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E-BLAST: Council Highlights: Fighting Climate Change, Auto Theft, and Discrimination

December 16, 2021


It’s our last Council session of the year, and it’s a busy one. We dive right into the budget in January, so our December Council meeting always has a few big ticket items for me and my fellow Councillors to consider. A big thank you to everyone who joined me at Coffee with Your Councillor yesterday morning to ask your questions about these items and more. Here’s a rundown of the most notable items so far:



Municipalities do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to climate action. While national leaders may be the ones signing onto international climate agreements, cities make these commitments come true as we’re the ones delivering the vast majority of infrastructure and services. At Council yesterday, we committed to making our TransformTO climate strategy even more ambitious by moving our Net Zero goal forward ten years. We are now aiming to reach Net Zero by 2040.

This update spells out important short-term goals to keep us on track to hit our targets. In particular, we need to focus on retrofitting buildings, reducing natural gas use, increasing access to low-carbon transportation options including electric vehicles, and increasing our supply of local renewable energy. These are all essential if we want to keep Toronto liveable for future generations.


My colleague Councillor Layton added an amendment for staff to look into how to ban small equipment like leaf blowers as part of our carbon reduction strategy. I hope this speeds up the report on banning gas-powered leaf blowers that I’ve been fighting for since before the pandemic began.

 

The City of Toronto still owns Toronto Hydro, our electricity distribution company. As its sole shareholder, we asked Toronto Hydro for a comprehensive report on its Climate Action Plan and how it aligns with our TransformTO strategy. It is essential that we expand our hydro network to accommodate the switchover from more carbon-intensive energy sources and modes of transportation across the city. It needs to be easy and cheap for folks to make the changes we’re pushing for, like retrofitting your home or switching over to an electric vehicle.

In my time as Councillor, I’ve had some concerns about the Hydro Board’s accountability on climate action. From what I’ve seen, previous boards were not focused enough on electricity conversion in homes and businesses. Hydro staff assured me that the current board is focused on their Climate Action Plan, both through expanded electricity delivery and lobbying the Province to make these actions a priority in all of Ontario. These are both crucial to helping us reach Net Zero by 2040.

 

Council is once again re-tendering its winter road maintenance contracts for the next seven years. I have not been happy with the quality of snow clearing services delivered under the previous contracts. We can’t seem to achieve the quality of service we used to have in the legacy city of North York, when snow clearing was done by in-house staff.

City staff have revised much of the language in this set of contracts, imposed performance metrics, and reduced the number of contracts being managed to 11 instead of the previous 47. I hope these changes can get us closer to the standard of snow clearing many of us remember.

 

Council asked for an update on our original regulations for vehicle-for-hire services like Uber and Lyft. The City won the right to require certain regulations in a court battle a few years back, but we have not seen all of these regulations implemented.

In particular, the driver training program has been long delayed. I am in favour of the Committee’s recommendation to stop issuing a percentage of new vehicle-for-hire licenses until this program is fully implemented. However, when Council debates this tomorrow morning, I can’t support freezing licenses while we wait for a framework that seeks to re-litigate the court challenge we went through when Uber first came to town.

 

City Planning asked Council to change its policies on parking requirements for new developments, as their study found we are often over-requiring underground resident parking. This leads to half-empty parking lots that are a real challenge (and expense) to keep safe and clean.

While I agree with reducing resident parking minimums, I’m concerned about the changes proposed to visitor parking. Planners were recommending that we reduced visitor parking requirements by more than 50%, and I believe we should be increasing them. The Chief Planner agreed that we might need to reconsider suburban visitor parking, even for developments near subway stations. He helped me draft a motion to report back on this in June 2022 and it was supported unanimously.

 

When the Province pushed the Sheppard subway extension far off into the future, it put the development on the corner lot at 2135 Sheppard on hold. The applicant, Tribute Communities, applied to amend their application this past summer. Our City Planners have spent months negotiating the conditions under which they would consider these changes, and drafted a motion for me to present at Council to allow this process to proceed.

An early rendering made for the ConsumersNext Secondary Plan.


I want to stress that this is not any sort of approval. The applicant will have to wait for a robust community consultation process and rigorous planning review for any proposed changes. This step just allows us to properly evaluate the application and avoid an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal that would completely cut the community out of the process.

Residents of Brian Village are practically planning experts at this point. I have to ask you to help us once again and come out for the next round of consultations on these proposed changes once they’re scheduled in the New Year. I’ve already reminded the applicant that retail space for a grocery store is a deal breaker for the community.

 

Councillors Mike Colle and James Pasternak have put forward a motion to request that Toronto Police Services (TPS) take greater action against car thefts in the city. I know this has been a growing issue here in Don Valley North, both on our neighbourhood streets and in our parking garages. This motion asks TPS to re-establish a dedicated unit for auto thefts and calls on the Province to help establish a task force to fight this issue on a larger scale.

 

Finally, I joined a few of my colleagues and Mayor Tory in moving a motion to have the City of Toronto join Brampton in supporting the fight against Quebec’s discriminatory Bill 21, which prevents Quebec’s public servants from wearing religious symbols. We know this Bill targets specific communities, particularly our Muslim and Sikh communities, and that’s not something we can stand for here in Toronto. I’m happy to say this motion passed unanimously and the City will be providing vocal and financial support to the court challenge against this bill.

 

To close off the E-Blast this week, I want to acknowledge the passing of Mayor Mel Lastman. Over the weekend we heard many remembrances of his time as the first mayor of post-amalgamation Toronto, and not enough about his time as our mayor here in North York.


It’s ironic that Premier Harris said our amalgamation was part of his “Common Sense Revolution”. Mel had been using real common sense to run North York all along. He saw the value in running things in-house and striking a good deal for it. Our parks and school yards, for example, were maintained by the City in exchange for running swim programs out of high school pools, something we pay millions for today.


While our Mayor Mel certainly had his ups and downs in public life, we all mourned him last week because Mel represents that bygone era we miss so much. As Mayor of North York, he was always 100% confident that we were on the right track, so we were confident as well. Mel’s passing reminds me to continue to strive for that.

 

Booster Shots & Rapid Tests

Yesterday, the Province of Ontario expanded eligibility for third doses (also known as booster shots). Starting Monday, December 20, anyone 18 years old and older who received their second dose approximately three months ago (84 days) will be eligible for a third dose. Everyone age 50 and older is now also eligible to receive a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine three months following their second dose, rather than the original six-month waiting period.


The Province has also expanded access to free rapid tests over the holiday season. For more information, visit the link below:


Vaccines for Kids Ages 5-11 COVID-19 vaccine appointments are now available for kids ages 5 to 11 (born in 2016 or earlier). Appointments cam be booked through the provincial booking system online or by phone:

  • Online: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine/

  • Phone: 1-833-943-3900

It is important that parents share information with their kids and answer their questions about vaccines. You can find helpful resources about vaccines for kids at the City's website below:

 




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