Tue. May 17th, 2022

One of the most prominent voices to lead Hamilton through the COVID-19 pandemic is soon leaving the city for a new job in Toronto.

Paul Johnson, director of the city’s emergency center and general manager of Hamilton’s Department of Healthy and Safe Communities, has taken over as deputy mayor of communities and social services in the city of Toronto.

Johnson, who was named Citizen of the Year in 2021 along with Hamilton’s health officer, said the new opportunity in Toronto is a “hugely exciting one” that will allow him to continue doing some of the work in social services and housing he has built locally – as well as expanding to areas such as economic development, culture and parks and forestry.

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“So an opportunity to really get involved in all the elements that make communities truly great places to be in the largest city in Canada,” Johnson told Global News.

“That kind of opportunity doesn’t come often, and for me it was just the perfect one to take.”

He has performed with Dr. Richardson and Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger regularly during the city’s COVID-19 updates.

Johnson said the last 16 months of driving up to the emergency center have been “an incredibly hard grind”, but added that it is good to see Hamilton being in a much more optimistic position now.

“The crisis is not over and I know I am stepping away with still so much work to be done in the pandemic,” he said.

“But the great thing is that just as much as Dr. Richardson and myself and the mayor have been the public faces to communicate this pandemic to the Hamiltonians, the team working around us is large and very dedicated and talented. So the work continues and new voices emerge. ”

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One challenge that emerged during the pandemic was the issue of camps becoming more visible throughout Hamilton, as well as other major cities in Canada such as Toronto.

Last year, the city was met with an order from the Superior Court for its efforts to clear homeless camps from downtown, and the lack of affordable housing and camps became a prominent topic of conversation as protesters camped for a week in front of Hamilton town hall.

It’s also a hot topic in Toronto, with advocates for homeless residents urging the city to end the forced removal of public rebellion camps after what happened in Trinity Bellwoods Park in recent weeks.

Johnson, who worked with Wesley Urban Ministries before working for the city of Hamilton, acknowledged that the conversation about housing and homelessness will be the same in Toronto as it has been in Hamilton.

“It’s really going to be about encouraging a new form of partnership with community organizations with funding from the provincial and federal levels to say how we not only build the capital in more housing – which is sometimes a little easier – but also make sure for that we have the daily ongoing operational investments to support. ”

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In a statement to the media, a city spokesman said senior staff are working on a transition plan and next step.

“Mr Johnson has helped the city increase the cost of childcare at an affordable price, reduce the waiting list for affordable housing and develop the neighborhood action strategy and the city’s original strategy,” spokeswoman Jen Recine wrote in an email.

Johnson was also former director of the LRT Project Coordination Office, director of neighborhood and community initiatives, and director of corporate initiatives.

His last day of working with the city of Hamilton will be on September 3rd.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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