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E-BLAST: Council Highlights: Leaf Blower Ban, Winter Maintenance Audit & More

We had our first Council session with Mayor Chow at the helm last week. There were a number of notable items discussed, so let's dive into it.

This was the first item of business for the first woman Mayor of amalgamated Toronto. Olivia Chow has spoken and written at length about the domestic partner violence she witnessed as a young woman and how she helped her mother part ways with her troubled and violent father. In the past few years, the isolation and economic challenges of the pandemic have caused a sharp increase in gender-based and intimate partner violence. I was glad to see the Mayor lead Council in formally recognizing this epidemic. If you or anyone you know is experiencing this type of violence, please reach out for help. Below are some resources:

Council has supported imposing a ban on all small two-stroke engine garden equipment, like leaf blowers and lawnmowers. This is a move that I first requested back in 2019 at the request of an organized group of residents in Don Valley North. I'm so glad to see Council finally take action on these polluting machines.

Staff will now get to work on designing the implementation of a ban and report back to Council in early 2024. This gives you time to consider options for your own lawn equipment, as the ban likely would not take effect before late 2024 or early 2025. If you're planning to replace or upgrade anything, check out some of the cleaner, quieter, electric or battery-operated varieties on the market.

As you all know, we had some serious issues with our snow clearing this past winter. Toronto's independent Auditor General has provided us with a comprehensive report that follows up on past recommendations and examines the performance in the first year of our new winter contracts. Long-term contracts like this need ongoing performance management to make sure we're getting our money's worth. We can't blame service failures on the contractors alone if we aren't constantly evaluating and implementing contract penalties when there are failures.

As I suspected before even reading this report, my most effective performance evaluators are you, the residents who call and let me know when our winter contractors have let you down. I'll be sure to keep you updated on their implementation of the Auditor General's recommendations.

I've discussed this program at length in previous E-Blasts (1, 2). Council approved the pilot to begin on August 2, with five more parks added to the list. Staff have created a webpage listing all 27 park locations, the pilot guidelines, and public health information. Between this and media coverage, it will be hard to feign ignorance if you're drinking in the wrong place. The pilot will run until October 9 of this year and then staff will get to work preparing a detailed report on the pilot outcomes for Council to consider.

E-scooters and e-bikes are proliferating across Toronto, with no bylaws to govern their use. Finally, Council has asked staff to design a full micro-mobility strategy to provide much-needed guidance on these vehicles, including helmet use, road and sidewalk safety, and applicable Provincial traffic offences. This will come back early in 2024.

In the meantime, if you already own an e-scooter or e-bike, please drive responsibly where bicycles are allowed and wear a helmet. These will likely be enforced bylaws very soon. Pedestrians and disability lobby groups are loudly reclaiming their right to a safe sidewalk.


These reports show our actual expenses from 2022 compared to what was budgeted for. We hoped that the issue of unpaid COVID-19 expenses would be resolved by now, but that is not the case. Unfortunately, this means that we must continue to delay state-of-good-repair (SOGR) work and keep our expenditures as modest as possible. A reduction of $300 million in SOGR has been spread across all divisions, but the biggest cuts are to our two largest capital programs: the TTC and our Roads budgets will see reductions of $87 million each.

We continue to meet with the Federal and Provincial governments on this issue, as they had committed to cover these COVID expenses. This is also why it's so important for us to keep pushing for additional revenue streams for Toronto. A city as large as ours should have the tools we need to properly fund all of our services and expenses on our own.

For years now, my fellow Councillors and I have received complaints about the graphic and traumatizing imagery that folks sometimes receive in their mailboxes. Most often, these are flyers with disturbing, digitally-altered images promoting anti-abortion campaigns.

Last year, London, Ontario implemented a bylaw to address this issue. We've asked staff to draft a similar bylaw for Toronto requiring that any graphic materials be concealed in an envelope with a clearly marked warning on the outside, as well as the organization's name. Expect the bylaw to come back to Council in spring 2024.

This item saw Council consider 70 requests from owners of designated employment lands to convert their properties to mixed uses, including residential. I know this sounds like municipal government minutiae, but it is absolutely crucial to the livability of the whole city.

Film studios are just one example of uses permitted in our employment areas.

To provide a quick background, employment zones are areas that are only zoned for businesses and economic activity, particularly manufacturing but also things like film studios, office towers, and more. Historically, the Province has upheld our right to protect our designated employment zones. However, every five years they require the City to give employment land owners a chance to make their case for conversion. The Chief Planner and his team review all requests carefully with consideration of our dwindling supply of industrial lands. City Planning then submits their Council-endorsed recommendations to the Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs.

As Chair of Economic & Community Development, I worked very hard on this piece. Demand for industrial space in Toronto is rapidly increasing, presenting significant economic opportunity for our city and its residents. Amongst the 70 properties in this report, 23 needed debate and possible recommendations other than a straight refusal. I worked with a small group of Councillors to build consensus around all of the properties up for debate and deliver an omnibus motion to Council, similar to the motion I developed to confirm a City budget before Mayor Tory's exit.

Our consensus efforts succeeded and the omnibus motion passed unanimously, with four of the properties in question deferred for further review in October. While none of these properties are in our ward, I want you to know that I'm working hard to preserve them for employment uses. We need housing, heaven knows, but we have thousands of sites left where housing can be built.

Contrastingly, we have very limited industrial land and we need to both preserve existing jobs and save space for the creation of new jobs. Torontonians need access to local, good quality jobs in all walks of life. Our next City Council meeting will take place in September. It's usually a jam-packed agenda, and I always look forward to sharing the biggest updates with you.


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