Carolyn Bennett
Hon. Carolyn Bennett
Member of Parliament for Toronto—St. Paul's
COVID-19 Update | May 22, 2020
May 22, 2020

This letter was  first sent as an email to our constituents.  To receive regular updates from our office regarding COVID-19, sign up using the "Get Updates" link in the menu.

Dear Friends and Neighbours,

I think we are all beginning to see and feel a little ‘spring’ after this very long and difficult ‘winter’ of COVID-19. We were able to ‘Keep Calm and Hibernate.’  We washed our hands and physically distanced and began to see that we were making a difference – we were indeed ‘flattening the curve’ and keeping the outbreak within the capacity of our cherished health care system.

We are clear that as we relax some of the restrictions, we have not relaxed our resolve to do everything in our power to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe and healthy.

My U of T Grad Photo 1974

This week, I was asked to deliver a message to the graduating medical students at my alma mater, the University of Toronto. I told them COVID-19 has meant that medical leadership and evidence-based policy have never been more important.  I told them we need their voices. We need their advocacy on poverty, violence, the environment, shelter, equity and education. Canada and the world need their help changing our health CARE systems in to real systems for health.

Tommy Douglas maintained that medicare needed to be about keeping people well, not just patching them up when they get sick. COVID-19 is helping persuade us all of the importance of disease prevention and health promotion. The fear of getting sick is real. We are finally putting the ‘public’ back into public health. We all know now we need to have robust public health systems between crises. For decades public health advocates have warned about the ‘tyranny of the acute’. Since the advances of penicillin and insulin, we have focussed on a ‘repair-shop’ approach to health.  We mistakenly use health and health care interchangeably.  We want more HEALTH, and reduce the need for health CARE.

This week the World Health Assembly held its Annual Meeting virtually from Geneva.  I remember attending those meetings. Fifteen years ago in 2005, as Sir Michael Marmot was leading the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, Canada had a good story to tell. It was two years after the SARS outbreak of 2003. I had been sworn in as the Minister of State (Public Health) that December, later embracing the title of Minister of Handwashing! We had founded the Public Health Agency of Canada in the Fall of 2004. We had appointed Dr. David Butler-Jones as the first Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and set up the Public Health Network in which the Medical Officers of Health for all our provinces and territories could work together with the Federal Government to protect the health of everyone in Canada.

At that time, I had been working on my 'Tree of Health' which tried to illustrate the importance of the social determinants of health and secure personal culture identity in making healthy choices and achieving healthier outcomes.

We were also working on the Health Goals for Canada, which we had hoped would lead us to determine progress on the shared objective of keeping all people in Canada well and closing the gaps in health outcomes.

We have learned from many countries whose policies need to focus on disease prevention and health promotion. Those countries who know they do not have in place sufficient primary, secondary or tertiary health care. They know they have to prevent people getting sick in the first place. Their focus on prevention is saving lives.

We need all Canadians to hold every government accountable to maintain a robust public health infrastructure, between crises.  We want quality health care in place should we need it, but we’d all rather not need it!  We need all Canadians to understand how investments in the causes, and the causes of the causes, of poor health ultimately reduce the demand for health care.  We need all Canadians to call out the anti-science views, especially those of the anti-vaxers. Until we have a vaccine, COVID-19 will be with us.  We have a moral obligation to prevent the preventable.

We can do this!




This week, the Special Advisory Committee – a Federal, Provincial, Territorial (FPT) committee represented by the Chief Public Health Officers – released updated guidance on mask use for the general population. A link to the fact-sheet with the recommendations can be found here. These are difficult times. Non-medical masks can add an extra layer of protection for yourself and others that you come into contact with.



Starting today, the first wave of Canada Summer Job placements will be available on and the Job Bank app. Temporary changes to CSJ were announced by the Prime Minister on April 8, 2020 that were aimed at helping young people who are struggling to find summer work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The flexibilities introduced this year include allowing employers to offer part-time positions, and an extension to the end of February 2021.

Canada Summer Jobs


Starting July 20th, our government will once again be boosting the CCB to help keep up with the increased cost of living. This increase will be in place for the 2020-21 benefit year, and will raise the maximum benefit to $6,765 per child under age 6, and $5,708 per child aged 6 through 17. As previously announced, all families currently receiving the Canada Child Benefit will receive a special, one-time, payment of $300 per child with their May benefit payment.



The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) was introduced to help businesses keep employees on payroll and be in a better position to bounce back following the crisis. Last Friday, the our government announced an extension of the CEWS by an additional 12 weeks to August 29, 2020.


This week, the Prime Minister announced an expansion to the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to include many owner-operated small businesses. The program will now be available to a greater number of businesses that are sole proprietors receiving income directly from their businesses, businesses that rely on contractors, and family-owned corporations that pay employees through dividends rather than payroll.


Last month, we reached an agreement with all provinces and territories to implement the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA), which will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners, allowing them to reduce rent by 75% for April and May (retroactive), and June, to their small business tenants. Applications will be accepted through the CMHC beginning on May 25th 2020, and we encourage property owners to do their part and take advantage of the program.



As the situation is changing daily, please check the following websites for daily updates in Toronto and across Canada:

or download the Canada COVID-19 app. The last few months have been difficult– so our government has put in place a number of measures to support Canadians. If you need help, visit and fill out the survery for a quick and trusted way to see what supports may be available to you.

CRA My Account

Do you have an online CRA account yet? My Account, the Canada Revenue Agency’s secure portal, lets Canadians across the country view and manage their tax and benefit affairs quickly, conveniently, and securely… all online. You can apply for many of the COVID-19 emergency benefits, includng the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, online through your CRA My Account. Don't have an account yet? Watch this video for tips on how to register:

CRA Video


As part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the tax filing deadline has been extended from April 30 to June 1, 2020. Free tax clinics organized through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) are a vital service provided to eligible Canadians who need help to complete their tax return to receive the benefits and credits designed to support them. Due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, community organizations will now be hosting free virtual tax clinics in the coming weeks. Volunteers may be able to do taxes for free, by videoconference or phone. To learn more about the program, or to find out if your eligibile to participate, follow this link.



mental health


COVID-19 has changed the daily lives of people around the world. During these difficult times, it is critical that Canadians be able to obtain credible information and access services to support their mental health and wellbeing. That's why our government launched a portal dedicated to mental wellness: Wellness Together Canada.

This portal will connect Canadians to peer support workers, social workers, psychologists and other professionals for confidential chat sessions or phone calls, and will make it easier to find credible information and help address mental health and substance use issues.


Although we’re far apart physically, our young people must feel help is close. That is why our government announced $7.5 million in funding for Kids Help Phone. Kids Help Phone is a remote mental health service that connects youth with professional counselling, information and referrals across Canada without any face-to-face contact. Contact Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, by texting 686868, or by going online to




Now more than ever, local business that make our main streets vibrant need our help. Find out what stores are open, or what restaurants are offering takeout and delivery. The following BIAs have put together lists of businesses that are still open, albeit doing things a bit differently. If you can, participate in takeout Wednesday (or Friday or Saturday)! Let's do what we can to support our local businesses:


Feed the Frontlines TO is an extraordinary initiative supporting local businesses by feeding our frontline heroes. Amazing to see the businesses of ‎#TOStPauls pitching in. If you can, please help this great initiative:


SPARK Ontario is partnering with the Ontario government to connect volunteers with opportunities to support seniors, people with disabilities and other Ontarians requiring assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. All not-for-profit organizations supporting the response to COVID-19 can post volunteer opportunities at so potential volunteers can be put to work quickly.


Every day we can make an effort to express our sincere gratitude to the heroes on the front lines. We've prepared some images you can share on-line, print and put in your windows, or make into signs for your front lawn or balcony.

Hero Image Hero Image

Hero Image

How are you showing your support for our community?  We'd love to hear your stories.


In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within communities and across the country, all Canadians are advised to:

  • stay at home unless you have to go to work
  • talk to your employer about working at home if possible
  • avoid all non-essential trips in your community
  • do not gather in groups
  • limit contact with people at higher risk, such as older adults and those in poor health
  • go outside to exercise but stay close to home
  • if you leave your home, always keep a distance of at least a hockey stick length away from others

The constituency office will be closed to walk-in visits but my team and I are here for you and will continue to serve residents of  #TOStPauls.

Our office will continue to be fully operational by phone and by email. You can call us at 416-952-3990 or email [email protected] for assistance in any federal matter.

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