rental housing units

  •  a city-led process to review any potential environmental and ravine impacts from the former gas station

  • a traffic impact and mitigation study will be undertaken concurrent to future review of this proposal

City Planning staff wrote a final report for April Community Council, recommending approval. Given that reality, and while I‘m still not satisfied with the heights of the buildings, I know in good conscience that if the new proposal had been rejected, the development would’ve certainly been approved by the provincial appeals body and most likely without the many important community benefits we achieved.

Although Council has approved it to protect the gains we made, I remain concerned about the impact on traffic that this, along with cumulative development pressures in the area, will have on our ability to move around Midtown. I'm working closely with local residents associations, other residents and city staff, to focus on this priority before the site plan is approved.

If you would like to be involved in this process, or have any questions, please feel welcome to email the city planner at [email protected] and/or my office.

Online Community Meeting to Discuss the Development Proposal for One Delisle:

While much of the world has been put on hold, the development review and approval process has been pushed forward by the provincial government and we are faced with making an important decision for the future of our Yonge & St. Clair community.

Please join me on Tuesday, July 7th at 6:30pm for an online Town Hall. To access the meeting details, and more information about why I am holding this meeting, please visit my website at

Toronto Enters Stage 2 of the Province’s Reopening:

As many of you know, last week, the City of Toronto entered Stage 2 of reopening. This meant the safe restart of some services and businesses including restaurants and bars with patios, personal care services, shopping malls and select recreational spaces such as splash pads and pools. For more details, please click here.

Frankel-Lambert Park Mural:

I was thrilled to be able to visit the new mural that I supported through Section 37 development funds in Frankel-Lambert Park this week. Local artist Paula Gonzalez spearheaded the project and worked with a team of local artists to beautify the wall on the south side of the park with the support of the Frankel-Lambert Outreach Committee, City of Toronto Parks, and the Fred Dowling Housing Co-op. I was very pleased to be able to make a dedication of Section 37 funds to provide an honorarium for the artists. The mural also includes a dedication to the late Peter Mackenzie, a staff member of Toronto Parks who took great care of the Frankel-Lambert Park for many years. It’s a true example of community collaboration and care and I encourage you to take a walk through Frankel-Lambert Park to enjoy for yourself!

Josh with community members, City Staff and artist- Paula Gonzalez at the Frankel-Lambert Park mural

Mount Pleasant Cemetery Re-Opens Their Gates!:

I know how difficult the Mount Pleasant Cemetery Gate closure was for those of us who live in Midtown. My family have gone there frequently throughout our lives, even before our daughter was born. The closure was even more impactful to people who want to visit their loved ones buried there.

As many of you know, this decision was the Cemetery’s, not one that the City made. They told us that they made the decision because too many people were not adhering to safe physical distancing and out of concern for their staff. I know it was a difficult choice for them to make.

Over these past few months, I’ve been actively talking with the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries, and encouraging them to expand their hours using the safe and responsible ways suggested by Toronto Public Health. I recognize how much this space contributes and supports our Midtown community’s physical and mental health and for mourners wishing to visit loved ones buried there. Our conversations have been productive.

As many of you may already know, the gates and mausoleum/niche buildings have returned to regular hours (8:00 am to 8:00 pm). The cemetery's indoor facility capacity for visitors is restricted to 30% and for the time being the cemetery office will remain closed and open for essential service (when a death occurred) appointments only.

I hope to see you there, from a safe distance, soon!

Friends of Toronto Public Cemeteries Petition:

Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries (MPGC) was established as a public trust by the Ontario Legislature in the 1800s and operated with public participation for over 150 years until the 1980s. The trust was funded 100% by the Ontario public, who continue to subsidize it through the forgiveness of all taxation.

In the mid 2000's, the MPGC board began without reason to claim that it was their "commercial, privately owned cemetery" and that there was no public trust. The board declared it was accountable to no one, despite the public's investment that had grown to a ~$3 billion dollar asset encompassing 1,222 acres in the Greater Toronto Area and enjoying ongoing public subsidy.

In order to protect the Trust, and due to a vacuum in Provincial leadership and oversight, the Friends of Toronto Public Cemeteries applied to the Courts to interpret and enforce the Province’s own legislation. Although ‘Friends’ won the case in Superior Court, the Court of Appeal reversed the judge’s decision and unbelievably, delivered the cemetery assets in private hands.

Mount Pleasant can now lock the gates and restrict access to the cemetery, as we've seen recently, or do something worse - such as sell cemetery land to a foreign-owned multinational cemetery corporation.

The Court of Appeal however confirmed that the Trust was created by the provincial Legislature which can re-legislate as it sees fit. ​The Provincial government must act to update the legislation to protect our Public Trust. Or lose it forever! To sign their petition, please click here.

NEEDED- Bicycles That Are Ready to Ride:

Do you have a bike you no longer use? The Women’s Cycling Network , co-founded by Najia Zewari, leader of Women's Wellness Café, and with help from Cycle Don Valley Midtown is an inclusive group of now nearly 100 women from the Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park communities as
well as neighbourhoods close by. These women find freedom, empowerment and health benefits by riding a bike. Today we have 50 women who have bikes and have learned to ride, and another 50 waiting for a donated bike so that they can learn to ride too.

If you have a bike to give , read about the Women’s Cycling Network #BikeMatch program and complete the form . Your bike will be matched with a woman from our waiting list and a contact-free donation arranged. Your idle bike will provide the welcome opportunity for one of these women to ride it! For more details, please click here.

#BikesLoveYonge Local Business Support Campaign:

In conjunction with the work that the City has been doing to support our local businesses, there has been some strong grassroots support from numerous organizations in the city. One of those is a campaign by Cycle Toronto volunteers in midtown, which is aimed at helping local businesses bringing back customers as they reopen. The campaign encourages residents to bike and shop at stores and restaurants on Yonge, including weekly #BikeFridays events and contests with the participating Uptown Yonge, Midtown Yonge and Yonge+St Clair BIAs.

  • Bike and shop our local businesses on Yonge Street, and encourage your friends and family too!

  • Share a photo of your visit on social media with the #BikesLoveYonge and #BuyLocalBikeLocal hashtags - and tag the business, to encourage others as well!

  • On Fridays, also use #BikeFridays and tag the BIA for a chance to win prizes

For regular updates and promotions follow @CycleYonge on InstagramFacebook and TwitterSee here for more details!  If you’d like to get involved in the campaign, or find out more about #BikesLoveYonge, contact [email protected].

Farmers' Market Updates:

As of June 12, Farmers' Markets on City sites have been given permission to reopen. I have heard from both of our local park farmers' markets that they are still working to ensure they can follow all of Toronto Public Health’s guidelines in order to open safely. I greatly appreciate the work of The Stop Wychwood Barns Famers' Market and AppleTree’s Davisville Village Farmer’s' Market as they work to adapt their markets to the challenging circumstances we’re all facing. As soon as there is news on the reopening of any of our local markets, I will be sure to update you.

AppleTree Markets Proudly Presents "Tuesdays in The Park":

Our very own AppleTree Markets, a local Toronto-St.Paul's non-profit organization that in normal times, would transform our June Rowlands Park into a vibrant farmer's market, is hosting weekly webisodes featuring info-tainment from AppleTree farmers, community partners, chefs and local celebrities! Catch a new episode every Tuesday on their Youtube channel.

Eglinton Way Farmers' Market Reopening:

The moment we've all been waiting for! The Eglinton Way Farmers' Market is back this Sunday, July 5, 2020 from 8am-1pm and will continue every Sunday till Mid-October at the Green P parking lot on 125 Burnaby Blvd (between Heddington Ave and Castle Knock Rd).

They have full safety guidelines in place so you can enjoy the market safely! Join them and enjoy some fresh produce from various local farmers. Check all the details here. Hope to see you all there!

Renovictions Mapping Project:

Is your landlord trying to get you to move out so they can renovate? Or have they applied for an above guideline increase? RenovictionsTO, a new website and mapping project, seeks to document and make public information about renovictions and AGIs and to support tenants as they organize and fight back. Check out their new website here, and contribute your own stories by filling out their form or reaching out at [email protected].

Bell Box Murals Project – Calling Local Artists!:

The Bell Box Murals project beautifies neighbourhoods across Toronto by giving local artists an opportunity to paint Bell electrical boxes. Over the past year, community members have helped identify locations in Ward 12 that could be beautified through the program and I was pleased to be able to dedicate Section 37 development funds to cover the costs of painting 6 boxes. Artists are now invited to submit their designs for consideration. The deadline for submissions is 5pm on July 10, 2020. Please email [email protected] for full application details.

Merton Play4All:

Amidst all this chaos, you can make an impact. A $10 gift can give 170 families a place to play!
To Donate visit

Remember the days when you got that phone call from your best friend asking if you were free to go to the park? You would meet, walk to 7-Eleven grab a slurpee, some .25 cent candy, and maybe even a jumbo freezie? Then you’d go to the park, play capture the flag, shoot hoops, or hang upside down on the monkeybars until your parents made you go inside for dinner. Yeah, those were the days...

COVID isn’t going to stop our kids from playing in the parks forever. You can help make sure no child is left behind in the search to have a safe place to play by donating to Play4All.MertonProject at

Play4All.MertonProject is a grassroots project initiated by residents of Hospital Workers’ Housing Co-operative (HWHC) whose goal is to give today’s children those same memories that you cherish. You can have a direct hand in this mission. You can help give children and youth of today the chance to make some of those same sentimental childhood memories

HWHC is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1992 by a group of CUPE frontline healthcare workers in Toronto who wanted to provide frontline healthcare workers and their families with an affordable housing option.

HWHC continues to exist today has initiated Play4All.MertonProject to make play accessible for youth, children, and adults residing at HWHC. Play4All is raising funds to rebuild a playground where children, youth, and families can keep physically fit, mentally healthy, and build life-long memories.

You can help make Play4All.MertonProject come to fruition. You can help the children of this community make lifelong friends and forge timeless memories.

Want a donation receipt for taxes?

  • Issue cheque donations to:

    • Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto – Play4All.MertonProject

  • Mail to:

    • 658 Danforth Avenue, Suite 306 Toronto, Ontario M4J 5B9

  • A donation receipt will be sent to you within weeks! Hassle-Free

Want to learn more? 
Visit our website:
Email us at:  [email protected]

Salsa on St. Clair Festival Goes Online!:

More than ever this summer, we are all ready to put on our dancing shoes and #KeepDancing! The Canadian Salsa Festivals Project (CSFP) and TLN TV have once again joined forces with TD Group to present the first ever online TD Salsa in Toronto TV and digital event experience. This year`s festival will be broadcast nationally on TLN TV and streamed worldwide on on Saturday, July 18th at 6P/et and Sunday, July 19th at 7P/et.

Amidst the cancellation of most of Toronto’s summer festivals due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, Canada’s biggest celebration of Latin culture is bigger than ever! TD Salsa in Toronto is committed to keeping Canadians across the country connected through Latin music, art and of course mucho dancing!

The online salsa party will be hosted by TLN TV personality Camila Gonzalez and Ivan Wanis-Ruiz, who is no stranger to the TD Salsa in Toronto festivities. The vibrant virtual lineup will feature our very own local sponsor- the Hillcrest Village BIA, musical performances with some of Canada`s best Latino artists, salsa class instructions, Latin art exhibits, cultural parade features and of course non-stop dancing for the entire family!

The special broadcast will also include VIP guests, from Toronto Mayor John Tory showcasing his salsa moves, to celebrity shout-outs as well as sizzling Latin cuisine segments with TLN TV celebrity chefs preparing authentic flavours.

To kick-off this year’s digital festival experience, long-time partner and festival broadcaster TLN TV is hosting a social media contest designed to inspire everyone to #KeepDancing during these unprecedented times. Canadians nationwide are invited to post a video of their salsa moves on Instagram for a chance to be featured in the national TV broadcast on TLN TV. For more details, visit the @tlntv IG account.

For more information on this year’s TV and digital festival, visit

TD Salsa in Toronto Festival: Keep Dancing
Exclusive TV broadcast: Saturday, July 18th - 6pm/et on TLN TV and streamed on
Encore broadcast: Sunday, July 19th at 7pm/et on TLN TV

Feeling Lonely? We Care About You:

During the COVID-19 crisis, and even during “normal times”, too many seniors are isolated. I’ve organized a team of caring volunteers who are ready to reach out to seniors in our community who feel lonely. Please feel very welcome to post this notice in your building or street. For a printable version, please click here.

Feed the Frontlines TO Needs Your Support!:

Over the past 2 months, Feed the Frontlines TO has served 14,000+ meals to 29 hospitals, social service agencies and long-term care homes, helping 5 restaurants stay open and keep staff employed during an unprecedented time of crisis in our community. With over 1 million Torontonians now expected to be reliant on government support, and 40% of food banks closed due to COVID, they are expanding to include individuals and families facing food insecurity as the pandemic’s economic impacts deepen.

Feed the Frontlines TO will contribute to existing efforts to address food insecurity in a *targeted way* by partnering with local community hubs and increasing the number of restaurants they support to provide culturally-preferred meals to people who can’t avail themselves of existing traditional and emergency food options due to health conditions, disabilities, lack of access to kitchen space, and/or other such factors.

Local restaurants will prepare locally-preferred meals, delivered to local residents who need them, by locally-hired residents impacted by pandemic-related job loss, with all benefits arising from and accruing to the local community. Whether you’ve already donated or are new to their work, please consider supporting this evolved mission! To donate, please click here.

Parking Enforcement & Permit Parking Program Resumption:

My office has been informed that the Toronto Police Services (TPS) are returning their parking enforcement to regular, pre-pandemic practices. This will be a phased approach over the coming few months. These are the latest changes to enforcement:

Change-over parking: Enforcement of change-over parking, in areas where parking regulations require a change from one side of the street to the other, began on July 2nd. If you park in one of these areas, please move your vehicle to the permitted side of the street.

Paid on-street parking: Enforcement of paid on-street parking (pay and display, not residential on-street parking permits) began July 2nd.

Parking Enforcement will continue to exercise discretion in other on-street areas and enforcement will only take place when necessary to ensure the safe flow of traffic.

You can see more detail about how the pandemic is impacting City services, including parking, at this link.

If you have permit parking (i.e. residential on-street parking) on your street, the program is also resuming with the opening up of the permit renewal period as of July 2nd. Current residential permit holders can renew their permits online (at this link) by entering their license plate information until August 3rd. Do keep in mind that you will still need to receive a permit sticker in the mail to affix to your vehicle. Enforcement of the residential on-street parking program beings on August 14th at midnight.

Please note that due to the pandemic, there are still no in-person services available for this office. If you have any questions about permit parking, feel welcome to reach out directly to the Permit Parking Program at 416-392-7873 or email [email protected] from 8:30am to 8:00pm, Monday to Friday.

Wychwood Barns Community Association Presents- St. Clair West Oral History Website!:

The Wychwood Barns Community Association is proud to announce the launch of their St. Clair West Oral History website. As supporters of Toronto history they hope you can share this news with your constituents and colleagues. It is filled with great audio interviews, video stories, archival images and more. It's also a great way to share busy community life while we find ourselves so often cut off from familiar activities these days. Check it out here!

Programs & Events Offered by Mosaic Home Care Services:

Mosaic Home Care Services and Community Resource Centres will be hosting a number of online programs and events for the community throughout the summer.  Many of these are opportunities for people to connect, socially but at a distance, with others across the GTA.   Our event roster for the summer months includes the following:

  • Online knitting groups, community café’s, story-telling and meditation programs.

  • Pole walking programs in small groups throughout the summer months.  Mosaic will be providing instruction on safe social distancing and contact tracing etiquette for those attending the pole walking groups.  This is a great opportunity to exercise and meet others safely.

  • A Zoom Theatre Event produced and developed by a group of actors (recent graduates of the Humber three year Theater Performance program). Their collective is called “Theatre in the Web” and they will be providing a “QuaranTime Show”.  The QuaranTime show is “a morning show full of absurd situations and unforgettable characters”. “Theatre in the Web” is a collective of emerging artist dedicated to connecting theatre to audiences through new, innovative opportunities.

Mosaic is a provider of person centered community integrated care in the GTA. To view their summer newsletter, please click here

Gifts of the Heart:

The 59th Toronto Outdoor Art Fair (TOAF), Canada’s largest and longest-running outdoor art fair, has moved online to showcase and facilitate the sales of the artworks of 300 visual artists and makers from July 2- 12, 2020. TOAF has launched a fundraising campaign called Gifts of Heart to express their gratitude to frontline essential workers and to support their artists spreading the joy of art.

Make a tax-deductible charitable donation (any amount your heart desires) to TOAF that they will convert into gift cards for art purchases (valued at $250 each). The gift cards will be distributed to frontline workers so they can buy beautiful artworks directly from juried artists of TOAF on their website between July 2–12, 2020.  TOAF’s delighted artists will then send out the artwork, along with their heartfelt thanks and receive the full value of the gift ($250), when redeemed.

The annual Toronto Outdoor Art Fair at Nathan Phillips Square draws 130,000 loyal followers and avid art lovers who spend over $2 millions on art purchases. TOAF invites their many devoted Fair-goers and extended community to join in doing something truly special for independent artists while honouring those frontline workers to whom we all owe so much during this novel time. Consider being a Gifts of Heart champion by making a gift from your heart. For more information, please click here.

Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild Seeking Grassroots and Community Sector Engagement:

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto has received input on how best to respond from a variety of sectors including residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations.

As part of this process, the City has established a temporary Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild (TORR). TORR's role is to coordinate engagement and research to inform city-wide recommendations for rebuilding and reimagining how the City delivers programs and services. TORR will submit a final report with recommendations to City Council by September 2020.

As part of this work, the City has engaged Social Planning Toronto (SPT) as a partner to coordinate a grassroots and community sector engagement plan. SPT is working in direct partnership with the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC) to ensure Indigenous representation in this consultation process.

TORR will use the data from this engagement to inform its final Community and Strategic Alliances recommendations to Council. The key themes TORR identifies from this data will be shared with SPT and its partners.

To learn more about the initiative, and how to apply, please visit Social Toronto’s callout here

Mental Health & Wellness Info:

To learn about mental health, mental illness and related services in Canada, please check out the Federal Government's page here.

Friendly Reminder: Dispose of Used Masks & Gloves in Garbage:

Do your part to keep Toronto’s public spaces clean and safe. Properly dispose of masks, gloves, tissues and any other litter in park and street litter bins. Please do not discard items on the ground. If and when possible, I'd encourage residents to use a reusable cotton face mask that can be washed after use. Let's each do our apart to stop the spread and help make our City's streets cleaner.

Learning Enrichment Foundation- FREE Language Summer Program 2020 For Adult Newcomers:

Learning Enrichment Foundation (LEF) has been serving the former city of York in northwest Toronto for more than 40 years. Since 1978, they have developed from a youth theatre project into one of the leading community economic development organizations in Toronto. They offer employment and settlement services, skills advancement programs, language training, childcare services, youth programs, entrepreneurship and a range of community enterprises. During the month of July,  LEF is offering a FREE Language Summer Program for adult newcomers! For more details, please click here. To view their Facebook page, please click here.

Check Out My COVID-19 Webpage:

To learn more about COVID-19 related resources such as how to protect yourself, supports offered to tenants and small businesses, financial assistance programs available, access to community supports, volunteer opportunities and much more, please click here!

If You Require Assistance or Information:

My team and I remain actively working. However, our physical offices will be closed until further notice and my staff will be working remotely. In the interim, the best way to connect with us is by email at [email protected], rather than phone, and we’ll respond to you at our earliest opportunity.

Due to the high volume of correspondence we’re receiving, there may be a delay in our response, but we’ll certainly following up with you. We deeply appreciate your patience.

For any information related to COVID-19, please click here for the Toronto Public Health website to learn more and for important contact information.

NEW- Accessibility Link Available:

As part of my commitment to ensuring that my community updates are available to all residents in Toronto-St Paul’s, my e-newsletter can be viewed with a variety of accessibility features. Options include changing text size, colour options, fonts and more. To access the accessibility panel, view this newsletter on my website by clicking here and then clicking on the person shaped icon on the left of your screen. 

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Councillor Matlow's City Hall and Community Update: Summer 2022

Dear Residents,

I hope this finds you healthy and well. As always, I hope that you find this e-newsletter helpful and informative.

Due to the upcoming municipal election on October 24th, integrity rules state that I am unable to send out community updates after August 1st. Therefore, you will receive my next update later in the fall if I continue to have the honour to serve you. Over the past four years, we have achieved so much together, in every one of our Toronto-St. Paul's neighbourhoods and the many important initiatives we have brought to City Hall to improve our city.

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