Monday, 24 October 2011

Your City Council Guide for October 24-25

So it’s another City Council session today, surely to be marked by the usual diplomacy from Speaker Nunziata, graciousness from Councillor Peruzza and compassion from Councillor Mammoliti.

Beyond that, there will be some actual issues too. Here are some highlights and the supporting and dissenting arguments that may accompany them:
Photo by Doug Mo

Oh, the Mayor’s featured item! Fancy! John Lorinc and Matt Elliot  have the best analyses of the issue so far. The groundwork for this was laid in April when Council voted on a request for quotations to outsource garbage in zone 2, the area west of Yonge St. Notably, Councillor Matlow successfully passed motions on environmental standards (70% diversion rates) and the savings required for bidders.

The supporting argument: This was a key issue in the Mayor’s platform that voters approved of. It saves the city money too- the Green for Life bid will only cost about $17M per year, more than $10M less than the current collection. They won’t be able to go on strike and we all know from 2009 this is important to Torontonians. Plus, it’s the lowest bid and we are legally encouraged to take that.  Key voice: Denzil Minnan-Wong.

The dissenting argument: The competing bids weren’t looked at in detail and GFL’s was taken simply because it was the lowest. There has not been a feasibility study conducted on their numbers, and they don’t seem to add up. How can GFL outbid its nearest competitor by 15%, a huge difference? How can they claim to be 8% more efficient per tonne compared to the private company that takes care of Etobicoke, a less complicated area? How come when you average out the total cost over seven years without inflation it comes to much more than $17M per year? How come they use a high inflation number per year? For a large contract, we know very little. This requires further study to make a prudent decision. Key Voices: Various.

Shark fin soup is considered a Chinese delicacy and served on special occasions such as weddings and banquets. It’s a status symbol of sorts and has a big impact, having been named as a chief reason for the declining shark population worldwide.

The supporting argument: Moral leadership starts with sacrifices and as a city that cares about its impact around the world and setting an example for others, Toronto can lead the way. It’s an opportunity to do the right thing, as the devastating impact that barbaric shark finning has on ecosystems around the world is profound.

California has shown it’s possible and we have to be a leader for Canada. It’s not necessarily easy being early on an issue, but it’s not necessarily easy to be right. Key voice: Kristyn Wong-Tam.

The dissenting argument: There’s a lot of information we don’t know. There’s a good chance a lawsuit will follow, so what’s the legal liability going to be like for the city? What’s the impact on Chinese restaurateurs in the city? In a bad economy, will they lose significant business to the surrounding area? Plus, it’s not up to the government to dictate the norms of Chinese culture. Key voice: Doug Holyday.

Remember when Team Ford announced it was scrapping the citizen committees of volunteer advisors? Maybe not, because it happened back in April. It came to Council in May and with some amendments was sent back to the Mayor. The Mayor’s office was tasked with delivering a report on the committees, essentially to justify their elimination. The report was supposed to come back in July but didn’t. Today there will be an update on the status of this report. 

The supporting argument (to eliminate): We need to look at all aspects of how we manage costs and efficiency, and these committees are a waste of staff time, which is limited and costly. We can do outreach through the Internet and other resources. Additionally, some of these committees are way past the time when they were useful. Key voice: Giorgio Mammoliti

The dissenting argument: The mayor campaigned on open and transparent government that engages in real community consultation. These are good promises, and these are good committees. They provide meaningful channels to connect City Hall to passionate, everyday experts in communities around the city. These people provide the civic energy and fresh ideas that makes our city more livable and vibrant for it. Key voice: Sarah Doucette.

Update: Rob Ford's office responded to Sarah Doucette by letter and Council will consider this issue in full in February. 

Josh Matlow’s motion seeks to increase the fine from $60 to $500 for illegally parking during rush hour to make a delivery or grab a cup of coffee. The current law isn’t really enforced and the motivation is that by increasing the fine and making it more visible people will comply.

The supporting argument: Delivery companies’ rights don’t trump commuters rights. We’ve all been in the situation where two lanes are traffice are reduced to one because of one selfish person going in to grab coffee for five minutes. We need to improve congestion for everyone, and part of that is improving the behaviour of the few people who currently flout the law. Key voice: Josh Matlow.

The dissenting argument: The existing law is sufficient, it just needs to be enforced more often and with some common sense. Furthermore, we can’t be targeting small businesses who need to make their deliveries. They’re the ones that support the community with jobs and services and going out of our way to make things more difficult for them makes it more difficult for everyone. Key voice: Doug Ford.   

A lot of people might be surprised that this is not currently an essential service. EMS has a limited right to strike, where 25% of its workers can strike at any given time.

The supporting argument: EMS workers save lives around Toronto every day and are essential to protecting the welfare and well-being of the city. During the municipal workers strike, the response time for EMS dropped by 50 seconds per call. This is critical time for critical situations. If the TTC is an essential service, then so too is EMS. Key voice: Gloria Lindsay Luby.

The dissenting argument: While EMS workers are invaluable and important, making them an essential service is tough for a city in austerity mode. Key voices: Unknown.

Continuation of Civic Appointments

This topic was fairly contentious last time with accusations and aspersions being frequently cast. The city is continuing the process of appointing individuals to various boards This is done in the early stages of each Council term.

The supporting argument: These are qualified individuals who want to contribute to the city. The committee has went through a very thorough process to vet candidates, using much of their summer to do so. The opposition is trying to make this a political issue and in the process is undermining the candidates and discouraging future candidates from participating next time. Key voices: Michael Thompson, James Pasternak.

The dissenting argument: The proper process was not followed. The city has a mandate to include minority voices to represent the makeup of the city. Judging by the numbers so far, this has not been the case. Instead, individuals seen to be politically friendly have been appointed to key positions despite having little to no experience in the area. Additionally, there’s a lack of continuation from previous board members to help train newcomers and ease any transition pains. This is a straightforward task and it is stunning that it has been botched like it has. Key voices: Adam Vaughan, Gord Perks.  

In the past little while the Occupy protests have taken root in cities around the world, including downtown Toronto. It’s been going for over a week now and has been peaceful thus far.

The supporting argument: The Occupy movement is largely about giving a voice back to the majority of people who feel underrepresented. This is an ethic that should resonate at City Hall, where we all pledge to do our best to look out for every constituent and make sure they are fairly treated. Additionally, the peacefulness that has characterized the Toronto protest is to be commended. Key Voice: Gord Perks.

The dissenting argument: While it’s great that people feel passionate enough to voice their opinion, it’s not up to City Hall to lend credibility to one group or another. They have to do that on their own merits, and we’re confident that citizens can judge the protests for themselves. Key Voices: Various?


  1. RE: The dissenting argument: While EMS workers are invaluable and important, making them an essential service is tough for a city in austerity mode. Plus, where does that leave the Fire Department? Where do we draw the line? Key voices: Unknown.

    ---The Fire Department is already an essential service.

  2. You're absolutely right and thank you for pointing it out.

    Correction made.