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COVID Winter: Vaccines and Ravine Trails

I hope everyone had a holiday that was safe and warm, and most of all, quiet. For me, it was too quiet.


Throughout my adult life, I’ve never sat at a Christmas table of fewer than seven people. My husband, Sandy, and I fantasize about an empty nester Christmas while we wash up after a Christmas dinner that is never less than eight people but usually more. This year, I set my long table for just three. My grandchildren and their Mom quarantined at their house while my husband, our youngest, Martha, and I were done opening Christmas crackers in seconds flat. I promise I’ll never wish for an empty nest again.


Now, let us all dedicate ourselves to bringing about a much better year’s end for 2021.


Vaccines


I was not surprised to hear that one of our first calls into the office last Monday morning was a senior resident concerned about the vaccination program. The woman that called our office is over ninety years of age and proud that she and her husband are still independent in their own home. You can imagine how these two have felt throughout this awful pandemic. They understand their high risk status fully and have taken every precaution to navigate their day-to-days. What she called to ask about was how they might get vaccinated on a priority basis, even though they do not live in a long term care home.

There is no central website where you can find out how and when you will get vaccinated unless you fit into a specialized group, such as healthcare workers or long term care workers and residents. More so, the Provincial plan to get the general population all vaccinated by September is still unknown.

While all levels of government play a role in getting the vaccine to you, the City's role in coordinating distribution is quite limited. Here's a tweet from Mayor Tory that attempts to explain:

"Much of the vaccine rollout is beyond our control but I am determined and I know Chief Pegg and everyone on our Immunization Task Force are determined to do all we can at the municipal level to get as many people vaccinated in our city as quickly as possible." –Mayor John Tory

The City's role has been limited to supporting the very end of the process: getting needles into arms, not participating in prioritizing and distribution.

At the moment local public health units are not part of planning the vaccine distribution and in my view, they should be. Toronto Public Health is your local public health unit in charge of preventative health whose core mandates include increasing awareness and trust in vaccination programs, and then delivering them. They are used to working in concert with the pharmacies now permitted to administer flu shots and Local Health Networks which include doctors, hospitals and local community health centres.


Instead, in this time of crisis and urgency, Ontario’s Premier has enlisted Rick Hillier to oversee design and delivery of the program. Once our Chief of the Defense Staff, Retired General Hillier might seem like a good management choice even though he has no medical systems experience. Let us hope so.


As the vaccination program moves towards vaccinating the general population, I have no issue with waiting myself so that our community members over 75 can be made safe as soon as possible. I feel certain that if Toronto Public Health were granted a stronger role in distribution, they would prioritize within the general population based on age and other risk factors.


I’ll be letting our local Member of Provincial Parliament know that it’s my expectation that Toronto Public Health should have a bigger role in the vaccination program, and you should contact him as well, if you agree.



Trails & Ravine Systems


Since returning to work, we’ve also been hearing from many of you about the snow clearance and maintenance of our precious Don Valley North trails and ravines that many have been enjoying especially during the lockdown. They are great natural assets for our community, just check out these beautiful bird photos from Gary James of the Bayview Village Association, a daily cyclist and hiker along Newtonbrook Creek:




We have heard some confusion around Mayor Tory's announced WinterTO Plan with enhanced clearing of parks trails during lockdown. In Don Valley North, some knowledge and patience is required. Our understanding of the Mayor’s instructions to City staff is that the concentration is on making paved pathways through City parks safer and less slippery. Our natural trails and ravines, on the other hand, are a bit of a maze of Parks governed trails that lead to environmentally sensitive Toronto Regional Conservation Authority lands, where trails may be cleared less often, or not at all.


The TRCA works to protect natural settings and their staff does not like to overuse heavy equipment down in the ravines, especially if the weather is milder and snow intermittent. When they move in to do major erosion control projects, that will be disruption enough.


In the meantime, my team and I will be working with City and TRCA staff to try and see what solutions can be possible to make the trails more accessible. In the meantime, the City's Winter Plan tells you where you can access paths within our parks system that receive winter maintenance. While we encourage you to lockdown as much as possible until we see a downward trend in COVID numbers, if something is specifically impeding your outdoor fitness and enjoyment, let us know and we will try to get city staff on it ASAP.

 


Upcoming Community Meeting 630-686 Finch Avenue East: Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 6:30 pm City Planning staff will be hosting a virtual community meeting to hear from residents about this development application. The application is proposing a 12-storey mixed-use building with 206 units and 897 sqm of non-residential gross floor area. You can join the meeting online by WebEx or call in by phone. Please register here and you will receive further instructions by email.


Proposed Changes to Minister's Zoning Order Powers The Ford government is proposing to expand the authority of the Minister's Zoning Order to bypass municipalities' site plan control process for development applications and remove the requirement to give public notice when using this power.Typically, the City uses the site plan control process to control technical yet important details of a proposed development, such as traffic access, waste management, and drainage, to ensure that the site is properly designed. These proposed changes will override City Council and City Planning's role and ignore public input in the development process. Shelley and many other Councillors have already voiced their strong opposition to these changes last October. We urge you to voice your concerns by emailing MPP Vincent Ke and submitting a comment to the Province before January 30, 2021.


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