East-end councillors run off their feet addressing COVID-19 from home

April 16, 2020 David Nickle, Toronto.com

Brad Bradford, Paula Fletcher #stayathome working at kitchen tables

The workday for a Toronto city councillor got longer in late 2018, when the new 25-member Toronto council was sworn in, doing the work that had been previously done by 44. But in 2020, after Toronto council put committee and council meetings on hold for the COVID-19 pandemic, and those 25 councillors took what
remained of their work home with them, it didn’t get any easier.

“I initially thought things were going to kind of go quiet, because it was such a change in my day-to-day life, which is usually just packed with committee and council and briefings, meetings with stakeholders and public meetings in the evening,” said Beaches-East York Coun. Brad Bradford. “But that hasn’t borne out to be the case. We’re working and living in a crisis now.”

Bradford, and his fellow east-end city councillor, Toronto-Danforth’s Paula Fletcher, have both been running off their feet — working from their homes and holding meetings on telephone and Zoom like so many other working Torontonians who have been forced by COVID-19 to take that work home. Fletcher is moving between her kitchen table — and her wing-backed “command chair” at home — and the East York Civic Centre, where she attends to log on to the City of Toronto servers.
There, Fletcher says she often sees families and children at play in the public spaces surrounding the civic centre. “The kids are riding their bikes like mad around there, but people are social distancing,” said Fletcher. “People are finding a way to survive as best they can, and are doing a good job of it.” But her main work is done with her office staff, which is operating “at full strength,” from home.
“We have our daily calls, every weekday for an hour — going through what we’ve heard from all the announcements at all levels of government ... how that will affect things in the ward, some of the issues that people are emailing in with.” Fletcher said she’s been focusing her energies on helping local food banks gather supplies for those who are not lucky enough to be able to work from home — or at all — in the pandemic shutdown.

It’s a lot of work.

“I’m working from the time I get up in the morning until 10 o’clock at night,” said Fletcher. But she added that, like the families at the civic centre, it’s important to make time for herself. “I do find that I’m eating at home — that’s new, I’m cooking my own food, and I am every day making sure that I get at least a half an hour walk with my nordic walking sticks — social distancing all the way,” she said. “I believe that even though we’re functioning normally, there’s an anxiety layer that exists for everyone. Normally I lift weights every week, do yoga every week. I can’t do any of those things so my pole walking keeps me moving.” Bradford is doing his work almost entirely from his home. “It’s just the kitchen table for me,” he said. “My partner is working from home as well, and we have a relatively tight space and both of us are on conference calls all day. That requires one person to be upstairs and one person to be downstairs. Which is probably something that everybody is dealing with right now.” Bradford has been working with small businesses — particularly Business Improvement Areas — and is on frequent calls with businesses that can go well into the evening. “Typically it’s a seven-day-a-week job and the hours are long,” he said. “But working from home effectively means that you’re always working.”

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