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politics

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.

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