Council Highlights

Toronto City Council meeting of July 28 and 29, 2020

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.

Actions addressing COVID-19 pandemic

Financial impacts of City’s response

Council adopted a series of recommendations to address the pandemic’s financial impacts on the City, including saving more than $500 million through various means. They include introducing a voluntary separation program for eligible City staff and measures to reduce compensation costs for elected officials and management/non-union staff. Even with the financial mitigation strategies in place, the City estimates a 2020 year-end shortfall of $1.35 billion and continuing budget pressures next year. The City awaits details on federal/provincial financial support anticipated for the City’s COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery efforts.

Mandatory masks in apartment/condo buildings

Council voted to establish a temporary bylaw requiring masks or face coverings in enclosed common areas of Toronto apartment and condominium buildings to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The bylaw, effective August 5, requires buildings’ owners/operators to have a policy in place to ensure that their residents and staff wear masks/face coverings when in spaces such as lobbies, elevators and laundry rooms. A growing body of scientific evidence indicates the use of face coverings is an inexpensive way to help control the spread of the virus.

Plans for a Toronto quarantine facility

Council authorized a City funding agreement with the federal government to establish a voluntary isolation/quarantine site in Toronto. Cities such as New York and Chicago have set up voluntary quarantine facilities that can be used by people who cannot isolate or follow quarantine guidelines effectively at home. Council’s decision was informed by a report from the medical officer of health on the status of COVID-19 recovery planning for Toronto and preparations for a possible second-wave outbreak.

Program accessibility

Council adopted recommendations to have staff arrange for presentations to the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee this fall describing how the City is supporting vulnerable people with disabilities in Toronto during and beyond COVID-19. The intention is for the advisory committee to continue to fulfil its mandate of ensuring that City programs or initiatives receive advice that will enhance their inclusion of people with disabilities.

Returning to school in 2020

Council adopted a motion for the City to add its voice to others in urging the Ontario government to implement an emergency action plan designed to ensure a safe return to school in September for all students, education workers and their families.

Pandemic protection in parks design

Council voted to instruct staff to ensure that, in proceeding with the redevelopment of parks such as the current Eglinton Park, Triangle Park and Baycrest Park projects, the City will incorporate protocols for public health protection. That entails using a “COVID-19 pandemic protection lens” in assessing parks redevelopment and including public health protection protocols to help ensure the safe use and enjoyment of the parks.

Principles for recovery

Council agreed that an anticipated report from the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild should be guided by a set of principles established by the C40 Cities’ COVID-19 Recovery Task Force. The motion that Council adopted says C40 Mayors, climate experts and activists agree that the effort to recover provides the opportunity to build “a greener, more resilient economy that leaves no one behind.”

Continuation of electronic meetings

Council adopted recommendations to allow Toronto’s municipal meetings, including Council meetings, to continue to be held electronically in the coming months. Electronic participation rules have been extended for one year following termination of either the provincial emergency or the municipal emergency for the pandemic, whichever of the two is terminated later. Council authorized its local boards to adopt similar meeting rules. It is expected that meetings during the recovery period will involve a mix of in-person and electronic attendance.

Housing-related actions

Response to Ontario bill on rental housing

Council voted to undertake a City legal challenge to the Ontario government’s landlord-tenant legislation known as Bill 184, Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act. There are concerns that the bill would make it easier for landlords to obtain evictions once the COVID-19 crisis eases, leading to widespread evictions. The City plans to challenge parts of Bill 184 on the basis that they are “contrary to the rules of procedural fairness and natural justice” and potentially on other legal grounds as well.

Converting short-term rental housing

Council adopted a motion for the City to explore opportunities to generate longer-term affordable rental housing options through a strategy of the City leasing vacant, short-term rental units currently offered through Airbnb and other rental platforms. As envisaged, the City and non-profit housing partners would work together in pursuing this strategy. Like many other cities, Toronto has seen an increase in the number of former short-term rental apartments becoming available during the pandemic.

Expanding housing options in neighbourhoods

Recommendations supported by Council will result in City Planning staff consulting widely as part of a work plan for introducing greater variety in the types of low-rise housing than has traditionally been found in Toronto neighbourhoods. The goal is to increase housing options that fit with the current scale of designated residential neighborhoods while permitting new types of housing such as garden suites and coach houses. This initiative has been called “a generational opportunity to reimagine and evolve Toronto’s extensive low-rise neighbourhoods as more inclusive places.”

Planning for children in vertical communities

Council adopted guidelines for use as a resource in planning and evaluating proposals for multi-unit residential development proposals with more than 20 units. The focus is on developing new mid-rise and tall buildings as vertical communities that support social interaction and accommodate the needs of all households, including those with children. A single tall building today may contain a larger population than some of the subdivisions and neighbourhoods that formed Toronto in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Other Council business

Priority bus service – Eglinton East corridor

Council approved changes to traffic and parking regulations that will allow the City to install about 8.5 kilometres of bus lanes on Eglinton Avenue East, Kingston Road and Morningside Avenue, making it a RapidTO transit priority corridor. Eglinton East is a heavily used public transit corridor that has continued to play a significant role in moving people around the city during the COVID-19 pandemic. The priority bus lane on the Eglinton East corridor is expected to increase transit reliability and reduce passengers’ travel time by several minutes a trip.

Ontario Line at Queen Street East

Council supported having the City evaluate and address impacts that the proposed above-ground Ontario Line (transit rail line) would have on the Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre and its ice rink. The alignment of the provincially planned transit corridor is very close to the recreation centre, which has led to concerns among residents of the city’s Riverside and Leslieville communities.

Acts of hate at construction sites

Council supported a motion to condemn acts of hate, specifically several recent incidents in which symbolic “hanging nooses” have been left tied at Toronto construction sites. The motion calls for a concerted City and provincial police effort to find those responsible and to protect the health and safety of all workers at construction sites.

Underground party lines

A motion titled “Across party lines,” which received Council’s approval, addresses the subject of shared sewage pipes (known as party lines) that are common among many older homes in Toronto’s inner suburbs. Toronto Water is being asked to explore undertaking an information and education campaign about party sewer lines on behalf of residents. Homeowners with party sewer lines (but often unaware of it) can face costly repairs and complicated co-ordination issues with neighbours if they need to resolve a problem with a shared line.

Growth of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund

A federal government contribution of $40 million as an endowment for the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, and terms for its use, received Council’s approval. As one of seven Canadian cities in the federal Low Carbon Cities Canada initiative, Toronto will make use of the funding to enhance the Toronto Atmospheric Fund’s capacity to accelerate low-carbon solutions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and advance implementation of the City’s TransformTO Climate Strategy.

E-cargo bikes

Council adopted recommendations that address the use of various kinds of e-cargo cycles in Toronto. In addition to asking the province to update its definition of e-bike types to differentiate among them, Council is asking City staff to create a regulatory framework for various kinds of e-bikes (including bicycle-style and scooter-style e-bikes) and to specify the cycling infrastructure – such as bike lanes and bike tracks – that different types of e-cargo cycles are allowed or not allowed to use.

Clustering of cannabis outlets

Council approved a motion pertaining to the issue of recent business applications to set up several retail cannabis shops in a single block. The amended motion that Council adopted presents criteria that the City will ask the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to include when considering new retail cannabis locations in Toronto communities.