As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow in Toronto, City Council spent a majority of its Wednesday meeting addressing supportive housing and new measures to reign in the second wave of the virus.
For the first time since the pandemic began, Toronto city council members were once again meeting within council chambers.
However, even with physical distancing measures in place, more than half of the councillors continued to attend virtually.
Council was called on to approve new public health measures directed at bars and restaurants to arrest the growth of COVID-19 cases.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa recommended capacity limits indoors be lowered from 100 to 75, the number of people at a table be reduced to no more than six, contact information be gathered from every patron, and background music be lowered to no louder than a normal conversation.
The motion passed, along with new measures added by Mayor John Tory who is looking for additional supports for the beleaguered hospitality industry. While looking to other levels of government to provide financial supports for those struggling, Tory said he also wants the city to assist any action the province takes regarding insurance companies gouging restaurant owners.
The city will also be looking for ways to help bars and restaurants continue outdoor dining service into the winter. CafeTO will be ending in November, which means curb lane patios will be gone. But the Mayor said he wants staff to find ways to help existing patios continue.
Tory also said he wants the province to extend regulations for liquor sales to allow take-out and delivery into the colder months.
Council also passed a motion looking to the provincial and federal governments for more support for shelters and supportive housing over the next 24 months. Meant to bolster the city’s existing HousingTO plan, it called for support to create 3,000 affordable and supportive units.
They would include new permanent modular homes, as well as acquiring other available rental units and shovel-ready projects. The plan also seeks more intergovernmental help to provide mental health supports and overdose prevention programs.
Ahead of the meeting, members of Acorn Toronto protested in front of City Hall demanding for more assistance for housing supports. The city doesn’t have legal jurisdiction to halt residential evictions, but Council voted in favour of a motion to urge the province to reinstate the moratorium.
With cold weather quickly approaching, the head of Toronto’s shelter, support, and housing administration said the city is moving up its roll-out of plans. Mary-Anne Bedard said the city will unveil the plans next week, rather than the usual November timeslot.
While not getting into specifics, Bedard said the plan will address the need for more shelter space and supports for those living in encampments.
This was the first meeting with even fewer councillors on hand, after the removal of Jim Karygiannis following his failed appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada over election overspending. Council still has to decide how to fill his now-vacant Agincourt seat.