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Waste Diversion, Fluoridation, and Cycling Infrastructure in First Round of Potential City Hall Cuts

Rob Ford during his first council meeting as mayor. Photo by Chris Drost/Torontoist.

Two months ago, the City launched a public review of all its services and programs. The goal was to learn more about what Torontonians prized most highly and what they were willing to forgo in the name of cost-reduction and minimizing taxes. This public review (which we found to be deeply flawed) was coupled with an evaluation of the municipal government by outside consultants who examined how successful our municipal services are and looked at the alternatives some other cities have been exploring.
Today, the City began to unveil the outcome of all this consultation, in the form of a list of service areas the government could consider cutting, or cutting back [PDF]. Among those proposals:

  • “Reducing the scale” of cycling infrastructure—the only item marked as having a “high” potential savings. This means that the report is considering a greater than 20 per cent reduction in the money spend on cycling infrastructure. In the notes on this item, the report states that the “Bicycle Plan and Program are more extensive than warranted by bicycle volumes.”
  • Reducing Toronto’s existing waste-diversion target. Currently, the goal is to keep 70 per cent of trash out of landfills, via recycling, the green-bin program, and other waste-diversion strategies. (In 2010, Toronto hit 56–67 per cent waste diversion across various sectors [PDF].) According to the report, the potential consequences of this move might include: “reduc[ing] the lifespan of the landfill, and requir[ing] the City to pursue other, potentially-costly disposal options sooner. Cutting back on the diversion target may compromise the City’s efforts to obtain a landfill expansion from the Ministry of the Environment.” Environmental impacts are not listed in the report. Because the recycling program is mandated by the province, the likeliest area for waste diversion cuts are in the green-bin program.
  • Eliminating community environment days.
  • Eliminating the Toxic Taxi service, which collects hazardous household waste that you cannot throw out with your regular garbage—items such as paint cans, propane tanks, batteries, and so on. Currently, the Toxic Taxi picks up larger quanties of these materials from your house free of charge, should you be unable to transport them to a depot yourself. The report describes these as “higher than standard,” meaning that they provide a greater service level than required by law.
  • Further contracting out of services such as garbage pick-up. (The City is already moving to privatize residential trash pick-up west of Yonge, as well as litter pick-up in parks.)
  • Reducing snow plowing and snow removal on residential streets.
  • Eliminating the fluoridation of Toronto’s water supply. This, despite the fact that the report found that “Toronto’s cost of water treatment is relatively low” (though the cost of delivering the water, due to water main breaks, is quite high). The report notes that this decision, if taken, might lead to “impacts on dental health.”

(The full set of recommendations will be released in stages, each corresponding to the city council committee which has responsibility for certain service areas. Today’s recommendations pertain to services and programs that fall under the rubric of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.)
The report is, in one respect, a startling failure. Ford based his election campaign on the notion that we “don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem”—specifically, on the idea that our budget was bloated by waste. As the gravy train apparently ran amok through Toronto’s streets, we were all supposedly suffering from the unfair burden of a tax bill inflated by the costs of mismanagement. Today’s report is based on looking at the success and potential opportunities for savings in the various programs and services the City delivers, but does not actually examine the efficiencies of those services.
Let us repeat: this report does not look for efficiencies in service delivery, but only for which programs the City can, if it so chooses, cut (depending on the services it is legally required to provide) and which of those cuts will yield the greatest savings. From page 23 of the companion report, explaining how to read the list of savings opportunities [PDF]:

KPMG did not assess the effectiveness or efficiency of City services. Assessment of how services are delivered is envisioned to be conducted through separate efficiency reviews. KPMG did not conduct financial analyses of programs and services to identify potential savings.

Which is to say, the administration directed its consultants to look for which programs it was allowed to cut, and by how much, without ever asking it to look at how it could maintain service levels by delivering them more efficiently. The underlying message of today’s report: if we want to cut the size of the budget, it will be, in the first place and not as a last resort, by cutting the scope of government.
Ford is staking his mayoralty on these cuts, betting that Torontonians would rather see services go than tax bills go up. The mayor’s critics, on the other hand, argue that this is a manufactured crisis, the result of killing existing revenue streams (such as the vehicle registraton tax) and curtailing others (such as not increasing property taxes even by the rate of inflation) severely enough to create pressure on valued programs and services where there was none—or at least much less of it—than before.
Which vision of the city Torontonians go in for is, of course, the big unanswered question.


  • Pedram Navid

    Gravy train's run dry already?

  • Val Dodge

    So in short, more pollution, more toxic waste, and more snow. Sounds like a winner! Let's vote on contracting out the mayoralty.

  • Mark Jull

    On page 9 it says reducing cycling infrastructure has “high” potential savings (20%). Then on page 39 it says “low” potential savings (up to 5%). What's up with that?

  • 24601

    Efficiency = Massive Reductions in Services

    Also, no point in getting nit-picky over the details of the report. Given the mistakes and inconsistencies it was clearly prepared with great haste and is only for justifying the cuts they already have planned.

    I didn't see any proposed reductions in Hiring Consultants…

  • isyouhappy

    how else are we going to afford hiring consultants? cut services.

  • pickle_juice_drinker

    I suggest that instead of community toxic waste days, and the toxic taxi, we just abandon our hazardous waste on Rob Ford's driveway.

  • kstop

    Because they knew Rob wouldn't read beyond the dummy summary and wanted to make sure he was happy?

  • Simon Vehicle!

    Reducing snow plowing and snow removal on residential streets?  He really is Lastman 2.0.

  • qviri

    Rob can afford to get it removed courtesy Dad's money. Dump it on driveways of all the other councillors who vote for it.

  • Matt Crane

    F**k this I'm moving to Montreal.

  • isyouhappy

    From page 24 

    KPMG did not conduct financial analyses of programs and services to identify potential savings. For each opportunity within a Program, Service, or Activity, the estimated range of Potential Annual Savings (in percentages) is based on realization benchmarks for the type of opportunity for change.

  • JohnfromTO

    The report also proposes cancellation of the Yellow Bag program (page 5), which allows small, mainstreet businesses with residences above to pay the City to pick up their garbage. KPMG does not explain how refusing to pick up user-paid commercial garbage, while still picking up residential garbage in the exact same location, would yield “high” savings, especially since
    the report notes that the program operates “largely at locations that
    already have residential collection, so current approach reasonably

    I note that KPMG's motto is “cutting through complexity,” which I guess means fabricating contradictory and jargon-riddled reports to justify
    ideologically-driven cuts to everything in sight, no matter how
    beneficial or efficiently delivered.

  • Andrew Smith

    Mr. Ford has a pretty nice name tag reading “Mayor Rob Ford” where he's sitting in the picture attached to this article. Cut the gravy, garbage pick some paper, write your name on it and stick it up there with some old gum.

  • istoronto

    Eliminating the fluoridation of Toronto's water supply is probably the smartest recommendation of the bunch. The fluoridation process has more to to with legally dumping toxic waste found in smoke stacks scrubbers, (yes, that's where the flouride they put in our water comes from) than it does as a form of mass dental health care. There is no reason to force people to ingest the stuff.

  • Sharon Harris

    o MY GOODNESS this is the first I've heard about getting rid of the flouride. HAPPY DAY! I will give Mayor Ford a big fat kiss if it happens. I might even consider not making fun of him anymore.

  • Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

    The Canadian Dental Association recommends fluoridation of drinking water. That it is removed from smoke stack scrubbers (source?) sounds more like a case of recycling waste than dumping it in water. (If you're worried about that, don't ask where the fertilizer to grow your food came from.)

    If we stopped fluoridating water, we'd just have to use toothpaste with a much higher concentration of fluoride to make up for it. I bet you'd end up ingesting enough of it accidentally that it wouldn't make much difference.

  • Marc Lostracco

    When undoing cycling infrastructure that isn't “warranted by bicycle volume,” I'm assuming the plan is then also to close off sidestreets with extremely low vehicular activity. Right?

  • Paul Kishimoto

    In a neat bit of tear-it-down,-tear-it-all-down synergy, if Ford succeeds in buying out a good number of senior managers, that will also remove the most vocal and articulate internal advocates for improvement (vs. outright elimination) of the services those people used to manage.

  • istoronto

    The Canadian Dental Association has to continue recommending flouridation, because if they were to denounce something they have supported for the past 50 years, they would lose some credibility.   

    Why should I or anyone be forced to ingest a toxic substance? I don't use flouridated toothpaste and I would prefer not to have to purchase drinking water without flouride, when I'm already paying for water at the tap. Why does my bath, dishwashing and plant watering water have to be flouridated? Right now, I pay extra for flouride free water but still have to pay the going rate for tap water. Seems it would be more democratic if I had the choice. If someone believes flouride is good for them, they should buy flouridated toothpaste and get flouride treatment at their dentist's. It doesn't have to be in our water. 

    Recent studies show no difference in the number of cavities in flouridated vs. un-flouridated communities. most of Europe stopped flouridation. Montreal doesn't fluoridate. Calgary recently stop it as have hundreds of communities across North America. It's about time that Toronto did the same.

  • Matt Patterson

    I'm not familiar enough with the research to have a strong position on the issue of fluoridation.  What I do know is that any decision one way or the other should be driven by medical research of the potential harms and benefits, and NOT rolled into a haphazard cost cutting scheme.

  • Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

    ¶1: Scientific and medical organizations change their policies and recommendations all the time. It is the nature of science and medicine. That the CDA would be scared of changing policy is ridiculous.

    ¶2: I am not a libertarian, so these arguments mean nothing to me. Sure, putting safety features in cars adds to their cost, and some may malfunction and kill me. That doesn't mean it's “undemocratic” to require them in all cars.

    ¶3: The fact that some other communities don't fluoridate doesn't mean we shouldn't. The first sentence is the only real argument you have. I can't really debate it, myself since I'm not well-versed in this area. I have to rely on the experts, whom you have dismissed as having some sort of personal stake in this. I don't know where we can go from here.

  • istoronto

    There in lies the trouble with flouridation. If it were purely a health issue, then why are we not putting vitamins like C, D & B12 into our drinking water as well? These are certainly more beneficial to overall health, than flouride which only claims to protect tooth enamel. Even this claim, which is over 50 years old, has been contested by researchers from around the world. So why put it in our water? Because flouride, which is a industrial waste product that needs to be dumped somewhere. Industry, thanks to the American Dental Assoc., figured, why pay to dump it, when you can sell it to municipalities, for a profit.

  • Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

    No, they'll be forced to share lanes with cyclists on side streets.

  • Michael Warkentin

    In France and Germany, they add fluoride to their salt, rather than their water, for the same reasons.

  • istoronto

    Yes, but an individual can choose not to buy it. I can't choose not to have it in my tap water.

  • Electric Landlady

    Why is it that all the anti-fluoridation commenters can't actually spell “fluoride”?

  • Sharon Harris

    Flouride is also used to poison rats. As far as I know, the CDA is still telling us dental amalgams containing mercury are perfectly safe.

    I don't care if they're getting rid of it for the wrong reasons. Just get rid of it.

  • Nick

    This explains why the bike lanes on Poplar Plains, Russell Hill Rd., College St., Grace St. have not been repainted in spite of me requesting this through 311 several times. Ford's motto (as reiterated in a form-mail to me re. Jarvis St. bike lanes): Customer Service Efficiency*! Small print/read between the lines: * for the majority, which in his eyes means car drivers, even though I as a cyclist pay almost $4k a year in property taxes. It's complete bullkaka. And how much is paint anyway? I can't believe that KPMG would actually say that this represents a large area for savings, when the police force (who actually suck up one of the largest sections of the city budget) recently got a  very generous increase under Ford.

  • Matt Patterson

    Again, I'm not disagreeing with your conclusion.  I'm just questioning the justification being offered in the KPMG report.  I also don't think the fact that fluoride is an industrial byproduct should necessarily disqualify its use in our water supply.

    I guess my larger point is that the KPMG report is highly flawed because it only considers the immediate economic costs to the city.  It doesn't consider the medical implications for good or ill associated with fluoridation (or biking or toxic chemical removal) or any displaced economic costs that might arise because of the medical implications.  So any proposed cuts that result from this consultation process deserve to be debated independently and in a much broader scope.  I doubt our mayor will be open to that, but one can always hope.

  • qviri

    Everything is toxic in excess. What is the LD50 of fluoride?

  • JohnfromTO

    And I believe KPMG stands for “Keep Profiting from Mayoral Gravy.”

  • Eric S. Smith

    Maybe classic Big Government kook points like fluoridation got on to the list because KPMG just trawled a bunch of “opportunities for change” off of the Internet, assigned fictitious dollar values to them, and called it “identifying potential savings.”

    I wonder if “9/11 Was An Inside Job” appeared anywhere in the first draft.  Or maybe something about ZIP codes.  Either of those would be a smoking gun.

  • istoronto

    What does spelling a word wrong have to do with anything? Did it ever occur to you that for many Torontonians, English is a second or even a third language and that on occasion they might mis-spell a word or two. My English grammar sucks as well. But to point out that ALL anti-fluoridation commenters can't spell, reeks of elitism and has nothing to do with with this issue or article.

  • Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

    Actually, KPMG states rather blandly (on page 31 of its report) that, “It is very likely that dental health of Toronto residents would decline,” if fluoridation were eliminated.

    You're right, though, that it doesn't consider secondary effects and costs.

  • Matt Crane

    Yea, I'm sure the report was vetted by RoFo corp. before going to final print.  No doubt that is where the descrepancy over cycling comes from.  RoFo never digs into the meat of anything that doesn't fit on the bbq.

  • Michael Warkentin

    Saying that fluoride is a rat poison ignores the fact that poison is a
    matter of dose. Large amounts of many substances—even pure water—can
    poison people. The trace amount of fluoride contained in fluoridated
    water will not harm anyone.

    Fluoride is already present naturally in many water sources (this is how it's dental benefits were discovered, btw).

  • jeffreym99

    Could you please provide references to your “recent studies”? The wikipedia article on water fluoridation (… ) is well-referenced and states there is good evidence for the efficacy and safety of water fluoridation, and poor evidence that it is unsafe or ineffective. And doctors in Calgary, including the medical officer of health, opposed the decision to stop fluoridating water. Incidentally, that decision was made by the Calgary City Council, which decided not to refer the decision to an expert committee:

  • Toronto_Dave

    You're right. It does seem a big “Dr. Strangelove”-ish to include water fluoridation among the list of potential cuts.

  • istoronto
  • simonyyz

    Maybe the strategy is to release this phase of the report first, featuring minimal savings by cutting core services. Then they move through other departments until they announce millions saved on arts programs — overwhelming public support is won by forcing the conversation to be a choice between clean water vs. support for gay anarchists, or some such nonsense.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    Anything scientific, i.e. peer-reviewed?

  • qviri

    Still waiting…

  • Electric Landlady

    “Nothing to do with this article” — guilty. “Nothing to do with this issue” — if fluoridation is so incredibly important to people that they start 2 separate comment threads just to talk about how wonderful it is that we might be getting rid of it, it strikes me as weird that they can't actually spell it.

  • qviri

    Hi, non-native English speaking Torontonian here. Misspelling fluoride as “flouride” has approximately nothing to do with exclusively being ESL in that it's based on things that can trip up native speakers as well. Similar to writing “definately”, it is the result of relatively convoluted English spelling when coupled with lack of attention, care, and/or seeing the word spelled correctly frequently enough. It can't really be blamed on non-phonetic spelling because flouride doesn't sound the same as fluoride.

  • istoronto

    The science is there, the peer reviews, EPA reports, NRC endorsement of those reports and so on. Science had us believe that DDT was harmless. That lead in gasoline was harmless. That asbestos was harmless. We played with mercury in science class, because it was harmless. Yeah right. I'm not trying to change anyones opinion, you can believe whatever you want. I  believe that fluoride in our water is unnecessary based on what I've read. 
    Some like to lump people who question things like water fluoridation, into the anti – everything bunch, the 9/11, JFK conspiracy theory bunch, guess again. I don't believe in conspiracies, but, I do believe that corporations will hide, discount and stretch the truth to protect themselves and their profits. Even when they're caught and called out, most still fight it. The effort, to do the right thing, Maple Leaf Foods displayed during the listeria outbreak was a rare exception. The other side of the coin, is the hundreds of millions Monsanto spends on litigation, protecting their brand at the expense of people's health and livelihood.

  • Bryan Cook

    SSsshhh stop talking or the illuminati will track you down and force feed you flouride. That is how they control your brains. I know it's true I read it on the internet.

  • Bryan Cook

    This report suggests that despite the rhetoric about trimming the fat, it has been discovered that Toronto is just big-boned without much fat at all.

  • Aaron Binder


  • Paul Kishimoto

    No, I mean give us an actual link or citation to peer-reviewed research showing harm in water fluoridation.

  • tomwest

    Depends what's attached to the fluoride ion. There's a big difference between sodium fluoride or uranium fluoride…. 
    The chemistry department at the University of Oxford states the LD50 (rat, oral) for sodium fluoride as 80mg/kg (source:… ). For a 75kg human, that would equate to 6,000mg (or 6g). The target concentration for Toronto's water is 0.6ppm. You'd therefore have to drink 10,000,000g (or 10 tonnes) of water to get a lethal dose of sodium fluoride from drinking water. (Of course, you'd be dead of over-hydration long before then).

  • tomwest

    People who choose flouride-free drinking water should have to pay higher dental insurance. I don't see why my premiums should subsidise them.

  • tomwest

    What does the source have to with anything?? Flouride form smoke stacks is no difference chemically from flouride from any other source.

  • istoronto

    Not sure where to begin to look for what you're asking for, but I think if the head of Preventive Dentistry at the U of T has an issue with water fluoridation, based on many reference and papers written on the matter, then I'm guessing that there is some cause for concern. Here is what he has to say.

    As far as I know he is still at the U of T teaching preventive dentistry.

    This is my last post on this topic. I have my beliefs and you have yours.

  • tomwest

    Warfarin is also used to poison rates. The smae substance is also used in humans as blood thinner. It's all about dosage

  • tomwest

    I grew up in an area where the water contained naturally contained flouride levels far higher than Toronto's water. funny how the anti-fluoridation crowd never seem to advocate removing existing flouride.

  • Aleksandra

    How much is the city spending on Bike infrastructure?? As other cities realise the potential of biking as a sustainable and green alternative to driving, Toronto wants to delete bike lanes? Even New York has embraced the cyclists!

  • Kenneth Butland

    << the report states that the “Bicycle Plan and Program are more extensive than warranted by bicycle volumes.”>>

    And bicycle volumes are low because potential cyclists are dissuaded from riding due to the lack of infrastructure:

    Does the report's conclusion smack of cynicism or incompetency?

  • qviri

    Awesome, thanks. To be fair, LD50 might not be a large consolation if you happen to be one of the people killed by a dose below that. The page also contains ORL-HMN LDLO, or the lowest published (documented) lethal dose in a human, which is apparently 71 mg/kg. That is 32 mg/kg for the ion, 2396 mg for a 75 kg human, and 3994 L at the target concentration.

    The amount of water people drink obviously varies, but for a general figure, the U.S. reference daily intake for an adult male is 3.7 litres per day. In an extreme case, let's say someone exercising extremely vigorously in very hot Toronto weather might go through 30 L in a day, and they'd be 133 times below the lowest documented lethal rate – not to mention when you're drinking that much, you're likely to be expelling much of it.

    I don't know much about documented accumulative effects, if any. If someone can dig up the numbers on that, they'd be awesome.

  • Squint

    “alternative to driving”??? This is Ford we're talking about… there is no such thing as an alternative to driving to him.

  • tomwest

    As I understand it, flouride ions are treated by the body in a similar way to chloride ions (as found in table salt), and are therefore flushed out by the kidneys rather than accumulating. 

    (NB: it's the sodium in table salt which causes blood pressure issues… the sodium used in floruidation has the same effect, except we all consume way more sodium from salt in food/drink than we ever could from tap water).

  • Sharon Harris

    There are a few words I always spell incorrectly, and that's one of them : ) Heck, and I'm a writer. Apologies for not being perfect.

  • Sharon Harris
  • Jamie Wilson

    Wait…. Doesn't the removal of snow plowing services equate to a war on cars and a war on motorists?

    Why is Ford so anti-car?

  • Itzach Stern

    I am into creating awareness about the importance of this matter and how we need to act now before its too late to properly manage our waste for the future of our society.

    InSinkErator Evolution Compact