Council Highlights

Toronto City Council meeting of October 29 and 30, 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 latest meeting is available at http://www.toronto.ca/council.

Transit/transportation

Public transit projects

After extensive discussion, Council voted in favour of the City negotiating agreements with the Ontario government on four public transit projects for Toronto. City and TTC staff will work with their provincial counterparts to advance plans for the Ontario Line, the Line 2 East Extension, the Yonge Subway Extension and the Eglinton West LRT. Council supported numerous motions and recommendations as part of this agenda item. Under the City/Ontario partnership, the City retains ownership of Toronto’s existing subway network and the TTC retains its responsibilities for transit network operations.

Planning for automated vehicles

Council approved a plan designed to prepare Toronto for the anticipated use of automated (driverless) vehicles in the near future. A trial project in Scarborough involving an automated shuttle service connecting the West Rouge neighbourhood with nearby Rouge Hill GO Transit station is scheduled to start in late 2020. Toronto’s comprehensive plan for automated vehicles is said to be the first of its kind by a North American city.

Road safety measures

Recommendations involving speed limits and other measures to enhance pedestrian safety were approved by Council. Steps to be taken include asking the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to consult with the City before considering increasing the speed limits on the portions of the 400 series highways that are in Toronto. A separate motion that was supported will result in a pilot project using new technology available to assist pedestrians in safely crossing streets at busy intersections.

City assets/facilities

Managing the City’s real estate assets

Council adopted a report called ModernTO that sets out a strategy for the City’s real estate portfolio. The strategy aims to optimize City real estate assets in ways that modernize municipal office space and create efficiencies. A related agenda item that Council adopted calls on CreateTO, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the Toronto Parking Authority and the Toronto Transit Commission, to adopt similar policies for their office portfolios.

Investment in parks and recreation facilities

Council endorsed a strategy for providing parks and recreation facilities across the city over the next 20 years. The strategy, which is based on a commitment to high-quality parks and recreation facilities serving all Toronto residents, provides details for implementing an earlier adopted Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan. Implementing the plan entails investing in community recreation centres, aquatic and ice facilities, sports fields and courts, splash pads and other facilities.

Use of community spaces in City facilities

Council supported a motion calling on City officials to consult with LGBTQ2S+ stakeholders and to review the City’s policies governing third party use of community spaces in City facilities. Staff are to report to Council early in the new year. A focus involves ensuring that the identification of groups contravening the City’s human rights and anti-harassment/discrimination policy, and the denial or revoking of permits to such groups, are done in a timely manner. Part of the motion addresses the Toronto Public Library Board and its policies on the use of community spaces.

Cyber security

Council adopted recommendations intended to strengthen security controls in information technology at the City and at City of Toronto agencies and corporations. The related audit report notes that cyberattacks – unauthorized attempts to gain access to a system and confidential data, modify it in some way or delete or render information in the system unusable – are one of the biggest threats facing organizations today.

Process for selecting shelter locations

A motion concerning shelters, respites and drop-in programs in the east downtown area received Council’s approval. Staff are to provide recommendations to improve public engagement and consultation around locating new shelters, respites and drop-in programs in that area.

Waterfront and island flooding

Council considered a report on flooding experienced along the waterfront and at Toronto Island Park in 2017 and 2019, and on funding for rehabilitation and repair work to waterfront parks damaged by flooding. Related motions that Council adopted address matters such as financial assistance that the City provides for flooded properties.

Environment and health

Progress on a low-carbon fleet

Council adopted a new “green fleet” plan with the goal of moving toward a sustainable, climate-resilient, low-carbon City vehicle fleet. Related objectives include making 45 per cent of the City-owned fleet low-carbon vehicles by 2030. This plan will build on the momentum of the green fleet plan that covered 2014 to 2018 and established the City of Toronto as a Canadian leader in testing and adopting green vehicle technologies and efficient fleet-management practices.

Mental health and addictions

Council adopted a motion that urges the federal government to invest $900,000 a year to help address Toronto’s mental health and addiction crises. The motion calls on the government to commit to funding parity by investing one dollar on mental health for every dollar spent on physical health. According to the motion, this urgently needed federal investment in Toronto should go toward mental health services and new supportive housing.

Sale of vaping products

Council supported amending the Toronto Municipal Code to introduce a new licence requirement for vapour (“vaping”) product retailers effective April 1, 2020. The fee structure is the same as for tobacco retailers. The report before Council documented about 80 specialty retailers of vapour products operating in Toronto and many non-specialty retailers such as convenience stores that carry e-cigarette/vaping products. The report also elaborates on related health concerns.

Community support

Child-care in schools

Council authorized proceeding with the joint approval process for 49 school-based child-care capital projects in co-operation with school boards, as well as up to 20 additional school-based capital projects, subject to provincial funding approval. Council voted to call on the province to reverse its funding formula changes to child care in Ontario and maintain previous levels of funding, and to implement multi-year budgets for child care.

Police presence in Lawrence Heights

A motion calling on Council to ask the Toronto police to establish a community police office in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood received Council’s approval. The motion noted that the main police headquarters serving that part of the city is 8.4 kilometres away from Lawrence Heights, and said there is a need for a police office within the community, given the problems of persistent gun violence and other criminal activity in the area.

Culture

Priorities for cultural investment

A report identifying three strategic priorities to guide the City’s cultural investments over the next five years received Council’s approval. The three priorities involve increasing opportunities for all Torontonians to participate in local cultural activities that reflect the city’s diversity and creativity, maintaining and creating new spaces for the creative sector, and strengthening and increasing the diversity of the cultural workforce.

Changes to cultural grants

Council approved a proposal to realign the City’s cultural grants program, with the intention of providing more equitable access to funding. Two long-established funding programs (Major Cultural Organizations and Grants to Specialized Collections Museums) will be dismantled as the City introduces two new funding programs in 2020 – called Cultural Festivals and Cultural Access and Development.

Miscellaneous

Appointment of Integrity Commissioner

Council appointed Jonathan Batty as the City’s new Integrity Commissioner, effective November 30. The Integrity Commissioner provides advice, complaint resolution and education to members of City Council and local boards on the application of the City’s codes of conduct, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and other bylaws, policies and legislation governing ethical behaviour. Valerie Jepson, the previous Integrity Commissioner, completed her five-year appointment this year.

Support for challenge to Quebec’s Bill 21

Council adopted a member’s motion calling on Toronto City Council to endorse efforts by several cities to mount a national campaign opposing Quebec’s Bill 21 (“secularism legislation”). Bill 21 prohibits public servants in positions of authority in Quebec from wearing religious symbols. The motion that Council supported also reaffirms Toronto’s commitment to upholding religious freedoms and encourages the federal government to condemn and challenge Quebec’s Bill 21.

Enhancement of University Avenue

Council supported a proposal for implementing the first phase of an initiative that involves illuminating and animating University Avenue with art installations. A group called the Friends of University Avenue plans for a temporary, illuminated art installation to be located at the intersection of University Avenue and Gerrard Street as the first project. University Avenue, known as the most ceremonial street in downtown Toronto, links the Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park to Union Station at Front Street.