Council Highlights – City Council meeting of January 26 and 27, 2010

More leash-free areas for Toronto’s dogs 

Council approved the establishment of 29 more off-leash areas in Toronto parks in addition to 30 existing off-leash sites in parks. The new sites are in various stages of development, many of them still requiring public consultation. Off-leash areas in High Park remain under review. The People, Dogs and Parks Strategy that Council adopted in 2007 provides detailed guidelines for establishing off-leash areas in City parks, green spaces and waterfront areas.


Etobicoke-Finch West LRT project moving along   

Council approved an environmental assessment study for the planned Etobicoke-Finch West Light Rail Transit (LRT) line from Finch Station to Humber College as the next step in the joint City-TTC project. The design proposed for most of the route consists of two LRT tracks operating on a raised median in the middle of the road. There will be two traffic lanes, a bicycle lane and a pedestrian clearway on either side of the LRT. At intersections that have traffic signals, the raised right-of-way will be low enough to allow traffic to make left turns.


Candidate protection fund

Responding to the matter of a Council member having incurred substantial expenses for a legal defence related to the City’s last municipal election, Council decided to ask staff to prepare a report on the viability of establishing a candidate protection fund paid for by election candidates. Council requested that the report also identify any other ways the City can help protect the integrity of the election process.


City’s use of debit cards for business expenses 

Council issued several directives to tighten controls on business expenses, particularly with respect to staff’s use of City purchase/credit cards (PCards). Among Council’s directives, which came in response to a report from the Auditor General, is one directing the Treasurer and division heads to create a strategy for continuous improvement of the PCard program. Council also asked the Treasurer to provide guidelines on providing food at staff meetings and other functions.


Issue of pedestrian fatalities

Council discussed the unusually high number of pedestrian fatalities that occurred on Toronto’s streets in January. It adopted a motion to request Transportation Services, in consultation with Toronto Police Service and the TTC to report on the number of pedestrian fatalities in the city since the beginning of 2010. The motion asks the general manager of Transportation Services to assess a proposal that could lead to the lowering of speed limits by 10 kilometres an hour on certain streets.

Protocol on interruptions to recreation programs  

City Council adopted a protocol for informing the public when the City undertakes state-of-good-repair projects for recreational facilities. Under the protocol, recreation staff will hold a community information meeting for any state-of-good-repair project that will affect programming or that has a service improvement component. The meeting will be held to explain the programming interruption and provide alternatives.

Support for Toronto‘s child care programs

In light of the Province of Ontario‘s plans to offer full-day kindergarten for four-year-olds and five-year-olds, Council decided to ask the Province to commit to the full version of advisor Charles Pascal’s report on early learning and reaffirm municipalities’ role in managing the child care system. Council directed staff to work with education boards and community partners on issues tied to implementation of the early learning program – of which full-day kindergarten is one component. Council also asked the Province to provide funding and a transition plan to ensure that local child care programs remain stable and that no subsidized child care spaces are lost.


Handling public complaints

Council adopted the first annual report of Toronto’s Ombudsman and directed the City Manager to ensure that every operating area of the Toronto Public Service that interacts directly with the public has procedures for handling complaints – and publishes the procedures this year. Council also supported the Ombudsman’s recommendation that the Toronto Public Service take steps to communicate its customer service standards this year.


Service sector’s role in Toronto area’s economy

Council agreed that the City should continue to work collaboratively with community partners on creating policies and programs that will help to shape the local service sector’s transformation. The goal is to increase the value-added dimension of services and increase the number of desirable service-based jobs. Council’s directive follows the Summit on Transforming Service Jobs that the City co-hosted last November, emphasizing the important role that the service sector plays in the Toronto area’s economy.  


Strategy for a diverse City workforce 

Council approved a Diversity and Positive Workplace Strategy to advance the City’s efforts to foster an organizational culture that values and champions employment equity, cultural diversity, ethical behaviour, anti-racism and positive, respectful workplace relationships. Council directed staff to prepare a new corporate action plan on employment equity for the three-year period from 2010 to 2012 as part of the strategy.


Expansion of BMO Field   

Council approved the construction of 1,249 additional seats at the north end of the soccer stadium at the City’s Exhibition Place. Costs of the work will be covered by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., which expects to complete installation of the new seating in time for the 2010 soccer season. Since opening in 2007, BMO Field has been at capacity for all Toronto FC games and international games played on the field, with thousands of fans on the waiting list for tickets.