All the analysis, context, and fact-checks you could want.
The first council debate of 2017 is also the last one before they move on to the budget in mid-February.
In light of the road tolls snafu, expect references to how the Province doesn’t treat the City fairly, and John Tory’s allies going out of their way to mollify their leader and mention what courage he has. Here we go!
- The Torontoist Council Preview, December 2016
- The Torontoist Glossary of City Hall Terms
- How City Council Procedure Works
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Good morning, everyone! Just got here in the middle of the debate over contracting out garbage collection in Scarborough.
John Tory defensiveness level: [——7—]
Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8, York West) is trying to cage the mayor in on the quality of private vs. public sector services. He argue-states that 1. the City prides itself on paying its staff better and giving them better benefits, so we should favour employing them; and 2. if the private sector is so much better, why is the service pretty much the same?
This touches on a central paradox, or hypocrisy if you want, of Council’s “small government” right wing: they want to “run the city like a business”, but are not trying to hire more people or expand; rather, they’re trying to sell off as much as possible.
Maria Augimeri (Ward 9, York Centre) says “we had enough votes to win on this issue” so is disappointed by the mayor’s motion to refer the item.
That Tory has opted to refer the item rather than try to win the vote comes as a surprise to this observer. It implies there has been some stuff going on behind the scenes.
Mammoliti just said as much in a relatively subdued speech. Broken clock, etc.
Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East) has called the question (requested to end debate and go straight to voting). “Nice,” Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) says.
The motion to refer the item carries, only reliable mayor’s allies Crawford, Ford, Holyday, Robinson against. Well, that was mildly surprising.
The Speaker calls a five-minute recess while all the union members (wearing T-shirts with the slogan KICKED TO THE CURB) file out, councillors scrum, and TV talking heads do their thing.
Speaker Nunziata calls everyone back. Perks: “Giorgio has a camera on him, he’s never coming back.” Nunziata: “Well, I don’t think anyone’s worrying about that.” Perks: “Your mic is on.”
Onward! Next item: “Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act, 2016 – Implications for the City of Toronto.” Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York) has questions about the bit about Toronto having “broad powers” to enact legislation to address climate change. This may have interesting implications?
Davis asks if this would give Toronto more power to divert waste in the commercial and industrial sectors.
Staff are not sure. The bill is in second reading and is expected to pass in the spring sometime.
Apartment buildings can currently opt out of the City’s waste management services, for example. This bill would change that, which would mean 1) more revenue for the city and 2) more waste diverted from landfill/recycled.
James Pasternak (Ward 10, York Centre) asks about another provision of the bill, which would make it allowed for councillors, City board members, etc., to attend meetings remotely (e. g. over Skype). He asks if they could make it so remote attendees couldn’t vote. (Yes, Council could request that.)
By the way, here’s the Toronto Star‘s Betsy Powell on the garbage privatization debate today:
Rumours about deferral swatted away last week. Told this was an 11th decision after mayor’s office lobbied hard, obviously didn’t work
— betsy powell (@powellbetsy) January 31, 2017
Joe Mihevc raises the possibility of taxing shoelaces. Shoelaces?
James Pasternak has a motion with a couple proposed changes, like permitting remote participation at Council and committees (but without voting). There’s also a clause that would either allow Ron Moeser (Ward 44, Scarborough East) to stay on despite being chronically ill, or have him removed because he is chronically ill—there’s a lot of double negatives in there, okay? It doesn’t mention Moeser specifically, but this is the applicable case.
Moeser is basically a non-entity at Council, and some councillors feel that at this point he should really step down.
Perks: “Is this going to be a one-day meeting?”
Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York): “That depends on you, Gord.”
Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) name-drops the town of French River, “a town of three or four thousand”, to compare with Toronto. (She’s talking about the need for longer timelines to stop the demolition of heritage buildings.)
French River is near Sudbury. We have never heard of it. Personally, we would suggest our hometown of Forest, which no one has heard of either.
They’re voting on Pasternak’s motion; we regrettably missed the first part. The one on remote attendance fails by quite a lot. The one on excess tax sale proceeds carries unanimously.
Christin Carmichael Greb’s motion regarding heritage property demolition carries unanimously.
The item as a whole carrie—they almost pull off a show-of-hands vote, but someone calls for a recorded vote. Aw. Okay, it carries unanimously.
Um. Cressy just introduced the confirming bill. I-is the meeting over? Are we done? Help.
Okay, back after lunch, clearly have to read up on procedure.
Aaaand we’re back. As usual, councillors are doing “quick releases”—voting on routine items they held but no longer want to debate.
Over the lunch break:
Motion coming this afternoon to that effect moved by Tory, to have weight of mayor’s office, brought forward by Cressy & Mihevc
— Jennifer Pagliaro (@jpags) January 31, 2017
Tory has been facing criticism over his refusal to disavow former campaign manager Nick Kouvalis, who is also behind Kellie Leitch’s racist and xenophobic CPC leadership campaign.
Now Council votes to let Tory introduce his motion reaffirming Sanctuary City, the policy ensuring undocumented residents have equal access to City services. Some on Council point out that Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) and Christin Carmichael Greb (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) left the room for the vote.
Minnan-Wong was here when they debated the original motion, and let loose with a bitter screed against welfare-leeching “boat people” that greatly upset colleagues like Cesar Palacio, who is originally from Ecuador.
FYI, here’s the original Sanctuary City motion, so you can see how everyone voted.
Wong-Tam wanted the local BIA’s consultant to make a presentation on the new Yonge-Dundas Square billboards (or interactive electronic media experience or whatever they’re calling them), but only City staff are allowed to do that.
Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth) finds a compromise: they can have the slides distributed to councillors instead. A clerk points out that the presentation was attached to the report, which they would know if they had read the report.
“I see everyone’s eyes glossing over, no one is really paying attention,” says David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale), accurately.
Staff put up some pictures of the proposed signs, which were already in the report
Here’s our “visioning” for Y-D Square.
Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) says there’s “too much light, too much flickering”. She’s concerned about the glare as seen from Parliament Street annoying humans, but it also has a big impact on wildlife.
Regarding Council’s record on rights for undocumented residents, City Hall watcher @monoids points out another relevant item, 2014’s Access to City Services for Undocumented Torontonians.
The final vote is similar to 2013.CD18.5:
Councillors kvetching and mock-shaming each other as they vote on the Yonge-Dundas Square motion.
And now the Sanctuary City motion is up. John Campbell (Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre), who wasn’t here the last time, asks Tory to explain what Sanctuary City is and if we are already a Sanctuary City.
To this writer’s mild surprise, Campbell wasn’t doing it to passive-aggressively start but to let Tory give a nice introduction.
Tory is making a rather Toryesque speech about how no one in Toronto should feel afraid to be discriminated against because of etc., etc., you know the drill.
They’re now just voting on the motion without debate, which is kind of a relief.
Here’s the motion.
Part 1 (“City Council re-affirm Toronto as a Sanctuary City where all residents have full rights to access all city services and city-administered services without fear, regardless of their documentation status”) carries with only Holyday against.
The remainder carries unanimously. Minnan-Wong and Shiner, who have consistently voted against pro-immigrant motions, are both absent.
More like LOLyday, am I right?
Minnan-Wong walked out of the room on purpose, he told me. He came down to the press gallery to tell me that.
— Jennifer Pagliaro (@jpags) January 31, 2017
“I’m a rookie, Speaker,” says Justin Di Ciano (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore), caught in a complete goof.
We find this honesty refreshing and wish more of the rookies would own up to their dunderheaded mistakes occasionally.
Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth): “Speaker, I can’t hear you!”
Jim Karygiannis (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) has a blatantly out of order item, which Nunziata slaps down.
NUNZIATA: Don’t try to debate me.
KARYGIANNIS: I just have a request and if I can’t have the request I’ll sit down.
NUNZIATA: Sit down.
[A few councillors are laughing so hard they need to step out for a moment.]
KARYGIANNIS: If my motion was so out of order why did you let it get this far? Why don’t you sit down?!
NUNZIATA: I am sitting down.
Everyone is confused about what happens now. Nunziata declares they will do members’ motions.
Wow, they are just whipping through a bunch of member motions, most of them routine requests for City solicitors to go to the OMB.
Mihevc, seconded by Cressy, has a motion to endorse the anti-Islamophobia Charter for Inclusive Communities by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, a human rights and civil liberties group.
Shiner stands up to remark that Council is moving so quickly that staff haven’t had time to finish some reports that councillors have asked for. “They didn’t assume we’d be so quick!” Perks: “Why would they?!”
Now up: the Integrity Commissioner’s annual report. Unless we missed something, it’s not that exciting this year.
Their identity is confidential, but we’re going to guess this councillor might be Denzil Minnan-Wong:
Context. Minnan-Wong is still an active Twitter user (we assume—this writer has been blocked by him).
No hard feelings, Denzil.
Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park) brings up the section previously quoted here. She wants to know if the suggested “Twitter principles” statement should go in the Twitter bio, or what. (Integrity Commissioner Valerie Jepson says it could be a link to a web page in the bio.) She also asks if it’s okay to block harassing users who aren’t constituents. Jepson hems and haws and we miss what she said.
It’s kind of a moot point, because who the heck is going to go to the Integrity Commissioner over something as petty as being blocked on Twi—never mind. There are so many people who would do that.
The Integrity Commissioner is officially as useless as Twitter Support for dealing with harassment.
We regret to say that we are running out of gas due to hunger and thirst. However, there’s now a mandated half-hour break at 6 p. m., which is nice.
Oh never mind, the Speaker has just declared the break now. We will return.
Mike Layton has a motion to revoke the liquor license of the College Street Bar after the owner and manager were charged with sexually assaulting a patron.
Perks has a procedural quibble about the tree policy item: it would involve changing Council’s procedure, which requires giving advance notice of the motion. It would also require a two-thirds majority to pass. Nunziata says the motion is just asking for a report, not changing the rules right now.
Doucette is asking staff to run through the process for tree removal and how many applications end up going to community council.
Justin Di Ciano is asking why people appealing tree permit decisions can’t appeal directly to City Council, the final decision-making authority.
Holyday: we do delegate some items to community council, so why not others?
FYI, here’s the list of items delegated to community councils (p. 101).
Deleted an earlier status as I was mistaken.
Doucette posts a picture of a lovely conifer that was removed against staff recommendations because “the wife didn’t like the tree”.
There’s a “seeing the forest for the trees” joke in here, but we can’t quite work it in.
If this eventually passed, Etobicoke would have a relatively depleted tree canopy and it would serve them right.
ME: I knew this would be a good item.
Frank Di Giorgio (Ward 12, York-South Weston): There are many ways to increase the tree canopy. You can just leave the trees there and they will naturally reproduce…
(We will go back and find the exact exchange, because it was priceless.)
Holyday gives an impassioned speech about how angry residents get when they hear their tree permit appeals are going to have to be decided by City Council, uncaring strangers who don’t give a damn about them. “I like trees, we like trees, let’s just find a solution that doesn’t make people so angry.”
Justin Di Ciano (paraphrased): I thought this was a democracy!
A TV cameraman is catching Di Ciano’s passionate speech. This is why TV is terrible and no one should bother watching it.
Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York) urges her colleagues not to give in to “tree NIMBYs”.
She lists off all the benefits of trees, like improving air quality, reducing stress, and so on. Sadly, none of them are “getting local councillors re-elected”.
@norm is talking.
Jim Karygiannis has a motion to ask staff to also analyze “the damage to sidewalks caused by trees”. Mike Layton heckles something along the lines of, why not ask staff to analyze how much carbon dioxide trees convert to oxygen?
The motion passes. “That’s two-thirds!” Di Ciano whoops triumphantly. (It actually isn’t two-thirds.)
“I picked a bad week to give up Tylenol 3,” jokes James Pasternak. nocontext
Is there anything James Pasternak can’t make about the North York Relief Line? Context.
Council applauds the outgoing acting City Solicitor (a new one has just been chosen).
Wow. This is remarkable. This is practically unprecedented in all the time I’ve been watching City Council. They have voted to extend the meeting because they can get the whole agenda done in one day.
See how efficient Council is when they have a short evening break. (And no hugely complex controversial items, but shhhh…)
At the moment the House of Commons is also having an emergency debate about Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive order:
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) February 1, 2017
And Trump is also nominating his Supreme Court pick. So it’s a busy evening.
Meanwhile, @norm introduces the confirming bills.
And that’s a wrap. It’s been an eventful, slightly surprising, and generally pleasant day. Thanks, everyone, for following along.