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.
Scarborough rapid transit
Council reconfirmed its support for a Scarborough subway. The new subway line will extend the Bloor-Danforth line along the McCowan Road corridor to Sheppard Avenue East, subject to approval of the final alignment through an environmental assessment process. Funding for the project’s construction will be shared by the federal and provincial governments and the City. Toronto’s share will be funded through a dedicated property tax of 1.6 per cent phased in over three years and a special development charge.
Council approved changes to the development charges the City collects from new construction to pay for a portion of growth-related capital costs. The new development charges bylaw will take effect on November 1. Under the new bylaw, rates will be increased over two years by about 75 per cent for residential development by 25 per cent for non-residential development beginning February 1, 2014. Council also adopted several motions concerning requests for reports and/or potential actions on topics such as affordable housing, development within priority neighbourhoods, and provincial development charges legislation.
Impacts of July 8 storm
Council adopted Executive Committee recommendations and several individual motions addressing the extensive local flooding that occurred as a result of the rain storm on July 8. The City will reiterate its request for federal and provincial financial assistance to help pay for storm damage. In addition, the City will ask the federal and provincial governments to establish new programs for future disaster mitigation, including to address urban flooding.
Council’s strategic planning
Council affirmed Strategic Actions that will be implemented by the Toronto Public Service between 2013 and 2018, with some minor amendments to the document. Building on Council’s key achievements over the last 10 years, the Strategic Actions will continue to advance Council’s vision, mission and goals for Toronto, helping ensure the success of Toronto for its residents as well as strengthen the government of the City of Toronto to meet its future challenges. Council also asked the City Manager to establish a process for updating City Council’s Strategic Plan, including its vision, mission and goals, for Council’s consideration in 2015.
Governance of the Toronto Zoo
Council decided that the Toronto Zoo is to be retained as a City board and agency. Council directed that the Toronto Zoo Board’s strategic planning exercise outline how the zoo can increase revenues and further reduce the need for City funding. Council also requested the establishment of an independent charitable fundraising foundation and is asking the Ontario government to take a partnership and funding role in the zoo’s future, given the zoo’s regional importance.
Community development and recreation programs
Council approved service standards for the community development and recreation programs delivered by the City of Toronto’s Cluster A divisions, subject to the 2014 budget review process. As a result, the service standards will be considered during the City’s budget process. Should the proposed service levels be funded, increases will support programming changes and standards such as new sites for youth drop-in programs, guidelines on the availability of hostel beds, and a target for affordable rental housing starts in 2014.
Commemoration of former Prime Minister Trudeau
Council directed the City Manager to report back to Council in December identifying a significant Toronto landmark that could be renamed in honour of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Landmarks to be considered may include major roadways, buildings or gathering places. Trudeau, who served as Prime Minister from 1968 to 1979 and from 1980 to 1984, died in 2000.
The Maple Leaf Forever tree
Council authorized a plan to use wood salvaged from the silver maple tree at 62 Laing St. for the public good. Known as the Maple Leaf Forever Tree, it is believed to have been the inspiration for the song The Maple Leaf Forever. The tree’s crown broke off during a wind storm in July and now only the bottom part of the trunk/stem remains standing. Logs that City staff salvaged from the tree will be used for the public good to create items that commemorate the famous tree.
Services supporting special events
Council approved steps for improvements to the City’s special-events-related services and permitting practices to support the festival and event industry in Toronto.
School zone safety
Council adopted a motion calling for a report on pedestrian/vehicle collisions in school areas in Toronto and for the creation of a school zone safety working group with broad representation to review issues relevant to pedestrian safety in school zones. In the past year, two Toronto students have died in road accidents while walking to or from school.
Eglinton Crosstown LRT and Kodak lands
Council endorsed a report that presents principles reflecting a community working group’s vision for the former Kodak lands at Black Creek Drive and Eglinton Avenue West – a site now owned by Metrolinx. Recognizing the collaborative effort between the working group and Metrolinx, Council requested that Metrolinx continue to engage with the community on planning and design for the 23-hectare (58-acre) site, which is to house a maintenance and storage facility for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line.
Safety for bicycle commuters
Council approved several recommended actions aimed at improving the safety of bicycle commuting in Toronto. Among the steps to be taken are collaborative actions on requiring at least one metre between vehicles and cyclists when passing cyclists, better protection for cyclists in construction areas, and the establishment of standards for clearing debris and snow from bike lanes. A report from the Board of Health in support of cycling says research indicates that despite potential dangers, the health benefits of cycling outweigh the safety risks.
Recreation services for youth
Council approved a Youth Recreation Engagement Strategy that will guide implementation of the City’s recreation service plan, specifically in the planning and delivery of youth recreation programs and services over the next five years. The recreation engagement strategy was informed by extensive community outreach this past summer and included input from about 1,600 youths and 80 community agencies.
Support for homeless and at-risk seniors
Council approved the City’s delivery of a time-limited housing allowance program to assist up to 260 homeless and at-risk seniors in Toronto. Council also authorized the establishment of a new housing allowance reserve fund to provide a housing allowance to people (not limited to seniors) experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Toronto. In addition, Council agreed to ask the province to undertake actions that will demonstrate its commitment to Ontario’s affordable housing strategy.
Sam the Record Man sign
Council considered a report from the Toronto and East York Community Council concerning the large neon signs that were displayed on the Sam the Record Man flagship store on Yonge Street from 1961 to 2007. The property was sold to Ryerson University in 2008 and Ryerson agreed on a heritage plan for the signs. The signs were placed in storage as work began for a new student learning centre at the site. Complications have arisen on how/where to mount the signs. Council discussed the matter and referred the report and two related motions to the Deputy City Manager of Cluster B for consideration.
Use of video on Wheel-Trans vehicles
Council adopted a recommendation by Toronto’s Ombudsman for the Toronto Transit Commission to cease using video recordings on its Wheel-Trans vehicles for assessing passengers for eligibility-related purposes. The TTC is to review its Questionable Rider Program and meet several requirements to fully inform passengers about the practice if it wants to continue using video recordings for reassessing eligibility for Wheel-Trans services.
Captain John’s floating restaurant
Council adopted recommendations concerning an agreement among the City of Toronto, the Toronto Port Authority and Waterfront Toronto regarding Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant. The restaurant operates from a ship that has been moored at the foot of Yonge Street for several decades. The restaurant’s owner owes more than $1 million in unpaid property taxes, licensing fees and berthing fees. Council supported a motion calling for the creation of a historic plaque to mark the site and to recognize Captain John’s contribution to the waterfront over the years.
Freedom of religion and expression
Council adopted a member motion for Toronto Council to reaffirm its support for freedom of religion and expression, and to state its opposition to any legislation that would restrict or prohibit that freedom. The Quebec government recently proposed legislation – called a values charter – which would prohibit public employees from wearing visible religious symbols such as a hijab or crucifix in the workplace.
Homecare for an aging population
Council agreed to ask the federal and provincial health ministers for their commitment to meet the need for adequate homecare services and to request that a defined action plan be put in place. Council’s action came in support of a member motion that noted homecare costs less than institutional care and fosters independence, helping seniors remain active in their communities.
Council supported a member motion asking staff to report on how to better incorporate ghost bikes into City of Toronto bylaws so the ghost bikes are recognized as memorials rather than as abandoned bicycles to be removed. A ghost bike is a bicycle painted white and locked near the accident site where a cycling death has occurred, often together with a memorial plaque, as an artistic commemoration and reminder of the tragedy that took place there.
Council approved a proposal for Transportation Services and the Toronto Parking Authority to create designated on-street motorcycle parking spaces on a pilot basis. In addition, Council agreed to maintain the exemption of motorcycles from needing paid permits for overnight parking in areas designated for on-street permit parking. Based on feedback from motorcyclists, free parking is important in motivating people to use motorcycles instead of cars for commuting – which the City encourages.
Strategies for sustaining creative capital
Council adopted a member motion to direct staff to review of the current tax regime affecting properties owned and operated by not-for-profit arts and culture groups. Staff are to report back on the feasibility of creating a new property tax class with a tax rate similar to residential property rates. Spaces used by not-for-profit arts and culture organizations and start-up cultural entrepreneurs in Toronto are currently taxed at a standard commercial tax rate, which has been identified as a threat to sustaining arts and culture spaces.
Coyote response strategy
Council adopted a strategy that aims to reduce negative interactions between humans/pets and coyotes. The response strategy includes educational efforts to alleviate public fear and misperceptions. At the same time, better co-ordination with emergency responders will help reduce negative interactions between Toronto residents and coyotes. A report from Animal Services notes that over the past decade there have been no reported instances of coyotes biting people in Toronto, but coyotes have sometimes attacked pets.
New federal fee for musicians in clubs
Council agreed to take steps to address or reduce a problem posed by a new federal fee that makes it more expensive for bars, restaurants and coffee shops to hire non-Canadian musicians/bands to perform. The member motion adopted by Council notes that small venues are incubators of the music industry and that the new fee threatens Toronto’s and all of Canada’s music industry. Under the program, each employer – usually the venue or the promoter – must now pay an extra $275 processing fee, on top of the previous $150 fee, for each musician.
Special meeting of Council, October 10
Appointment for Ward 3
At a special meeting of Council on October 10 for the appointment of a councillor to fill the vacancy in Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre, Council heard candidates’ presentations and their responses to questions. Council voted to appoint Peter Leon as the councillor to represent Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre. The appointment – to cover the remainder of the current 2010-14 term of Council – fills the vacancy resulting from the resignation of former councillor Doug Holyday, now an Ontario MPP. After a brief recess at the end of the special meeting, during which time Councillor Leon took his oath of office, Council resumed its regular business meeting with Councillor Leon participating.