Over the past few weeks we have seen a growing movement around the world to combat anti-Black racism. Here in ward 4 I have been touched by the steps our community has taken during these difficult times. From marches, to education projects, to the tens of thousands of emails I received, our community is showing its ability to push for systemic change.
Let me be clear, anti-Black racism is real and pervasive in our City. As a society we must do, and demand, better. To start, I will be supporting a motion moving 10% of the police budget to investment to enhance resiliency in marginalized communities. For my full statement on this motion, please visit my website. While this is a move in the right direction, it is only the first step we as a City need to take.
Board of Health
On Monday, June 8, we held our second virtual Board of Health Meeting. I wanted to highlight some important steps we took as a Board.
As part of the recommendations in the Toronto Overdose Action Plan, we voted to urge the federal Minister of Health to grant an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to permit the possession of all drugs for personal use, at least for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to immediately scale up prevention, harm reduction, and treatment services. We know that the impact of the toxic drug supply is worsened for people who use drugs by the impacts of the community spread of COVID-19. Suspected opioid overdose calls to the Toronto Paramedics Service have been higher in February, March and April 2020. With April 2020 marking the highest number of suspected opioid overdose-related deaths in a month since September 2017.
The recommendations in the Overdose Action Plan are critical in saving lives and leading us forward in our work addressing the ongoing opioid poisoning crisis. It is time to be having a conversation about decriminalization and how the use of drugs can be handled by the health system rather than the justice system.
I am also pleased to share we voted to declare anti-Black racism a public health crisis and requested the Medical Officer of Health make recommendations to the Board of Health on reprioritizing City of Toronto resources to address the social determinants of health, including specifically a focus on anti-Black racism through the 2021 Budget process and COVID-19 recovery planning. Steps like this must be taken through all divisions and levels of government to help remove systemic issues that affect the inequalities built into our government.
Prior to the City’s state of emergency declaration, my team and I were busy working on our spring newsletter to update you on what is happening in Ward 4. Since then we have seen dramatic changes throughout the City, as both city staff and our community have had to face the new realities of living in the COVID-19 era. While information is changing fast, I think it is important you are kept informed on topics that are relevant to you.
Throughout the next couple of weeks, we will be sharing an updated version of our spring newsletter, starting this week with “Our Parks & Community Centres”. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out, as my team and I would be happy to assist you as we move through this challenging time together.
There is currently a motion expected at the June City Council meeting which includes moving 10% of the police budget to investment to “enhance resiliency in marginalized communities,” including community-led alternatives to policing, programs to help at-risk youth and affordable housing, as well as anti-racism education.
I will be supporting this motion. My record at City Council has consistently been to request or support the request to decrease the police budget as well as moving police budget dollars to much needed community services.
Anti-Black racism is real and pervasive in our City. As a society we must do, and demand, better.
It is essential that the City of Toronto maintain a strong commitment to resourcing and supporting the work of the Indigenous Affairs Office and to fully implement the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism.
Further, our funding priorities must be centred on a robust system of social supports and services, including ongoing investments in Black and marginalized communities. No budgetary demand of the TPS should ever stand in the way of that system.
There may also be an opportunity to begin to reallocate service. Many of our 911 emergency calls are requesting a response to a Mental Health crisis for example, that response may be more appropriately responded to by a Mental Health professional. We need to provide appropriate response to 911 calls, as we do when responding to a fire – fire department, or a heart attack- paramedic.
Finally, we must take action to invest in our resources to address these inequities head-on. The City works to apply an equity lens on every budget decision it makes, which is a good first step, but more must be done and it starts with properly funding of City services.
In March the City of Toronto closed all City-owned parks amenities and recreation facilities including playgrounds, sports fields, off-leash dog parks, and community centres. This was part of the City’s effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. As the Province has moved to reduce restrictions, the City has now once again opened a number of park amenities. In late May, the City began reopening park amenities which included parking lots, off-leash dog parks, tennis courts and basketball courts. At this time, playgrounds continue to remain closed.
In early June, the City also announced the launch of SwimTO – a program to help with the re-opening of the City’s beaches, outdoor pools, wading pools and splash pads. City staff are preparing outdoor aquatic amenities to re-open when Toronto enters Stage 2. The City will re-open six swimming beaches, including Sunnyside Beach, on June 22. Starting July 13, the City will begin to offer summer camps across the city as part of its CampTO initiative. As the City and Province move forward with easing restrictions, additional park and recreational amenities will once again be open to the public.
It is important to note that planned park improvement projects and improvements to recreational facilities in Ward 4 are likely to be impacted by COVID19 as well. This could result in some delays and changes to previously shared timelines for projects. Our office will continue to keep you informed as these projects move forward.
As information is continually changing, please visit the City’s COVID-19: City Services website for the latest up to date information. Please enjoy the parks and amenities responsibly. All visitors must continue to practice safe physical distancing by keeping two metres apart.
High Park Weekend Closures
At the end of March, the City announced that most City owned parks amenities including playgrounds, parking lots, and off-leash dog park would be closed as part of the City’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. During this time, all vehicles were restricted access to enter into High Park. In May, the Province introduced amendments to the Emergency Order allowing the City to re-open more than 850 park amenities. As part of this announcement, the City lifted some restrictions related to vehicle access into High Park. Vehicle access into the park is permitted on weekdays (Monday – Friday). However, as part of ActiveTO, on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays), High Park will only be accessible to foot traffic to allow for physical distancing.
High Park Playground near Bloor St
The north playground at High Park has been closed for repairs and upgrades since fall 2019. The City is installing new playground equipment and structures while also rehabilitating the existing wading pool. The work is expected to be completed in 2020 (subject to emergency measure guidelines).
Charles G Williams Park
In Dec 2019, the City held a community consultation for the redevelopment of Charles G Williams Park. Based on the feedback that was gathered the final design plan was developed and can be viewed on my website. The next phase of work will be construction.
Close Avenue Parkette
In 2020, the City will begin the process to design playground improvements at Close Avenue Parkette. The current plan involves upgrading playground equipment, converting the existing wading pool into a splash pad and other park improvements.
Wabash Community Centre
Work is underway to prepare for the new Wabash Community Centre. The scope of the project includes a new gymnasium and multi-purpose community spaces. The community will also be consulted on the option of having an indoor aquatics centre included as part of the project. The community centre is expected to open in 2025, subject to approval timelines and construction.
On Wednesday, the City announced the launch of SwimTO – a quick-start program that will expedite the opening of the City’s beaches, outdoor pools, wading pools and splash pads. City staff are preparing now so that outdoor aquatic amenities can be opened when Toronto enters Stage 2, to help people cool down during hot summer temperatures. Six swimming beaches, including Sunnyside Beach, will reopen on June 22. Lifeguards will supervise each location daily from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The City will provide lifeguard supervision on swimming beaches coupled with comprehensive crowd management.
For more information on this, visit: https://www.toronto.ca/news/city-of-toronto-launches-swimto-plan-to-help-torontonians-cool-down-this-summer/
Starting July 13, the City of Toronto will begin to offer summer camps across as part of its CampTO initiative. There will be more than 32,000 registered camp spaces for children between the ages of 6 and 12, over eight weeks of camps at approximately 150 locations across the city.
CampTO will offer traditional day camp experiences, including dance, drama, music, arts and crafts and active games. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, CampTO programs will meet health guidelines designed in consultation with Toronto Public Health and in alignment with provincial health guidelines for day camps. Guidelines include lower ratios and capacity, physical distancing, mandatory health screening and enhanced facility cleaning.
Programs will be available for viewing on Saturday, June 13 at http://www.toronto.ca/camps.
Registration for CampTO will take place beginning at 7 a.m. on:
- Wednesday, June 24 for Etobicoke/York and Scarborough districts
- Thursday, June 25 for Toronto/East York, West Toronto/York and North York districts
The quickest and easiest way to register is online at efun.toronto.ca. Phone registration will also be available at 416-396-7378. As Civic Centres and community recreation facilities remain closed, in-person registration will not be available. Residents can call 416-396-7378 Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for help preparing for registration. Extended hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 7p.m. will be offered on June 22 and 23.
Information on free programs and subsidies for recreation programs is available at http://www.toronto.ca/lowcostrecreation
The City of Toronto, through ActiveTO, has now delivered 65 kilometres of Quiet Streets along 32 neighbourhood routes across Toronto.
Quiet Streets are shared space to allow residents to maintain physical distancing, while getting around on neighbourhood streets. Signage and temporary barricades are placed at intersections to encourage slow, local vehicle access only so the roadway can be a shared space that welcomes people who walk, run or bike as an alternative to riding transit. Parking and drop off areas are not impacted and City services, such as waste collection and emergency access, continue as normal. Quiet Street locations were prioritized based on several factors including population density, equity and access, access to greenspace, nearby attractions, traffic volumes and other considerations.
Staff have been actively monitoring and adapting all locations, based on neighbourhood use, and have been returning to locations to address on-street issues as they arise. This may include work such as adjusting the size and placement of temporary barriers and reviewing the types of barriers to support safety as well as space for on-street parking. A survey for people who use Quiet Streets is planned to help the City evaluate the effectiveness of existing locations.
The Quiet Streets program was officially launched on May 14 and was initially anticipated that approximately 57 kilometres would be installed. In just over three weeks, all planned and approved locations are now in place and, thanks to feedback from councillors and the public, an additional eight kilometres of Quiet Streets were added.
ActiveTO Major Road Closures this weekend:
More than 10 kilometres of ActiveTO Major Roads will again be closed this weekend, from Saturday, June 13 at 6 a.m. until Sunday, June 14 at 11 p.m.:
- Lake Shore Boulevard West (eastbound lanes only) from Windermere Avenue to Stadium Road. As a result, the eastbound Gardiner Expressway off ramp to Lake Shore Boulevard West (exit #146) will also be closed.
- Lake Shore Boulevard East (eastbound lanes only) from Leslie Street to just south of Woodbine Avenue (Kew Beach Avenue)
- Bayview Avenue from Front Street East to Rosedale Valley Road, and River Street from Gerrard Street East to Bayview Avenue.
Vehicle access on these sections of major roads will not be permitted to allow for walking, running and biking. The City will actively manage traffic during these closures through signal timing adjustments on adjacent routes and roadway signage to alert drivers. Motorists who normally travel these roads on weekends should plan alternate routes. Those expecting to use the major road closures to cycle, run or walk should access them by bike or as a pedestrian, since nearby parking is limited and site parking is not provided.
Major road closures are installed adjacent to City trails to make space for people, alleviate weekend and holiday crowding, and ensure there is room to be physically active and support physical distancing. These closures continue to happen on a trial basis and staff are actively monitoring nearby routes and adjusting the closures as necessary.
ActiveTO Cycling Network update:
Toronto City Council has also approved the ActiveTO cycling network plan. It’s part of the largest expansion of Toronto’s on-street bike network ever in one year and will include a total of about 40 kilometres of new cycling routes for 2020.
The cycling network is being expanded quickly through temporary installations by repurposing curb lanes along several key corridors. The first kilometre of new, safe temporary bikeway was installed last week along Dundas Street East, between Sackville Street and Broadview Avenue. The next locations that staff are immediately planning for are along University Avenue/Queen’s Park Crescent, between Adelaide Street West and Bloor Street West, on Bayview Avenue between River Street and Rosedale Valley Road, and on Bloor Street, between Avenue Road and Sherbourne Street.
The ActiveTO program was developed by Toronto Public Health and Transportation Services to provide more space for people to be physically active and improve physical distancing as part of the City’s restart and recovery in the wake of COVID-19. All ActiveTO initiatives have been created to be adaptable, flexible and temporary.
More information on ActiveTO, including an online map of all locations, is available at http://www.toronto.ca/activeTO.