July 2016 City Council Highlights

Toronto City Council met on July 12, 13, 14 an 15, 2016. Council Highlights is an informal summary of selected decisions made by Toronto City Council. Council dealt with about 300 topics/agenda items at its July meeting. The City Clerk's formal documentation is available at http://www.toronto.ca/council.

Toronto's 15-year transit plan   

Council adopted recommendations for moving ahead with key projects that will form Toronto's transit network by 2031, including approval of additional technical and planning analysis of a SmartTrack concept with up to six new stations and an Eglinton West LRT (light-rail transit line), a one-stop Scarborough subway extension, an Eglinton East LRT and a Relief Line. Among the many recommendations and motions adopted, Council directed staff to work with intergovernmental partners in the next phase of analysis for a plan on funding the projects.

Plan to improve road safety    

Council unanimously endorsed a five-year Road Safety Plan with the goal of reducing the number of road fatalities and serious injuries to zero. A report noted the recent trend of more traffic-related fatalities involving pedestrians, cyclists and older adults. Among motions adopted as part of this agenda item is a proposal to ask the Ministry of Transportation to consider re-introducing automated speed enforcement and a proposal for improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists by creating zones with reduced speed limits, improved pavement markings and signal-timing adjustments.

Consultation on City finances    

Council approved undertaking public consultation on the City of Toronto's long-term financial direction. The public will be asked to provide input on expenditure management strategies, oversight of City programs and agencies, management of City assets, and revenue generation to support desired public services. Staff reported that Torontonians have demonstrated an interest in participating in a dialogue on municipal finances. The consultation will extend from this fall to next spring.

Schedule for 2017 budget process  

After discussion and debate, Council approved the schedule for the City's 2017 budget process and set an across-the-board target for budget reduction. The reduction target is 2.6 per cent below the 2016 approved net operating budgets for all City programs, agencies, accountability offices and the Toronto Community Housing Corporation. All services are to be explored for efficiency-related savings. Council directed staff to prepare the 2017 tax-supported operating budget based on estimated revenue from a residential property tax increase at or below the rate of inflation.

Review of City real estate services     

Council considered a report assessing how the City delivers real estate services and supported moving toward creating a centralized real estate entity that consolidates all core real estate and facilities management operations and functions. Those operations are currently managed autonomously across 15 City agencies, corporations and divisions. The City's portfolio includes almost 7,000 buildings and about 12,000 hectares (29,000 acres) of land. The centralized entity would have a mandate that strengthens the City’s ability to strategically promote City objectives.

Implementing supervised injection services     

Council affirmed its support for implementing small-scale supervised injection services at Toronto Public Health (The Works), Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre and South Riverdale Community Health Centre. The intention is to provide a safe and hygienic environment where people can inject pre-obtained drugs under a nurse's supervision. The three sites are in locations that have a high rate of injection drug use and associated high-risk behaviours.

Social housing in Toronto       

In response to the report Tenants First: A Way Forward for Toronto Community Housing and Social Housing in Toronto, Council adopted a set of strategic directions and requested an implementation plan to support the City's efforts to provide clean, safe, well-maintained, affordable homes to social housing tenants. The initiative includes transitioning a portion of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation's portfolio to a new community-based, non-profit corporation and to community-based, non-profit providers of social housing.

Open Door affordable housing    

Council approved the Open Door Affordable Housing Program to accelerate the creation of affordable housing in Toronto by providing City financial incentives, activating surplus public land for affordable housing and offering an Open Door planning service. Responding to a separate agenda item on affordable housing, Council authorized staff to enter into agreements with the Ontario government if, as anticipated, funding is made available to the City between now and October under a new federal/provincial program supporting affordable housing infrastructure.

City input on national housing strategy    

Council endorsed asking Councillor Ana Bailão (Ward 18 Davenport), Toronto's Housing Advocate, to lead the City's response to federal consultation on creating a national housing strategy. Preparing the City's response will include obtaining input from other members of Council, housing stakeholders and the public. The Minister of Children, Families and Social Development recently launched federal consultations on creating a national housing strategy.

Text messaging for 911 response     

Council supported a motion to ask the Toronto Police Services Board to consider the possibility of introducing texting from smartphones as a way for people to report an emergency via the 911 emergency dispatch service. The motion notes that there are situations in which making a voice phone call to 911 can attract unwanted attention and texting could provide a safe alternative.

Appointment of Ombudsman and Lobbyist Registrar    

Council approved the appointment of Susan Opler as the City's new Ombudsman and Cristina De Caprio as the new Lobbyist Registrar, both effective September 12. Opler, who has extensive experience as a litigator, adjudicator, mediator and educator, will take over from interim Ombudsman Kwame Addo. De Caprio, who has held leadership positions in regulatory organizations and the non-profit sector, will take over from interim Lobbyist Registrar Stephen Littlejohn.   

Acting Medical Officer of Health     

Council appointed Dr. Barbara Yaffe the acting Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for Toronto effective August 1 and until Council appoints a new Medical Officer of Health. Dr. David McKeown, the current MOH, retires on July 31. Dr. Yaffe has been Director of Communicable Disease Control and an Associate Medical Officer of Health with Toronto Public Health since 1998. 

Schools as community assets         

Council adopted recommendations and motions tied to the Toronto District School Board's identification of many school properties that it expects to sell. Informed by an evaluation process carried out by staff, Council provided direction on five specific school properties (Thistletown, McNicoll, Silver Creek, Sir Robert Borden and Buttonwood Hill schools) for their importance to the City as community assets providing local services and green space. Council also approved a set of principles to guide the disposition and development of school properties in general.

Midtown community facility     

Council agreed to direct staff to work out an agreement with the Toronto District School Board on building a planned new Davisville Junior Public School as a three-storey building, leaving space for the City to construct a recreation and aquatic facility on the same midtown Toronto site.

Attracting foreign investment     

Council approved the City's participation as a funding partner in a new enterprise called Toronto Global along with Greater Toronto Area (GTA) municipal partners and with financial support from the Ontario and federal governments. Toronto Global is being formed to increase the GTA’s share of direct investment attracted from around the world. The business and affairs of the City's Invest Toronto agency will be wound up after an orderly transition to Toronto Global.

Long-term strategy for managing waste  

Council adopted a long-term waste management strategy for Toronto. The strategy includes the goal of working toward a circular economy and a zero-waste future that is measured by a "per capita" waste generation rate. A circular economy emphasizes preventing waste generation and maximizing resource recovery. Council's support included endorsing a 70 per cent target for residential waste diversion by 2026, among other actions and targets for waste management.

Rail freight corridor in Toronto     

Council adopted recommendations that include directing City staff to participate in further discussions with Metrolinx and other participants on plans for a new rail freight corridor passing through part of Toronto. Staff were also asked to continue negotiations with Metrolinx concerning a new GO station at Bloor Street and the rail-corridor intersection at Dupont Street, among other actions.

Development at Union Station       

Council approved an application for special grants and tax assistance, subject to certain conditions, for a landmark development proposed for the east side of Bay Street at Union Station. The proposed office towers at 45 and 141 Bay St. are considered a Transformative Project, which designates an important project that will enable the City to quickly achieve planning and economic development objectives such as creating new jobs and linking with regional transit initiatives.

Park under the Gardiner Expressway   

Council approved a governance and funding model for programming, operating and maintaining a 1.75 kilometre area under the Gardiner Expressway as a linear park – described as a trail and network of public amenities – between Spadina and Strachan Avenues. The project, made possible by a substantial private donation, will be operated as a not-for-profit charitable corporation. The first phase involves the area between Strachan Avenue and Bathurst Street with a trail connection extending to Spadina Avenue.

Waterfront transit       

Council directed City staff in partnership with the Toronto Transit Commission and Waterfront Toronto to initiate the second phase of the Waterfront Transit Reset and create an implementation strategy to deliver a co-ordinated waterfront transit solution. In addition, Council adopted a motion calling for dialogue on the feasibility of a new transit hub at the Mr. Christie's site at 2150 Lake Shore Blvd. W. and to address the need for improved transit in the Humber Bay Shores area.

Proposed men's shelter  

Council directed staff to continue their work with the local community to determine the size and program model for a men's shelter planned for a Runnymede Road site and report back to the Community Development and Recreation Committee. Staff were also asked to take several other steps to help ensure the shelter's successful integration into the neighbourhood. 

Relocation of Etobicoke Civic Centre   

Council agreed to ask Build Toronto to lead a design competition for a new Etobicoke Civic Centre complex on the City's Westwood Theatre lands at Bloor Street and Kipling Avenue. City staff and Build Toronto are also to report on costs and revenues associated with plans for the two City properties (the current civic centre site at Burnhamthorpe Road/The West Mall and the Bloor/Kipling site) as well as a City-owned property at Bloor and Islington Avenue – and to report on possible opportunities for including new affordable housing in future developments at the three sites. 

Improving community safety    

Council approved taking steps to enable new initiatives that support community safety to proceed, including the use of up to $750,000 from the provincial and federal governments to fund community safety initiatives in response to incidences of violence this summer.

Amendments to the sign bylaw   

Council adopted several amendments and directives involving the City's sign bylaw. Any signs that may have historical or cultural significance, for example, are to be identified when City Planning staff review site-plan applications and staff are to look into options for displaying those signs in other Toronto locations.

Toronto's human rights awards     

Council extended its congratulations to the individuals and an organization selected by a community panel as recipients of the 2016 City of Toronto Access, Equity and Human Rights Awards. Fizul Sima receives the Aboriginal Affairs Award; Maayan Ziv, the Access Award; Alex Abramovich, the Pride Award; and Black Lives Matter Toronto, the William P. Hubbard Award.

Tribute to Muhammad Ali    

A motion approved by Council will provide funding to create and install a plaque commemorating Muhammad Ali's visit to Toronto in 1966 for a boxing match against George Chuvalo at Maple Leaf Gardens. Prior to the fight, Ali trained at Earl Sullivan's Toronto Athletic Club at 109 Ossington Ave., the site chosen for the new plaque. The motion said Ali's recent death provided a timely occasion to commemorate the famous fight and Ali's visit to Toronto at a critical time in his career

Road hockey and basketball      

Council voted to amend Toronto's municipal code to remove the long-standing but seldom enforced prohibition against placing portable basketball or hockey nets for games on streets (the public right of way). The motion that Council adopted specifies that hockey or basketball can be played on local roads that have a speed limit of 40 km/h or lower, and the activity must not obstruct driveways, pose a hazard to pedestrians and other traffic, or impede maintenance work.

Tragically Hip's final concert

Council authorized staff to look into screening the broadcast of the final concert by the Tragically Hip in a Toronto square, theatre or park. CBC plans to broadcast and stream the Canadian rock band's final performance, which is to take place in Kingston on August 20. 

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