Wednesday 26 October 2011

Recap of October's Council Session

So the October Council session has come and gone and now all that is left is to talk about it until the next session. So why not get started on that with a recap:
Not actually true, but the shark looks comfy. Illustration by Brian Boutin ( You should hire him. 

Getting rid of waste

The big item was outsourcing garbage west of Yonge St, and it was a layup for Team Ford. The Mayor legitimately ran on this issue, had strong support from the public (61% in May), and little sympathy for unions from the 2009 municipal workers strike.

With that said, there was reason to vote against it as details were sparse and inconsistent. Matt Elliot has been covering this issue nicely and provides a good rundown here, the third point of which deserves particular attention (that since waste is paid for through rate-based budgeting, it won’t save money for the operating budget). Edward Keenan also delivers an excellent piece on looking at the price of everything and the value of nothing. He then complements that with another piece looking at how creative thinking which could be termed ‘gravy’ can sometime deliver enormous tangiblereturns.  

In the end, all of the middle councillors lined up behind the motion, but I think there’s a miscalculation of the downside. As Citslikr points out, the $11M savings from this motion should be a promise anchored to them going forward. 22 councillors successfully voted against receiving more information about the bid and a feasibility study was never done (read Josh Hind’s comment on Keenan’s first piece for more on bidding problems). Gloria Lindsay Luby even said, "why bother learning more, it'll pass anyway," essentially giving up on informed governance. 

My reading of this is that either service will suffer noticeably or the bid will not be able to be entirely fulfilled with the current amount of money. I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

Taking a bite out of animal cruelty

Next up was the vote to ban shark fin soup, of which I’ve posted some thoughts here. After a few hours of debate it overwhelminglypassed, 38-4. The dissent came from Rob Ford, Giorgio Mammoliti, David Shiner and Doug Holyday. Doug Ford and Denzil Minnan-Wong had wandered elsewhere during the vote. For Councillor Ford it’s interesting as he once claimed to be a vegetarian in a Josh Matlow article. Mind you, Matlow had been too trusting with Ford and when Keenan followed up it turned out that he just doesn’t eat cows. In the same article he also claimed him and Rob are 'big time social liberals'. 

Later in the evening Council voted to send Toronto Zoo’s remaining elephants to a sanctuary in California, the item carrying 31-4. Shiner and Holyday were the only ones principled enough to consistently make large grey animals unhappy (you can read more about the issue here, via David Topping).

Civic Appointments

This process hasn’t received too much attention but has been quite contentious. It’s hard to write too much about it as the details of what they’re discussing remain confidential. However, Ford supporters claim the opposition doesn’t know the details and are just trying to beat up on them for political reasons. The opposition claims Team Ford ignored the details of the process and are just trying to pass appointments for political reasons. Really, it’s hard to know where the truth lies in these matters although the indication at last Council meeting that there was essentially no diversity and no members carried over (at the time) was a strong indictment.

It’s one thing to have a limited opinion about the appointments watching the proceedings, but another when you’re a councillor who has heard both sides for hours. A key vote on the appointments came up on a Sarah Doucette motion to send it back to committee. The beeper system rang for votes to be punched in an there sat Jaye Robinson in the wings, avoiding the vote. The final result was a tie, and thus the motion failed.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t how it’s supposed to work. When you’re elected as a civic leader, you look at the arguments and research before you to make the best decision you can. If you are uncomfortable with the leadership and direction of the administration- and she was absent from the mayor’s 1-year anniversary press conference with all of his allies- then you stand up and say why. Or you stand up and justify your support.

She’s proven she can do it too, as she lead the way on the Port Lands and provided her reasoning for dissent.

But leadership isn’t a sometimes-thing. As a politician, it’s a defining characteristic of the role and remains one even if you feel like you might sink or swim.

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