The following votes took place in 2012. If there are any issues that you do not see on this list and are interested in, please contact my office.
November 2012 City Council Meeting
Natural Gardens Bylaw
There have been some changes to the natural gardens bylaw. Procedurally, there's a new exemption appeal fee in the amount of $200 per application and the Notice of Hearing will be sent to all residents within 100 metres of applicants. I understand that in some parts of the city, residents were taking advantage of the natural garden exemption to get a break when they didn't feel like taking care of their properties. In my experience, Ward 13 is different and we have had very few but legitimate natural garden exemption requests and that is why I voted against the imposition of the $200 appeal fee. A majority of City Council voted in favour it, however, so it is now a part of the bylaw.
July 2012 City Council Meeting
Sports fields: fees and standards
In April, Councillor Davis and I asked that sports field fees be reexamined for 2012 to ensure that youth are not harshly effected by the fees imposed in the 2012 City Budget. These suprise fees ment that sports organizations, who had already collected their anual dues, were now on the hook for the permit costs. At the July council meeting, council approved the introduction of sports field permit fees for children and youth organizations in 2013, giving organizations a full seasons warning on the fee they will have to play. The rates, based on the type of sports field, will be $1, $2 and $3 an hour in 2013, increasing to $2, $4 and $6 in 2014. The City is committed to improving the quality of Toronto's sports fields, so these fees will help improve our facilities and establish new field standards.
June 2012 City Council Meeting
High Park Zoo saved and Jamie Bell Playground will be ready for summer
At the June 6-8 City Council meeting, members voted to accept donations for the High Park Zoo, in order to keep it open until the middle of 2013 at least, and the Jamie Bell Playground so it can be ready for families during the summer vacation period.
The High Park Zoo family is growing too with the additions of baby Mouflon sheep, a Highland calf, capybara, wallabies, and two llamas, with the little girl being named Honey to honour the donation from the Honey Family Foundation. That donation for $50,000 was also a call to the community to match it through the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. As of June 7, residents had exceeded the $50,000 and raised $61,000.
Since the Council decision to stop funding the High Park Zoo, a core group of volunteers formed the Friends of High Park Zoo as a registered not-for-profit corporation. This group worked tirelessly to raise awareness, coordinating volunteers to fundraise at the zoo every weekend since the beginning of March, arranging special events for March Break, Easter, and Mother's Day, and requesting donations to feed the llamas. A colouring book was created especially about the zoo and is available for a $5 donation.
Zoo visitors of all ages have donated online and in the donations boxes installed in the zoo and the Grenadier Restaurant. Local residents have been active as well, holding fundraising events that have included lemonade stands, book readings, dance events, garage sales, collecting tins of pennies, holding bake sales and selling artwork. Even Councillor Raymond Cho donated folding garden rakes for the Friends to sell.
In her remarks, local Councillor Sarah Doucette acknowledged the Friends of High Park Zoo, residents, fellow Councillors, the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation, the Toronto Community Foundation, and the Honey Family Foundation. "I want to thank them for not just saying 'yes, we support keeping the High Park Zoo open', but for putting their money where their mouth is, " said Doucette.
The Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation (TPTF) has been instrumental in collecting the online donations. Between February 1 and April 9, the community donated $23,168 to the account. Since April 10, the Honey Family Foundation offer to match $50,000 has brought in an additional $61,000 to the TPTF account. Altogether, the TPTF donations and the Honey Family Foundation $50,000 bring the total to $134,168. That surpassed the funding of $114,000 needed for the second half of 2012.
For 2013, the City already has the $20,168 surplus from 2012, $60,000 raised by the Friends of High Park Zoo, an amount that is increasing every day, in addition to a $30,000 anonymous donation of definite funding, for a total of $110,168, which does not include the offer from the Honey Family Foundation to match $50,000 again.
This funding status allows the Friends of High Park Zoo time to develop a plan to continue to build support and generate sustainable revenue for the Zoo. As well, City Council directed the General Manager of Parks, Forestry, and Recreation, to report back to the Parks and Environment Committee in 2013 on options for the ongoing operation of the High Park Zoo. It costs $227,000 a year to run the High Park Zoo.
Launched in 1998, the Jamie Bell Playground is a one-of-a-kind family meeting place that was inspired and built by the imagination and creativity of the local community and its children. A fire at the playground on March 17 destroyed a large portion of the popular structure.
Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff have worked with the community, the Councillor's office, and donors to develop and design a new castle playground structure to replace the portion that was destroyed. The rebuilding will also include related site improvements and enhancements. Donations received by June 30th, 2012 will fund the project and the final project value will not be greater than the actual total of the donations received.
"The community was shocked and angry when we heard about the fire," said Doucette. "But we were determined to rebuild."
Major corporations, not-for-profit organizations and private citizens have all contributed significant funds to the rebuilding effort.
Plastic Bags (June 2012)
Going into Council's vote, I had wanted to keep the 5 cent bag fee, as this was the wish from the majority of residents who contacted my office. I believe council needed a report to weigh the consequences of eliminating plastic bags; however, a request for such a report was not included in Councillor Perruzza's motion. Councillor McMahon put forward a motion which delayed the removal of bags until 2014 and asked for a report. While I supported this motion, it was deemed redundant because of the order in which the motions were presented. When Councillor Shiner's motion came forward councillors were left with the choice of banning plastic bags or having them fully available with no fee. Since I had heard that residents did not believe in having the bags available for free I voted in favour of Councillor Shiner's motion.
Unfortunately, sometimes motions are brought to the floor of Council without notice. This means that there is not time for the consultation with the public that I would prefer. While many studies have been done on the environmental impact of such a ban, I would have preferred to hear directly from Torontonians and our ward on this issue.
Plastic bag bans are become increasingly common around the world. Cities like Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Mexico City have all banned plastic bags at the checkout, as have nine countries and the state of Hawaii. Canadian cities, such as Fort McMurray and Leaf Rapids have also banned plastic shopping bags. In these cases the bans have helped curb costs for garbage, and improved the environment. It costs Toronto $100 per tonne to recycle plastic bags, and we get $25-$32 per tonne from industry purchasing it, so it is a net cost of $72 per bag per tonne. That's money we pay through our waste bill whether you use plastic bags or not. It is estimate that the bag fee saved $100,000 and the ban will save an additional $100,000. This doesn't include the cost of litter pickup, which will also be reduced.
The industry that buys recycled bags do not recycle them into new bags, the chemistry of processing so many slightly different bags together prevents true recycling. Instead they are "downcycled" into low value products which are not recyclable themselves. With a plastic bag taking 1000 years to break down and never being able to biodegrade, banning plastic bags allows us to create a better city, country and world.
A question that continues to come up is concern over meats, as well as pet droppings. While check out bags will be banned, produce bags, such as those that hold vegetables or meats, will not. You will still be able to wrap your meat products if you are concerned about contamination. Biodegradable pet bags will also still be sold, which usually sell for substantially less than the 5 cents a bag fee.
While the implementation of this bylaw will take some adjusting, we will see a better city and better environment for our future generations.
April 2012 City Council Meeting
Sports Field Fees
In the 2012 City Budget fees were placed on children and youth sports fields, some for the first time. Unfortunately, as most sports organizations had completed their budget and registration process for 2012, they were unable to raise the additional funds required to meet these fee increases. At the March City Council meeting I put forward a successful motion asking city staff to look at providing relief to organizations unable to comply with this new fee structure. The motion also asked that a system be put in place so that in future sports organizations are notified in advance of any fee increase so that this issue will never happen again. Following this, a number of Councillor and I held a public consultation at City Hall to discuss these changes. This motion, as well as the public consultation brought to light the importance of this issue in the media and to all residents. I am thrilled to say that at the April City Council meeting Council voted unanimously on a motion brought forward by Councillor Davis and myself to not implement these fees for 2012. The $1.5 million of anticipated revenue will come from the surplus in another area of the City budget, not the Parks budget. A motion was also passed to ensure proper consultation will occur before any changes are made for the 2013 season. A funding strategy for sports field renewal will be created and public information sessions on the User Fee Policy will be a part of the 2013 budget process.
February 2012 City Council Meeting
I was one of the 24 Councillors who asked for this special meeting of council to occur so we could have a proper debate on the topic of the Eglinton LRT. In an ideal world, Toronto would have a much larger and more effective subway system. In this era of cuts to libraries, city programs and services, a large expansion cannot occur at this time. Through allowing the Eglinton LRT to travel above ground east of the Don Valley, the city can afford to continue to work on the other areas in need. In the mid-town core, I do support having the LRT underground, where the street cannot support the additional line. I believe following this plan, which is supported by the city's transit experts, is a reasonable compromise to get Toronto moving and alleviate some of the transit problems we currently face.
January 2012 City Council Meeting
The 2012 Budget
After a long and extensive consultation process, yesterday City Council approved the 2012 City Budget. This budget has seen a number of changes since the original proposal came out of the budget committee. I am happy to state that a number of important amendments made it through, leading to a budget which will help build a better city.
Here are some of the motions that I supported, having heard from residents that these services were important to you:
- The Children Services Budget to restore the school based childcare rent subsidy.
- That children youth and older adults in priority centres not be charged user fees.
- That the daytime hours to ice-rinks be restored - this includes Lambton Arena
- That we restore funding to the 5 swimming pools - this includes Runnymede C.I.
- That funding is restored to the Community Partnership Investment Programs (CPIP) - this includes several organizations in our ward that rely on this money either as seed money to generate more funds or to pay to keep their programs running.
- Increasing the TTC budget by $5 million to prevent service reductions - could include 35 Jane, 26 Dupont, 30 Lambton, 41 Keele, 66 Prince Edward or 89 Weston but his will be up to the TTC Commission.
- Restoring funding to the Shelter Support and Housing Administration.
- Restoring funding to the Immigrant Women's Health Centre - 75% of this is funded by the Provincial Ministry of Health.
- Not implementing the new fee at the indoor and outdoor pools - this would have affected Sunnyside and High Park outdoor pools. Swansea and Annette indoor pools.
- Re-instating 3 Corporate Environment Support positions to the Toronto Environment Office Divisions until December 2014 to continue to implement the City's sustainable Energy Strategy and Climate Change Action plan.
- At no cost to the City, to support the provision of additional speech and language assessment and treatment in Toronto, to reduce the current waiting list by 700 children - this is funded by a grant from the ministry of Children and Youth Services for Toronto's Preschool Speech and Language Program - may help children in our ward on the waiting list.
- Re-instating $3,890 million to the Toronto Public Libraries - this prevents cuts in hours to Runnymede, Annette and Jane/Dundas Branches and no loss of programs.
- Re-instating the Live Green Toronto Community Animator's program till December 2012 at a 50% reduction to their budget.
- Including the Youth Outreach Program in the Recreation Service Review.
I also supported the motion that City Council re-confirm its operating budget surplus distribution policy which states that the surplus be distributed in priority order to:
- The Capital Finance Reserve Fund (at least 75% of the surplus)
- The remainder to fund any underfunded liabilities and/or reserves/reserve funds, as determined by the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer.
At the meeting we also approved a 2.5% Property Tax increase. I believe the city needs this revenue to maintain services, to put some money away each year to pay down the debt, to put some towards the new streetcars that are coming soon and hopefully to build a better city. This would mean a $60 annual increase on a house assessed at $447,090.
I am pleased to tell you that Keele Community Centre and the nutrition program at Warren Park School had been saved at the Budget meeting earlier in the month