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What’s on City Council’s Agenda: February 2013

In which we highlight key items from the month’s city council meeting. You can also watch it live.

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City council is meeting today (February 20) and tomorrow (February 21). Here are a few items from this month’s agenda that have been in the news, or should have been.

City council will weigh whether or not to:

Do whatever it can to help curb human trafficking.

Human trafficking isn’t exclusively a Toronto problem, but it’s a problem that affects Toronto. Council has a few modest remedies at its disposal, mostly along the lines of requesting reports and asking other levels of government for help. It will consider whether to use them.

Build a library branch on the former site of Canada’s first parliament building.

Canada’s first parliament building used to be located on the property now known as 271 Front Street East. The plot was on the verge of becoming a condo when the City stepped in and negotiated a land swap with the developer. Council will decide whether to allow Toronto Public Library to build a new branch on the first parliament site, provided the land swap goes through.

Give Toronto’s undocumented workers a break.

The U.S. isn’t the only country with undocumented workers who have trouble accessing public amenities because of their lack of immigration status. Council will decide whether to authorize a report on the possibility of allowing workers without papers to access City services “without fear.”

Make some broad commitments to “accelerate economic growth.”

This is one of Mayor Rob Ford’s favourite items on today’s agenda. It calls for council to endorse a number of broad policy goals—along with some specific actions—aimed at making Toronto friendlier to business. It also recommends the creation of a new economic advisory committee, to be led by the mayor.

Save Far Enough Farm, on Centre Island, by leasing it to a private operator.

Far Enough Farm, the little zoo next to Centreville, was in danger of closing down after the City cut its funding in 2011. Now, council has the opportunity to lease the farm to William Beasley Enterprises, Centreville’s private operator, as part of a deal to extend Beasley’s lease on Centreville itself. Putting the farm in private care might be the only way to save it, so council should (and probably will) jump at the opportunity.

Reconsider the shark-fin ban.

City council banned the possession, sale, and consumption of shark fin in 2011. Politicians were motivated by compassion for the sharks, but the ban has turned out to be a bad idea, at least in the legal sense. In November, an Ontario Superior Court ruled that the fin ban was outside council’s jurisdiction. Now, council will consider some confidential legal advice about how to proceed. Councillors could decide to fight the court’s ruling, probably at some expense, or they could decide to repeal or amend the bylaw. So, option one: potentially costly, potentially unwinnable. Option two: free, easy. What do you think the City’s lawyers are telling council it should do?

Give Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug Ford each a slap on the wrist.

On an April edition of their weekly radio talk show, Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Doug (Ward 2, Etobicoke Centre), said some disparaging things about David McKeown, Toronto’s medical officer of health. Councillor John Filion (Ward 23, Willowdale) filed a complaint with the integrity commissioner, who found that the Fords’ comments violated council’s code of conduct.

Councillors haven’t been able to consider the matter before now, for legal reasons related to Rob Ford’s conflict of interest lawsuit. (Because the suit hinged on the question of whether Ford was within his rights to speak and vote on an integrity investigation about himself, council put all integrity votes on hold until the courts could offer some clarity.)

Now that the lawsuit is over, council will decide whether or not to agree with the integrity commissioner’s finding that both Fords broke the rules. Because both Rob and Doug have since apologized to McKeown, the commissioner isn’t recommending any stiffer penalties.

Make sure it stays legal for cyclists to ride side-by-side.

Somehow, in its efforts to harmonize the traffic bylaws of all the former municipalities, Toronto made it illegal for cyclists to ride in any formation other than single file, even though this had previously been allowed on most Toronto streets. The prohibition on side-by-side riding has yet to go into effect, though, and this member motion by Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton Lawrence) aims to ensure that it never does. If the item gets the two-thirds vote it needs in order to make the floor, council will decide whether to repeal the single-file bylaw.

Start thinking about imposing term limits on councillors and mayors.

If this no-hope member motion by Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York) gets the two-thirds vote it needs in order to make the floor, council will decide whether to ask City staff to report on the possibility of implementing term limits for councillors and mayors. It’s hard to imagine a roomful of career politicians voting to harm their job security.

Explore ways to curb youth violence.

If this member motion by Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) gets the two-thirds vote it needs in order to make the floor, council will revisit a major provincial study issued in 2008, called the Roots of Youth Violence. That report was a wide-ranging examination of the systemic and environmental factors that might contribute to youth violence, and included a number of recommendations for both the provincial and municipal governments. Matlow’s motion calls on staff to see how many of those recommendations have actually been implemented, and also to explore a range of other measures to help tackle the poverty, racism, and other contextual issues that play a role in youth violence.

Cap the Land Transfer Tax.

Mayor Rob Ford vowed to abolish the Municipal Land Transfer Tax during the 2010 election, but the tax makes so much money for the City, at the moment, that it’s virtually indispensable. If this member motion by Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) gets the two-thirds vote it needs in order to make the floor, council will consider ordering a report on the possibility of capping revenue from the tax, possibly as way of weaning the City off it once and for all.

UPDATE: February 20, 2013, 11:35 AM We’ve added an item (the one about a plan to “accelerate economic growth” in Toronto) to the list.


  • HotDang

    Rob Ford is intent on this “Starve The Beast” tactic. What a bastard.

  • Hollow Island

    There is no room for cyclists to ride side-by -side on the road or on trials. There’s no room to pass them, and they go too slowly. If you want to chit chat, get a coffee. Bikes are for riding.

    • W. K. Lis

      At five o’clock in the morning, on side-streets with no traffic, or passing, why not?

      • Hollow Island

        How about during rush hour or any time during the day? How about on trails and in bike lanes? People in this city are too selfish to be expected to use their discretion.

        • vampchick21

          I think that’s the point HotDang and W.K.Lis are making. That where applicable, ride side by side, when not safe, don’t. Don’t see how you missed that.

        • spicygarage

          The HTA already has provisions against holding up traffic. The scenarios you depict are illegal and would remain so if Stints bylaw came into effect.

          All that would happen is that cyclists would no longer break the law if they rode side-by-side where/when this had no effect on automobiles.

          • Hollow Island

            I don’t care about the effect on automobiles, I care about the effect on other cyclists (namely, me). When people ride side-by-side they don’t leave enough room to pass. Then again, when they ride single file they normally ride on the left side and don’t leave room for passing, so…Maybe we just need a licensing system because Torontonians lack both common sense and courtesy.

          • dsmithhfx

            This all sounds just too aggravating. Maybe you should stay home.

          • Hollow Island

            Or Torontonians could realize that they are a not the whole but a part of the world.

          • dsmithhfx

            Well, I guess you told them. Let’s see what comes of your bold statement. Meantime, stay home.

          • Hollow Island

            Why should I stay home? When I cycle, I use the road with awareness of the people around me. Should the lolligaggers not be the ones to stay home? If you’re going to ride a bike, or drive, or walk, you need to do so with respect, and many cyclists here don’t, and riding side by side is one of the things they do to illustrate their self absorption. If you’re one of those people, then I salute you because you must be extremely important. So important that you deserve to hold up people who have somewhere to be or are able to travel at a speed befitting a moderately healthy adult. If cycling wants to be considered a valid form of transportation with the same rights as cars then cyclists need to be regulated, because you’re illustrating very well that common sense and courtesy is not something that can be assumed to be present in their minds. Signal, and don’t take up all the available space.

    • HotDang

      It’s meant to be contextual. You’re not expected to ride two abreast down Lakeshore in rush hour, but on a side street or on a lonely morning, why not?

    • tomwest

      People in cars chit-chat, so why can’t cyclists?

      • Hollow Island

        People in cars chit chat within the car. When people chit chat on bikes they do so side by side, taking up the entire cycling area. It’s poor etiquette.

        • tomwest

          You mean like a car takes up an entire lane?

          • Hollow Island

            What? A car takes up a lane, yes. Cyclists riding side by side having a chat is akin to a car driving along the dotted line on the highway. There is enough room on the side of the road or in a bike lane to allow for cyclists to pass each other – a slow and fast lane, if you will. If cyclists ride side by side to indulge their sense of self importance, they are taking both lanes. I don’t see what’s so hard about that to understand. Aren’t cyclists supposed to have a sense of decency or commraderie unavailable to drivers or something?

          • tomwest

            I wasn’t talking about bike lanes- I was talking about normal roads without bike lanes. When cyclist ride side-by-side, it takes up an entire lane… just like a car. It’s no worse than a car for other road users.

          • Hollow Island

            The only cyclists I see who take the whole lane when they ride side by side are cops. They do it properly, but it’s still annoying. When regular cyclists do it, they stay on the side, force cars to drive around then, and leave no room for cyclists to pass. There is no reason for people to ride side by side, even cops. It’s poor etiquette.

  • OgtheDim

    You know, I’m for terms limits on council. 12 years would be good.

    But no way the various scions left over from pre-amalgamation are going to consider this.

    I wonder if we could get a referendum without council’s consent?