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.
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.
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.
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.