As 2020 draws to a close, I've been reflecting on all that we have overcome this year as a community and a country. I am particularly proud of the way our community stepped up during the defining moments of this pandemic. Despite the upheaval, I've taken comfort in the heartwarming acts of solidarity and kindness we've witnessed.
While much hard work lies ahead of us in the new year, I wanted to highlight some of the work we managed to accomplish in 2020. I also welcome your feedback as to what you envision my priorities should be in 2021.
1. Repatriating Citizens
In March, countries around the world closed their borders rapidly in response to the pandemic. Many also introduced tight travel restrictions within their countries which caught many Canadians with their return travel plans cancelled.
I spent much of the first month calling community members stranded abroad and working to help get them home, from countries including Brazil, Peru, Iraq, France, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Malaysia and many more. Global Affairs Canada assisted more than 62,500 individuals from 109 countries to repatriate back to Canada. My office worked with Global Affairs Canada around the clock to bring community members home from around the globe.
2. Ban on Military Style Assault Weapons
I was a CEGEP student in Montreal at the time of the Polytechnique shooting in 1989 and it was a defining moment in my life. Our community has strongly advocated for greater gun control following the shooting on the Danforth. In September 2018, I co-hosted a Town Hall on the Elimination of Gun Violence with MP Nate Erskine-Smith and featured a panel with Minister of Public Safety and Border Security, Bill Blair; Dr Atul Kapur of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians; Professor of Criminology at University of Toronto, Scot Wortley; and Louis March of Zero Gun Violence Movement(pictured above).
I fought to make our voices heard against the noise of a very vocal gun lobby and this year we saw the most significant gun control measures in decades with the banning of military style assault weapons like the one used at Polytechnique and in the mosque shooting in Quebec. There is more work to do to end gun violence, but this was a big step forward and I'll continue to push for more.
3. Single-use Plastics Ban
Since challenging our community to our first plastic-free July in 2018, I've pushed for prohibiting single use plastics and improving recycling standards. A ban on plastic grocery bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery and food containers made from hard-to-recycle plastics will take effect nationwide by the end of 2021. This will include regulations to require upcycling of existing plastics. This is great news for our lakes and waterways like Lake Ontario and the Don River.
Our main street businesses serve as our community hubs, employers and economic drivers. The pandemic has been extremely difficult for our local businesses. Since the outset of the pandemic, I have worked to make their voices heard as our government developed-and continues to develop-support programs.
I've hosted roundtables, including with Sean Fraser, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Finance (pictured above) and I've talked with over 300 businesses in our community to ensure their voices and concerns were reflected in our programs. We've repeatedly seen programs updated and changed to reflect these local business concerns.
Most recently, we created the Canada Rent Subsidy which provides up to 90% of rent to small businesses forced to close due to provincial public health orders and introduced and expanded numerous programs to aid local business, including:
Canada Emergency Business Account,
Canada United Small Business Relief Fund,
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy,
Business Credit Availability Program,
Regional Relief and Recovery Funds,
Black Entrepreneurship Program,
Support for Indigenous Businesses,
and other supports for employees or self-employed people.
5. Opposing the Expansion of Oil Sands (Teck Resources)
I and our community care deeply about fighting climate change, protecting the natural environment and amplifying the voices of Indigenous peoples. At the beginning of this year, Teck Resources had a proposal for the world's largest oil sands project. I fought against the approval of this project. You can see my interview on CBC's Power and Politics. Teck Resources ultimately withdrew its application for regulatory approval. I will continue to advocate for measures conducive to meeting our target of net-neutral emissions by 2050.
6. Active Transportation in our Climate Strategy
Cycling is my main mode of transportation, as I know it is for many in our community. It also represents an important mobility option in our pursuit of net zero emissions by 2050.
As one of the founding members of the All-Party Cycling Caucus I've worked to expand cycling infrastructure across our country. In our community, this has resulted in additional Bike Share Toronto kiosks and bike parking at TTC stations. Most recently, active transportation was included as a sustainable transportation pillar of our Climate Plan.
I love seeing live music in our city and like many people in our country, I can't wait to see another live in-person concert or music festival. Toronto is home to some of the most prominent live music venues and festivals in the country. They have also been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
I've worked to secure federal support for festivals and venues right here in Toronto including Lee's Palace, El Mocambo, Horseshoe Tavern, and The Drake Underground, and Dora Keogh's.
8. CERB: Expanded to Gig Workers
In the days immediately following the lockdown I talked with so many community members who worked in the gig economy and had lost their work because of the pandemic. We launched an unprecedented program with CERB to keep food on the table for millions at the outset of the pandemic and it was designed in a way that included gig workers. We've since modernized our EI system to encompass self-employed, contract, and gig economy workers. The Canada Recovery Benefit will continue to support Canadians who cannot return to work and do not qualify for EI.
9. Having Web Giants Pay their Fair Share
As we spent more of our time at home over the past year, we have turned to film and television-often from online streaming services-for entertainment. Our broadcasting system predates the digital era and since I was first elected, I heard and saw the impact to our creative industries of dollars flowing to these foreign streaming services. This year, I worked on a new broadcasting law that would require online streaming giants like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon and Disney to contribute their fair share to an important Canadian industry that supports hundreds of thousands of Canadian jobs. The changes can bring an estimated $800 Million each year into the creation of Canadian stories and music.
10. Responding to the Opioid Crisis
One of my first meetings after my election in 2015 was with the South Riverdale Community Health Centre which sought to expand its harm reduction services to include a safe consumption site. Our government permitted this expansion of services and this year also provided funding support for a safe supply of pharmaceutical grade medication to assist people with opioid addictions. Pictured above is the announcement with Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, at SRCHC. I continue to work with the health centre to find ways to support their programs and a response to the opioid crisis across our country.