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E-BLAST: May Council rundown: PayIt, e-scooters, street racing & more

I started doing a monthly rundown of the most notable items appearing before Council back in 2019. I haven’t given one of these updates in the last couple of months, as the reality of the pandemic and vaccine rollout became the most important things to communicate to you.

There are a number of things worth noting this month, so let’s get back to it. PAYIT: A NEW WAY TO PAY YOUR BILLS PayIt is a company that’s offering a new way for Torontonians to pay their bills. It will provide one central system to pay for your taxes, permits, swimming lessons and more. I believe it’s high time we updated our current hodgepodge of payment systems, but I take issue with the way this contract was awarded.

Talking about the process for awarding contracts to companies can be a bit of a nerd fest. Suffice to say, a Councillor’s job is to ensure that the proper processes are followed. I firmly believe that every valid business should have a fair chance at winning one of these contracts. That’s not what happened in this case, so I voted against awarding the contract to PayIt.

That being said, the majority of my colleagues on Council voted in favour. We’re moving forward with PayIt, and I will be working closely on this initiative to make sure it delivers on its promises. When the app is launched, I’ll write detailed instructions in this column to teach you how to use it and avoid unwanted service charges. CITY OF TORONTO’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19 On Tuesday night, Council had an opportunity to ask Dr. de Villa and Chief Pegg questions about our City’s response to COVID-19. My biggest takeaway was the importance of booking your vaccine as soon as possible. Don’t put it off any longer. Dr. de Villa reminded us that by June, you will be competing with all remaining adults while clinics also start administering second doses. The latest details on vaccinations are below, immediately after the Council highlights PETITION: VACCINATE TRANSIT WORKERS NOW As a TTC Commissioner, it was painful to see our transit workers left out of Phase One vaccinations while other frontline workers were prioritized. Since the pandemic began, over 1000 transit workers have tested positive for the virus. I started a petition to demand that transit workers get priority access to vaccines. Over 600 people signed my petition, and Council voted unanimously to receive it. I hope this sends a clear message to the Province to vaccinate our transit workers now.

STOPPING EXCESSIVE VEHICLE NOISE A couple of my colleagues are taking a new approach to the campaign I’ve been waging for a couple of years now. I’ve been trying to get City Staff and Toronto Police to take street racing and dangerous stunt driving seriously in this city. We recently experienced the worst example of this in Don Valley North at McNicoll Avenue and Harold Evans Cres over Easter weekend. Burnt rubber stains still mark the intersection.

I hope the unanimous support for this latest motion supplements the motions I’ve already moved and leads to a clampdown on these dangerous driving activities as the summer arrives. E-SCOOTERS: ACCESSIBILITY AND INSURANCE ISSUES Council and staff were in complete agreement that now is not a good time for us to pilot an e-scooter sharing service. Many of you have written to me with serious concerns about the safety of these vehicles. It’s important to remember that e-scooters remain prohibited on all Toronto roads, including bike lanes, sidewalks and pedestrian pathways.

I also supported a motion asking the Province to make helmets mandatory on these fast-moving motorized vehicles.

WHERE’S OUR GARBAGE GOING? Our landfill is starting to run out of capacity. This item authorizes staff to start shipping our waste to other municipalities to be incinerated. I voted against this because I wanted staff begin a dialogue with you before taking a big step like this. We need to start a city-wide conversation about the future of Toronto’s waste, with a focus on diverting from landfill and waste reduction. Reduction needs to be the first goal because all other waste solutions are growing in cost every day. BUILDING THE CHILD CARE SYSTEM TORONTO NEEDS I was proud to join Councillor Layton in moving this motion. City Council has welcomed the federal government’s plan to achieve universally affordable childcare. This national childcare plan would work with provinces and municipalities to build a ten-dollar-a-day childcare system across the country by 2025-2026.

In Ontario, the goal is to cut childcare fees by 50% by the end of 2022. This would be a game changer for families who currently pay the highest childcare fees in the country, but it won’t happen if our Provincial Government doesn’t step up to this amazing opportunity.

Stay tuned. I’ll be coming back to this initiative if we don’t hear a bold commitment from the Province to start partnering and working on this soon.

SHOWING OUR SENIORS THAT WE CARE Back in 2004, during my first term on Council, we started a Council-sponsored Toronto Seniors’ Forum to inform our actions in long-term care and community-based senior services. I’m so glad that we did.

In light of the current province-wide conversation, the forum has launched a campaign called “Showing Our Seniors That We Care”. I’m proud to join Councillor Fletcher in having this campaign endorsed by the Mayor and Council. The item includes their demands of all governments, including much-needed investments in long-term care and ageing in place. Planning items: Supportive housing, MZO’s, & virtual hearings Council is considering a number of items on planning and housing, including virtual hearings for Committee of Adjustment and the Landlord and Tenant Board, a framework for Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs), and supportive housing initiatives in Rosedale and Chinatown. These items are still being debated by Council today, so I’ll give you a full update in next week’s E-Blast.


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