Mayor John Tory says he is not satisfied with the city's system for issuing extreme cold weather alerts and plans to launch a review to find ways for it to be "more pro-active and flexible."
After the deaths of two men this week – one of them found in a bus shelter wearing only a T-shirt and jeans – and questions about whether the city does enough to protect homeless residents during cold temperatures, Mr. Tory told reporters on Wednesday he is going to take a closer look at the issue.
"I think the next step in terms of this policy in particular with cold weather alerts is to try and make it more pro-active and flexible," Mr. Tory told reporters.
The city's medical officer of health usually issues cold weather alerts when temperatures are expected to hit the -15 C threshold. The alert allows the deployment of additional resources for homeless people, including emergency warming centres and extra street outreach.
Alerts were not issued earlier this week – when the two men died – because the actual temperature late on Monday was -14 C, even though the wind chill made it feel more like -21 C.
Mr. Tory intervened on Tuesday afternoon, ordering the opening of emergency warming centres and spurring Toronto Public Health to issue a statement that it expected it would call an alert the next morning.
The mayor said on Wednesday he would "continue to do what I did yesterday and not allow these pieces of paper to stand in the way of doing the right thing. I believe what I did yesterday was the right thing, which is to say that I knew it's damn cold out there and that the wind chill was one of the bitterest days we've had in a long time."
Mr. Tory added that he is not blaming anyone.
"I'm just saying that clearly, we need to have more discretion and better guidance in the hands of the chief medical officer, so that we can make sure that we think first [of] protecting people who are homeless and vulnerable. That's got to be our first objective."