The following votes took place in 2013. If there are any issues that you do not see on this list and are interested in, please contact my office.
Council Meeting Highlights - Regular Meeting November 13-14, 2013 and Special Meetings on November 15 and 18, 2013
Council Decisions on the Mayor's Powers at City Hall
On Monday, November 18, City Council concluded the 3rd of its Special Meetings concerning the role of Mayor Ford for the rest of this term of Council. We made a number of decisions that affect the non-statutory powers of the Mayor and delegate some of these responsibilities to the City’s Deputy Mayor.
A majority of City Councillors and I brought forward the issue of the Mayor’s behaviour and its impact on the city and its residents. On Wednesday, November 13, 29 Councillors and I jointly submitted a letter asking the mayor to take a leave of absence. You can see the letter here. Council formally requested that the mayor apologize to residents of the City of Toronto for his actions. We, once again, encouraged him to take a leave of absence in order to address his issues privately so that we can continue to focus on all the important work of the City.
It was within our power to limit his role as Mayor so we voted to remove some of his powers and duties that are not assigned by statute. These are the powers of the Mayor now delegated to the Deputy Mayor:
- Chairing Executive Committee; the Executive Committee elects a vice-chair from amongst its own members
- Appointing a selection panel for the recruitment of the City's Accountability Officers and chairing or designating a chair of the panel
- Sitting as a member and chair of the Toronto Emergency Management Program Committee (TEMPC) and the Control Group which directs emergency operations
- Transferring certain staff of the Mayor's Office to the Office of the City Clerk under the Deputy Mayor's supervision
- Chairing the City's Debenture Committee and the City's Striking Committee.
Other changes made by Council:
- Council has responsibility for appointing the Deputy Mayor
- Standing Committees have responsibility for appointing their own Chairs if a vacancy occurs
- Setting the budget of the Office of the Mayor at $95,000 for the remainder of 2013 and the budget of the Office of the Mayor for January 1 to November 30, 2014, at $712,000, plus the amount of the Mayor's salary and benefits
- Reallocating the balance of the operating budget in 2013 in the amount of $429,880, and for January 1 to November 30, 2014 in the amount of $882,820 to the City Clerk's Office to be administered under the oversight of the Deputy Mayor
- The Mayor can no longer designate or set times for key matters
- The Mayor can no longer elect to speak first or last on agenda items
- Council has removed the Mayor's powers to designate members of certain bodies, determine the urgency of certain member's motions, appoint the Corporation's Nominating Panel, and sign minutes
- Finally, Council removed the Mayor from the Debenture Committee and removed some associated authorities regarding matters under the debentures bylaw.
Click here to view the Council documents for the November 15 and 18 Special Council Meetings.
I want to assure you that while this has been a distraction to many people, my focus has continued to be on our community and other important City issues. Some of these important issues that we also voted on last week include: saving Toronto`s BIXI bike share program, restricting smoking on Toronto beaches and playgrounds, and strengthening residents' roles in the Mid-Rise Guidelines review process.In the coming weeks I will work with Councillors to ensure our public services are protected in the 2014 City Budget.
Follow-up on the July 8, 2013 Storm Event
During the July 8, 2013 storm, flooding, and subsequent power outage, some in the ward only lost power for 46 hours, but south of Bloor and parts of Runnymede lost power for nearly two full days. The loss of power itself was a result of the flooding at Hydro One's Manby Transmission Station, the only station to feed the Swansea area.
After the storm, I met with Toronto Hydro, Hydro On and the City to find out how they were all going to review the impact of the storm and reassess how they deal with these types of emergencies, and how things can be improved moving forward.
At the November 13 Council meeting, a staff report on the storm was considered and Council voted:
1. That City Council direct the Toronto Hydro Board to assign appropriate staff to represent Toronto Hydro at the City's Emergency Management Working Group and the City's Toronto Emergency Management Program Committee as well as represent Toronto Hydro during emergency events in the City's Emergency Operations Centre;
2. That City Council request the City Manager and the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer to report to the Government Management Committee, no later than February, 2014, on a more coordinated approach between 311 Toronto, Toronto Hydro, Hydro One and Toronto Water, which would assist 311 Toronto in responding to Toronto residents during emergency events within the City.
3. That City Council request the City Manager to report to the December 5, 2013 meeting of the Executive Committee on the proposed reallocation of existing capital and/or future budget requests in the Capital Plans for City Divisions and agencies arising from the July 8, 2013 storm.
4. That City Council request the City Manager to consult with:
a. the President of the Media Gallery on ways of improving the City's emergency response strategy; and
b. the Chief Information Officer and the Director, Strategic Communications to co-ordinate a rapid and effective response during an emergency event using the City's website.
And, something that I have been asking for since the flood:
5. That City Council request Hydro One to:
a. advance the prioritization of enhancements to the Manby Station to ensure the future reliability of the hydro system in western Toronto.
b. report back to the City, through the City Manager, in the Spring of 2014, with the business and capital plans to expedite the Manby Station upgrade.
I am pleased to say I voted in favour of this report, especially because upcoming activity will include consultation with stakeholders including Residents' Associations which, in Ward 13, are engaged, informed, and committed to supporting appropriate development in our neighbourhoods.
In July 2010, Council directed staff to use the Mid-Rise Building Performance Standards in the evaluation of mid-rise development proposals. Council also adopted a monitoring period of approximately 2 years in order to measure the effectiveness of the Standards.
City Planning is well underway in this monitoring of the Performance Standards, however further work including inter-Divisional consultation, consultation with stakeholders, and the general public is necessary to complete a comprehensive review. A City report requested Council extend the monitoring period to provide time to conduct this consultation. Staff will report back with results of the monitoring period by the end of 2014.
In the period beginning July 1, 2010 and ending June 30, 2013, the City received approximately 60 site-specific development proposals for mid-rise buildings along the Avenues (proposals for buildings that are between 4 and 11 storeys, excluding townhouses). An additional 66 site-specific applications for mid-rise buildings were received for areas of the city outside of the Avenues (a significant number of which were in the Downtown and Central Waterfront, and in the Centres). These proposals were received in all Planning Districts of the City.
As a component of the monitoring period, staff have held internal meetings with Divisional Staff from each of the four Planning Districts. With input from community planners and urban designers, staff has considered potential amendments to the Performance Standards for both Avenues and other mixed-use areas. The next steps in this process will be to consult with the mid-rise inter-Divisional team, stakeholders, and the general public. Some of this work may result in recommendations to amend the Official Plan.
For more information, visit the Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study and Action Plan from May 2010.
Smoke-Free Toronto – Expanding Smoke-Free Areas
I'm very pleased to tell you that, as a member of both the Board of Health and the Parks and Environment Committee, I fully supported the expansion of smoke-free areas in the City, as per HL 24.3 (add link):
- public building entrances and exits;
- outdoor sports fields and parks amenities;
- swimming beaches;
- public squares;
- public parklets;
- hospital grounds.
Note on bar and restaurant patios: the Provincial government is working on a province-wide ban of smoking in these areas as well.
In addition to that, the Parks and Environment report (PE 23.3 – add link) recommended the following areas also prohibit smoking:
- Within a nine metre radius of sports fields when in use under a program run by Parks Forestry and Recreation or by any other person or group under a permit issued by the City of Toronto;
- At park amenities, including skateboard and BMX parks, ski hills, outdoor swimming pools, covered picnic shelters or gazebos and outdoor theatre spaces
- On swimming beaches; and
- In a waiting area or service line for the Toronto Island Ferry Service operated by the City of Toronto.
Both reports passed! Toronto Public Health will start working immediately with the affected City Divisions to devise an implementation and communication plan.
Council Meeting Highlights – October 8-11, 2013
CC39.5 - Scarborough LRT vs Subway (Part 2)
Let me start by saying I support subways, but I believe that residents of Scarborough deserve good transit now.
I could not support turning down a fully-funded, provincially-supported Light Rail Transit (LRT) line that has a completed environmental assessment report, which means construction could start right away. This LRT would provide the residents of Scarborough with a dedicated track to get them between the Kennedy Subway Station and a new Sheppard East station. The LRT would have 7 stations (4 more than a subway) including one servicing Centennial College's 40,000 full-time students, and 3 stations going into under-serviced neighbourhoods. Even with 4 additional stations, only five minutes of travel time would be added.
The subway proposal will cost the residents of Toronto a minimum of $1 billion. This does not include the renegotiation of the contract with Bombardier, cost overruns, the capital maintenance of $30 to $40 million per year plus the shortfall for operating costs not covered by the ticket box due to low ridership. (According to TTC and City Manager reports, there is enough ridership to pay for the operation of an LRT, but not a subway.) The $1 billion also does not include the $38 million of interest to be paid annually on the money borrowed in order to make this happen.
On top of all that, the TTC has already budgeted $450 million of its own funds to pay for automatic train controls, funds that were to be spread out over the next ten years. The TTC must now find $40 million to do this work on the new line, forcing them to change their already established budget.
The $1 billion would be paid for by using $165 million of development charges and $745 million minimum from property taxes. Neither the City Manager nor the CEO of the TTC could give us the exact amount regarding any of these figures, so these numbers could easily increase. On top of the possible 1.75% property tax increase for 2014, residents will be paying an additional 1.6% tax increase phased in over the next three years (0.5% in 2014, 0.5% in 2015, and 0.6% in 2016) to pay for this project. This puts into question the City's ability to afford other priority issues such as funding for sewer work, basement flooding infrastructure upgrades, improvements to the Gardiner, TCHC repairs, and child care.
EX34.13 – Street Parties
I am pleased to announce an amendment to EX 34.13 "Improving Special Events Related Services and Permitting Processes" passed to ensure that permit applications for street parties have the option of obtaining general liability insurance through the City of Toronto's established user group liability insurance program. This was previously available in our area, however it was removed during the 2013 street party season, causing unnecessary stress in our community. Council also directed the General Manager of Transportation to review the 6 to 8 week processing time, with the hope of reducing this to 2 weeks. I hope these changes mean next summer we will have more street parties than ever before!
Council Meeting Highlights – July 16-19, 2013
CC37.17 - Scarborough LRT vs Subway
On this matter I voted to stick with the Metrolinx and City of Toronto Master Agreement for an LRT instead of a subway in Scarborough. These are my reasons. A subway would cost $1B more and would delay, defer, or even delete other necessary transit projects from the broader transit expansion the City desperately needs. Even if the funds were found, it takes a lot more capacity than exists or is projected to exist to generate the amount of money to maintain a subway, therefore the City would be picking up the operational cost of running the subway not covered as a result of low ridership. As a result of the excessive costs, it would take longer to build, especially if the other orders of government do not support us with increased funding. It is also important to note that the $1B in funding we do not even have for this subway would only pay for 3 stations east of Kennedy Station.
I prefer the LRT for Scarborough because there are 7 stations, the maintenance costs would be carried by Metrolinx, and there is funding already in place. So we could start building it a lot sooner. On top of all that, the Scarborough LRT would be within walking distance of 47,000 residents and employees whereas a subway would be within walking distance of 24,000. One of the 7 LRT stations would be at Centennial College, a campus of 40,000 full- and part-time students. Finally, I can't believe we would put in jeopardy the transit expansion of two or three other parts of the city for three subway stops in only one.
GM23.8 - 1978-2000 Lake Shore Blvd West – the former location of the Joy Oil Station
As many of you know, the old Joy Oil Station building was designated a heritage building and moved down the road near the Royal Burger in 2007. Its former location is 1978, 2000, and 2002 Lake Shore Blvd West, which is now empty and of interest to developers. In May 2012, 1978 and a portion of 2000 Lake Shore Blvd W were transferred to Build Toronto and last month, the rest of 2000 and all of 2002 were transferred. Between May 2012 and the beginning of this year, the City implemented a strata policy on properties it sells.
I was able to add a strata of 65 m to the second portion (2000-2002 Lake Shore Blvd W) before it was transferred last month but because the first portion (1978-2000 Lake Shore Blvd W) was transferred before the strata policy was in place, I had to make an amendment to the transfer deal with Build and add a 65 m strata to 1978-2000 as well. Build Toronto requested a strata of 85 m on the first portion (1978-2000), which would have allowed a potential 26 storeys in that tower.
You may be wondering what "strata" means. Basically, what we've done is sell to Build Toronto only 65 m above ground. That means, anyone who buys that property from Build to develop it will only ever be able to build up to a maximum of 65 m above ground – that's approximately 20 storeys. That limit cannot be appealed to the Committee of Adjustment or the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
The overdevelopment of the lakeshore area is a concern many of us share in the community, as well as in the Planning department. The 65 m was the height that Planning believed would allow the City to manage this problem. You will recall that the Cresford development at (103-105 The Queensway) went to the Committee of Adjustment in 2010 - after the City had already approved 25 storeys - and somehow managed to get another 10 storeys added to one of their buildings! It was frustrating, to say the least. In addition to that, the property on the east side of Windermere, 1940 Lake Shore Blvd W, has been purchased by a company that's proposing a development of two towers at 42 and 48 storeys! Putting a strata of 65 m at 1978 Lake Shore Blvd W was necessary and urgent.
EY25.15 - Mimico 2020 Secondary Plan
Over the last few months I have heard from two groups. One in favour of the Mimico secondary plan and one opposed. My opinion is that the secondary plan is less dense than any developer would probably want and could easily get.
Another reason I voted for the Secondary Plan is because it seemed to me that, without it, the affordable rental housing would have been severely and detrimentally affected. Developers always say they will reduce the densities if they do not have to keep the rental units. It's insulting for them to even offer that trade. In the case of Mimico 2020, because it is illegal to eradicate affordable rental units in the buildings being taken down, the developers were proposing to move the tenants across the tracks. I don't understand how a little less density could justify that. I supported keeping affordable rental units onsite and keeping the density under control.
In addition to all that, the Secondary Plan restricts how close the buildings can be to the lake.
It is agreed that the plan is not perfect but these are some of the things that the Secondary Plan has accomplished.
City Council Highlights - June 11, 2013
PW 22.9 – Street Furniture Contract Amendments
I do not support the Creative Advertising request because I am concerned that the decreased visibility from extra advertising on the bus shelters will increase safety risks. I have concerns about the electronic third-party signage as well because these are already prohibited in certain parts of the city and I want to wait for a report coming in the fall to know exactly where this signage would be allowed and where it would be prohibited. See here for the report.
PW 23.10 – Dundas St W and Keele St Right-Turn Prohibitions
In the next few months, City staff will be installing signage to indicate No right-turn-on-red’ going southbound, westbound and eastbound at the Keele St and Dundas St W intersection. Resident concerns prompted a traffic study and the results led staff to decide to recommend this change. This will improve pedestrian safety at this intersection. Information on Transportation Staff’s comments is detailed in the Staff Report available here.
CC 36.5 – Ombudsman's Report on the Eviction of Seniors at TCHC
I asked for this item to be timed on the second day of Council so that the Ombudsman could make a presentation to all of us. Along with many other Councillors, I did my best to highlight the seriousness of the TCHC Ombudsman's findings. Hopefully, after this the third report in 8 years to highlight the problems seniors are experiencing as TCHC tenants, something will be done. We will be holding TCHC to account and not letting this drop.
City Council Highlights - May 21, 2013
EX 30.1 – Downtown Casino
I voted against the establishment of a new casino in downtown Toronto. I was concerned with the inability of Toronto's current infrastructure to accommodate the increased demand for roads or parking needs that will be necessitated by the influx of visitors coming to a casino. There were also concerns that, once established, a casino would drain patrons away from smaller businesses in the surrounding area such as restaurants and theatres.
I did vote in favour of adding gaming tables to Woodbine Racetrack's existing slot machines. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Woodbine Racetrack is located at Rexdale Blvd and Hwy 27, across the street from the Woodbine Shopping Centre. The racetrack has been there since 1956 and the 3000 Ontario Lottery and Gaming slots have been operating since 2000. It is located on a piece of land with room to expand and a present parking capacity of 10,500 vehicles. The current employment numbers are: 800 plus at the slots, 2500 at the racetrack stables, and another 2000 or so individuals employed by the Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG). In total, WEG’s business activities, including the racetrack and slots, generate 10,000 jobs in the city.
Council Highlights - May 7, 2013
EX 31.3 – Metrolinx Transit Funding Tools
At the transit debates, I wanted to support suggesting new revenue sources to the Province. I am in favour of revenue tools that least affect those who can least afford to pay. I supported the sales tax tool on the condition that there are HST returns available for people who can't afford an increase. Unfortunately, many of the funding options were never discussed at the Council meeting so I didn't get a chance to state my preferences through the voting process that day.
EY 22.33 – Baby Point Gates BIA area Parking Regulations
After many months of consultation with the BIA and the community, a City report was sent to Council to suggest amendments on Jane Street, between Hanley Street and Lessard Avenue, and on Annette Street, between Jane Street and Windermere Avenue. Local business owners and patrons were experiencing consistent parking aggravation as a result of the parking duration limitation in the area and the parking prohibition on the east side of Jane St during afternoon rush hour. At Council, members voted in favour of amending the parking to allow for a maximum "Two Hour Parking" duration, an increase from the existing maximum of "One Hour Parking". In addition, they voted in favour of amendments to the parking restrictions on the east side of Jane Street through the BIA area to allow parking from "4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday". The proposed parking amendments will provide residents and customers greater access, convenience and parking uniformity in the Baby Point Gates Business Area. To see the staff report, click here.
PE 20.1 – Five-year plan for Toronto's parks
Council adopted the City of Toronto Parks Plan, which will guide the City's delivery of parks services over the next five years. The plan aims to connect residents with parks, make progress on greening and environmental sustainability, improve the quality of parks, and strengthen the parks system as a legacy for Toronto. Click here for all the details.
MM 33.12 – Ai Weiwei sculpture
City Council approved the temporary installation of the sculpture Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads in the reflecting pool at Nathan Phillips Square, from 10th June to 27th October 2013. Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is the work of renowned contemporary Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei and has been the centerpiece of a global, multi-year touring exhibition that has been presented in the United States, Europe, and Asia by the AW Asia Foundation of New York. The local presenter will be The Art Gallery of Ontario.
MM 33.17 – One metre passing rule for cyclists' safety
This motion was referred to the Executive Committee for more consideration. The motion essentially moves that the City and the Province legislate a one metre passing rule for vehicles when passing cyclists. I voted in favour of it because it would remind drivers to give cyclists more space than they do now and decrease the amount of accidents. To read the whole motion, click here.
City Council Highlights - February 2013
I was pleased to support Councillor Matlow's motion Taking Action on the Roots of Youth Violence and the Undocumented Workers in Toronto item. Both are requesting City staff to report back to Council in the next few months.
Finally, I supported Councillor McConnell's motion to help keep Far Enough Farms open and running!
City Council Highlights - January 2013
RUNNYMEDE FIRE STATION IS OPEN!
Thank you to all the residents, neighbours and concerned citizens who took the time to sign the petition or send me an email about the Runnymede Fire Station. At Council on January 16, 2013, I voted for Councillor Fletcher's motion that would:
"…add 63 front line firefighters in addition to the 20 approved by the Executive Committee on January 10, 2013 and that this complement of 83 be utilized to maintain the fire services vehicles at Stations 213, 215, 324, 413, and 424, including the retention of Stn 424 [Runnymede Station]".
That motion requested the re-instatement of staff and trucks for one year, until Council had time to consider two upcoming reports (one, a Fire Underwriters Survey by the insurance industry, and the other, an efficiency review done by an outside consulting firm) and any updates to the current City of Toronto Fire Master Plan by the Fire Chief.
Councillor Ainslie moved an amendment to this motion to decrease the funding term from 1 year to 6 months. I voted against this amendment but it passed anyway. So, even though it's only for 6 months, we have saved an extra 63 frontline firefighter positions, and all the trucks slated to be taken off the road, and the Runnymede Fire Station. I'm pleased that it is not closing and will continue to do my best to keep it that way. Now what we're waiting for is a proper City Council review of the findings of those reports.
One of the most surprising things I learned was that Fire Services made its 2013 Budget recommendations, that included closing Runnymede, without knowing about the developments being built, approved, or in process in Ward 13. Developments that could add about 3150 new living units in the next 4-6 years! Not to mention those going up in nearby wards.
Thank you again for your commitment to the Runnymede Fire Station. Your efforts will be a benefit to the health and safety of many residents of Ward 13 and beyond. Let's keep fighting!
TORONTO PARKS AND TREES FOUNDATION:
Also on January 16, 2013, I moved a motion that City Council agree to a one-time grant of $250,000 for the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. I'm happy to say that it passed. This will allow TPTF to grow its ability to be an effective fundraising resource for our public parks, open spaces, natural areas and trees across the City.
The Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation has raised over $2 million from donations, fundraisers and grants for the City of Toronto between 2002 and 2011. The Foundation currently holds about $300,000 awaiting disbursement to specific Toronto Parks projects.
In 2012, following the tragic fire that claimed part of the play structure at the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in High Park, the Foundation quickly worked with the community (including Canadian Tire, TD Canada Trust, Lowe's, the Sprott Family Foundation, Mike Homes Group, Janet Rosenberg Landscape & Architecture and residents) by accepting donations for the rebuild of the playground. This enabled the City to rebuild the structure within four months of the fire.
The Foundation also facilitated efforts to raise funds for the operations of Riverdale Farm, Far Enough Farm and High Park Zoo. From February 1, 2012 until now they have accepted over $187,000 for the High Park Zoo. Being able to provide charitable tax receipts for donations of $10 or more means that community groups can concentrate on fundraising and making residents aware of the project and not worry about this administrative burden.
On the Foundation's website at www.torontoparksandtree.org right now you can see 19 projects that they are collecting donations for including the Labyrinth in High Park. They attract a donor base that is not possible through the City of Toronto's partnership initiatives. The Foundation's status allows it to receive federal and provincial grants not available to the City directly. As an arm's length charity, it also can attract donors who prefer not to directly donate to a government organization.
On January 16, 2013, I was also pleased to move a motion to:
"… re-instate the original timeline in the 2008 Urban Forestry Service Plan to achieve the 40% tree canopy targeted by the year 2050, and request the General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation to include the required funding for consideration through the 2014 Budget process."
It is estimated that there are 10.1 million trees in Toronto made up of 144 species. They store 1.1 million metric tonnes of carbon each year, the equivalent of carbon emissions from 733,000 cars. Not surprisingly, the bigger the trees, the bigger the value both aesthetically and environmentally.
Trees are also great at blocking the sun in the summer and protecting our homes from the cold in the winter. Walking down a tree-lined street, you'll definitely hear less air conditioners buzzing in the summer. Trees save residents and the City money by decreasing the need for the energy to cool and heat our homes, schools, recreation centres, and businesses.
Toronto should continue its aggressive tree-planting program and keep nurturing existing trees so they'll flourish and grow as much as possible.