Monthly Archives: April 2011

Privatizing Toronto’s trash collection

City moves closer to contracting out garbage service
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 26.)

Toronto's Public Works Committee has voted to push ahead with Mayor Rob Ford's plan to contract out garbage collection west of Yonge St. Photo by Dan Hoddinott and Illustration by Shadi Raoufi/Town Crier.

The city has moved closer to contracting out residential trash collection west of Yonge Street.
Despite every resident or group who presented to the Public Works Committee during the nine hour proceeding speaking against the idea, councillors voted 4–2 to put garbage collection out to tender along with cleaning up parks and litter vacuuming of all the city’s streets.
Public works committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong told the media privatization will reduce the size and cost of government.
“It will save us over the life of contract – $60 million,” he said.
City staff recommended the city seek bids for contracts of between five to nine years that could cost the city about $250 million. It will also reduce the city’s workforce by at least 300 jobs and save the city about $8 million a year, according to the report.
Contracting out curbside waste collection west of Yonge Street for up to nine years would be worth between $200–300 million according to what Geoff Rathbone, general manager of the solid waste management told the committee.
A seven to nine year contract for litter and recycling collection in city parks would be worth about $30 million. A five year contract to operate mechanical litter vacuums would be worth less than $20 million as would a contingency contract to pick-up residential garbage citywide (in the event of a public contract disruption).

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City keeps ban on street hockey

Works committee decides to keep ban
Playing ball games on city streets remains illegal
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 26.) 

L-R: Xander Anderson, Andrew Polanyi, Bowen Pausey and Liam McMahon presented the city with a petition asking to remove the ban on street hockey on city streets. Kris Scheuer/Town Crier file.

Teen Andrew Polanyi just wants to play street hockey with his friends without risking being hassled by the man.
“There’s a sign right in front of my house saying, ‘ball hockey prohibited’ and ever since that sign has been up neighbours have been coming up to us,” 13 year old Polanyi told the media during a Public Works committee hearing on Tuesday. “Some of them have been taking our pictures and sending them to the police and threatening to call the police.”
Currently, anyone found playing road hockey on Toronto streets could face a $55 fine. But in reality no one is charged or fined, said Ron Hamilton, manager of city traffic operations in Toronto and East York.
“I’ve been with the city for 40 years and I can’t recall anyone in Toronto being charged or fined by police,” said Hamilton.  Continue reading

LRT for Eglinton but not Sheppard, Finch

Mayor Ford’s more costly Eglinton underground LRT
Eglinton LRT is a go but no cash left for Finch, Sheppard
(Column written for Town Crier April 4)

Get ready, midtown, to face the envy and scorn of the rest of Toronto.
A new, underground version for a 25 km Eglinton LRT is moving ahead, thanks to a joint announcement by the province and the city.
Good news, right? Yes, except that the previous plan included $8 billion for surface LRT routes along Finch, Sheppard and Eglinton, and converting the Scarborough RT into light rail transit lines. Then-incoming mayor Rob Ford pronounced that plan dead on Dec. 1.
Mayor Ford wanted the Eglinton line fully buried, so that it won’t interfere with traffic. That’ll be achieved except for a small elevated portion as it approaches Kennedy subway station. Burying the entire rapid streetcar line will increase the cost of the Eglinton project by at least $2 billion.
The result is the $8.4 billion the province had set aside for four will now be entirely eaten up by two: Eglinton and Scarborough. As a result, the new plan cancels LRTs on Sheppard and Finch.
But here’s the kicker: The city will be on the hook to pay back $49 million in costs already incurred for the Sheppard and Finch routes to provincial agency Metrolinx. That is a lot of money down the drain for a decision by a mayor who claims to value respect for taxpayers.

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Parkdale-High Park federal race

Which MP do you want: past or present?
Incumbent Gerard Kennedy faces  challenge from predecessor Peggy Nash
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 15.)

Parkdale-High Park is a rematch between Liberal Gerard Kennedy and the NDP’s Peggy Nash.
Kennedy won the seat in 2008 when he beat first-term incumbent Nash.
This showdown mentality was on display during an all-candidates debate at Swansea Town Hall on April 13.
One of the contentious issues of the evening was Kennedy’s attendance for Parliamentary votes. Nash’s team was passing out a Globe and Mail article she said is based Hansard, the complete minutes of Parliament. An addendum to the article claims between Nov. 2008 and March 2011 Kennedy missed 122 votes and was present for 241 out of the 363 total votes.

NDP candidate and former MP Peggy Nash. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.

Kennedy’s team countered he was present for 272 votes and 32 paired, a system whereby an opposition and a government member both agree to be absent for the vote and are not normally counted as absences, for a total attendance record of 304 votes out of 363.
The two candidates had a few exchanges regarding this at the debate at one point Kennedy appeared quite emotional as he said, “Don’t accuse me of not working hard for this community.”
He said he attended votes in Ottawa even at times when close family members were battling severe illnesses.

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City funding for Pride Toronto

Mayor says wait until parade’s over to vote on funding
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 18.)

Mayor Rob Ford said the city will wait to see if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid participates in the Pride parade before the city decides whether to fund it. Francis Crescia/Town Crier file photo.

Mayor Rob Ford is taking a wait and see attitude before deciding if Pride Toronto should receive city funding this year.
For Ford, the funding issue hangs on whether the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid participates in this year’s Pride festival.
If the organization doesn’t participate, then Ford said that Pride Toronto can still get a city grant of about $125,000.
“Last year council agreed if they don’t (participate), they (Pride) will get their money after the parade. That’s what we agreed on,” the mayor said at an April 15 media scrum. “If they (group) does march in the parade (Pride) won’t get their money.”
The city also provides in kind services for police security and clean-up worth around $250,000. The mayor did not know if those city services would be impacted if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid aka QuAIA participates in the parade.
QuAIA issued a statement April 15 announcing that it would not march in the parade, but would instead participate in activities outside the parade. It said now there will be no excuse not to fund Pride.
“Rob Ford wants to use us as an excuse to cut Pride funding, even though he has always opposed funding the parade, long before we showed up,” stated Elle Flanders with Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. “By holding our Pride events outside of the parade, we are forcing him to make a choice: fund Pride or have your real homophobic, right-wing agenda exposed.”

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Kippendavie Beach condos approved

City, residents and developer reach deal
Toronto council approves Kippendavie Ave project
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 14.)

These homes will be demolished to pave way for at least 60 condo units on Kippendavie Ave. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier file photo.

The city approved a settlement for the Beach development at 66-76 Kippendavie Avenue.
Developer Worsley Urban Partners first proposed the condo project in 2009 but due to council’s lack of a decision in a timely matter, the developer appealed directly to the Ontario Municipal Board.
So this new settlement was an 11th hour deal considering 1 board pre-hearing looming April 19.
The city, Kew Beach Neighbourhood Association, Toronto District School Board and the developer met with a city-funded mediator on April 6 and came away with a settlement, which was approved by council without debate on April 12.
Beach Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said that all parties compromised to reach this agreement.
“I am happy everyone can get on with their lives and have worked really hard especially the community,” she said hours April 12 vote to approve the project. “But I am worried about the size and the (area basement) flooding.”

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Layton’s Toronto-Danforth seat looks safe

Will be a challenge for Grit challenger to oust NDPer Layton
Liberal candidate Andrew Lang makes 2nd attempt win seat
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 8.)

Jack Layton at any NDP rally in March at Toronto's Wychwood Barns. Tristan Carter/Town Crier file photo.

The Green Party’s Elizabeth May notwithstanding, it’s safe to say that federal party leaders easily win their seats in the House of Commons seat whether or not they’re present in their riding during an election campaign.
If that’s a given, then the Toronto-Danforth race is Jack Layton’s to lose. Not only is he party leader of the New Democrats, he’s an incumbent who’s represented the riding in some form or another since 1994. Still, Layton has challengers from all the major parties, including Liberal Andrew Lang, who ran unsuccessfully against Layton in 2008.
“The longer you are an incumbent the more people become comfortable with you,” says Nelson Wiseman, a politics professor at the University of Toronto. “The longer you are a party leader, the more it contributes to your credibility.”
Layton became party leader in 2003 and in 2004 he beat incumbent Toronto-Danforth Liberal MP Dennis Mills. Layton was re-elected in 2006 and 2008.
As expected, Layton has been criss-crossing the country since the election writ dropped on March 26.
“I am grateful for the understanding of my local constituents that I can’t campaign as often in Toronto-Danforth, but I make up for it between elections by being in my riding frequently for events,” Layton said from British Columbia on April 7.
Layton served on Toronto City Council and Metro Council from 1982 to 2003 before entering federal politics.  Continue reading