The Cressy Courier: Budget update, 401 Richmond, and more
Dear friend --
The New Year is now well underway at City Hall and we're working hard to make our city more liveable and fair.
Below, you'll find an update on the 2017 Budget. Despite some important services and programs that have been added back into this year's budget, it still makes things harder for those who rely on critical city services – childcare, transit, housing and more. Torontonians deserve better than the budget currently proposed.
We're also working hard to ensure more responsible and manageable development, protect 401 Richmond, combat our city's overdose crisis and more – you'll find updates on that critical work below.
At our upcoming Council meeting next week, we will also be debating the Mayor's plan to privatize garbage collection in the Scarborough District. At the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee last week, it was made clear that public waste collection in Scarborough is cheaper and has a higher rate of waste diversion and recycling than private collection in Etobicoke. We know that pitting private sector companies against public sector entities results in lower wages, fewer benefits, and less secure jobs. As a city, we should set an example and create good jobs, rather than fuel a race to the bottom. I will not be voting in favour of the process to privatize garbage further in our city, and will continue to work hard to try and prevent this plan from moving forward. For more information, you can read this recent piece in the Star, or review the staff report.
As always, please get in touch with my office any time with any questions or concerns about you read below, or anything else.
I look forward to seeing you around the neighbourhood.
December City Council Highlights
Council adopted measures involving City of Toronto revenues, agreeing to ask the Ontario government to make legislative reforms that will allow the City to implement tolls on roads owned by the City and a tax on hotel and short-term accommodation rentals. Council specified that all revenue collected from road tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway will be dedicated to transit and transportation initiatives. For the last two decades, our city's population has steadily grown. Meanwhile, our revenue has steadily declined. Simply put, as our city has grown, our budget to support Toronto residents has not. I look forward to the conversation – that will continue through public consultations in the Spring - to ensure that we are raising revenue equitably and progressively to support and build our city.
Mid-term committee appointments
Council approved the mid-term appointments of Council members to various committees, agencies and external bodies. Most of the appointments are for the period January 1, 2017 to November 30, 2018 and until successors are appointed. Council's committees consist of the Executive Committee, seven standing committees and six special committees. I was pleased to be appointed to the Community Development and Recreation Committee, and to be re-appointed to the Board of Health, Toronto Community Housing Board of Directors, Harbourfront Centre Board of Directors, and many other local Boards of Management.
Council adopted the 2017 rate-supported budgets for Toronto Water, Solid Waste Management Services and the Toronto Parking Authority. Those budgets are called "rate-supported" because they are funded entirely by users through fees. In 2017, Toronto homeowners will pay an average of five per cent more for water services and two per cent more for waste collection pickup.
Fair Pass transit program
Council voted to establish a Fair Pass program to improve low-income Torontonians' access to public transit once Presto is fully operational, among other measures tied to the Poverty Reduction Strategy. Funding for the program's first phase is to be considered in the City's 2018 operating budget, with an anticipated start date of March 2018. The proposed discount under Fair Pass for those eligible is 33 per cent for an adult TTC Presto fare and 21 per cent for the adult monthly pass.
Municipal election preparations
Council considered recent changes to the Municipal Elections Act and supported taking steps to have new modems and software in place for Toronto's 2018 municipal election. The City will explore establishing a partnership with Elections Ontario to share voting technology in future elections. Council also considered a motion that proposed exploring the possible future use of ranked ballots in Toronto. Unfortunately, while I voted in favour of it, the majority of City Council voted against supporting the ranked ballot motion.
Council approved a set of short-term strategies for TransformTO, intended to expand and accelerate existing City programs and policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The short-term strategy ties in with Council's goal of achieving an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. I am hopeful that the Mayor and City Council will vote to include desperately needed resources in this and future year's budgets to do this critical work on climate change in our city.
Ontario Municipal Board review
Council adopted a series of recommendations to provide input for the provincial government's current review of the Ontario Municipal Board's scope and effectiveness. The province's proposed changes are intended to give more weight to local and provincial decisions, support alternative ways to settle disputes and support clearer, more predictable decision-making.
Construction and trees
Council voted to ask for a report from Parks, Forestry and Recreation on a plan for proactively and effectively protecting City trees during development projects.
Council approved amendments to the City's Eco-Roof Incentive Program, which was established in 2008 to encourage the installation of green roofs and cool roofs on buildings. The changes adopted are intended to further advance the implementation of eco-roofs in Toronto and include increasing the incentive offered for green roofs, providing financial support for structural assessments and allowing partial cool-roof retrofits.
Accessibility at civic meetings
Council supported increasing the accessibility of the City's public consultations and committee meetings through the inclusion of alternative and visual languages, including audio description, for communication. Staff have been asked to work on accessibility standards for participation at public meetings.
Accessibility on bus routes
Council decided to ask the Toronto Transit Commission to review the process for classifying bus stops/routes to help determine ways to improve accessibility at bus stops and along bus routes. Council also wants to make sure TTC bus passengers can be dropped off between bus stops at safe, accessible locations.
Rail safety incidents
Council voted in favour of my motion to ask staff to review and report on last August's train derailment at Dupont Street and Howland Avenue in the Annex area, with a focus on improving the City's communication with the public during derailments and similar incidents. My motion pointed out that while the derailment in August was contained without drastic effects, the incident created anxiety in the neighbourhood and was a sharp reminder of rail safety risks in the city.
Budget 2017 - update
The 2017 Budget process continues at City Hall. On January 12th, residents packed our joint town hall with Councillor Mike Layton at Scadding Court, to tell us that they want to build a City that is fair, and supports all its residents – and that this Budget doesn't do that.
We heard loud and clear that our communities want to work together to build a fairer city. We heard loud and clear that we must collectively shoulder the cost of supporting each other and building our city, and that costs for critical services like childcare, housing and transit, should not continue to increase while shared costs go down.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, a critical question for me during the Budget is if we are making our City, the lives of all our friends and neighbours, better. The proposed 2017 budget does not allow us to maintain the city and services we have, let alone the resources we need to invest to build a fair and equitable city.
Through the budget debates, we have been hearing a lot about cuts to city services - our struggling shelter and transit systems, and increases to child care and recreation fees. This Budget does not include the resources to support these services that we all rely on – but, it does include increased user fees for these and countless other services, making it harder for those who need them. The budget does not adequately address our city's affordable housing crisis, with nearly 100,000 families on the affordable housing waiting list, and a $2 billion backlog to fix crumbling TCHC units. This budget does not invest more in the repairs that are so drastically needed across the city, but continues to allocate billions to projects like the Gardiner Expressway rehabilitation and Scarborough subway.
Rather than increasing property taxes so that we all collectively pay less and share in building our city, fees are going up for families, children, and those who rely on our services.
The Budget now moves on to Executive Committee, and then City Council. Although some things have been put back into the budget, resources for our shelter system, long-term care homes, immunization for children, and countless others have not been. Fees for transit, childcare, recreation and other critical services are still slated to increase.
Over the next few weeks, you can still get involved to send a message on this Budget. Contact the Mayor's office to let Mayor Tory know what is critical for you and our communities, by emailing [email protected].
Toronto is a great city, there's no question about that. But, in order to build a city for the future, we need to invest – in people, services, and infrastructure – to truly makes things better. In this budget, help us do just that.
Bloor Block Plan - approved by Community Council
Working with City Planning, Heritage Preservation Services and Urban Design staff, and representatives from the Annex Residents' Association, Harbord Village Residents' Association, Huron-Sussex Residents' Organization and the 95 Prince Arthur Committee for Responsible Neighbourhood Development, we created the Bloor Block Study to clarify existing policy to protect Heritage views, establish clear maximum heights at the northeast and northwest corners of Spadina and Bloor, increase green space, and improve the public realm. You can read the report here.
I am proud to announce that after months of preparation and consultation with local stakeholders and the community, the Study was adopted unanimously this week by the Toronto and East York Community Council. The plan will be considered for final approval at City Council next week. Thank you to all our hard working residents groups, city staff, and all those who got involved in this important process.
Supporting 401 Richmond - update
Over the last number of weeks, my office has continued to work closely with 401 Richmond and City staff to address the recent MPAC property re-assessment, that threatens the creative and unique nature of 401 and its tenants. I sent a letter to MPAC, urging reconsideration of the re-assessment, with supporting materials from various departments at the City. Across divisions, the commitment to find a solution to this problem continues. At a recent meeting of the tenants of 401 Richmond, I heard just how serious the impact would be on their ability to not only remain in their current spaces, but to continue to operate altogether.
To fix this problem, we need the provincial government to work with municipalities to examine new ways of assessing heritage properties and non-profit arts and culture organizations. Next week, I will be introducing a motion at City Council asking the province to do just that. We need a solution that can address this growing problem for our critical non-profit arts and cultural organizations, but also the spaces in which they and countless other dynamic uses are now housed. At the recent tenant meeting, I heard loud and clear that the province needs to act – I am committed to continuing to advocate for them to do so.
However, many tenants at 401 cannot wait for the province to act. We are moving quickly in our work in exploring every potential option at the city level that could be a solution, in collaboration with Urbanspace at 401 Richmond. I will continue to provide updates on this work as we move forward.
To continue to show your support in advocating for a permanent and effective change to the Province's assessment rules so that 401 Richmond, and other buildings and incubator spaces like it, can heave reasonable, predictable tax assessments, contact your local MPP, the Minister of Finance, and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
Combatting our city's overdose crisis - Supervised Injection Services and more
Preventing overdose deaths should be a top public health priority for our City. Over the last 10 years, we have a seen a 77% increase in the number of deaths due to overdose – from 146 in 2004 to 258 in 2014. The numbers are staggering. Over the last number of weeks, we have also seen reports of the growing overdose crisis across our country, one that continues to grow in urgency in Toronto. Recently, I joined TVO's The Agenda to discuss the crisis, and how we are working together to fight it.
This past July, City Council stood united in response to this growing crisis, and voted to implement supervised injection services in our city. On December 1, Toronto formally submitted our exemption application to the Federal government for permission to operate supervised injection services in our city. We expect a favourable response from the Federal government, and are hopeful it will come quickly. We were very pleased to receive formal confirmation from the Provincial government on January 9 that they will fully fund the services at the three health centres in Toronto. We are now moving quickly to get the sites open as soon as possible – the sooner they are operational, the sooner more lives will be saved.
In December, the Board of Health also approved my motion to develop a Toronto Overdose Action Plan, to ensure we are working proactively to do everything we can to save the lives of our friends and neighbours. At the January 23rd Board of Health meeting, City staff brought forward an update that included an urgent request for resources to provide naloxone training and nursing staff to provide overdose support. The Board of Health unanimously supported those recommendations, and I look forward to the Mayor and City Council approving this request at City Council in February. Public consultations are now beginning on the full Overdose Action Plan (more information can be found below). The complete Plan will be brought forward to the Board of Health in March.
Overdose deaths are preventable, and now is the time to act. I look forward to continuing our work together to develop the Overdose Action Plan in our city.
Toronto Overdose Action Plan - public consultations
Toronto Public Health is developing an action plan to prevent and respond to the rising incidents of drug overdose occurring in our city. As part of this effort, the City is hosting four community consultations in the central, east, west and north regions of the city.
Come out to learn more about the draft Action Plan, and share your ideas about what the City and other governments can do to prevent and respond to drug overdoses in our community.
Monday January 30th 2017, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Metro Central YMCA
20 Grosvenor Street, Auditorium (2nd floor)
Tuesday January 31st 2017, 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
North York Memorial Community Hall
5110 Yonge Street, Concourse level, Burgundy Room B
Thursday February 2nd 2017, 3:00 – 5:30 p.m.
LAMP Community Health Centre
185 Fifth Street, Community Room (upstairs)
Monday February 13th 2017, 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Scarborough Civic Centre
150 Borough Drive, Committee Rooms 1 and 2
Public Health staff are also working to develop an online survey that will be part of the public input process.
Bloor Street Bike Lanes pilot project
The Bloor Street bike lanes pilot project continues into 2017 – and, was recently voted as the superhero of the year in 2016 by Torontoist readers! This is an opportunity for a new way of doing planning in our City – to implement a project, study it and collect real data to make sure we get it right. The project is being reviewed and analyzed for impacts on cyclists, but also on traffic, other road users, local business and the local neighbourhood. This work includes video traffic counts along Bloor Street, but also on adjacent major streets like Dupont and Harbord, and neighbourhood streets, to analyze the impact on surrounding conditions.
The City of Toronto survey to collect public feedback on the project is a critical piece of the evaluation. As this is a pilot project, we are able to make adjustments where needed – public feedback is a critical part of this process. In addition to the survey, the evaluation will include traffic counts, video monitoring, economic impact study and more. The city continues to work closely with many stakeholders to respond to questions and suggestions, and work together to build a project that works. We continue to implement a number of initiatives to analyze conditions in the area, including monitoring of intersections and certain safety concerns, improving signage, ensuring accessibility and reviewing signal timing and dedicated turn-lanes, as a result of conversations with community members since the project's installation.
Take a few minutes to complete the survey and let us know what you think of the project!
Guiding the future of Toronto Community Housing - Resident Advisory Group
Building and providing safe and affordable housing is a fundamental responsibility of our city. In July 2016, 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 residents. 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.
I was pleased that City Council passed my motion to ensure that we commit to providing the level of funding needed to improve and sustain TCHC, but also to ensure that the continued work towards accomplishing the above goals keeps the future of tenants, accountability, and equity at the heart of the process.
Residents must guide this process, and be involved every step of the way. To that end, the next steps also include establishing a Resident Advisory Group, made up of TCHC residents, to guide the development of the implementation plan. The City project team is now beginning the process to establish the 13-member panel. To learn how to apply, click here. Please also share this widely to all TCHC residents in your community.
"Ice Breakers" on Toronto's Waterfront
Five new interactive public art installations are breaking through Queens Quay West this winter! From Harbourfront Centre to the Toronto Music Garden, discover, explore, and engage with this new temporary art exhibit. Visit www.waterfrontbia.com/event/ice-breakers for full details.
Stay in touch with Trustee Malik
Sign-up to Trustee Ausma Malik's e-newsletter for regular updates from her: http://eepurl.com/9xckn.
321 Davenport Road - Re-zoning application
Date: Monday, February 6, 2017
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Park-Hyatt Hotel (4 Avenue Road)
Join me and City Planning staff to discuss a development proposal for 321 Davenport Road. The proposal is for an 8-storey apartment building with 21 residential units and 31 parking spaces in a 2-storey underground garage. For more information, please see the meeting notice here.
Kensington Market Heritage Conservation District - Public Meeting
Date: Thursday, February 9, 2017
Time: Open House - 6:30pm; Presentation - 7pm
Location: St. Stephen's Community House (91 Bellevue Avenue)
Heritage staff and the HCD Study consultants are holding a public meeting to discuss their findings and hear community feedback. Join us to hear about their recommendations and provide your comments. For more information, please see the meeting notice here.
January 28, 2017
Chinatown BIA Chinese New Year Celebration (12pm-1pm)
Dragon City Mall, 280 Spadina Ave
Join me and the Chinatown BIA for a Chinese New Year celebration! Find out more on their website here.
January 29, 2017
Kensington Chinese New Year Celebration (2-6pm)
Lola (40 Kensington Avenue)
Ring in Chinese New Year with the Kensington Market community! There will be a potluck, karaoke, and games for all -- for more information, see the event flyer here.
February 4, 2017
University Settlement Lunar New Year Celebration (11am-1:30pm)
University Settlement (23 Grange Road)
University Settlement invites you to their 2017 Lunar New Year Celebration. Join us for dragon dances, a seniors performance, and more! More details here.
A reminder that I hold constituency hours every Friday at the Scadding Court Community Centre (707 Dundas St. West).
Please call 416-392-4044 or email [email protected] for an appointment.