The City established the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild (TORR) in April 2020, soon after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, to engage with Torontonians on a city-wide approach for recovering and rebuilding from COVID-19.

Dr. David Mowat was appointed to lead a public health strategy to support Toronto’s recovery and rebuild and Mr. Saad Rafi was appointed to lead TORR as Chief Recovery and Rebuild Officer.

Through the summer of 2020, TORR undertook a broad engagement of stakeholders, residents, communities, businesses, Indigenous communities and City Council members on what is needed to recover and rebuild. TORR also leveraged the subject matter, service and operational expertise from City divisions, agencies and partners. The results of TORR’s work was published in the COVID-19: Impacts and Opportunities report, which provided recommendations for the City of Toronto and its agencies and corporations to support the recovery and rebuild of communities, organizations, partners and businesses.

This page also includes information about the Mayor’s Economic Support and Recovery Task Force that operated through the early months of the pandemic and the Deputy Mayor’s Economic and Culture Recovery Advisory Group that completed its final report in December 2020 and provided further advice to City Council in early 2021.

The COVID-19: Impacts and Opportunities report outlines the results of the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild’s (TORR) work and provides recommendations for the City of Toronto and its agencies and corporations to support the recovery and rebuild of our communities, organizations, partners and businesses.

The report, and a companion engagement summary, will be two sources of information for senior City staff as they develop recommendations to City Council for Toronto’s recovery and rebuild efforts.

Developing the COVID-19: Impacts and Opportunities report, and its recommendations was a key focus of TORR’s work. Dr. Mowat and Mr. Rafi also advised on, and informed, many City programs, policies and actions that reduced the spread of the virus and helped reopen the economy. TORR has concluded its work with the submission of the COVID-19: Impacts and Opportunities report to the City Manager.

Through June and July 2020, TORR undertook a broad engagement of stakeholders, residents, businesses, not-for-profit organizations, Indigenous communities, racialized communities and City Council members. Engagement opportunities took multiple online forms to make them accessible, safe and available to as many residents, stakeholders and sectors as possible. The recommendations in the report reflect consultations undertaken early in the pandemic and are the start of an ongoing public conversation on recovery and rebuilding Toronto after COVID-19.

The report acknowledges the impacts of COVID-19 were, and continue to be, disproportionately and acutely felt by Toronto’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods, segments of the population, and occupations and must be addressed in recovery.

Some key findings from the report

  • COVID-19 highlighted inequalities in the health and socioeconomic status of Torontonians and the need to work with government and community partners to reduce those inequalities.
  • Many of the City’s existing plans and strategies can be looked to for recovery and rebuild ideas. They will need to be reviewed to make sure they are still appropriate, to avoid replication, and in some instances accelerated.
  • The City will need to make decisions that consider the personal, social and financial impacts of COVID-19 on Toronto’s businesses and residents of all ages, in all communities and circumstances, and those who have been hardest hit.

COVID-19: Impacts and Opportunities report sections

  • Recommendations
  • COVID-19 in the Toronto context
  • Public health considerations and actions
  • Office of Recovery and Rebuild
  • Critical City services
  • Climate change and resilience
  • Equity, vulnerable communities and partnerships
  • Government and financial renewal
  • Business
  • Culture
  • Inspire Toronto

Summary of recommendations

Public Health

  • As long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Toronto will need to maintain vigilance for new outbreaks and continue strengthening its understanding of impacts. This continual improvement in data gathering and understanding should support ongoing enhancements in public health planning and delivery.
  • The epidemiological understanding of COVID-19 has evolved throughout the course of the pandemic. Understanding the progression of the epidemic and the distribution of infection and health outcomes by age, sex, socio-economic status, place, time, race, gender identity, disability, and other factors will support decision-making in managing the pandemic. Other characteristics should be incorporated into the City’s planning and analysis as understanding of these relationships increases.

Social Determinants of Health

  • Toronto can generate increased community and economic benefits by designing, adapting and building services and infrastructure that maximize human health and productivity, often referred to as social determinants of health.
  • The uneven impacts of COVID-19 have shown a clear need to accelerate progress in this area, however, this is not fully possible using the City’s current tools for revenue and policy innovation.
  • Therefore, the City must promote a conversation on realigning municipal, provincial and federal roles and responsibilities (funding) in ways that maximize human health and potential in generating economic growth and community participation that benefits all levels of government.

Increasing Prosperity

  • Equity is a fundamental issue of respect and fairness. It is also an economic driver that, by unlocking increased human potential, ultimately increases everyone’s quality of life and income. In a city where 52 per cent of the population identify as belonging to a racialized group, Toronto’s economy is significantly held back when barriers to work and career advancement exist for racialized groups.
  • Ontario’s Panel on Economic Growth and Prosperity found that increasing labour force participation for Youth, Women, Seniors and Indigenous communities “would increase Ontario’s GDP by $54.0 billion or 6.8 per cent.” This additional growth also reduces reliance on income supports, health care system expenditures, justice system costs, to name a few. People from other equity seeking groups who were under-represented in the pre-COVID workforce would undoubtedly generate comparable economic benefits.

Infrastructure and Mobility

  • Various governments have recognized that investments in infrastructure will be critical for Toronto’s and Canada’s recovery. Any stimulus funding for infrastructure should support Toronto’s effort to build back better and prioritize investments that support key priorities – all through an equity and resilience lens.
  • Maintaining and increasing investment in addressing the operating and capital needs for public transit are critical to the short- and long-term vitality and livability, and the health of Toronto and the surrounding region.

Resilience and Climate Change

  • Cities around the world, including Toronto, are reflecting on the state of their resilience as part of recovery and rebuild from COVID-19.
  • In addition to other benefits, sustaining the city’s progress toward a net zero carbon target supports resilience.

City Services

  • In recovery and rebuild, the City must continue to innovate and apply lessons learned in the crisis to keep up a brisk pace of modernizing services and improving convenience for residents and businesses.
  • The City has adopted a number of strategies and plans to support Council’s directions and vision for Toronto. The City will need to accelerate some of these strategies and initiatives, determine how they will be funded, and how the necessary partners will be engaged to ensures success.

Toronto’s plans to recover and rebuild from COVID-19 may look different than neighbouring municipalities or other cities across the country. Toronto’s recovery plans will include made-in-Toronto solutions that reflect the city’s distinct characteristics and circumstances. The City will continue to respond and adapt to changes in the spread of the virus and new health information.

The authors of the COVID-19: Impacts and Opportunities report hope that the recommendations provoke further discussion and are improved, built upon and ultimately implemented.

The Engagement Summary report provides an overview of public and stakeholder feedback and advice received by the City and its partners on challenges, opportunities and priorities for Toronto’s recovery and rebuild.

Feedback was collected though online public surveys, stakeholder surveys, virtual discussions and roundtables and email submissions. The full datasets are available on the City’s Open Data portal.

The Preliminary Findings section of this report contains a high-level analysis of the input received through each engagement method. The feedback is summarized into 19 major topics, listed alphabetically:

  • Child Care
  • City Finances and Financial Sustainability
  • Climate Change and Resilience
  • Culture/Arts
  • Economic Development and Business
  • Equity, Vulnerable Communities
  • Food Security and Food Access
  • Growth, Planning and Development
  • Housing
  • Income Support
  • Indigenous Torontonians
  • Intergovernmental and Governance (Agencies and Corporations, Council Decision-Making etc.)
  • Long-Term Care
  • Mental Health
  • Mobility/Transit
  • Public Engagement
  • Public Health and Preparedness
  • Public Spaces
  • Strategic Partnerships

Saad Rafi has worked in both the public and private sectors, including several leadership roles in the Ontario government. He was the CEO of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, a Deputy Minister in the Ministries of Health and Long-Term Care, Energy and Infrastructure, Transportation, and Public Safety and a Partner at Deloitte LLP where he started an Infrastructure and Project Finance practice, and subsequently led their Government and Public Services practice for Canada.

Dr. David Mowat served as a public health physician at local, provincial, and national levels for almost 40 years, including as Medical Officer of Health in Kingston and in the Region of Peel, and twice as Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada. At Health Canada he directed the Pan-Canadian Network for Health Surveillance and worked on web-based surveillance systems. Dr. Mowat has worked on emergencies such as SARS, H1N1 influenza and Ebola.

In March and April 2020, the Mayor’s Economic Support and Recovery Task Force was convened. As part of the Task Force’s work, several City councillors led stakeholder engagement sessions on focused themes.

  • Social Services and Housing (Councillor Ana Bailão, Ward 9 Davenport)
  • Cultural and Arts Communities (Councillor Lai, Ward 23 Scarborough North and Councillor Gary Crawford,  Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest)
  • Small Business BIAs (Councillor Brad Bradford, Ward 19 Beaches-East York)
  • Workers and Labour (Councillor Mike Layton, Ward 11 University-Rosedale)
  • Upper Education and Industry (Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, Ward 25 Scarborough-Rouge Park)
  • Recovery and Restart (Councillors Stephen Holyday, Ward 2 Etobicoke Centre and Paula Fletcher, Ward 14 Toronto-Danforth)
  • Business and Community Contributions (Councillors Michael Thompson, Ward 21 Scarborough Centre and Michael Colle, Ward 8 Eglinton-Lawrence)
  • Children and Youth (Councillor Shelley Carroll, Ward 17 Don Valley North)

Findings from these sessions were considered by the TORR and informed the COVID-19: Impact and Opportunities report.

The report of the Economic and Culture Recovery Advisory Group, Co-Chaired by Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson, Building Back Stronger, was adopted by Council in December 2020 and included 18 recommendations grouped into four priority areas for action: economic recovery, anti-racism and inclusion, workforce development and talent, and arts and culture.

The Advisory Group reconvened for a special meeting in February 2021 to discuss immediate priorities for supporting Toronto’s economy in the next 2-6 months given the continued challenges and uncertainty facing business and culture. Following the meeting, the Economic and Culture Recovery Advisory Group sent a letter to the City Manager to share the Group’s feedback on priorities for supporting business and culture over the next 2-6 months.

City’s Long-Term Vision, Plans & Strategies

City Council has adopted critical strategies and plans to create economic stability, social equity, environmental sustainability and a healthy city. The Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild recommendations are designed to avoid replication of existing Council strategies and plans, however, there are instances where acceleration of existing initiatives is recommended.

City Council Reports Related to Recovery & Rebuild

July 6, 2021: COVID-19 Recovery July 2021 Update

April 7, 2021: COVID-19 Recovery and Rebuild Update

December 16, 2020: Update Report to City Council on Recovery and Building a Renewed Toronto

October 21, 2020: Towards Recovery and Building a Renewed Toronto

September 30, 2020: Response to COVID-19: Reopening and Preparation for a Potential Resurgence

September 30, 2020: COVID-19 Financial Update

July 28, 2020: Update on the City’s Response to COVID-19 and Financial Impacts

June 29, 2020: Report to City Council on COVID-19 Actions and Council Directions  

May 28, 2020: City of Toronto Service Restart and Recovery Update

April 30, 2020: City of Toronto Response and the Ongoing Management of Emergency City Business during the COVID-19 Pandemic