All the revenue tools analysis, context, and fact-checks you could want.
All the revenue tools analysis, context, and fact-checks you could want.
Normally on day three of council, the excitement has died down, in part because the most substantive issues are taken care of and councillors just want to get out of there. That will not be the case today.
There are 51 items left on the agenda, including two biggies. The rate-supported budget will be dealt with first, and there’s a bunch of details that councillors will try to address.
But council will also address the Gardiner today. Costs on the beleaguered and contentious urban highway construction project have already escalated by $1 billion. Some councillors will doubtlessly use it as an opportunity to try to re-open the issue, pointing out that there is a cheaper alternative available that now costs $1 billion less, and creates more jobs.
Will these motions pass? Nah, probably not. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth fighting for.
Quality local journalism costs money and relies on support from readers like you. If you value our comprehensive Council coverage, you can help fund our award-winning work for only a few dollars a month. Every dollar goes a long way, particularly when it buys your trusty livebloggers cups of coffee for marathon Council sessions. Support us during the Council session and we’ll give you a shout out on the liveblog too! Join Raccoon Nation now.
And we’re back! We barely have quorum, but we’re making our way through the order paper before we get to the items for the day.
A small correction to our summary write-up today: there are 55 items remaining, not 51. This could be a long day.
Noted tree-hater Stephen Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre) would like a recorded vote so that he can be on record as wanting to remove an arboreal fiend. You might say that he throws trees a lot of…shade. (I’ll go home now.)
We’re on quick releases. Councillors hold items at the start of the meeting, either because they want to debate it or get questions answered by staff. (Items that aren’t held are passed unanimously.) As the meeting goes on, councillors will release their holds because they might have had their questions answered on background, no longer want to debate it, or they just want a recorded vote in support or opposition of the item.
Speaker Nunziata says that by going through quick releases, council knocked off 20 items. That’s good! Down to 35. Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East) announces that she has a cold. She would like to vote on the Nanking Massacre motion, but she might have to go home.
We are on item PG 15.1, “How Does the City Grow?”
How fast is the city growing? There were 31,000 new units last year, Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat tells council.
Downtown is growing four times faster than the rest of Toronto, says Keesmaat. This will likely rustle the jimmies of suburban councillors who do not like to hear such things.
Mammoliti asks if the City can outsource planning to developers, and to turn the City planning department into compliance officers. The Chief Planner replies that, uh, developers already hire their own planners, who represent their own interests. City planners represent the public interest. “I just don’t understand why we can’t leave it up to the developers in that sense,” muses the Ward 7 councillor after hearing her answer.
Keesmaat identifies three keys to growth: transit, affordable housing, and parks. She says that cities like New York and Paris prioritize these characteristics, and it’s a big part of what makes those cities desirable.
Carroll says that councillors should check out a union report about the lack of planning resources called “Arrested Development.” Hey, that’s the name of the show!
Mammoliti suggests that supporting density downtown is some kind of plot to secure “transfer payments,” otherwise known as funds for city services. He says that the suburbs deserve these funds, and councillors like Gord Perks are trying to prevent him from getting it. This, by the way, makes no sense at all.
Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) says the traditional community meeting for developments needs to be overhauled. He argues it’s too confrontational, and communities frequently lose trust with the City. He makes a good point, and Planning has some initiatives to try and address this. However, it’s also a legitimately complicated issue, and could use a lot more ideas and experiments to see what works best.
And now some more quick releases, and then we’ll break for lunch at 12:30 p.m. Council will return at 2 p.m., and there are still lots of substantial items remaining.
And we’re back to the planning reports from the morning. We hope you had a nice lunch.
Anthony Perruzza’s latest speech is particularly recursive and existential. All is right with the world.
Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) is up. He does not support increasing fees to developers, and is worried about their sub-standard service levels. Based on his votes on the City’s poverty reduction strategy, he does not always share the same concerns for Toronto’s low-income residents.
For context: the planning department has a $50 million budget, $36 million of which is supported by fees. The fee structure has not changed since 2011, and this report is meant to update those fees to reflect changes in growth and planning needs. The idea is to push fees closer to cost-recovery, so the City would recover $48 million of the $50 million budget. Currently the $14 million difference is made up by the general budget (that is, property taxes).
The councillors in red (Di Giorgio, Mammoliti, Minnan-Wong, and Nunziata) don’t believe the City should charge developers cost-recovery fees for city planning applications. The more you know.
The overall planning package passes easily.
Oh boy, now we’re onto the staff presentation for the Gardiner cost escalations. This will be depressing.
There’s a few sections to the Gardiner. In June 2015, council approved a more expensive plan for the East Gardiner, which is the section east of Jarvis. That cost was $500 million more than the boulevard option, which delivered better outcomes on almost every metric studied (except for driver times). Council chose the so-called hybrid option but the cost for it has since escalated by another $500 million, which means it’s now $1 billion more than the alternative.
There’s also construction on the west of Jarvis—this cost estimate has also increased by $500 million. Overall, Gardiner construction costs have increased from $2.6 billion to $3.6 billion.
Mammoliti asks if council could re-open the boulevard option. The Speaker suggests she would rule it out of order.
Mammoliti is very confused about the different sections of the Gardiner, and keeping the numbers straight. This is what happens when you don’t read the staff reports, folks.
City staff have told council that the P3 model would be more expensive on this project, and by a great deal of money. A lot of members of right-wing members of council will have to wrap their heads around the idea that a private-public partnership could cost the City more money.
Michael Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) adds a wrinkle: what is the cost of maintaining the Gardiner, rather than building the hybrid (it’s just over $800 million)? His late uncle wanted this option, even though there wasn’t much of a case for it. Instead, it seemed like a way that Rob Ford could support cars while also oppose John Tory.
Karygiannis asks the CFO if City staff have been over budget or under budget on capital projects over the past 10 years. It seems like a crazy-detailed question, but Rob Rossini actually has the information! After shuffling his papers, he says that the City was $300 million under budget. This is not the answer Karygiannis wanted to hear.
Karygiannis is trying to get Rossini to guarantee that the Gardiner will come in on budget, which is an impossible and unfair position in which to put the civil servant.
In his speech outlining why he voted the way he did, Mammoliti explains that he voted for the so-called hybrid option because it was cheaper.
More context: in June 2015 Mammoliti and Karygiannis traded their Gardiner votes in exchange for a toothless motion to study tunnelling under the Gardiner. (The study said that tunnelling was not a good idea, and would cost way more money.)
Left wing councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth) opposes re-opening the boulevard option, because she fears it would bring council back on the year and half worth of work that’s been done on it.
Frank Di Giorgio (Ward 12, York South-Weston) says it’s mind-boggling to re-visit the previous Gardiner debate and to see council change its mind.
In his speech, Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) tries to frame context for council’s decision. He points out that council frequently spend an inordinate amount of time on $10,000 or $1 million decisions, and gnashes their teeth on those issues. On this though, a $1 billion decision, there is not the same level of rigour from council, he argues. He adds that framed against social housing, it shows that council’s priorities are skewed, and we need to think about perspective — this project has soaked up a lot of capital.
Time to committee appointments! Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) was appointed to be chair as the tenant issues committee, which would have replaced Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s). It was the only position where the chair was unwillingly removed. Mihevc will swap spots with Matlow. All is well.
Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) rises to point out that for the second time in a row, Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park), whose ward is adjacent to Exhibition Place, is excluded from the board, and that he tried to flag this with the mayor’s office. None of the other committee members offered to step down.
This is a particularly sensitive issue, because governance at the Exhibition Place board has raised some eyebrows over the past few years.
Layton is asking about the $1.6 million water pollutant subsidy for Toronto companies. We wrote about it here.
Toronto’s auditor-general has recommended that the City end this surcharge. Council did not implement that recommendation. Every year Layton tries to reverse this policy, where industrial companies don’t pay cost recovery for the pollutants they emit. Toronto residents make up the difference.
Stephen Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre) speaks against replacing the lost railway stations of West Toronto, which proponents argue have unique heritage characteristics.
We are now debating the Housing Stabilization Fund, which is a program of last resort that helps some of the City’s most vulnerable residents. They provide a program that provides new furniture to battered women who flee their homes, or low-income residents dealing with bedbugs, for instance. John Campbell (Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre) and Stephen Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre) question whether some Torontonians try to scam this program, and whether stricter controls are needed on those who try to access it.
Council is now debating accessibility drop-offs and pick-ups in bike lanes, which is a contentious item. Councillor Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley West), the Public Works chair, wants to implement the new bylaw first, and then have a consultation with accessibility advocates. Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) wants the consultation first.
Council will continue, but the liveblog must end! This liveblogger promised to babysit his niece so his sister could go out on her birthday, so that takes precedence.