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Council Highlights: Expanding Chid Care, Safe Temperatures for Tenants & More

Last week we wrapped up our last Council session before our new mayor is elected. Below, I've provided a run-down of the most notable items and what they mean for us here in Don Valley North.

Let's start with some good news. As you may recall, former Mayor Tory started the SmartTrack Program to leverage existing rail lines in Toronto to create more surface transit. A few months ago, we learned that an additional $244 million was needed to build the five planned SmartTrack stations. City Council asked the Province to fund the outstanding amount or the project would need to be cancelled.

I'm happy to report that the Province will be providing $226 million to our SmartTrack program. This will allow City staff to move forward with new stations at Finch & Kennedy, East Harbour, and three new stations through the downtown west end. The pressure is now on the Province to consider full Presto fare integration to attract riders to these new stations and reduce congestion in the core of our city.

We're making progress towards $10-a-day child care here in Toronto. This motion called on the Province to address some of the gaps we see in the current plan. Specifically, we need to increase the actual number of child care spaces available in our city to make sure this program is accessible to every family that needs it. We also asked the Province to update the existing income thresholds to further expand eligibility.

Most importantly, in my eyes, we are asking the Province to make sure child care workers are paid a living wage. This is an incredibly demanding and impactful line of work, and we do not have enough Early Childhood Educators and other workers to meet demand. Without paying our child care workers fairly, they won't be able to afford to live in the city and provide the care our children and grandchildren need.

This item added a new classification to our sign by-law. We now have rules for "advocacy signs", which are the signs you see on front lawns supporting a specific cause. Things like "Save Our Local Hockey Arena", "Electrify Our Go Trains", or "Say No to This Development".

While it's great to see a community get passionate about a specific cause, too many of these signs can be visually distracting and cause safety issues. Going forward, there is a reasonable limit of three advocacy signs per property, and property owners/tenants must consent to the signs being on the property. Unlike election signs, advocacy signs must be kept on your private property and not put on public right-of-way, like boulevards.

This Cycling Network Plan update gave the green light to ten planned bicycle lanes across the city, including the bike lane planned for Sheppard Avenue from Clairtrell Road to Leslie Street as part of the Sheppard Reconstruction. As I first wrote about a couple years back, road reconstructions only take place every 75 – 100 years and we need to build them in a way that supports both our current and future community. Cycling infrastructure is essential to making our roads safer for all users and encouraging folks to take zero-emissions modes of transport to help us reach our climate goals.

This report from our Chief Planner, Gregg Lintern, itemizes the potentially disastrous updates to the Provincial Planning Policy Statement (PPS). Councillors needed only to look at the long list of recommendations to see how completely lacking the Provincial Government's position on planning and growth really is.

The biggest issues with the PPS are that it lacks a definition of affordable housing (and is more or less silent on the issue), and it muddies the water around designated Employment Zones so much that these strategic parts of so many Ontario cities may be lost forever. In an earlier item (PH4.5), staff recommended that we vehemently oppose five applications to convert employment lands in the Parkway Centre Business Park here in Don Valley North (south of Sheppard, between the 404 and Victoria Park) to residential. I will keep you posted on these conversion hearings as they come up.

I moved this motion with Councillor Amber Morley after hearing from tenants across Don Valley North who were stuck in sweltering units in both April and May. We had a couple of early heat waves, and some tenants were stuck in units with temperatures as high as 32°C.

Currently, our heat bylaw is based around dates. Landlords must provide heat from September 15 to June 1, to maintain an indoor temperature of 21°C. However, we get some very hot days in early fall and late spring, and some landlords don't turn off the heat in these circumstances. This motion asks staff to devise a bylaw that is based on safe and comfortable temperatures rather than arbitrary dates. I'll keep you posted when we get the report back from staff.

Modular Housing at 175 Cummer: Proposed Relocation & Reconfiguration

Much ink has been spilled and many months wasted on this small modular housing project over in Willowdale. I heard from residents who were both passionately against and passionately in favour of this project. I understand that the proposal here became quite polarized, and found it extremely unfortunate that so much organized fearmongering was targeted at the seniors in the surrounding community.

Similar modular housing projects have been completed elsewhere in the city with extremely successful outcomes for both the new residents and the existing neighbourhoods. Based on what I know about those projects, and the fact that we are in a housing crisis, I voted in favour of the project proceeding as soon as the Ontario Land Tribunal hearing is completed.

Local Councillor Cheng will find that there are many community improvements she can make for seniors in Willowdale even as the modular housing is constructed. I can't stress enough how much these homes will help 59 new Willowdale residents rebuild their lives.

A video showing one of the City's modular housing sites.

As many of you have seen, the portion of Betty Sutherland Trail that runs under the 401 is now closed due to ongoing work by the Provincial Ministry of Transportation. I know how disruptive this closure is to trail users, so I moved a motion with neighbouring Councillor Burnside asking the Province to come up with a plan to mitigate the impacts of this closure on the community. We also asked that they have plans in place to allow the trail to be used for annual events such as North York General's Rally in the Ravine.

Other Notable Items

There were a number of other items I want to touch on briefly:

  • We approved a plan to expand access to pickleball courts across Toronto. I know how popular pickleball is here in DVN and look forward to more courts cropping up in the years to come.

  • I seconded a motion from Councillor Pasternak to develop a framework to install outdoor working stations in some of our city parks. These cool stations were recently installed in Montreal, and let folks work-from-home but in the park instead—a great way to make even better use of our public spaces.

  • Deputy Mayor McKelvie led Council in making a strong request that the Federal Government provide the necessary funding to allow us to keep supporting incoming refugees.

  • I seconded a motion with Deputy Mayor McKelvie to ensure that at least 20% of our City's housing and shelter grants go to Indigenous housing providers, helping us advance our commitments to truth, reconciliation, and justice.

Update: Banning Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

As you may know, I've been working with our community to restrict the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in Toronto. One hour of leaf blowing equals a 1800-kilometre drive, the same as an 18-hour drive from Toronto to Halifax. Leaf blowers and similar lawn equipment emit dangerous pollutants and generate disruptive noise, both of which harm our ecosystems and pose a threat to our health.

Yesterday, City of Toronto staff released a report outlining two paths forward to restrict the use of leaf blowers and other small lawn equipment across the city:

  • Option A recommends that City Council reaffirm its support for the City of Toronto phasing out the use of leaf blowers by its own staff and contractors, but does not move towards a city-wide ban.

  • Option B recommends that Council support a ban on the use of gas-powered lawn equipment and begin working towards the implementation of a bylaw to impose the ban in 2024.

Hundreds of cities across North America have successfully banned leaf blowers and similar lawn equipment. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto should demonstrate leadership and ambition in our commitment to reduce carbon emissions by banning gas-powered leaf blowers and similar lawn equipment city-wide.

The staff report will be considered by the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on June 28th, 2023 prior to being considered by City Council during its July session.

You can help push for a full ban on leaf blowers here in Toronto by either submitting your comments or registering to make a deputation at Infrastructure and Environment Committee next week:

  1. Click this link:

  2. At the top of page, click either the “Submit Comments” button or the “Request to Speak” button

  3. Each button will open an email to send to with your comments or request to speak

I will be speaking at the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on the importance of moving forward with Option B to implement a city-wide ban. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


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