Council Highlights – December 9 and 10, 2015

Syrian refugee settlement in Toronto 
Council endorsed the actions of staff in support of Syrian refugee resettlement, including efforts to address local xenophobia and provide financial and organizational support to groups sponsoring refugee agencies such as Lifeline Syria. Staff received authorization to enter into agreements with community partners and use City resources to implement Toronto’s refugee resettlement program. Council designated Councillors Joe Cressy and Joe Mihevc as Newcomer Advocates, a role that entails promoting the inclusion of refugees in the civic, economic and cultural life of the city.

Open Door for affordable housing   
Council approved the overall direction of the Open Door Program to improve the City’s capacity to work with non-profit and private-housing sectors and create affordable housing in Toronto at a faster pace. Staff are to report back on the implementation of various Open Door initiatives. Open Door aims to kick-start construction by means that include designating surplus public land for affordable housing and fast-tracking planning approvals.

Two housing projects
Council directed the Affordable Housing Office to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to build affordable housing on a surplus City site in the Railway Lands area of downtown Toronto using the Open Door approach. Council also supported the City taking steps to pursue an affordable-housing opportunity in the east downtown area.

Private donation for park under Gardiner 
Council authorized the City’s acceptance of a $25-million donation from the Judy and Wilmot Matthews Foundation to improve the public realm under the elevated Gardiner Expressway between Strachan and Spadina Avenues. The project is intended to transform 10 acres of vacant space with public art, landscape improvements, space for festivals and markets, and a pedestrian and cycling trail. The City and Waterfront Toronto will manage the project.

Action on intimate partner violence
Council supported taking a series of steps to address intimate partner violence against women, in response to a report from the Medical Officer of Health and recommendations by the Toronto Board of Health. In Canada, one in three women has experienced abuse at some point in her life. Toronto police data indicate 4,695 women were victims of intimate partner violence in Toronto in 2013. Toronto Public Health (TPH) has created an action plan to guide the City in the prevention, early identification and response to intimate partner violence.

Aboriginal employment 
Council called for the creation of an internship strategy giving aboriginal youth experience working in councillors’ offices as part of the City’s strategy supporting aboriginal employment. Staff were also asked to consider making the hiring of people who identify as aboriginal part of the City’s Social Procurement Policy requirements. In addition, Council endorsed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action and directed staff to work with the Aboriginal Affairs Committee on implementing those calls to action in the municipal government context.

Review of accountability offices 
Council adopted several recommendations pertaining to Toronto’s accountability officers – Auditor General, Ombudsman, Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registrar. Actions are to include consideration of a general hotline that would function as a central tip line for reporting allegations of all forms of local government wrongdoing. A recent external review affirmed that the City of Toronto’s accountability framework is the leading structure of municipal government oversight in Canada.

Davenport Road rail project
Council agreed to communicate to Metrolinx that the City opposes construction of a rail overpass Metrolinx is proposing in the Davenport community as part of a plan for expanded GO transit rail service on the Barrie GO line, and will inform Metrolinx the City supports a tunnel option. Several related actions were also approved by Council, including direct communication with the Ontario Premier. Metrolinx’s preliminary design involves an eight-metre-tall structure about 1.4 kilometres long extending from Bloor Street West to Davenport Road.

Water rate and garbage bin fee for 2016
Council approved Toronto Water’s capital and operating budgets for 2016, including an eight per cent increase in the municipal water rate for flat-rate consumers. A three per cent increase in the fee for garbage bins was approved with Council’s adoption of the 2016 capital and operating budgets for Solid Waste Management. A third rate-supported budget – that of the Toronto Parking Authority – also received Council’s approval.

Right to a healthy environment 
Council approved a Right to a Healthy Environment declaration for Toronto. The declaration is an expression of support for a campaign led by the David Suzuki Foundation to obtain municipal declarations as a way of encouraging actions by provincial and federal governments to strengthen their environmental rights legislation. The campaign’s ultimate goal is to see environmental rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Acquisition of property for shelter 
Council authorized the purchase of a property at 3306 Kingston Rd. for temporary and transitional shelter programs. The building, currently a motel, will replace the leased premises of the nearby Birchmount Residence, a 56-bed transitional shelter for senior men, and provide space for additional transitional and temporary shelter along with supportive programming.

Weston community/cultural hub    
Council approved a funding model for the Weston community/cultural hub and 26 affordable artist live/work rental units that Toronto Artscape Inc. is developing as part of the revitalization of the Weston-Mount Dennis community. The City is using an innovative funding approach for this Artscape project. The community hub will serve as a catalyst supporting the social, cultural and economic renewal of the local community, as well as contributing to broader city-building objectives.

Winter use of Grenadier Pond 
Council supported introducing an ice-monitoring program at High Park’s Grenadier Pond to test ice thickness and quality in a designated area, with signs to inform the public of the risks. Public use of Grenadier Pond during the winter months is currently prohibited for safety reasons but skating and other winter activities on the pond remain popular.

TOcore planning initiative 
Council approved a series of actions for City divisions to pursue as the second phase of TOcore, an interdivisional initiative led by City Planning. TOcore is intended to ensure that ongoing growth of the city’s core contributes to making the downtown a great place to live, work, learn, play and invest. The resulting secondary plan for downtown, expected to be completed before the end of 2016, will provide policy direction to shape future growth linked to the provision of the needed infrastructure investments.

Heritage designation for St. Lawrence Neighbourhood  
Council designated the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood as a heritage conservation district in accordance with the Ontario Heritage Act. The district is generally within the boundary of Adelaide Street East to the north, Yonge/Victoria Streets to the west, the Esplanade/ Front Street East to the south, and Parliament Street to the east. Related planning guidelines are intended to conserve the heritage attributes of the district and ensure that development maintains or complements the area’s unique character.

Legacy of Glenn Gould     
Council endorsed supporting the efforts of the Glenn Gould Foundation to increase the visibility of the Glenn Gould Prize and promote Toronto as a centre of artistic excellence, innovation and arts-based humanitarian endeavours. Glenn Gould (1932-82), who lived in Toronto and was one of Canada’s greatest musicians, was renowned as a pianist, composer and seminal interpreter of the music of J.S. Bach. Recipients of the Glenn Gould Prize have included Philip Glass, Robert Lepage, Leonard Cohen, Yo-Yo Ma and Oscar Peterson.

Facility naming to honour George Chuvalo     
Council approved the name George Chuvalo Neighbourhood Centre for a new community centre to be built in the Junction area. A Torontonian famous for his boxing matches against heavyweight greats like Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson in the 1960s and 1970s, George Chuvalo was Canadian heavyweight champion for many years and challenged for the world heavyweight title. He still travels extensively to teach youth about the benefits of a healthy mind, body and life. Chuvalo is a member of the Boxing Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada.

Heritage oak tree     
Council directed staff to look into having a third-party organization take responsibility for raising funds to acquire a property in North York that is the site of a 250-year-old tree thought to be the oldest red oak in Toronto. The tree, situated at 76 Coral Dr., has been recognized as a heritage tree under Forests Ontario Heritage Tree program.