Today we learned that the Ontario Government is moving forward with Phase Two of its reopening plan for much of Ontario – but not Toronto, and a few other municipalities. Key to this decision has been consultations with Toronto Public Health, who are still seeing too many new cases in our community to move forward just yet. I’m going to take a moment now to remind everyone that we are still seeing community spread of COVID-19 in Toronto. We must remain vigilant to prevent another surge in cases.
That means it’s up to all of us to make sure that we’re washing our hands regularly, keeping our physical distance from anyone that you don’t live with, and that those who are healthy are taking the time to support the most vulnerable portions of our population. Simply put, we are not out of the woods yet, and staying focused on reducing the spread of COVID-19 will be vital to ensuring that once we put COVID-19 behind us – that it stays there.
COVID-19 has of course had a devastating affect on our small business community. Those that have survived continue to struggle and all too many have shuttered permanently. Today, in response to this, the Premier has announced that the Province is banning commercial evictions for businesses that qualify for the commercial rent relief program. This is disgracefully too little too late.
Many businesses have already been shut down, and this step still does not address the cash flow issues that are crushing many small business owners. For months now, I have been calling for direct financial support to commercial tenants, as well as a freeze on all commercial evictions. Had the Ontario government listened - things may have been different today for our small businesses - our homes away from home.
Today’s policy change is very similar to what the government has done for residential tenants, where they have implemented a 'freeze' in evictions – but have done nothing to address the immense debt facing tenants of all stripes due to COVID-19. Bill 184 for instance does not protect tenants from owing thousands of dollars or being taken to the Landlord Tenant Board once they reopen. Renters need more support now. We've all been saying it from day one. It is simply not enough to temporarily suspend evictions, we need direct financial support for tenants, and we need it now.
Here in our own community, where we’ve seen businesses hurting, our local BIAs are doing everything they can to keep as many businesses as possible afloat. One exciting initiative launched recently is called Shop and Win St. Clair, where they will be giving away $1000 dollars a week to someone who has gone shopping at a business (and spent a minimum of $25) within the boundaries (can be seen on their website!).
While I applaud the Hillcrest BIA and their community partners for putting this project together, it remains frustrating that the Ontario government has left them in this position. I know that the government's response has not been enough, and I want you to know that each and every day I am standing up for this community and in defense of the people of Ontario.
Just last week, I had the opportunity to rise in the house to debate two Bills that have been brought forward by the government – Bill 184 and Bill 159. Bill 184 will erode the rights of tenants, and Bill 159 will make it riskier for new home buyers. Two pieces of Legislation that have no place being pushed through during a pandemic. You can watch my full remarks here.
Last Friday was National Doughnut Day. Originally established by The Salvation Army in 1938, National Doughnut Day is celebrated on the first Friday in June to honour those who served on the frontline during WWI, and the Salvation Army’s work to support them by building canteens that would serve baked goods and provide support services. In modern times, Doughnut Day symbolizes the importance of hope in times of crisis – and in 2020 – it seems more relevant than ever.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to send a message of solidarity to everyone spreading the message of truth that Black Lives Matter. They are not just words and it is not just a hashtag. We will survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Equally important - we must survive and surpass the pandemic of white supremacy. We only do that when we work together but also when we aren't afraid to look deeply at our current institutions of power, look deeply at their budgets and make the necessary changes to actually address community need.
Whether it's policing, healthcare, housing, environment, transportation, business, finance or education, anti-oppression and the dismantling of years old practices, policies and funding models must be done. We must tackle the systems that simply have not worked for Black folks, Indigenous folks and other communities disproportionately targeted by systems of power and decision makers. We must also commit to looking at ourselves and being prepared to face our own practices and beliefs. This is the only way we get past COVID-19 and the social fissures it has made hyper-visible.
Let's keep the momentum going. I am excited to see what awaits us.
If you have a positive story from our community OR a virtual event you're hosting that you want amplified, please email us at JAndrew-CO@ndp.on.ca.
Birthday, Anniversary Greetings
During normal times, my office sends out congratulatory scrolls to folks across the riding to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones! While we're taking physical distancing measures, I will be continuing this digitally. If you have a birthday coming up in the family and you would like a special video message from me, please email us at JAndrew-CO@ndp.on.ca. And if you should decide to share your video on social media do tag us @JillsLastWord on Twitter and Jill Andrew - MPP, Toronto-St. Paul's on Facebook.
Calling Local Artists
If you are local artist, and you have a piece of work that you’ve been putting time into, we would love to share it with the community! We know that #ArtsSavesLives and minds especially during traumatic times. If you’re interested in sharing your art please email us at JAndrew-CO@ndp.on.ca
ALL art submitted MUST be accompanied by a short artists statement (50 words or less) to help contextualize the art. Additionally, there are no guarantees that submissions will be included in the newsletter. Thank you for sharing your work with us and our community."
Here are today’s new developments:
- Starting tomorrow, Canada’s ban on non-essential international travel will make an exception for Canadians who wish to reunite with immediate family members who are non-Canadian citizens and separated by the Canada-U.S. border – anyone coming into Canada under this exemption will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
- Doug Ford announced details of the province’s plan for moving into Stage two of its economic reopening, with restrictions easing variously across Ontario according to regional factors and risks – Andrea Horwath said a safe and gradual reopening of businesses must include paid sick days for workers – a policy Doug Ford made clear last week that he does not support – so that people don’t have to choose between going to work sick and putting food on the table.
- After months of refusing pleas from the business community to ban commercial tenant evictions, Ford backtracked today, a move the was emphasized is too late for the many businesses in Ontario that have already gone under and is too restrictive, since it only protects businesses that have a 70 per cent loss in income.
Solutions we’re pushing for:
- We have listed some of the many businesses that have gone under in Toronto alone due to the Ford government's refusal to give businesses direct financial support or ban tenant evictions up until now, and reiterated our call for supports through the Save Main Street plan.
- Catherine Fife, also issued a statement saying that Ford's ban on evictions, which requires a business to have lost 70 per cent of their income, is too restrictive, and will exclude thousands of businesses in crisis.
Featured Art Submission
John Michael Lee
In their own words:
My name is John Michael Lee and am an artist. I am Assimilated and have been born and living on Turtle Island for all of my 53 years and Creator willing for many more years. I live in East Toronto and have been using Art as Therapy for many years. I am of Oneida decent born in the traditional lands of the Neutral Nation on my mother's side and my father's side predates Confederation.