Council Update: July 2017

TransformTO climate action plan  

After a month's delay I am thrilled to share that City Council unanimously approved the TransformTO action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto by 80 per cent by the year 2050. TransformTO identifies strategies and goals to transform Toronto's buildings and energy, transportation and waste systems by 2050. I was honoured to be a member of the committee that brought forward these recommendations, and look forward to implementing these actions across the City. Now, we need to get the necessary funding to implement this recommendations into the 2018 budget!

Implementation of Tenants First strategy     

Council approved the integration of City programs and services for seniors at more than 80 seniors-designated buildings in the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) portfolio, as recommended in the Tenants First report. The seniors-designated buildings will be managed by a new entity separate from TCHC. In addition to this important work, I was happy a motion passed directing TCHC not to permanently close any additional housing units in 2018 or 2019.

King Street pilot project  

Council authorized the King Street transit pilot project between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets starting this fall. This pilot project is primarily about improving the speed and reliability of public transit on King Street, Toronto's busiest route for surface transit. A motion that Council adopted will give taxis greater freedom of movement than general traffic on King Street from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am to coincide with the theatre, restaurants, and bar closings.

The passing of my friend, Pam McConnell

Council ended abruptly with the tragic news that our college, Pam McConnell had passed away. Pam has been an influential player at City Hall for over 20 years. She has dedicated her life to social justice issues, leading the City's Poverty Reduction Strategy this term on Council. On a personal note, when I was a new Councillor, Pam was always willing to help, sharing her wisdom and advice. She was a great friend, and will be truly missed.  

Council Update: May 2017

The Downtown Relief Line
Council voted to take the next steps in planning the relief line for the subway. While we have spent years debating a one stop subway in Scarborough. I am thrilled that we are finally moving forward on a proposal that will make a huge difference to all those that enter our downtown to work and play. Council approved the relief line alignment, which will run east from the downtown core and north under Carlaw Avenue to Pape Station. It will consist of five new stations between Pape and Queen Station, then connect Queen to Ossington. Staff will also be providing a business case for extending the relief line farther north to Don Mills.

The 2018 City Budget
Council also started discussing the 2018 City Budget. I continue to feel that we are not funding what is important to the City of Toronto. The proposed 0% increase to City Divisions is not in keeping with inflation. It will result in an approximate 2% cut to our organizations such as parks, libraries, and affect our most vulnerable residents. Although this motion passed, I will continue to fight for the needs of the residents of Ward 13 throughout the entire budget process.

Council Update: April 2017

Community consultation on emergency shelters
I am pleased to share that Council adopted a new community engagement process that sets out how the City will engage with the public concerning new or relocated municipal shelters to serve homeless people. As our community saw through the Runnymede shelter process, the current system is not working.  This new approach should help local residents and shelter users have more understanding of the proposals, and the role they can play in the process.  As part of the same agenda item, Council also authorized staff to introduce a new service model to apply at four new shelter programs operating on a pilot-project basis. Together these changes should help modernize our shelter system.

Protection of heritage buildings  
Council adopted motions requesting reports on protecting heritage buildings, including creating a "heritage survey" of all the buildings/structures across the city that have potential heritage value. Heritage buildings or areas identified as being under threat of demolition for development would be afforded some protection under the Ontario Heritage Act and through the City's process for demolition permits. This has been an issue not just in Ward 13, but throughout the City, and I am happy to see these important steps move forward.

Support for refugees and other newcomers
Council voted in favour of several recommendations tied to the City's role related to refugees, refugee claimants and undocumented Torontonians. Among the actions adopted is a request for the Canadian and Ontario governments to provide more funding to the City, including for the Toronto Newcomer Office and various municipally delivered social services that face increased demand for their services.

Council Update: March 2017

Scarborough subway extension    

Council was again debated the Scarborough Subway Extension. I was very disappointed that the majority of Council members continued to support moving forward with the one stop subway. Even basic votes such as looking at the business case for the extension were voted down by the Mayor and Council. Council approved the McCowan alignment for the extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway (Line 2) from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Centre. Council also endorsed a concept for a 34-bay bus terminal at the Scarborough Centre station.

Standards for apartment buildings

A new apartment by-law was also passed, applicable to Apartment Buildings that are rental properties with three or more storeys and ten or more dwelling units available for rent. Apartment building owners will be required to pay an annual registration fee and submit information about compliance with property standards. The resulting apartment bylaw, effective July 1, will apply to rental buildings three or more storeys tall and having 10 or more dwelling units available for rent..

Federal investment in affordable housing      
I'm also happy to share Council supported a motion for the City to ask the Canadian government to implement the commitments to housing funding made in the 2017 federal budget and to establish a housing funding allocation model for investing funds based on housing need. Council agreed to ask the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to release the government's proposed national housing strategy.

Council Update: January 2017

Waste collection east of Yonge Street
Council considered the matter of curbside waste collection service east of Yonge Street.  I am happy to share that Council voted to refer the matter to staff for further study and a later report to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. The current curbside collection system is split between contracted collection west of Yonge Street and in-house collection by City workers east of Yonge Street. 

Resources for review of development applications       
Council asked staff to prepare a report on the City's development approval process, including improvements for identifying buildings of heritage significance that may be under threat of demolition. The City is increasing staff resources to handle increased development applications. Applications in City Planning have increased by 27 per cent over the past three years, with a total of 4,790 applications submitted in 2016.

Sponsorship of Syrian refugees    
Council supported asking the federal government to ensure that Syrian refugee families, as well as families from other countries, are processed and travel arrangements made so sponsorship groups ready to host families can welcome them to Canada within three months. Council is also asking the government to reconsider its current cap on the maximum number of privately-sponsored refugees and to review Canada's refugee resettlement plan for 2017.

 Appointment of Medical Officer of Health   
As the vice-chair of the Board of Health, I am happy to share that Council approved the appointment of Dr. Eileen de Villa as Toronto’s new Medical Officer of Health. The new Medical Officer of Health is scheduled to start work at the City on March 27.

Council Update: November 2016

EX18.2 - Toronto Ward Boundary Review

Last year, Council hired a team of experts to examine and redefine our ward boundaries. Their mandate was to looking at the size and shape of Toronto's wards, and ensure each person in Toronto is fairly represented at City Council.  The consultants also took into account natural boundaries, keeping communities united, and growth patterns for the future, to ensure stability beyond the next few elections.  In their final report, they recommended a new set of boundaries that created 47 wards.

At council, there were some members who wished that Council stay at its current number of 44 wards.  While the consultants did create a set of boundaries that only had 44 wards, they explained to Council that this would not be the ideal solution, and does not take into account the direction from the communities they consulted.  In the end, I voted with the majority of Council to accept the consultant’s original proposal for 47 wards. This would mean a change in our boundary

 

EX19.1 - Transit Network Plan Update and Financial Strategy

Council voted to continue to support the transit stop additions along the GO Rail lines, which is the current version of the Mayor’s SmartTrack plan. The debate at Council primarily focused on two major issues, how the City will pay for SmartTrack, and what aspects of the overall long term transportation network will be built.

My primary problem with this current proposal is the lack of long-term financing and the possible revenue tools to pay for it. We must also know once built what will be the annual cost for the City for maintenance, and what will be the subsidy per ride. While it is agreed that Council has gone too long without investing in new transit, Council has yet to find a way to finance this project. As the Mayor puts forward a plan to cut 2.6% from the budget of every City department, the City must find way to ensure that transit can be built while protecting our City’s services.   City staff will present a report on financing options in a few weeks. I believe we will be in a better position to discuss this plan when all information is on the table, and we know what could be lost by supporting this plan without increasing taxes or user fees.

 

EX18.7 - Expo 2025: Feasibility Consideration

For the past four years, Councillor Wong-Tam and a large community of people have been working towards a bid for the 2025 World Exposition to be held here in Toronto. After an extensive planning process, City staff recommended that the Portlands be considered for such an event, all though a 2025 date would not give the necessary time for construction. While Council voted to not move forward with a bid for the 2025 event, we left the door open for a bid in 2030, should the timing work in our favour.   

Council Update: October 2016

CD 14.9 - Proposal for Emergency Men's Shelter at 731 Runnymede Road

The staff report and revised proposal allowing for a for a fifty-bed shelter at 731 Runnymede Road was approved. I am grateful for the hard work of the local residents who volunteered their time for weekly meetings this summer as part of the Community Liaison Committee, working alongside City Staff, Councillors and local agencies. Their thoughtful consideration of the proposal and needs of the local community helped inform the report brought to Council. The community feedback and engagement on this issue have led to a broader discussion about how we support our local neighbourhoods while living up to our obligations as a City to provide shelter for those in need.

For a full update on all the work that has taken place, please visit my 731 Runnymede website.

 

EX17.27 - Donation of Holodomor Memorial at Exhibition Place

I am thrilled to share that after almost a decade of work, the Holodomor Memorial has been approved to be installed at Exhibition Place. The Holodomor was a man-made famine in Ukraine that lasted from 1932 and 1933, killing millions of Ukrainians.  The Ukrainian-Canadian Congress has worked diligently to have this monument installed, and to raise awareness about this tragedy. It is wonderful to see their hard work pay off.

 

GM 14.10 – Tenant feasibility along the Beaches (Tuggs Inc)

The vote regarding Tuggs Inc. sub-lease to Cara Operations was difficult, as I could see both sides of this issue.  While residents of the Beaches were upset at the proposal of a large chain restaurant owner setting up shop in parklands, legally, the vote was whether Cara could fulfill the lease agreement, not whether council supported their restaurant. The existing contract allows for such a transfer to happen, and City Staff supported this proposal.  I firmly believe City Council made an error back in May 2010 when they voted against the staff report and allowed the sole-sourcing of the area to Tuggs Inc, and going against staff’s recommendation again would only exacerbate this problem.

I am happy to share that Council overwhelmingly supported the local Councillors’ initiative to try to initiate negotiations with Tuggs to buy out his remaining exclusive rights to offer food, beverage and sponsorship rights at four city parks: Woodbine Beach, Kew Gardens, Beaches and Ashbridges Bay.

 

EX 17.1 - Rail Deck Park

I was pleased to join Council and vote to have a comprehensive study of the proposed Rail Deck Park. Currently, the downtown core is suffers from a parkland deficiency. This problem will increase exponentially over the next 25 years, as the population is expected to double to nearly 500,000 people. To ensure Toronto stays a liveable city, we must take action now to solve this imbalance. The downtown, like all of Toronto, needs green space for residents, workers, and those visiting our City. This project has the potential to elevate these problems, and this study is the first step forward to see if this is the right approach to take. 

Council Update: July 2016

Developing Toronto's Transit Network Plan

The one thing all Councillors agree on is that we dramatically need to improve our transportation network in Toronto.  While one topic dominated the debate, Council voted overwhelmingly to support taking the next steps to implement the relief line, extensions to the east and west ends of the Eglington Crosstown (which includes a 17 to 18 stop LRT in Scarborough) and a revised version of SmartTrack. These measures will help get Toronto moving, and create a better transit throughout our City.

Where Council differed is in regards to the Scarborough Subway extension.  When I was elected in 2010 we had a provincially fully funded LRT plan for Scarborough, a lower price tag, and served more residents.  Since the LRT was scrapped under the Ford administration, we have seen the proposed Scarborough Subway extension budget explode to 3.2 billion dollars, while the number of stations has been reduced from three to one.  I could not support this proposal when it was first introduced, and there is even less reason to now. We have also learned that 48% of Scarborough residents live, work and travel within Scarborough, with only 23% coming downtown. We need transit that carries the most riders and is cost effective for the City. The one stop Scarborough Subway extension does neither.

2017 Budget Process

Unfortunately, the Scarborough subway was not the only disappointment at Council. After supporting the over three billion dollar, one stop subway, my fellow Councillors supported a motion by the Mayor for all city departments and agencies to find a 2.6% cut in next year’s budget. Since I was elected six years ago, we have asked all of our departments to continually make cuts, or stay status quo every year (despite inflation). We have seen services diminished, and complaints go up as residents cannot access the services they once did. Residents wanting traffic reports have to wait up to 4 months longer than they did when I was first elected. Just this month we have seen service reduced on the Swansea bus even though I am asking for enhanced service. Our City needs to grow, and we do that through improving our city services.

Road Safety Plan 2017-2021

Over the past year, the number of calls, emails and letters to my office regarding road safety has more than doubled.  Residents are concerned, and the City, through the Road Safety Plan, is starting to take action. Council approved over fifty safety measures to be deployed at high-risk locations to reduce serious collisions. These include expanded use of “watch your speed” radar signs, street lighting improvements and longer pedestrian crossing times. We also allowed for the creation of “pedestrian safety corridors” Areas notable for serious collisions will be targeted for safety measures such as lower speed limits and no-right-turn-on-red provisions.

While I was happy to vote in favour of this plan, it is only a first step.  Most of the details focus primarily on the downtown core. The silver lining is that this report does support our efforts to lower the speed on Ward 13’s residential streets to 30 km/h to make for a consistent speed, which will be coming to Community Council in September.

Implementing Supervised Injection Services

As Vice-Chair of the Board of Health, I have learned a great deal regarding the importance of safe injection sites during the past year. Over the last 10 years, we have seen a 77% increase in the number of deaths due to overdose.  We have heard from voices across the City, including those that use drugs and their families, social workers, and the Medical Officer of Health, all stating something must be done.

Toronto City Council voted overwhelmingly in favour to implement three supervised Injection sites at existing community health centres on Queen St. West, near Yonge and Dundas, and in Leslieville. This public health response will save lives, improve the health of people who use drugs, help them change their life style, and make our communities safer. 

Council Update: March 2016

MM17.14 - Car2Go and Parking Concerns

During the first day of Council I started to receive a number of calls regarding Car2Go vehicles being parked on our residential streets. Despite being denied such an agreement with the City, Car2Go has unilaterally decided to allow their members to park on residential streets. As there is no agreement or special consideration, these vehicles are subject to the same rules as any other non-permitted vehicle, and will be fined if caught parking illegally. Car2Go has stated they have hired 20 people to monitor the cars by GPS and to move the cars to the agreed upon spaces in Green P and private parking lots.

I put forward a successful urgent motion to ask that the City and Toronto Police actively monitor to ensure Car2Go fully complies with all parking regulations. It also asked the Manager of Transportation Services to advise Car2Go that they can only park on City streets in a manner that is in full compliance with all parking regulations. It is my hope that we can ensure parking remains available for permit holders. Please do not hesitate to let me know if this issue is affecting your street.

EX13.24 - Advance Voting Days

During the last municipal election, I heard from a number of university and college students who were disappointed with how difficult it was to vote while they were away at school. To make it easier for students to vote, I made a friendly amendment to a proposal to examine adding addition days of advanced voting to the next municipal election. The City will now be looking into adding advanced voting during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, to allow those returning to the City a chance to have their voices heard.

EX13.1 - Local Appeal Body (LAB) for Toronto

I voted with Council to establish a Local Appeal Body for the City of Toronto. Currently, any Committee of Adjustment ruling can be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, the same board of the Ontario government that hears appeals on our large scale developments. Under the new decision, C of A will be appealed to this new local board. There will also be a new mediation service offered, which will allow property owners and neighbours to try to work out their differences before an appeal. While we are still in the first steps of the establishment of this system, I look forward to what could come for residents of our ward.

PW11.1 - Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard East Reconfiguration Environmental Assessment (EA)

As I mentioned in the June 2015 Council Update, I voted against the so-called “hybrid” option for the Gardiner Expressway. I believed the grand avenue option was best for the City in terms of budget and the access to our City’s waterfront. Unfortunately, as that motion passed, the issue returned to Council this month with three proposed routes the hybrid could follow. In this case, while I wanted to vote against this motion due to my distain for any hybrid option, I voted for the staff recommendation, which followed the wishes the local residence and business associations, as well as the local Councillor. While this option was the best of a bad set, this proposal went the furthest to protected the water and create a livable community for the local residents. 

Council Approves 2016 Budget

This week the City passed the 2016 capital and operating budget. While I cannot say I am thrilled with the final results, there are some important measures that did make it through.

Throughout the budget process Councillors on all sides of the political spectrum shared their concerns regarding Toronto's revenue problem. Despite this fact, in this budget we did not agree to look at alternative revenue tools, and we failed to keep up with the current rate of inflation. I strongly supported Councillor Shelley Carroll's motion to have our property tax increase be based on the current rate of inflation. Unfortunately, Council voted to use last year's rate, putting the City further behind. After two consecutive Mayors making these cuts, the programs and services we rely on are at continued risk.

One important motion that would have improved services while maintaining the Mayor's proposed tax rate would have been to reduce the increases to the Toronto Police Services budget.  While other departments were mandated to make a 2% cut, Toronto Police Services received a budget increase of over 2.7% or 24 million dollars. By reining in the TPS budget, items such as child care, our parks, and housing could have seen much needed support. I supported Councillor and former Police Board Member Michael Thompson on this motion, despite the fact it did not pass.

There were some bright sides to this budget.  I am happy to announce that funding for the previously approved skating project on Grenadier Pond project was approved. Our planning staff received the funding needed to carry on with work that is important to our ward, such as staffing for area studies and heritage conservation districts. 

Working together, we can keep pushing for a financial plan for our city that is sustainable and just. Thank you to all who took the time to share your thoughts and ideas on this with me.