Council Highlights – April 1, 2, and 3, 2014

Billy Bishop Airport
Council authorized City staff to negotiate with the Toronto Port Authority and Transport Canada on a plan/phased framework to manage growth at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Council’s discussion and actions are in the context of a Porter Airlines’ request for an exemption from the existing ban on commercial jets and the prohibition of runway extensions at Toronto’s central waterfront airport. Council passed a variety of motions after debating the subject on April 1 and said the authorization of negotiations should not be interpreted as a position either for or against airport expansion/introduction of jets.

Street food in Toronto
Council approved new rules for street vending that will take effect May 15. The resulting city-wide bylaw will achieve a balance in addressing the City’s need to manage competing uses of streets and sidewalks while responding to popular demand for greater access to street foods. There will no longer be any restrictions on the types of food sold from carts or trucks as long as health regulations are met. The new rules expand vending locations beyond private property and special events to include streets and commercial parking lots.

Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy 2020
Council designated 31 neighbourhoods as Neighbourhood Improvement Areas under the Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy 2020. The 31 neighbourhoods have the lowest overall neighbourhood equity scores – their scores are below the equity benchmark. The score is a number designed to capture the total weight of inequities faced by neighbourhood residents in five key areas, such as economic opportunities and social development. The City will work to improve equitable outcomes in the 31 Neighbourhood Improvement Areas through a range of strategies and investments.

Renovation of BMO Field
Council authorized staff to negotiate agreements pertaining to the planned renovation of the BMO Field sports stadium at Exhibition Place. Council approved a City capital investment of $10 million toward the project – recoverable during the term of the agreement with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. BMO Field is a 21,566-seat stadium owned by the City of Toronto and currently managed by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. The expanded stadium will increase the seating capacity substantially and reconfigure the field so the stadium can host Canadian Football League games. The Toronto FC soccer team is currently the stadium’s principal user.

Gardiner Expressway rehabilitation
Council approved the use of an accelerated method of construction for the rehabilitation of the Gardiner Expressway and addressed related financial matters. The accelerated approach, designed to rehabilitate the expressway within about 10 years, involves scheduling work on the expressway’s at-grade section together with work to replace the elevated deck using prefabricated sections. A motion was adopted for the City to look into the possibility of Infrastructure Ontario becoming involved in the expressway’s rehabilitation.

Rail line safety and transparency
Council voted in favour of asking the federal government to require railway owners to inform municipalities about hazardous materials carried as freight through cities – and to make the information readily available to the public. Related City actions approved by Council include asking the federal government to restore to 2009 levels its funding for the inspection of dangerous rail cargo. Council also supported taking various steps to address questions of safety that pertain specifically to the Canadian Pacific Railway line and its cargo within Toronto.

Emergency response capacity – Enbridge pipeline
Steps addressing concerns about Enbridge’s Line 9 oil pipeline that passes through parts of Toronto received Council’s support. Actions include asking the Ministry of the Environment to order an environmental assessment of Enbridge’s proposal to increase the pipeline’s capacity and reverse the flow of oil from westward to eastward. Another action by Council addresses the matter of ensuring the financial ability of pipeline operators such as Enbridge to cover the costs of any damage caused by their pipeline operations.

Grace period for parking offences
Council approved amendments to the City’s parking bylaws to provide a 10-minute grace period for on-street pay-and-display parking locations when pay-and-display parking is in effect. The longer grace period, which is now in effect, replaces a five-minute grace period that the Toronto Police had observed before issuing a ticket for expired pay-and-display offences. Expanding the grace period to 10 minutes will reduce the number of tickets issued by an estimated 60,000 tickets a year, reducing the City’s annual parking ticket revenues.

Poverty reduction strategy
Council adopted a recommendation for staff to work on creating a City of Toronto poverty reduction strategy to bolster work the City is already doing to address poverty and related problems. The strategy initiative will involve broad participation and consultation. Several other large Canadian cities are in various stages of creating and implementing anti-poverty strategies.

Training on fraud prevention
Council directed the City Manager to make available to City agencies and corporations e-learning training that is already available to other City staff on ethics, conflict of interest, fraud prevention and whistleblower protection. The directive was made as Council received the Auditor General’s report on operations of the fraud and waste hotline program in 2013. City employees apart from those of agencies and corporations of the City were required to complete the online training by the end of 2013. Members of the Toronto Public Service are expected to know how to identify suspected incidents of fraud or other wrongdoing and know how to report them.

Metrolinx       
Council decided to ask the Province of Ontario to review the governance structure of the Metrolinx board of directors and consider including municipal political and citizen representation. Metrolinx – Ontario’s transit agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area – is currently governed by a board with no direct accountability link to municipalities and their local transit authorities. Council also agreed to ask the province to restore its funding of 50 per cent of municipal transit operating expenditures, and to give municipalities flexibility in setting local transportation priorities to be funded by the portion of Investment Strategy funds that is to be dedicated to local transportation infrastructure.

Proposed legislation and Toronto’s ombudsman
Council decided to ask the Province of Ontario to exempt Toronto from the jurisdiction of the Ontario ombudsman as proposed in new provincial legislation on public sector accountability and transparency. Under the City of Toronto Act, Council is required to appoint its own ombudsman. Council authorized Councillors Paul Ainslie and Shelley Carroll, along with the City Manager, to make submissions on this matter on behalf of Council to the provincial standing committee that is considering the government bill to enact the new legislation.

Honouring Nelson Mandela
Council authorized the preparation of a report on dedicating a prominent street in honour of Nelson Mandela. The 20th anniversary of Mandela’s election as President of South Africa is coming up on April 27. City Council made Mandela an honourary citizen of Toronto when he visited Toronto in 1990 shortly after his release from prison. The people of Toronto joined the rest of the world in mourning the passing of Mandela on December 5, 2013.

Construction staging areas
Council asked staff to prepare a report on initiatives pertaining to the impacts of staging areas that are often established during the construction of large buildings. Construction staging areas provide unloading zones and places to store construction materials. The staging area usually occupies the curb lane and sidewalk adjacent to the building under construction. A motion was adopted for a report on the feasibility of establishing a standard for the amount and proportion of space allocated for community art on construction hoarding.

Review of expenses
Council adopted recommendations designed to strengthen the City’s control of expenses incurred by elected officials and staff for training and conferences. The steps taken are connected with an Auditor General’s report on training, conferences and related travel expenses. The review did not identify any significant non-compliance with policies and procedures but it identified opportunities for improving controls.

Revitalization of the Guild Inn
Council authorized work by a private operator to revitalize the Guild Inn’s main building – Bickford House – as a restaurant and event/banquet/conference centre. The City closed the building in 2001 but the surrounding grounds have remained open as public parkland. The City is working with local residents and the arts community to develop the parkland around the Bickford House as a cultural precinct that makes use of other historic buildings on the site as well as the new banquet/event centre.

Zoning for marijuana production
Council approved zoning changes needed to permit a medical marijuana/cannabis production facility in Toronto consistent with federal regulation of marijuana production for medical purposes. The facility would produce, process and distribute medical marijuana. The federal regulations cover facility operation, site security, product distribution and client registration.

Improving building inspections
Council adopted a report specifying steps to take in order to improve the operational efficiency and effectiveness of building inspection services provided by the Toronto Building division. The opportunities for improvement were identified in an Auditor General’s review of building inspection services.

World cities forum on culture
Council affirmed the City of Toronto’s continued participation in the World Cities Culture Forum and directed that the City is to make use of the forum’s findings when creating cultural policies and projects. The World Cities Culture Forum is a group of 21 major cities such as London, New York, Shanghai, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney and Toronto that are collaborating on researching the role of culture in each of the cities and devising policy responses to challenges they face.