Council Highlights is an informal summary of a selection of the decisions that Toronto City Council made at its recent business meeting.
Plan for SmartTrack stations
Council approved a financial commitment as the City of Toronto’s share of funding for the construction of six SmartTrack transit stations along GO Transit rail lines in Toronto. The City’s funding commitment is based on a detailed financial strategy and Council has set terms and conditions for the agreement with Metrolinx. The planned six SmartTrack stations are identified as St. Clair-Old Weston, King-Liberty, East Harbour, Gerrard-Carlaw, Lawrence-Kennedy and Finch-Kennedy stations.
Expanded gaming at Woodbine Racetrack
Council supported moving ahead with plans for expanded gaming at Woodbine Racetrack, subject to the execution of a Community Benefits Agreement. Council made the decision after considering a report on the social and economic conditions, including local employment, which Council had identified earlier as a requirement. Adoption of this item included motions addressing matters such as the provision of child care, the sharing of gaming revenues, the participation of local area labour and the provision of funding to support educational efforts pertaining to gambling addiction.
Changes to City incentive program
Council voted to direct staff to prepare a new Community Improvement Plan bylaw for the City’s existing Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology Program. This new Community Improvement Plan bylaw will provide greater clarity for applicants and provide new eligibility requirements and conditions. The program provides incentives in the form of grants to support the new construction or major renovation of buildings in targeted employment sectors.
Development charges bylaw
Council approved a revised bylaw on development charges and a related background study. The action was taken after the City consulted extensively with the public as well as with the building industry and other stakeholders. Development charges play an important role in how the City pays for infrastructure and services needed to support new growth. Council also asked for a report on the feasibility of reducing development charges outside the downtown and midtown areas.
Innovation in municipal government
Council supported taking steps for the City’s adoption of a model known as Civic Hall Toronto as a way to promote innovation through technology in Toronto’s local government. Civic Hall Toronto will supplement the efforts of the City’s existing Transformation Office and Civic Innovation Office, resulting in better public services. Many City divisions and agencies have indicated interest in becoming members of Civic Hall Toronto.
Smart City and digital literacy
Council agreed to ask the Ontario government to designate the last Thursday in May of each year “Provincial Digital Literacy Day” starting next year. Council also called for the inclusion of a digital infrastructure plan in the City’s work on Smart City. The federal government launched Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge last year to encourage communities across the country to come up with bold ideas that improve residents’ lives through innovation, data and technology.
Filling councillor vacancy
Council declared a vacancy in the office of Councillor, Ward 33 Don Valley East and will hold a special Council meeting on May 22 to fill the vacancy by appointment. The City has advertised a May 14 deadline for applicants to submit the required forms. Shelley Carroll, who resigned as the Ward 33 councillor, was also Council’s Deputy Speaker. A vote by City Council members made Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker the new Deputy Speaker.
Blue bin recycling
After discussing Toronto’s blue bin recycling program and related challenges, Council authorized staff to explore the possibility of introducing new or enhanced waste-diversion efforts that include ways to process contaminated recycling. In addition, the City will ask the federal government to establish a national strategy addressing plastic pollution, with regulations that include, for example, requiring that products and packaging can be recycled practically.
Pilot project on alternative dispute resolution
Council voted to establish a one-year pilot program starting June 1 supporting alternative dispute resolution as an additional tool to address certain property-related bylaw complaints arising from disputes between neighbours. The Municipal Licensing and Standards division’s initial focus for the pilot, drawing on community resources/expertise in mediation, will be disputes that involve noise, fences and right of entry.
Free-floating car sharing
Council approved plans to test free-floating car sharing in Toronto. An 18-month pilot project will apply interim operating rules. Car-sharing arrangements in which members begin and end their trips at the same location are well established in Toronto. The free-floating model, now becoming popular, enables car-share service members to take one-way trips, beginning at one location and terminating at another. Regulation is needed largely because of implications for on-street parking.
Additions to the cycling network
Council authorized the installation of bicycle lanes on Thorncliffe Park Drive, Gateway Boulevard, Grenoble Drive and Deauville Lane in the Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park neighbourhoods as part of Toronto’s overall cycling network. The installations will improve safety and mobility options for residents, including children and youth. The project will also provide better access to Leaside Park, E.T. Seton Park, the West Don River Trail and the Lower Don Trail.
Master plan for public art in Scarborough
The Scarborough Centre Public Art Master Plan was approved by Council as a guide for prioritizing public art sites, whether publicly or privately owned, to make the most of opportunities for public art in Scarborough Centre. It’s the first City-led public art master plan for Toronto. City planners will use the master plan to assist in identifying and pursuing opportunities for public art as part of the planning process.
Procedures of Local Appeal Body
Council voted to request procedural changes to improve the way the Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB) operates. The TLAB was established in 2017 to hear appeals of minor variances and consent applications in Toronto land-use planning matters.
Heat in apartment buildings
Council supported a proposal for addressing a situation that can arise when older apartment towers’ central air conditioning is off and the heat system on during spring or fall months, when the weather is normally cool. Spells of unseasonably hot weather in that circumstance can result in very hot apartment conditions for tenants when there is minimal building ventilation.
Review of City’s noise bylaw
Council directed staff to report to the Licensing and Standards Committee in 2019 on recommended changes to the City’s noise bylaw. Municipal Licensing and Standards staff who are working on the complex issue of managing urban noise will take into account work on a public health action plan addressing long-term exposure to ambient environmental noise. Meetings of a working group on noise and other consultations have provided input from a wide range of stakeholders as part of the review of the City’s current noise bylaw.
Dog waste in parks
Council supported a motion to ask staff to report on the feasibility of installing dog-waste containers in City parks and dog off-leash areas, including options for conducting a pilot project for the in-ground containers. Large amounts of dog waste currently end up in landfills and also contaminate bins of material intended for recycling. Several nearby cities have had success with the use of dog waste containers, delivering the waste collected to organic waste plants.
Toronto Botanical Garden’s master plan
Council authorized next steps in implementing a master plan with the goal of expanding Toronto Botanical Garden programming throughout Edwards Gardens. A fundraising initiative is part of the plan. The non-profit Toronto Botanical Garden operates on 1.8 hectares of land in Edwards Gardens, a 14-hectare City park in North York’s Lawrence Avenue and Leslie Street area. The Toronto Botanical Garden has a long history with the Edwards Gardens site.
Protection of pollinators
Council adopted a pollinator protection strategy for supporting native pollinators in Toronto, particularly native bee and butterfly species. The strategy aims to create and protect habitat that pollinators need to survive and thrive. Bees provide the invaluable service of pollination, enabling plants to reproduce. Pollinators are under increasing stress due to habitat loss, invasive species, diseases, pesticides and climate change.