Council Highlights is a summary of a selection of the decisions that Toronto City Council made at its recent business meeting. The City Clerk’s full, official documentation is available at http://www.toronto.ca/council.
Council decided to make the features of the King Street Transit Pilot project permanent, with King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets operating as a corridor that gives public transit priority over private vehicles. Ridership on the TTC’s 504 King streetcar during the recent two-year pilot rose significantly, to about 84,000 riders a day, and efficiency increased. Statistics have indicated minimal impact on vehicle travel times on streets paralleling or intersecting with King Street. The repositioned transit stops on King will be kept in place and improvements will be made to street furniture and patios along the corridor.
Council approved staff recommendations addressing Ontario’s recently announced new transit plan for Toronto and region – including four projects that the provincial government identifies as transit priorities. The province’s proposal assumes cost-sharing by the federal government, the City of Toronto and other municipalities and authorities. The recommendations that Council adopted include requesting a detailed assessment of the province’s proposed changes to Toronto’s transit expansion program.
A motion concerning the provincial gasoline tax received Council’s unanimous support. The motion requests that the Ontario government reinstate a provincial gas tax commitment made in 2017 that would double municipalities’ share from two cents a litre to four cents a litre. The Toronto Transit Commission relies on the gas tax revenues for its state-of-good-repair expenses. The TTC funding anticipated from the pledged increase amounts to an estimated $1.1 billion over 10 years.
Council adopted recommendations to move ahead promptly with the Tenants First project that is transforming Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), in part by addressing the work of TCHC’s interim seniors housing unit and the City’s role in delivering services to seniors. A related change approved by Council is the expanded scope of the City’s Long-Term Care Homes and Services division, now to include a seniors housing and services entity. The division’s name becomes Seniors Services and Long-Term Care.
Council adopted a plan for handling surges in refugee populations arriving in Toronto and needing support services. The plan aims for the seamless, efficient mobilization of the City’s resources when the need for greater capacity arises. Toronto welcomes about 50,000 new permanent residents a year, but the number of refugees and refugee claimants can vary widely from year to year, such as when almost 7,000 Syrian refugees arrived on relatively short notice in 2016.
Council voted to affirm its support for Toronto Public Health and agreed to ask the Ontario government to stop its planned reduction of Ontario’s public health units from 35 to 10 and its planned budget reduction of $200 million from public health. Council is requesting the province to instead undertake consultations with municipalities and public health agencies on the public health system in Ontario.
Council supported asking the Ontario government to reinstate funding for supervised consumption services at Toronto’s Street Health and St. Stephen’s Community House and to maintain funding for Toronto Public Health’s The Works. The provincial government announced on March 29 that, under new regulations, funding for supervised injection and overdose prevention was not approved for six Ontario sites, three in Toronto and three in London and Ottawa. Coroner’s statistics indicate that hundreds of people in Toronto have died as a result of opioid overdoses in recent years.
Council requested the preparation of a business case for a multi-year hiring and staffing plan, along with technological enhancements, to address the complex-care needs of people, including those with dementia, who live in the City’s long-term care homes. Staff were also asked for an implementation strategy to ensure that all 10 long-term care homes provide emotion-centred approaches to care. Sixty-nine per cent of the 2,641 residents in the City’s long-term care homes have moderate to severe cognitive impairment and 65 per cent have dementia.
Council approved amendments to the City’s noise bylaw after a comprehensive review of the standards for noise in Toronto. The changes simplify the bylaw and address specific noise issues such as amplified sound/music and noise from power devices (such as leaf blowers), motor vehicles (including motorcycles) and construction. There is a provision allowing for various exemptions from noise prohibitions and limitations.
Council decided to ask the Ontario government to direct the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to suspend or revoke liquor licences at any licensed establishment that has been the scene of gun violence, where patrons have been in the possession of handguns, or where the police have found handguns on the premises.
In response to a motion that Council adopted, the City will communicate Council’s expectations that Crosslinx and Metrolinx should pay for damage caused to roads by construction work on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (light rail transit) line. Crosslinx Transit Solutions is a design and construction consortium established to build the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Ontario agency Metrolinx owns and oversees the project.
Council authorized staff to enter into an amending agreement that will result in changes to the City’s street furniture program, which is delivered as a public-private partnership with Astral Media. With the City’s 20-year agreement with Astral now in its 12th year, various installations are being addressed. One innovation under consideration is providing heaters in selected transit shelters. Increased cleaning of litter bins in business improvement areas is another priority for the City.
Council agreed to ask for a report from staff on establishing regulations that address the issue of cigarette-butt litter. The regulations will require business owners and operators to ensure that cigarette butts are removed from in front of their premises as a condition of the City issuing a business licence. Staff are also to report on the enforcement of existing regulations that require the installation and maintenance of receptacles for cigarette butts in front of business establishments, including restaurants and bars.
Council adopted a motion aimed at having the City of Toronto eliminate single-use plastic waste in all City facilities, as well as at City events and campaigns where feasible and practical. Staff are to report back with a detailed plan. The report will include options for replacing single-use plastic products with reusable and alternative products.
Council approved Don Mills Crossing, a secondary plan that advances a vision of a distinct, complete community that is centred at Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East (situated on the Crosstown LRT). Through implementation, the plan will create a vibrant, mixed-use community, connect new development with the area’s natural heritage, enhance mobility choice and support new community facilities and affordable housing. The Don Mills Crossing study included extensive consultation with the surrounding community and stakeholders.
Council officially approved the appointment of Michele Pearson Clarke to the position of City of Toronto Photo Laureate for the three-year term until April 2022, or until a successor is appointed. Toronto’s Photo Laureate, the first and only position of its kind in Canada, began in 2016 when Council appointed Geoffrey James the first Toronto Photo Laureate.
Council adopted a motion requesting that recreation staff take steps to bolster recruitment to address a shortage of swim instructors for some City aquatic programs. Members of Council also want to make sure there is a process in place for notification when a program is cancelled, including information about options to transfer to other available swimming instruction programs offered by the City.
A motion concerning Myanmar and its Rohingya population received Council’s support. Council is urging the Canadian government to invoke the Genocide Convention and, with other governments, engage with the International Court of Justice on holding Myanmar to its obligations. The motion also addresses topics including reparations, the plight of journalists jailed in Myanmar, and the needs of Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh.
Council voted to reaffirm its support for freedom of religion and expression, and to state its opposition to any legislation that would restrict or prohibit those freedoms. Council’s action comes in the context of the Quebec provincial government’s recent proposal of legislation (Bill 21) that would prohibit public employees from wearing visible religious symbols, including items such as turpans, hijabs and crucifixes, in the workplace.