Council Highlights – Toronto City Council meeting of March 31 and April 1 and 2, 2015

Council Highlights is an informal summary of decisions made by Toronto City Council. The City Clerk provides the formal documentation at http://www.toronto.ca/council.

Spadina subway extension project

Council approved increasing the capital budget for the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension project by a total of $150 million – with $90 million covered by the City of Toronto and the other $60 million covered by the Regional Municipality of York. Council’s action on this agenda item included seeking clarification of the amount of funding coming from the federal and provincial governments, as well as asking the Toronto Transit Commission to provide its final estimated cost of the project and recommended sources of funding to ensure completion of the project by the end of 2017.

Improving TTC project delivery     

Council voted to direct the City Manager to report on options for improved project delivery by the Toronto Transit Commission for the Scarborough subway extension. Options to be considered include alternative financing and procurement, public-private partnerships and improved in-house project management/delivery. The report will take into account the role of Infrastructure Ontario in the delivery of major municipal infrastructure projects.

Taxicab licensing     

Council considered a report about a court decision regarding the validity of taxicab regulations enacted last year that created a new taxicab licence class called the Toronto Taxicab Licence. The court decision upheld the validity of the new licence but found that the deadline for converting current licences to the new licence was invalid.

Council adopted a recommendation that the City not appeal the court decision.

Toronto’s accountability officers  

Council adopted a recommendation to amend the Toronto Municipal Code pertaining to the City’s accountability officers, changing the term for the Ombudsman and the Lobbyist Registrar to a non-renewable term of seven years instead of a five-year renewable term. Appointment for a non-renewable term is consistent with what is already in place for Toronto’s Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner. In a separate agenda item, Council supported undertaking an external review of the four accountability officers’ operations that will focus on the implications of appointing accountability officers in a combined or multiple role.

Schools as community assets   

Council directed Toronto’s City-School Boards Advisory Committee to consult and collaborate with the Toronto school boards and the Province of Ontario on the projected closure of some local schools with low enrolment and the properties’ sale as a revenue strategy. Council specified that the plan for the school properties must take into consideration the full value of schools as community assets. Council wants the advisory council to report on a way to retain public ownership of former school properties that warrant retaining and to identify funding sources beyond the municipal public sector to help retain schools as community assets.

Expanded gaming at Woodbine Racetrack    

Council authorized the City Manager to conduct public consultations on the matter of expanded gaming that is under consideration for the Woodbine Racetrack complex in northwest Toronto. Staff are to report back on technical requirements such as the number of slot machines and gaming tables, as well as on the merits and risks of expanded gaming.

Council’s adoption of this agenda item included support for additional instructions on matters such as public health impacts and a transit strategy for the area.

Affordable housing  

Council approved a planned review/update of the City’s Affordable Housing Action Plan 2010-20, which will be led by an inter-divisional steering group. Council also approved property tax exemptions for affordable rental housing in the West Don Lands and for new transitional housing for young victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Council authorized requesting the Ontario government to increase the amount of supportive housing for people with mental health and addiction issues and other disabilities. Measures to secure or increase affordable rental housing at several specified locations were also approved.

Toronto’s emergency shelter system  

Council approved a plan to guide the transformation of Toronto’s emergency shelter system. The plan, which focuses on infrastructure and service improvement, reflects the City’s housing-first approach to ending homelessness. That approach entails helping people move from emergency shelter into permanent housing as quickly as possible, while recognizing the importance of a robust emergency shelter system to assist people in crisis. The approved plan also ties in with the City’s poverty reduction strategy.

Vehicles serving people with disabilities     

Council agreed to ask the Toronto Police Services Board to establish a protocol to ensure that providers of transportation services to people with disabilities are not ticketed with a parking offence when actively engaged in pickup or dropoff activities and away from the vehicle for that purpose. Council also supported undertaking a review of pertinent bylaw provisions.

Extending the outdoor skating season    

Council adopted an item to direct the Parks, Forestry and Recreation division to include contingency funds in its 2016 operating budget to extend the outdoor skating season if weather permits. In addition, staff are to evaluate the feasibility of pursuing multi-year sponsorship of the Toronto’s artificial outdoor ice skating – that is, on outdoor rinks with mechanically chilled ice pads.

Barrier-free city   

Council supported a motion for the City to update its guidelines on accessible design, which were established in 2004. In addition, Council approved undertaking a review of City bylaws, policies and protocols to make sure they are aligned with current accessibility standards under the province’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and to make sure they reflect the City’s commitment to the goal of achieving a barrier-free city.

Five-year master plan for Fire Services  

Council approved a 2015-2019 Master Fire Plan for Toronto Fire Services, adding the provision that the plan include a strong commitment to equity hiring and a diverse workforce. The plan provides strategic direction for Toronto Fire Services and outlines critical initiatives that Fire Services plans to implement over the next five years to achieve strategic objectives such as keeping communities safe, empowering people, strengthening partnerships and improving performance.

Pedestrian crossing at Bay and Bloor

Council authorized removal of the pedestrian priority phase signal (scramble crossing) at the Bay and Bloor Streets intersection and its replacement with a signal timing pattern deemed suitable by Transportation Services. A scramble crossing signal was implemented at the intersection in 2010 as a pilot project. Subsequent study found only modest benefits for pedestrians but significant negative impacts for vehicular traffic. The remaining two scramble crossings at Yonge and Dundas and Yonge and Bloor Streets will remain in operation.

Protecting Toronto’s drinking water  

A motion concerning oil pipelines that pass through the northern part of Toronto, including across two major watercourses, received Council’s support. Council agreed to ask Enbridge to install automatic shutoff valves in its Line 9B pipeline on either side of the two watercourses as a way to limit the amount of oil that could enter and contaminate the waters should a pipeline break/spill occur. The two watercourses flow into Lake Ontario, from which Toronto draws its drinking water.

New GO bridge under consideration  

Council directed Toronto’s chief planner take steps to make sure urban design considerations are part of an environmental assessment process that Metrolinx is undertaking for a possible bridge construction project in the Dupont Street/Lansdowne Avenue area. The bridge, which would carry GO trains over the Canadian Pacific railway line, would transform the area’s landscape and have a significant impact on surrounding neighbourhoods.

Heritage conservation districts  

Council adopted recommendations concerning the study of heritage conservation districts, with studies scheduled this year for Queen Street West (the area called West Queen West), the Distillery District and Kensington Market. The City plans to initiate studies for the Baby Point, Bloor West Village, Cabbagetown Southwest and Casa Loma districts in 2016.

Modernizing Toronto’s streetlights

Council adopted recommendations for work on a plan to convert Toronto’s streetlights to more energy efficient technologies. Technological advances have created lights that last longer, provide enhanced illumination and are more energy efficient.

Traffic management during Pan Am Games Council approved the enactment of temporary traffic and parking bylaw amendments, as well as temporary road closures and specifications for reserved lanes, to support this summer’s Pan American/Parapan American Games taking place in Toronto. For example, the Pan Am torch relay, which culminates in the July 10 opening ceremonies, will require temporary road closures as it passes through Toronto neighbourhoods, as will road race events such as marathon, triathlon and road cycling.