Council Highlights

Toronto City Council meeting of November 26 and 27, 2019

Council Highlights is an informal summary of selected actions taken by Toronto City Council at its business meetings. The complete, formal documentation for this recent meeting is available at http://www.toronto.ca/council.

Housing

Funding model for Toronto Community Housing

Council unanimously approved a new funding model for Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), detailed in a report called Implementing Tenants First: A New Funding Model for Toronto Community Housing. The new funding model provides stability and increases the overall funding provided for TCHC’s operating and capital needs. The rent-supplement-based model approved for implementation starting in 2020 is designed to bridge the gap between what a tenant can afford to pay and the actual cost of the housing.

Plan to create new supportive housing

A motion adopted by Council calls for a report with a plan to create 600 units of supportive housing on an annual basis starting in 2020. That goal is to be achieved through a combination of converting existing units, using housing units in the private market and designating units in new construction, including Housing Now projects. In addition, the City will make detailed requests to the Ontario provincial government and the federal government for their assistance with addressing Toronto’s growing homelessness crisis.

Housing Now project

Council approved a zoning amendment as the next step in a plan to develop a portion of the City property at 777 Victoria Park Ave. (near Victoria Park Subway Station and Dentonia Park Golf Course) as a Housing Now initiative. The project will transform a commuter parking lot, resulting in two buildings providing a total of about 500 new residential units, half of them affordable rental units. The project also involves retail and community uses, including a child-care facility.

Apartment buildings and RentSafeTO

Council approved various amendments to the section of the City’s municipal code pertaining to apartment buildings. Among the amendments, the City will require landlords to inform their new tenants about Toronto’s RentSafeTO program when signing lease agreements. RentSafeTO was established in 2017 to help protect tenants and promote preventive maintenance in apartment buildings. A motion adopted as part of this agenda item requests a report on the feasibility of requiring landlords and/or tenants to obtain insurance that covers the costs of temporary accommodations in the event of an apartment building becoming uninhabitable.

Social and health issues

Strategy for reducing poverty in Toronto

Council unanimously approved the Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy 2019-2022 Term Action Plan. It is the second plan for the 20-year lifecycle of the strategy that began in 2015. The first action plan invested in programs and services supporting low-income Torontonians, establishing a foundation for the new action plan. Over the term of the new action plan, the City will implement various measures to address immediate needs and drive systemic change to benefit people living in poverty in Toronto.

Community violence and health

Council adopted recommendations stemming from the observation that incidents of community violence have physical and mental health impacts on victims, perpetrators, families, friends, neighbours and the entire city. With firearm-related violent crime in Toronto increasing, Council voted to urge governments to take steps including a federal prohibition on the sale, possession and use of handguns, assault rifles and semi-automatic military assault weapons in Canada, and Ontario government legislation to ban the sale of ammunition in Toronto.

Food issues

Council adopted a series of agenda items pertaining to food, including actions connected with the 2019 annual report of the Toronto Food Policy Council, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the City’s food procurement, and matters involving Canada’s Food Guide. Concerning the food guide, Council voted to ask the federal government to take steps that include developing a protocol for “food costing” to standardize the way governments across the country monitor food affordability.

Vaping ads on bus shelters

Council voted to adopt a motion calling on staff to review the City’s street furniture agreement to ensure that all advertising under that agreement complies with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. The act prohibits selling/supplying vapour (“vaping”) products to minors. The motion notes that ads promoting vaping have been observed on Toronto bus shelters near schools.

Urban noise as a health concern

Council adopted a Board of Health recommendation for the City to take steps to mitigate (provide relief from) urban noise, such as noise from transportation projects and operations, among other sources. In that context, the City will consider noise mitigation when planning state-of-good-repair work on roads. Health impacts of loud environmental noise have been found to include hearing loss, sleep disturbance, annoyance/irritation and cardiovascular problems.

Governance

Findings of governance committee

Consideration of a report from the Special Committee on Governance resulted in Council adopting several recommendations and motions, including a motion to start the process to allow for a possible ranked-ballot municipal election for Toronto in 2022. In addition, Council supported taking steps to improve public engagement with Council and committees, and to expand the role of community councils. Among other matters to be explored is the financing Toronto’s municipal elections.

Parks and facilities

Strategy for future parks

Council approved a long-term strategy for enhancing Toronto’s park system through the creation of new parks and the expansion and improvement of existing parks. The Parkland Strategy, which was informed by extensive consultation, will help shape how Toronto’s parks system grows over the next 20 years. The strategy is intended to ensure the parks system remains sustainable in the face of an evolving urban environment characterized largely by increased development.

Assistance for youth centre

Council supported a motion directing staff to evaluate the Cabbagetown Youth Centre’s programming and finances, and to report on options for interim funding to support the centre’s core programs in 2020. Budget projections indicate the centre will not be able to sustain its core programming next year without an increase in financial support. The possibility of transforming the youth centre into City community centre is also to be explored.

Non-profit fundraising in City facilities

Council adopted a revised policy on displays and fundraising efforts in City facilities, with the intention of providing more flexibility in the criteria for granting permission to non-profit fundraising in the City’s corporate facilities. The amended policy, which takes effect March 1, 2020, maintains the requirement for all displays and fundraising activities to align with the City’s values and mandates.

Regulation

Cannabis for personal medical use

Council adopted a motion to request Health Canada to amend regulations under the Cannabis Act as it pertains to cannabis production for personal medical use. Specifically, Council wants Health Canada to take steps to make sure cannabis production facilities adhere to municipal zoning regulations before a registration certificate is issued, and to consider setting limits on the maximum number of plants per premise for personal-use medical cannabis production. The motion was prompted by experiences that have included “pungent odours” in some Toronto neighbourhoods.

Truck driver licensing

A motion that Council supported urges the Ontario government not to adopt a private member’s bill that is calling for the elimination of a periodic written test on air-brake systems, now part of truck operator licensing. The member motion that Council considered notes that given the work the City is undertaking with Vision Zero and related road-safety measures intended to slow down motorists, it is not helpful to contemplate easing regulations involving brakes on large trucks.

Civic themes

Online portrayal of Scarborough

Council adopted a motion to request the Mayor to write to Google Canada about its search engine having recently featured a “demeaning and misleading” photo to represent Scarborough, and to ask Google to replace that image with one that is in keeping with the positive images shown for other municipalities. In addition, the motion proposes that the City establish a photo project or contest that will result in an exhibition of photographs featuring scenic places and communities in Scarborough.

Designating a City of Toronto Day

A motion that was adopted calls on City Council to officially declare March 6 “City of Toronto Day” and, in an appropriate way, to recognize March 6 as the date the City of Toronto was incorporated. Now in its 185th year as a municipality, Toronto was incorporated as the Town of York on March 6, 1834. The motion that Council supported says declaring March 6 City of Toronto Day will provide an opportunity “to honour our City, reflect on its past and feel optimistic about its future.”