City Council Preview: April 26-28, 2017
We read the agenda so you don't have to.
After last month’s showdown over the Scarborough subway extension (the worst idea in Toronto transit and current suburban fetish object), next week’s council session is comparatively routine. There are three motions about heritage building protection—from councillors David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale), Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth), and Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina)—that all essentially want to conduct a survey to take stock of the heritage buildings in the city and to develop strategies to protect them.
Council will receive the ombudsman’s report, extending from its investigation into the TTC’s oversight of its transit enforcement unit. The investigation was sparked after an incident at Union Station in 2015, where transit enforcement cops became entangled with a father and son after a hockey game. (The two men have brought a lawsuit against the TTC and the two transit officers in question.)
While there’s not much council can or can’t do on this file, it comes after complaints about the fare inspectors, with allegations ranging from general rudeness to racial discrimination. Of 114 official complaints in 2016, 27 claimed some form of discrimination; only one complaint resulted in disciplinary action. At the end of 2016, the City approved the use of undercover fare enforcement agents as well—not the best look, one might argue, for a transit service that continues to raise fares while losing ridership.
Held over from the March session is a vote on whether or not to award a $500,000 grant for September’s Walk for Reconciliation—“an inclusive special event celebrating Canadians’ shared commitment to transform and renew relationships among Indigenous peoples and all communities across the country.” Expect this one to pass. And keep an eye out for more information about the walk, which is planned for this September—not only is it an important event that deserves your support, but I’m expecting it to be rather fun and interesting.
Council will also debate requesting that the province amend the Housing Services Act to allow social housing to refuse to re-home anyone who has been evicted for behavioural misconduct. On the surface, this isn’t a very good idea—I can’t imagine what success Mayor Tory is imagining will come from a tougher-on-crime approach to community housing (especially considering that so many Toronto Community Housing properties are falling into disrepair and considering the City’s general inaction on homelessness). It also allows for information about tenants evicted from TCHC housing to be used “when that information is needed for proceedings at the Landlord and Tenant Board.” The language here is a bit unclear, principally because of what it doesn’t say: Will this information now be made available for LTB proceedings that don’t include TCHC—say, if someone is evicted from TCHC, but requires the LTB at a later time? (If I were a betting man, I would imagine this will receive some pushback from some of the downtown councillors.)
Considering the flak Tory has rightly received for his inaction on homelessness, this motion is a particularly poor look for him. Evicting people for legitimate crimes committed on TCHC property is one thing (though even that is a debatably bad policy); telling them that they can’t be re-housed is a whole separate level of vindictive. Holding the threat of homelessness—and make no mistake, this policy is essentially the threat of forced homelessness—over a tenant’s head for criminal behaviour is at best a poorly thought out crime policy, and at worst an attempt to impose a moral and behavioural standard in exchange for community assistance. This message from the mayor (especially after a winter with far too many homeless deaths) is pretty irredeemable.
The Grab Bag
As always, member motions provide a wealth of curious, interesting, and downright bizarre topics for debate. If you’re looking for something to get excited about in this month’s council agenda, one of these might be up your alley.
Councillor Fragedakis is moving that the City request that the federal government require that all FM chips smartphones be unlocked, so as “to foster the Canadian consumer’s awareness and use of the FM radio capacity on their smartphone.” [Cue Tory removing himself from the matter because it involves cellphones in some way, citing conflict of interest.] This is, on face, a somewhat ridiculous thing for the City to be doing, partially because I have never once heard anyone complain about overly restrictive legislation about their FM radio chip in their smartphone, and it reminds me a bit of Frances Nunziata’s (Ward 11, York South-Weston) lottery motion from February in its out-of-left-field quality. (But I’m actually a fan! What better way to soothe your achingly long TTC commute time than with CBC Radio 2, guaranteed to play a Joel Plaskett song every 14 minutes?)
Fragedakis is also responsible for the other odd-ball in the mix: a motion to promote international running tourism in Toronto. I have a lot to say about this (shameless self-plug for a piece I reported for Spacing last year), so this particular issue will likely get a post of its own later in the week, but for now I’ll say this: Toronto has a complicated relationship with road races (insofar as people telling me to drown myself in a lake for suggesting that Toronto’s relationship with marathoners can best be described as “complicated”), but there are people working very hard to turn Toronto’s marathons into world-class races. The Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon holds the top certification that a marathon can have, but its reputation is still being rebuilt after a feud with the Goodlife Toronto Marathon over who would run their race in October (sidebar: October marathons are generally preferred by runners over spring marathons, since the temperature is on the decline, rather than the upswing). Now that the Waterfront Marathon is an October staple, the work that Fragedakis wants to do with this motion is mostly already done—it’s up to the people of Toronto to show up and cheer to really improve the reputation of the race.
And, rounding it out, some good old political posturing: The Executive Committee is recommending that Toronto take a hardline stance against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Buy American” proposal, which (according to Councillor James Pasternak [Ward 10, York Centre]), “could have a deeply negative impact on the economies of Toronto and Ontario due to their large volume of trade and deep integration with the state of New York.” (There is no data accompanying this motion, so I’m hard pressed to see it as anything but a principled stance on free trade.)
Check out the rest of the council agenda here.