Council Highlights – September 30 – October 2, 2015

Taxis, limos and Uber
Council voted to ask staff to report in 2016 on a way to equitably regulate all providers of ground transportation – including taxis, limousines, and Uber vehicles – and to begin consulting on regulations that will ensure a “level playing field” for providers and take into account the City of Toronto’s accessibility objectives. In addition, Council voted to reduce the starting fare of licensed taxis from $4.25 to $3.25 effective November 1.

Resettlement of Syrian refugees    
Council approved a detailed proposal for a Syrian refugee resettlement program in Toronto and asked Mayor Tory to send a letter to the Prime Minister requesting funding assistance for the program in areas such as affordable housing, social assistance and child care. This resettlement initiative is consistent with the Toronto Newcomer Strategy adopted in 2013, which recognizes the City’s role in the successful settlement/integration of immigrants and refugees in Toronto.

Review of City of Toronto Act
Council approved amendments that the City will propose to the province of Ontario for consideration as part of the province’s current review of the City of Toronto Act, 2006. The City’s submission will also include a series of comments from Council involving the Municipal Elections Act on matters such as ranked-choice (also known as ranked-ballot) voting, ward boundaries and candidate spending limits in municipal elections.

Rehabilitation of the Gardiner Expressway
Council approved a plan for the rehabilitation of the Gardiner Expressway from end to end. Council authorized staff to proceed with an alternative financing and procurement/P3 approach, including a request for proposals (RFP) – subject to the federal government approving funding to cover one-third of capital construction costs that are eligible for federal funding. In addition, Council supported arranging for a third-party review of the proposed financial calculations (“value-for-money analysis”) for the project. The Gardiner Expressway has been in service for almost 60 years and the concrete deck on the elevated section is near the end of its design life.

Closing the housing gap
Council agreed to urge federal election candidates in Toronto ridings to commit to action on city housing issues. Council wants the federal government to “close the housing gap” by covering one-third of Toronto Community Housing’s 10-year capital repair needs, creating a long-term affordable housing strategy, reversing the withdrawal of funds from non-profit and co-operative housing, and reinvesting those funds back into social housing to meet the needs of low- and moderate-income Canadians.

Standards for emergency shelters
Council approved an updated version of the Toronto Shelter Standards. The document, produced with extensive stakeholder involvement, provides expectations for service delivery that will help the City establish consistency in its delivery of shelter services that are client-centred and respectful of client diversity. The City’s homeless shelter system consists of about 4,000 shelter beds funded by the City at 59 locations across Toronto.

Review of Paramedic Services
Council called for a consultation process involving the union and paramedics as well as other front-line staff addressing Toronto Paramedic Services’ five-year plan and efforts to improve employee engagement and morale. A related report says management anticipates that recent increases to staffing and improvements to equipment, technology, communications and infrastructure, as proposed in the five-year plan, will continue to improve workplace conditions, employee engagement and the morale of frontline staff.

Green spaces for healthy city living
Council adopted recommendations from the Board of Health in support of providing plentiful, diverse, well-maintained green spaces as important features of a healthy city. Presented under the title Green City: Why Nature Matters to Health, the board’s recommendations address matters such as Toronto’s tree canopy, school green spaces/sports facilities, and investment in green spaces in the City’s designated neighbourhood improvement areas.

Increased fines for parking infractions
Council authorized increased fines for vehicle parking and stopping infractions as part of the City’s efforts to manage and reduce traffic congestion. The new fine amounts include substantial increases – set at $150 instead of the current $60 – for stopping illegally on sidewalks, in transit areas or too close to intersections, and for parking in live lanes of traffic. Fines for no-parking offences (expired pay-and-display receipt) are increasing from $40 to $50.

Pay-and-display parking
Council approved changes to hourly rates and hours of operation for on-street parking at certain locations that have pay-and-display parking machines. The changes, which follow a Toronto Parking Authority review of the on-street parking program, will align hours of operation more closely with periods of higher parking demand at the designated locations. Council adopted an amendment to the agenda item to address the matter of musicians unloading equipment at music venues on streets affected by the parking-fee changes.

Red-light cameras
Staff received Council’s authorization to finalize a contract with the company chosen in a formal bid process to supply, install, operate, maintain and eventually remove red-light camera systems at selected Toronto intersections for the five-year period from 2017 to 2021. The current phase of the red-light camera program runs to the end of 2016. Red-light camera operations have been found to reduce the frequency of red-light running and the severity of collisions.

Progress on shared internal services
Council authorized proceeding with the implementation of shared services for learning/training, insurance, procurement and information technology as part of a shared services project involving City divisions, agencies and corporations. Begun in 2014, the project aims to reduce duplication and costs.

Food services at City Hall
Council supported establishing an advisory committee composed of members of the public with experience in the food industry to explore having a social enterprise food service provide food services in Toronto City Hall. The current lease with City Hall’s Café on the Square restaurant will be extended beyond the current expiry date of December 31 until the City has a new agreement in place for food services at City Hall. Council decided to defer pursuing the idea of a restaurant development for Nathan Phillips Square.

Public access to private pools
A motion asking staff to look into the possibility of pursuing agreements with condominium boards for public use of their swimming facilities received Council’s support. The motion noted that some condominium buildings have pools with entrances that would enable members of the public to access the pool without entering other private space. As envisioned, this initiative would enhance year-round swimming instruction across Toronto by making the participating condo boards recreation partners with the City.

Maple Leaf Forever tree projects
Council directed staff to give the Toronto Archives complete documentation, including digital photographs, of all Maple Leaf Forever Tree projects. A total of 65 individual projects, 153 unique designs and 4,025 individual items were produced from the wood of the Maple Leaf Forever Tree. The tree, a silver maple at 62 Laing St. that is believed to have been the inspiration for Alexander Muir’s song Maple Leaf Forever, was felled by a storm in 2013.

Photo Laureate for Toronto   
Council approved the terms of reference for a Photo Laureate. An appointment to the new, honorary position is expected in 2016. Similar to the Poet Laureate, who is the City’s official champion of poetry and literary arts, the Photo Laureate will be the City’s official champion of photography and visual culture. A panel will be convened to nominate a candidate every three years, as is done with the Poet Laureate.