Toronto councillor wants these city services deemed essential
The issue will be up for debate at power Exec Committee Sept 8
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Aug. 7 for Town Crier.)
Enduring 39 days without trash pick-up, city-run daycare and full emergency medical service wasn’t anyone’s idea of a great way to start the summer.
While Torontonians don’t want to see another strike like it anytime soon St. Paul’s councillor Michael Walker wants to go a step further.
He doesn’t want them to strike again … ever.
The midtown rep thinks its wrong and is advocating for essential services status for all these city programs.
Walker brought forward three motions to city council Aug. 6 to ask that the province mandate daycare and children’s services, garbage collection and EMS as essential services, like police and fire, which would legally prohibit striking.
There was no debate on any of his recommendations, but rather these motions were referred off to the Executive Committee’s September 8 meeting.
Walker outlines his argument for each programs being declared essential.
|Children’s services and city run daycare
Walker said people who rely on daycare can’t have it turned off every three years when a contract expires and there’s a potential strike.
“They have to have it guaranteed 365 days a year,” Walker said Aug. 7 after the non-debate at council.
He can’t think of anywhere in the province where daycare is an essential service but said there’s been no attempt to address the possibility.
Emergency Medical Services
EMS was running at 75 percent during the labour unrest and that’s not good enough, Walker noted.
“It’s clear there was a decrease in the level of service. We had a man die.”
Walker is referring to the June 25 heart attack of Jim Hearst. EMS took about 30 minutes to respond but Toronto EMS Chief Bruce Farr has said it not strike related.
“EMS is already overloaded (normally) because of the huge delay with hospital admissions where they have to wait with a patient to offload them,” said Walker.
He said, 75 percent of the service has already been declared essential, so it’s time to have it all under the same banner. In fact both the Toronto and Ontario Paramedic Associations have asked to be declared an essential service.
When Walker’s motion on EMS came before council, the vote was 20-18 to allow debate and not refer it to the executive committee.
However, a vote of two thirds was needed.
In a city this size, if garbage is not collected it becomes a health hazard.
The city set up 26 temporary dumps during the strike that were monitored daily by Toronto’s medical officer David McKeown and his staff. There were also requirements from the provincial Ministry of the Environment that had to be adhered to.
“We can’t be held to ransom with garbage collection,” Walker said. “People pay taxes and they expect to get their service. Period.
“Not when mangers decide to get tough.”
If unionized services are deemed essential and the option to strike is taken away, this doesn’t mean the only way to reach a settlement is through arbitration, Walker added.
For those interested in making a deputation on the issue it will be dealt with at the Sept. 8 meeting of council’s Executive Committee.