Community News Update - November 29, 2021

Dear Community,

Today, Ontario reported an additional 788 cases of COVID-19, after tallying 964 new cases on Sunday, the most new cases since the end of May. Along with these new cases, two cases in Ottawa were found to be the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the first two such cases to be found in Ontario.

Around the world, people are anxious about the Omicron variant, a new variant that the WHO has warned could pose a higher risk of infection than previous variants of the virus. In response, this morning Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. Moore, held a press conference to share his current thinking about this new variant.

The key takeaway from the press conference was that we could see an accelerated timeline of eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots in Ontario. While no specifics were offered at this time, hopefully we can get some more details on this plan soon.

As it stands, the best advice from our public health officials remains the same: get vaccinated and wear your mask when needed.

Click here to book a vaccination appointment.

Locally, we learned over the weekend that McMurrich Junior Public School (located in the St. Clair West area), will be closed for in-person learning for some time while they manage a COVID-19 outbreak at the school. As it stands, they have found three cases at the school, and that’s what has prompted this closure.

At this difficult time, I am sending my very best to everyone in the McMurrich family: students, parents, teachers, education workers, administrators, everyone. I know that this will be a challenging period, but I know you’ll get through it, and hopefully it’ll be safe to get everyone back in the classroom soon.

I actually had a meeting with McMurrich’s School Council a while ago after individual parents reached out to me, concerned about the fact that they couldn’t get rapid tests for their kids. They were doing their best to ensure preventive measures were in place to avoid this exact situation.

I flagged this to the Ministry of Education, asking them to clarify the process to get rapid testing in schools. They answered that rapid tests were only being deployed in regions of the province where there is a heightened risk of potential COVID-19 spread. These regions were being determined by Local Medical Officers of Health.

I still thought that more clarification on the selection criteria was needed but did not receive a response to my follow-up question. It seems to me that there is a lack of transparency from the province in this process, and parents all over the riding have highlighted the need for more rapid tests. Ontario families deserve equitable access to rapid testing in schools.

Also, several parents have reached out to me worried because they do not have paid sick days. This means that some parents who have to stay home to help their kid with remote learning OR care for a sick child lose income, since the Ford government denied (once again!) my co-sponsored bill for 10 days of paid personal emergency leave (plus an additional 14 paid sick days during any pandemic).

Meanwhile, we are still fighting for smaller class sizes and proper PPE to protect our kids.

Next, a tragic and important PSA for our community – it’s been reported on the news that last night there were two fatal suspected overdoses in our community at a house party in the Deer Park neighbourhood. Current reports indicate concern that there could be more of the ‘suspicious drug’ that was sold in the community.

I want to express my sincere condolences to those who lost their lives, and to their family and friends.

Today at Queen’s Park, the Ford government voted against the Rent Stabilization Act, an Ontario NDP piece of legislation that I’ve written about previously. The Act would have done a number of good things, including cracking down on renovictions, and ending vacancy decontrol.

But what are those things you might ask?

Well, renovictions refers to a process that is often abused where tenants are evicted to facilitate a renovation, and then the unit comes back on the market at a significantly increased price.

Meanwhile, ending vacancy decontrol would mean that landlords would not be able to increase rents infinitely between tenants. It would ensure that rent control continued between tenants. This is an important piece of legislation to slow skyrocketing rents, and it would also end a key incentive for bad faith evictions.

Voting down this bill is a slap in the face to tenants across Ontario, including renters here in our community of Toronto-St. Paul’s, where over 60% of residents rent. But rest assured, we’re not done fighting these principles, and even this weekend, I was out canvassing in the Davisville area to continue to build support for our housing plan.

You can see the Ontario NDP’s plan for affordable housing here.

You can also catch my immediate video reaction after the vote on the bill here.

We also learned today that the Ford government once again withheld billions of dollars that were meant for health, education, and pandemic fighting. In just the first half of the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the Ford government has spent $4.3 Billion less than planned, including shorting the education system by almost $700 million, and public health by $600 million.

It’s shocking that during a pandemic they’re withholding funding from two of the sectors that need it the most right now. Education and public health should be getting all of their allotted funding, so that we can make our schools and communities safer during COVID-19.

Ontario deserves so much better than this.

Celebrating Chanukah

Thank you to Cantor Eric Moses and our wonderful community members at Beth Sholom Synagogue for welcoming me to your virtual candle lighting on this second night of Chanukah. Thank you also for the lovely chocolate, cookies and the dreidel you shared with us! It's always wonderful to get the chance to celebrate with my friends in the Jewish community, even if only remotely.

May we be able to dance together next year!


Community Shout Outs

The NIA Centre for the Arts has an important research project that they are working on, regarding anti-Black racism and hate in online spaces.

In their own words (from their Instagram – link here):  “We are embarking on a Canada-wide research project to better understand the impacts of anti-Black racism and hate directed towards Black-Canadians while navigating online spaces.

We have launched an online survey to further learn and understand the lived experiences of Black-Canadians and residents when online. Through this survey, we aim to investigate the impact and behavioral, mental and physical affects of anti-Blackness online.

Your participation is vital to this research, as with your support, we will be able to provide resources and tools that will further allow Black Canadians to safely navigate and reduce harm in online spaces.

The first 200 community members to complete the survey will receive a $50.00 gift card.

You can find the survey here.

Next up, STEPS Public Art recently announced their I HeART Main Street Challenge winners!

The “I HeART Main Street” program provided funding to 26 BIAs in Ontario and 50+ artists, who then produced public art in main streets across the province. Out of all those BIAs three were selected for extra recognition and support scale their placemaking initiatives, and one of the three was our very own Oakwood Village BIA – who won the Community Engagement Award for their mural Celebrating Queer Black Lives!

Here’s an excerpt from the press release from STEPS Public Art: “Celebrating Queer Black Lives, produced in partnership with NIA Centre for the Arts and LOMA, speaks to the connectivity of love and is an homage to honour queer black femmes. Mural creator Curtia Wright shared, "Art galleries can feel exclusionary for some people whereas public art is more accessible and less intimidating to engage with." This installation, alongside revitalized picnic tables by Leone McComas, earned Toronto’s Oakwood Village BIA the Community Engagement Award.”

Finally today, another reminder that the Toronto Miracle is coming up on Dec 4, where they will be working across Toronto with hundreds of volunteers to gather as much food as possible for those in need. Their ambitious goal is to collect 250,000lbs of food – and I know our community can help get them there. The way that it works is that you register your donation, and on Dec 4, you leave the food on your porch, or at the determined location in your building, and they will have a volunteer come to collect it.

Donations are vital this year, as increasing numbers of people are accessing food banks – let’s make sure that this holiday season the food banks have what they need.

To learn more about how you can register your donation, click here.

In Solidarity,

Jill Andrew

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