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Highlights from City Council

City Council met this week for the first time since July. In any normal year, August is the one month where Council does not hold a month-long cycle of standing committees culminating in a full session of Council. This year, while Council took that annual break from meetings, our battle against COVID-19 and its impacts on Toronto carried on. That leads us to September, where we've made an attempt to restart some important policy work and enact any new initiatives that will help us prepare for this second wave of the pandemic.


Since there are so many moving parts loaded into this week's Council meeting, I've decided to simply list a few key items with my comments. Heaven knows that printed newspapers are getting thinner and thinner and some of our actions won’t appear in the thick "GTA" section that used to be delivered to most doors.

As of this writing, Council is still going! This meeting had 163 items to consider, so it was bound to be a long one. Here are just a few of them:

Changes to policing First and foremost, Council made a commitment to 36 important recommendations to bring about changes to Policing in Toronto and to confront anti-Black racism in our June meeting, after the deaths of Regis Korchinksi-Paquet in Toronto and George Floyd in the USA. To underscore the importance of these recommendations, we required City staff to update us regularly on the progress of these recommendations. Staff brought their first update today. I'm going to continue holding the Police Board and the City Manager to account to make sure the recommendations are enacted — I've been keeping in touch with the team weekly, as has Mayor Tory.

Renaming Dundas Street A somewhat controversial item of business is "Responding to the Dundas Street Renaming Petition." I have observed that people have very definite opinions on this matter, and you will have an opportunity to have your voice heard.


City staff will be proceeding with holding a city-wide consultation (virtually) that includes these four options:

  • do nothing

  • retain the legal street names with additional interpretation and recognitions

  • retain the legal street names but rename those civic assets with Dundas in their name, except TTC facilities

  • rename the streets and all other civic assets now carrying the Dundas name.

I will let you know how to participate in the consultations once the process gets started. Stay tuned to my social media and e-blasts.

Transit On the transit front, we adopted a couple of sets of recommendations that have long-range impact. The first, Metrolinx-City of Toronto Master Agreement for the GO Expansion Program, authorizes the City Manager to negotiate with Metrolinx on our behalf where their expansion plans affect us. I asked that, in these negotiations, the City Manager emphasize how very important it is to proceed with relocating Oriole GO station to connect access to the Leslie TTC station. Residents have been asking for this connection for a long time, and it needs to be done as soon as possible to encourage more ridership in our newer neighbourhoods.


The second bundle of transit recommendations was an update on "Provincial Priority Transit Expansion Projects." The City of Toronto receives regular updates even though all expansion of rail transit is now under provincial control. Premier Ford is adamant that his top four priorities must be the Ontario Line, the western Crosstown expansion, the Scarborough subway and the Yonge Line extension to Richmond Hill.


Even though these projects will take him well into the 2030's, I successfully moved a motion on behalf of Don Valley North for City Council to request that the province and Metrolinx advance the priority of the Sheppard Subway extension, given the population projected to move in over the coming years.



Ranked ballots


A report called "The Impact of COVID-19 on 2022 Election Preparation Activities" delivers a bit of bad news for passionate fans of enhancing democracy. As you know, last week I wrote about ranked ballot elections and why they'd be beneficial for Toronto. We learned that the City Clerks in charge of election preparedness cannot possibly purchase badly-needed new election tabulators and also prepare for our first ranked-ballot election in time for 2022.


Regretfully, I had to accept the situation. But rather than agree to "cease all work" on ranked ballots, I am going to move to direct the City Clerk to continue to meet the legislated requirements and consultations and report back to City Council by the end of 2023. That way, City Council can consider adopting ranked ballots for the 2026 election.

COVID-19 As often happens with COVID-19, a report presented a week ago to the Toronto Board of Health had to be updated. In light of the steady daily increase in case numbers in Toronto and the rest of Ontario, the Medical Officer of Health updated her report at Council and has recommended strengthening bylaws to reduce gatherings, restaurant group sizes and enforce cleaning in multi-residential buildings. Council voted unanimously in favour of these stronger measures. You can see the full list of the latest health and safety rules here.

Golf courses One of the drawbacks to contracting out the management of the City of Toronto’s five public golf courses is that, whenever it is time to extend those contracts, the conversation rolls around to this question: why do we still have public golf courses?


For many golfers who cannot afford a private club membership, these courses are absolute treasures. But for non-golfers, these courses represent precious green real estate — land that could be transformed into public parks available to all. It's easy to sympathize with park enthusiasts during the pandemic, when people need space to spread out. I'm hoping that rather than make a snap decision, Council will consider renewing the five courses’ leasing management agreements until 2023 and will study the options in the meantime.


Housing and homelessness As you know, people experiencing homelessless and poverty are among the most vulnerable and hard-hit by the pandemic. That's why one of the first discussions on the agenda was about "Addressing Housing and Homelessness Issues in Toronto through Intergovernmental Partnerships." The item requests that the provincial and federal governments provide the City about $727 million to create 3,000 affordable rental and supportive homes over next two years. I supported this ask because I believe we in the suburbs need to be part of the solution. I've received messages from some of you about new encampments in our ravines that were set up during the pandemic. This serves as proof that we're not immune to the problem.


I have always believed that one of the real solutions to ending homelessness in our city is to build permanent supportive housing instead of more shelters. Shelters should not be a permanent solution — we have to help people make their way to a home. That's the strategy that will yield long-term results.

Exploring Indigenous Economic Opportunities in Toronto Ravines I also placed a motion called "Exploring Indigenous Economic Opportunities in Toronto's Ravines." Over the coming years, all three governments and the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority are investing large amounts of dollars in ravine management and flood mitigation. Given their deep connection to the land, our first peoples should have the opportunity to take part in that work and benefit economically. I’m happy Council adopted it. That's all for the highlights! If you'd like to read the full agenda, you can access it here. Remember that you can also watch City Council meetings live on YouTube.



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