Council Highlights is a summary of a selection of decisions that Toronto City Council made at its recent business meeting. The City Clerk’s formal documentation is available at http://www.toronto.ca/council.
Council adopted numerous recommendations to guide a review of the City’s current cold-weather respite and shelter services, including reaffirming a 90 per cent occupancy cap for shelters. The City will keep respite/warming centres and drop-in programs operating as needed beyond April 15 this spring as a response to crowding in Toronto’s shelter system. Funding for expanded shelter capacity is part of the City’s 2018 budget process.
Council adopted a 2018 work plan for TO Prosperity, the City’s poverty reduction strategy. Actions include the implementation of a discounted transit pass for low-income residents. Designed as a 20-year strategy, TO Prosperity contains recommendations in the six core areas of housing stability, service access, transit equity, food access, quality jobs/livable incomes, and systemic change.
Council considered options for supporting Toronto businesses through tax measures and decided to provide that support by capping this year’s total tax increases for the commercial, industrial and multi-residential property classes at no higher than 10 per cent over last year’s taxes. Recent increases in provincial reassessments resulted in high property tax increases for many small downtown businesses last year.
Council approved steps to manage the financial impacts of last spring’s extremely high water levels in Lake Ontario. The high water affected the entire Toronto waterfront and flooded Toronto Island Park, which was closed until the end of July. Staff estimate the impact on the City’s operating budget at about $8.45 million to cover flood mitigation/repairs and revenue losses. Assessment of infrastructure damage is estimated at a $7.4 million at this time, with further damage assessment to inform the 2019 capital budget.
Council endorsed a plan for Toronto’s waterfront transit network and adopted a series of recommendations for implementation and reviews/studies on specific features of the network. Providing an underground transit link below Bay Street from Union Station to Queens Quay is a particularly challenging and important section of the network. The ultimate goal is an effective waterfront transit network from Long Branch and Lake Shore in the west to Queen Street and Woodbine Avenue in the east.
Council approved several actions related to delivery of the City’s Vision Zero road safety plan, which is focused on reducing traffic-related fatalities and injuries on Toronto’s streets. The actions that Council authorized pertain to automated speed enforcement, use of red-light cameras and safety measures in school safety zones.
Council voted to have staff improve the tracking of admission and discharge of homeless individuals as they move among Toronto shelters, respite facilities and hospitals, and the tracking and reporting of in-house health care provided. Council also approved releasing data that City shelters collect on daily occupancy numbers – not using personal identifiers that would interfere with clients’ privacy.
Council provided direction on a process to transfer ownership of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s Agency House and Rooming House portfolio to non-profit corporations as part of the City’s Tenants First strategy. The portfolio is to be maintained for its current housing purposes. In addition, Council adopted an interim process to appoint tenant representatives to the Toronto Community Housing Corporation Board for the 2018-2020 board term.
Council took steps in support of encouraging more gender diversity on the boards of directors of companies that do business with the City. The City will collect information as part of the process for procurements from companies and will monitor the Ontario government’s Women in Business Steering Committee’s progress on increasing gender diversity. The ideal is gender parity on corporate boards.
Council approved the introduction of a four per cent municipal sales tax on hotel accommodations effective April 1 and on short-term accommodations (such as those occurring in principal residences registered under the City’s licensing regime) effective as early as June 1. In each case, guests pay the tax and the hotel or short-term rental operator collects and remits payment to the City. The Greater Toronto Hotel Association will administer the hotel accommodation tax and licensed short-term rental companies such as Airbnb will collect for short-term rentals.
Council asked staff to review and report on potentially implementing a City policy/strategy to protect existing hotel space in designated areas. Several Toronto hotels have been redeveloped into residential condominiums in recent years. Even though some new hotel properties have come on stream, the number of available hotel rooms in Toronto has stagnated since 2000. Hotel accommodation is a vital part of Toronto’s tourism, hospitality and convention industries.
Council adopted an Open Data Master Plan that will help the City grow as a leader in open data. For the City, open data refers to making City data freely available for people to analyze and republish in support of improved delivery of public services, enhanced engagement with citizens in government decision making, and more innovative approaches to civic problem solving.
Council supported a motion to designate January 29 in Toronto a Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia for future years, and to ask the Canadian and Ontario government to mark the date in a similar way. On that date in 2017, a gunman carried out an act of terrorism at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec in Quebec City. Council reaffirmed that Islamophobia, like all other forms of racism, hate, xenophobia and bigotry, has no place in the City of Toronto.
A plan for the future use of Toronto’s Old City Hall (60 Queen St. W.) received Council’s approval. The plan calls for the historic building – a national historic site – to house a Museum of Toronto, a library branch, a wedding chamber, a museum café and shop, and spaces for public events and institutional uses. A possible Toronto Transit Commission museum component will be discussed. Provincial and municipal courts currently use the building.
Council approved an updated policy for the use of municipal resources during elections, including the City’s municipal election later this year. The policy has been updated to include registered third-party advertisers and amended to recognize that political activity provisions for public servants are now in effect through the Toronto Municipal Code. The policy applies to municipal, provincial and federal elections/by-elections.
Council asked for information about criteria for any future tender on using biodiesel for the City’s fleet vehicles. Staff have consulted with the University of Toronto’s Transportation Research Institute, which is going to undertake a detailed analysis comparing biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels to regular diesel fuel for use in the City’s fleet vehicles. Moving toward increased use of bio-diesel or renewable diesel is a way for the City to accelerate reduction of its overall fleet emissions.
As the next step in the City’s efforts to prepare for the introduction of highly automated vehicles on Toronto’s streets in the coming years, Council asked for a report with recommendations and a detailed automated vehicle tactical plan. Highly automated vehicles – often referred to as driverless or autonomous cars – are now being tested on roads in Ontario, including Toronto. These vehicles have the potential to affect road safety, traffic congestion, mobility equity and environmental health.
A new access symbol that shows a human figure moving forward in a wheelchair, referred to as the dynamic symbol of access, will gradually replace the traditional, static wheelchair image at City-owned properties. Council agreed to endorse the modernized symbol, as recommended by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee and informed by the Forward Movement campaign. Council also supported asking the Ontario government to adopt the new symbol.
A detailed proposal to establish a new, consolidated 54/55 Police Districts facility at 1627 Danforth Ave. received Council’s approval. The property, currently a Toronto Transit Commission garage, is to become a multi-functional site for various civic and employment-generating uses in addition to use as a police station. The existing stations for 54 and 55 Divisions are due for replacement. The Danforth Avenue property was deemed the most suitable in a selection process that included community input.
Council authorized Toronto to be part of a North American bid to host the 2026 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup of soccer. The national soccer associations of Canada, the United States of America and Mexico are leading a joint bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup in cities across North America. Individual host cities will be selected in 2021, after FIFA’s selection of the host country/countries this June.