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What’s on Council’s Agenda: July 2013

Here's what city council will be focusing on this month.

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 on July 16 and 17. Here are a few items from this month’s agenda that are in the news, or should be.

City council will weigh whether or not to:

Cancel a fully funded Scarborough LRT in favour of a subway that we currently have no way of paying for.

This is the local-news story of the month, so chances are you’re familiar with some of the details. Council will decide whether to scrap a previously approved, fully funded plan to replace the Scarborough RT with a light-rail line, in favour of a new plan to build a subway line along a similar route. If council goes ahead with this, nobody is sure exactly where the money for the subway will come from, or how much more expensive the subway option will end up being. (We know, at least, that it will be more expensive.) There’s a real possibility that we’ll only get as far as cancelling the light rail, and that Scarberians will be riding buses for decades. Some are calling this a blatant bid to curry favour with credulous suburban voters. We call it sad, and worrying.

Take another crack at amending the City’s anti-discrimination policies to target Pride.

This was supposed to be debated last month, but it was deferred to this month’s meeting. Essentially, some members of city council are upset that Pride Toronto allows a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to march in the annual Pride Parade. The City’s current discrimination policies don’t allow the City to threaten Pride with defunding over something like this, so now councillors have to decide whether to expand the official definition of “hate speech” to cover “Israeli apartheid.” Again: this is all to prevent one group from marching, once a year.

Go ahead with a much less ambitious redesign for St. Lawrence Market North.

Once, there was a dream: to knock down the diminutive, bunker-like St. Lawrence Market North and replace it with something grander: a nicely designed, six-story structure that would have some market space on its lower floors and some courtroom space above. Predictably, the project ran into budget trouble, and the latest redesign isn’t so great. Council will decide whether to go ahead, regardless.

Do a study on restaurants and bars in Kensington Market.

Development in Kensington Market has a lot of people nervous. Big retail chains are sniffing around the edges of the neighbourhood, and residents are starting to worry that all the area’s small grocers are going to be replaced by more-lucrative bars and clubs. Council will decide whether to launch a planning study of the neighbourhood, as a first step towards implementing some new zoning restrictions on restaurants and bars.

Cut the size of city council in half.

Don’t get all excited. This proposal is going nowhere fast. For one thing, it’s ludicrous to expect councillors to vote themselves out of their jobs, and for another, this item didn’t even originate with the City. It’s the result of a petition by the Toronto Taxpayers Colation—an organization that seems only to have one very active member: its president, Matthew McGuire. McGuire exploited a little-known section of the City of Toronto Act that allows a Toronto voter to force a council decision on ward boundaries by submitting a petition with at least 500 signatures. Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug have long been in favour of reducing the size of council, so they, at least, may be in the “yes” column.

Ask the province not to cut funding for social housing in Toronto.

The province is planning to cut a funding stream that was supposed to provide Toronto with about $150 million for housing and social services over three years. Council will decide whether to ask for that money back. Social housing in Toronto is already badly underfunded, so every dollar counts, here.

Agree that the TTC should stop spying on Wheel-Trans users.

The City’s ombudsman investigated a complaint about the TTC’s semi-secret use of surveillance cameras in determining whether Wheel-Trans customers are eligible to use the service. (Everyone who rides Wheel-Trans needs to demonstrate a certain level of physical infirmity.) Council will decide whether to accept the resulting report, which calls upon the TTC to stop using its cameras in this way.

Forgive Mike Layton and Adam Vaughan for insulting the city manager.

Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) and Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) said some harsh things to the media about the city manager’s April 8 report on the possibility of allowing the province to open a casino in Toronto. The City’s integrity commissioner found that both men violated council’s code of conduct, which requires councillors to be “respectful of the role of staff.” Both have apologized, so council will decide whether to let them off without further punishment.

Resolve a complicated situation at Build Toronto that’s probably Doug Ford’s fault.

Build Toronto, a corporation set up by the City to sell surplus public land, was humming along quietly until around early June, when suddenly a whole bunch of its directors resigned at about the same time. The Globe‘s sources strongly suggested that the trouble had to do with Doug Ford’s attempt to get a favourite candidate of his, Michael Kraljevic of the Toronto Port Lands Company, appointed as Build Toronto’s CEO. Council appointed six new members to the board at its June meeting, but since then three more directors have resigned. Now council will decide whether to appoint even more board members.

Use the 2015 Pan Am Games as an excuse to build a giant, continuous bike path around the city.

One of the nice things about hosting the Pan Am Games in 2015 is that Toronto has a rock-solid excuse to spend money on some nice amenities that might not otherwise find funding. Among the Pan Am projects council will consider is a proposal to build an 80-kilometre multi-use trail across the entire city.

CORRECTION: July, 16 2013, 10:00 AM This post originally had incorrect dates for this week’s council meeting.


  • Marc

    “There’s a real possibility that we’ll only get as far as cancelling the light rail, and that Scarberians will be riding buses for decades.”

    If anything, this is what Scaberians have proven they deserve.

    • Lee Zamparo

      Why would you blame the people of Scarborough for this? The culprits are clearly pro-subway politicians of all stripes who portray this choice as a status symbol (which it is not) instead of as a mode of transit. Shame on the province, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Karen Stintz, and Rob & Doug Ford.

      • dsmithhfx

        The OP, and your response are both ludicrous over-simplifications of the situation we find ourselves in. IF (and it’s a mighty big if) converting the planned LRT replacement of the SRT to a subway is a foot in the door for some serious new revenue tools dedicated to improving transit, it will benefit everyone in this city for generations to come, drivers and transit users alike. Stintz is one of only a handful of councillors who have publicly come out in favor of, and cast actual votes in council for these kinds of tools.

        The Fords are playing their same old opportunist-obstructionist game: they don’t want to build anything, least of all subways in Scarborough or anywhere else. They only want to cut taxes, and bitch and moan and point fingers at the province (but not the feds) for failing to bail them out.

        Watch and see what happens.

        • blearghhh

          This also allows them to stealth cut services in the future, because we’ll need to spend 25-30 million a year on debt servicing to pay for this, so in order to get a budget that doesn’t go up by insane amounts, they’ll have to cut that much out of budgets.

        • Lee Zamparo

          Ludicrous over-simplifications? Maybe.

          No chance this asinine debate is a foot in the door to serious new revenue tools, that would require representatives more committed to good governance than their own jobs. Which of the populist wafflers I called out in my post is going to both suggest LRT is the obvious choice, *and* support new revenue tools in the name of building better transit for a generation? *crickets*

      • Paul Kishimoto

        Hold up a sec, I’m having trouble with this: is the egg guilty of hatching the chicken, or the chicken of laying the egg?

        • Lee Zamparo

          I should not have been so quick to assign blame myself, thanks.

  • OgtheDim

    “City council is meeting on June 11 and 12.”

    Copy and paste is not your friend.

    • SteveKupferman

      No it isn’t. Fixed.

  • dsmithhfx

    OK, you hate Scarberians. We get that. Anything more constructive and insightful to offer?

  • Joe Clark

    As (again) the complainant against Wheel-Trans, note that the TTC has suspended its Stasi-like surveillance program. The questions I have about what Council will do are both actually serious: Will Rob Ford, without having read any part of the report, blow a gasket about how this program saved precious taxpayer dollars against fraudulent cripples, and will Council vote to order TTC never to reinstate anything resembling such a program?

    • Testu

      Was that covered today? If it was I missed it, I tuned in for the LRT/Subway debate specifically.

      I’m surprised the transit operators’ contract allows the footage to be used like that though. In Brampton and Mississauga the footage from the internal cameras can only be use in case of a collision or assault as far as I know.

      Is there a service contract/bill of rights for people who are deemed eligible to use the Wheel-trans service? If so, is the potential for surveillance mentioned there?

  • Testu

    A quick recap for anyone not watching the council meeting:
    The mayor just admitted

    – that he did not know where the LRT was/is supposed to be, or that it was not along a roadway.
    – that he didn’t read his own motion that specifically advocates for a 1.1 – 2.4 percent property tax increase, when asked about this he stated that he does not support any tax increases
    – that he doesn’t understand basic math re: funds generated by tax increases
    – that he has absolutely no plan to cover the funding gap
    – that if the LRT plan were scrapped but the funding could not be found for a subway (no taxes, remember) then there would be no SRT replacement at all
    – that he actually doesn’t know if funding for the other LRT projects is dedicated or not, at first he suggested it could be reallocated, then he changed his response.

    • OgtheDim

      Bigger news

      Joe Mehivic and Paula Fletcher are voting for this. Holding their noses because Glen De Bear asked them…probably a deal for something else.

      • Testu

        Maybe this is what Don River kept alluding to.
        This whole debate has made for some entertaining politics.

  • dsmithhfx

    And what vote, pray tell, are you referring to?

  • OgtheDim

    Not any more its not.

  • OgtheDim

    Wondering how the downtown and Riverdale crowds on here will take to McConnell and Fletcher supporting subway over LRT?

    Still gonna vote for them?

    • dsmithhfx

      Let’s see if they have any stomach for a heaping serving o’ tax increase, say about $1,000 per household.

  • dsmithhfx

    I said instructive and insightful, not invidious and spiteful.