Council Highlights – February 10 – 11, 2015

SmartTrack work plan     

Council approved funding to study the accelerated SmartTrack work plan outlined in a report that was prepared on the public transit proposal earlier this year. In addition, Council adopted a series of related recommendations addressing matters such as finances, design, number of stations, frequency of service, plans for electrification and public outreach. The SmartTrack plan for Toronto, which builds upon the provincial Regional Express Rail initiative, will require approval from both Toronto City Council and the Province of Ontario. The line is to operate on provincially owned GO Transit rail corridors.

Managing traffic disruptions   

Council approved measures to mitigate traffic disruptions and other inconveniences posed by City-led construction projects. Working through the night seven days a week on expressway and major roadway projects is one such measure. Council authorized staff to seek assistance from the Ontario government in addressing difficulties/delays involving utility companies’ roles in City construction projects. In addition, Council approved a recommendation to create a public awareness program to help inform residents how they can learn about the location and timing of construction, and about options to minimize how they are affected by the work.

Speeding on residential streets

Council supported a motion to explore the feasibility and a mechanism to double the fine for speeding on residential streets and in school zones, and around playgrounds and daycare centres. According to the motion, increased traffic on Toronto’s arterial roads has resulted in more drivers using residential streets in an effort to bypass congested routes, and speeding on residential streets has become common.

Suicide prevention in Toronto   

Council requested the Toronto Transit Commission, in future TTC budget submissions, to consider the installation of platform-edge doors on new, extended and retrofitted subway lines to improve passenger safety and prevent suicides. A Toronto Public Health report on suicide says there is strong evidence that restricting access to common means of suicide such as subway tracks helps to prevent suicides. Council also requested the preparation of a report for changes to Toronto’s paramedic, fire and police training programs, placing emphasis on supporting suicide prevention among first responders and addressing issues of mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Advisory bodies for Council’s current term      
Council approved establishing the following six Council Advisory Bodies for the 2014 to 2018 term: Aboriginal Affairs Committee; City-School Boards Advisory Committee; Film, Television and Commercial Production Industry Committee (Film Board); Tenant Issues Committee; Toronto French Language Advisory Committee; and Toronto Music Industry Advisory Council. Two additional advisory bodies – the Disability Issues Committee and the Toronto Heritage Preservation Board – were re-instituted automatically for the term as required by legislation.

Immunization at day nurseries         

Councillors unanimously supported a motion asking the Medical Officer of Health to report, as part of the 2015 budget process, on potential enhancements to Toronto’s current public health programs to ensure that children in day nurseries are adequately immunized.

Child care in Toronto         

Council discussed the implications of potential school closures on child care in Toronto – an issue raised by the Toronto District School Board’s recent announcement about schools with low student enrolment – and directed City staff to prepare a report on the issue for next month. Child care was also the subject of a motion that Council approved endorsing a recent, major child-care conference’s advocacy of a national child-care system in Canada.

Food services at City Hall     

Council dealt with two agenda items pertaining to food services at Toronto City Hall. In the context of the revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square, Council directed staff to undertake a selection process to find a business to build, finance and operate a restaurant under lease on the west side of Nathan Phillips Square. Addressing an existing restaurant/cafeteria operation inside City Hall, Council authorized an agreement between the City and the Café on the Square that will enable the café to continue operating at City Hall if the terms of the new agreement are met.

Improving the City’s Heritage Preservation  

Council approved a motion intended to provide greater protection of heritage buildings. The proposal calls for the Chief Planner to implement an inventory classification that addresses all properties across Toronto, whether or not evaluated for formal heritage protection, to prevent demolition without adequate consideration as to whether they should be preserved. The motion also proposes a project that will advance work on a comprehensive inventory of heritage properties.

Historic Yonge Street     

Council voted in support of a motion to enact a bylaw for a specified part of downtown Yonge Street for one year to protect buildings while the City completes a heritage conservation district study of the area. Council also voted to ask the provincial government to authorize the City to control demolitions of commercial and institutional properties under the Planning Act as the City can for residential properties.

Revitalization of distressed retail districts     

A motion asking for an examination of policies and programs that could be established to promote economic revitalization in very distressed retail areas of the city received Council’s support. The motion notes that some areas that are economically distressed are unsuited for the City’s Business Improvement Areas (BIA) program.

Bike lanes dedicated to cycling advocate 

Council supported a motion to ceremonially dedicate the Sherbourne Street separated bike lanes in honour of Alan Heisey. Heisey played a key role in the conception and implementation of the bike network and has made other civic contributions – including chairing the Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Parking Authority, and serving as a member of the Toronto Transit Commission.

Unauthorized business signs   

Council supported recommendations aimed at addressing the proliferation of business signs that are displayed in some areas of Toronto without municipal permits. Staff have found that many business owners are not aware of the need for a sign permit, and that most business owners are willing to comply or remove the sign in question once they are aware of the City’s requirements. The City’s approach will involve better communication with business owners in combination with concerted enforcement.