Every month, Torontoist reads the Toronto City Council agenda details so you don't have to.
On this month’s busy agenda: SmartTrack, redrawing Toronto’s wards, service animals, skate parks, and more.
The Big Ticket
- The people want SmartTrack. SmartTrack, SmartTrack, SmartTrack. A major transit report on the City’s commitment to a development process and funding for SmartTrack comes to Council this month. There are many unknowns, untruths, and potential snags. Read our annotated version of the report, then check out Steve Munro’s analysis.
- Related: Cesar Palacio (Ward 17, Davenport) and Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) have an inspired suggestion: incorporate the design of West Toronto’s long-demolished railway stations into the new GO and SmartTrack ones.
- Speaking of rail, expect to hear a lot of politicians railing about how there are, uh, too many politicians as Council debates the Ward Boundary Review. The final report recommends going from 44 wards to 47. This is a Big Deal for two main reasons. For politicians, it alters the uneasy downtown/suburban power balance and kicks off a game of electoral musical chairs. For residents, they risk having a unified neighbourhood divided between two wards or being lumped in with communities they are at odds with. Also, John Tory could freak out.
- Summer is coming. For $40,000, the City would be able to open cooling centres sooner and equip them better.
- Winter is coming. The City’s shelter system continues to operate above capacity (95 per cent as of September). Last winter, an extra $2.9 million was added to the Shelter, Support & Housing Administration budget to meet demand. Read the staff report [PDF] to learn more about how SSHA is preparing.
- Floods are coming. One of the big unfunded capital projects on the City’s wish list: Port Lands flood protection. It’s estimated to cost $1.25 billion, but the cost of not doing it is even higher, and the project would also unlock development opportunities. Here’s why it matters.
Tourism and Events
- In 2020, Toronto will host the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ annual conference, or, as we like to think of it, MayorCon. At least the usual suspects won’t be able to complain about spending taxpayer dollars on travel.
World Expo seems like something Chicago would go nuts for in the 1920s, which I guess is why Toronto is really pushing hard for it now.
— Branden Wesseling (@BCWesseling) October 21, 2016
- However, City staff are nixing an Expo 2025 bid, for several good reasons.
- As the City, residents, the hotel industry, and Airbnb face off, Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) and Ana Bailão (Ward 18, Davenport) want City staff to look into how condo development is eating into hotel space.
- Council’s designated Hipster Advocate Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) wants to create a plan to save Toronto’s live music venues.
- Two of Tory’s mayoral campaign staff are now working as consultants for Toronto Hydro, which Tory may be looking to privatize (another former campaign staffer is now lobbying on the file for Enbridge). Councillors Gord Perks and Janet Davis have submitted an official inquiry asking about the details of the consultants’ firms’ relationships with Toronto Hydro.
- Council argued about the new Local Appeal Body for three freakin’ hours last month, but that wasn’t enough, so now we’re back for round two.
- This Auditor General’s report has everything: Taxpayer Dollars™, opioids, Viagra, and fraud. It will undoubtedly overshadow the other important report on long-term disability benefits, which found a sharp increase in City employees who are on long-term disability, particularly for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
Urbanism and Development
- There are several interesting tidbits (well, interesting to urbanists) in this list of suggested revisions to the Province’s new plans for the Golden Horseshoe and the Greenbelt, specifically regarding density, transit planning, employment areas, and zoning for places of worship.
- Related: in a new report, City Planning takes a look at the past five years of development.
- Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South-Weston) is getting complaints that front yard parking pad applications are getting unfairly refused. Meanwhile, unlikely allies Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East) and Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) think the City should just ban parking pads altogether, which will please the Donald Shoup crowd.
- Oh, boy. Jim Karygiannis (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) (seconded by @norm, who should know better) wants a staff report on foreign home buyers. Never mind that the City doesn’t have the power to implement a Vancouver-style tax on foreign buyers—Kathleen Wynne has nixed the idea anyway—there are relatively few foreign buyers, and domestic speculation, not foreign investment, is driving the market.
- Small, but interesting: these builders are being asked to put up public art around their construction staging area, “to the satisfaction of the Ward Councillor”— Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale).
- Better Know A Section 37 Benefit: $10,000 for special Bay Cloverhill neighbourhood street signs.
- BREAKING: safe, adequate, affordable housing is good for your health. A new report [PDF] from Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe describes housing’s impact on health in Toronto. The Board of Health wants City Council to increase funding for shelters and affordable housing, which is not going to happen because keeping property taxes low is more important to Council.
- Women make up 40 per cent of members of the public appointed to City boards. For City corporations, it’s only 30 per cent. Executive Committee wants City Council to commit to gender equality in Corporate Board appointments by 2020.
- City accessibility by-laws are getting an update to include people-first language and accommodations for service animals.
- You may see these Indigenous flags flying over City Hall soon.
- Did you know Toronto Public Health has free or low-cost dental clinics? It does! The Scarborough Civic Centre one is (hopefully) getting an upgrade, paid for from reserve funds.
- What has the City been doing to meet the needs of newcomers and refugees? Check out the progress report on the work of the Toronto Newcomer Office.
Parks and Rec
- Could Nathan Phillips Square get a skate park? Maybe, if Council approves the new Toronto Skateboard Strategy.
- Making the High Park Zoo a City priority could make it eligible for more funds and grants, and not just from the City of Toronto.
- Currently, Toronto’s tree canopy covers about 27 per cent of the city; the City’s goal is to get to 40 per cent. The Parks and Environment Committee wants to create a Tree Planting Strategy that incentivizes private property owners to help out. But building up an urban forest is about more than numbers. Expect Council’s appointed tree advocate (an actual title!) Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park) to take the lead, and noted tree skeptic Stephen Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre) to question the merits of the government program.
- Now that Raymond Cho (Ward 42, Scarborough-Rouge River) has finally levelled up, Council must choose whether to appoint a successor or hold a by-election. This is very mildly controversial.
- Nowadays, robbers are using Craigslist or Kijiji ads to lure victims. @norm (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt) wants the Toronto Police Services Board to look into creating designated meeting spots in police stations. Our more budget-friendly suggestion: Tim Horton’s.
- If this motion from James Pasternak (Ward 10, York Centre) has anything to do wifi causing cancer, I swear to God…
- We would like to note that Michelle Holland (Ward 35, Scarborough Southwest) has no technology-of-the-moment member’s motions on this agenda at all. Guess it’s time to catch up on CityLab.
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