Key City Council Issues
Toronto is one of the greatest cities in the world, but we are at a crossroads. Our city is becoming increasingly unaffordable and income inequality is widening faster than ever before. People, communities, and an entire generation are being squeezed out. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The decisions made at Toronto city hall can either take our city along a more progressive path or down a deepening divide. And now, more than ever, we need Toronto to stand strong in the face of conservative Premier Doug Ford.
In no particular order, what follows are 30 of some of the most pressing issues and possible solutions facing Toronto City Council in the new term.
City councillors must make sure the Child Care Growth Strategy is fully implemented.
Toronto remains one of the most expensive cities for child care, costing parents up to $107 a day, compared to $7 - $25 a day in other cities. With 95% of child care centres in Toronto with long waiting lists and over 14,000 children waiting for a child care subsidy, more high quality and affordable child care is needed. The council-approved Child Care Growth Strategy and Poverty Reduction Plan promise the addition of thousands of new licensed child care spaces and subsidized child care spaces to help meet growing demands, but the strategy remains largely unfunded.
City council must implement a stormwater charge that will fund stormwater reduction and flood proofing projects.
Recent flooding events have shown how important it is to reduce stormwater runoff and prevent flooding from more frequent and damaging storms. Climate change is increasing the intensity and severity of extreme weather events. We need to invest in infrastructure improvements to better manage stormwater and prevent flooding.
City council must do everything possible to defend overdose prevention sites and supervised injection sites in Toronto.
The number of overdose deaths has been rising at an alarming rate, with over 300 opioid-related deaths in Toronto in 2017 alone. Despite the high need for life-saving harm reduction services, Ford announced a decision to pause new overdose prevention site approvals, and review the merits of both supervised injection and overdose prevention sites. With this, Toronto needs to step up and play an important role in protecting and further supporting these sites so that we can continue to provide critical life-saving services.
City council needs to ensure that the anti-Black, racist practice of carding is fully banned in Toronto.
Carding is a discriminatory policing practice that disproportionately targets Black people. Although it has been widely reported that new provincial regulations ban the practice, in reality, the new rules support continued carding on the basis of race. In the past, Ford has stated that he feels that “certain carding is required”. We cannot allow the continuation of a police practice where Black and racialized Torontonians are being stopped, questioned, and personal data is being stored in government files that can negatively affect opportunities for employment or education in the future.
City council needs to fully fund and implement TransformTO.
Toronto city council has adopted TransformTO, a major climate change plan that will see Toronto reduce city-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 - but many of the plan’s key recommendations have not been implemented. Words are not enough - we need to move forward with our climate action goals. With Ford cancelling cap and trade, Toronto’s action is even more important.
City council needs to support arts organizations and increase accessibility to art programs across Toronto neighbourhoods including Etobicoke, Scarborough, and North York.
The arts contribute to the livability and economic health of Toronto. By supporting artists, arts organizations, and arts events we provide job opportunities for young people and strengthen communities.
Industrial polluters must be charged the full cost of treating the pollutants they release into Toronto sewers.
City council continues to vote to subsidize the clean up of wastewater pollution from big companies every year. In 2016, the city spent an estimated $1.6 million cleaning up pollution from these companies. Toronto's Auditor General has recommended that Toronto charge polluters the cost of cleaning up their pollution. It’s time for the public to stop paying to treat the polluted wastewater from private companies.
City council needs to advocate for the city to continue to own, operate, and maintain the Toronto subway system.
On May 2018, city council voted to tell Metrolinx that the city should continue to own and operate the Toronto subway system and it should not be taken over by the provincial government. A transfer to the province would hurt integration with bus and LRT routes, and shift the focus away from reducing congestion in Toronto to serving communities outside the city.
City council needs to pursue opportunities to develop new revenues to fund city services.
In order to continue to deliver strong public services and meet the needs of Toronto’s growing population, the city needs to diversify and strengthen our mix of revenue tools. We’ve become reliant on a precarious and fluctuating land transfer tax to balance our budget each year, suffer the consequences of years of property tax freezes, and we’ve cut off revenue sources like the vehicle registration tax that charged vehicle owners only $60 per year but generated $64 million per year for city services.
City council needs to oppose any attempts to privatize social housing units and instead vote to invest in repairs and maintenance.
As of September 2017, the cost of needed repairs to Toronto Community Housing units totalled $1.6 billion. With over 180,000 people on waiting lists for affordable housing, and many tenants living in unacceptable conditions, the last thing we need in Toronto is to lose more of our social housing stock due to lack of repair.
City council should not privatize waste collection in Toronto’s east end.
The city’s waste collection is divided into 4 districts. Waste collection west of Yonge, which represents half of the city’s districts, is privatized. This has resulted in reduced public accountability and oversight. The east-end of Toronto remains publicly delivered, but there are continued efforts by private lobbyists to get the city to privatize east-end waste collection. The city studied this option and recommended against further contracting out of waste collection.
Council needs to keep Toronto Hydro city-owned.
In 2016, it was reported that senior staff and advisors to Mayor John Tory and senior Toronto Hydro officials initiated analysis and research on the potential sale of the city’s stake in Hydro. A privatized Toronto Hydro means the loss of public control of our electricity and increased property taxes to cover the lost annual dividend that is paid to the city from Toronto Hydro.
The 10-minutes-or-better bus service network must be expanded to all routes across Toronto.
According to a 2018 poll, the main reason why people don’t use the TTC is because of long commute times. In June 2015, the TTC unveiled their “10-minute-or-better service” across only 11 streetcar routes and 37 bus routes. Now we need it across the entire network. Expanded service would mean shorter wait times and more reliable service for users.
Our public services (such as child care, recreation, and transit) must be protected and supported even if that means revenue from property taxes is needed.
The city’s main revenue source is property tax. The funds the city receives from property tax does not grow with inflation, the economy, or even higher property values. Yet, city council has to balance the budget in the face of rising costs every year. That means city council either increases property taxes, tries to find more savings, or cuts services. A 1% increase to property tax is roughly $25 annually for the average household. We support increases to property taxes when it is tied to maintaining and improving city services.
City councillors should get LRT projects built and running as soon as possible.
The provincial government and Metrolinx are building new Light Rail Transit (LRT) for Toronto, to be operated by the TTC. There are already LRT projects underway in Toronto, and they will deliver rapid and reliable service in underserved communities.
When private contracts expire, city council should request reports on the potential savings and benefits of the city delivering the service.
Many city services are currently contracted out. As those contracts expire, we have an opportunity to study whether it is in the city’s interest to bring them back in house as publicly delivered public services.
Council should accelerate the city’s Cycling Network Plan so it gets built by 2022.
Safe cycling infrastructure is necessary across the city. A minimum grid of cycling infrastructure on streets is required to encourage healthy transportation options and save lives. In June 2016, the city adopted a Cycling Network Plan that must be accelerated and built as soon possible.
City council must fulfill the commitments in the Urban Aboriginal Framework and fully implement the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Toronto needs to do its part to act on the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s report and take concrete action to combat anti-Indigenous racism and improve the lives of urban Indigenous people.
A default speed limit of 30km/h on all local residential streets within neighbourhoods must be implemented to save lives.
Despite Toronto’s Vision Zero commitment to reduce traffic-related injuries and deaths, our streets aren’t any safer for pedestrians. Studies have shown that if a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle that is driving at traffic speeds of 50 km/hr or higher, there is greater risk of the pedestrian being killed. Lower speeds save lives and lowering them on our local roads can go a long way.
Councillors must vote for the continued addition of permanent shelter beds to ensure spaces are available to people in need and that the city meets its 90% occupancy target.
Demand for services for those experiencing homelessness continues to rise. Today, close to 7,000 people use the shelter system compared to roughly 5,000 at this time last year. City council has set a shelter occupancy target of 90% so that when people are in need, there is a space for them. This target is not at all being met, shelters are full, and people are struggling to find a safe place to sleep at night. In May 2018, city council adopted the 2019 Shelter Infrastructure Plan to support the addition of 1,000 new permanent shelter beds by 2020 and the need for expansion will continue.
City Council must fully implement the city’s poverty reduction strategy — TOProsperity.
Toronto has one of the highest levels of child poverty among large Canadian cities, with one in four children living in poverty. We’ve also seen a rise in adult poverty, with one in five adults living below the poverty line. Hundreds of thousands are waiting for affordable housing, shelter spaces, child care spaces, child care subsidies, and recreation program spaces. That’s why in 2015, city council unanimously passed the city's poverty reduction strategy, TOProsperity, but many important elements of the plan have not been implemented, including improving access to child care, social housing, and recreation that would meet community needs. We need to address growing inequality and create pathways to prosperity.
Councillors should oppose the continued targeting and over-policing of communities, and instead direct anti-violence funding to necessary community services.
Toronto has been grappling with growing gun violence. So far, there have been over 300 shootings in 2018. In response to recent gun violence, Mayor John Tory announced a plan to hire 200 more police officers, with Police Chief Saunders stressing that these police officers will be in targeted locations across the city. In the face of gun violence, we cannot respond with over-policing and targeting communities; these tactics have been tried for decades, and they don't work. In other jurisdictions, investments in social programs and anti-poverty strategies have proven to be effective.
City council must support Pride Toronto’s annual funding.
In previous years, some members of city council have attempted to cut the annual grant that the city gives to Pride Toronto each year — a grant that supports their efforts to empower people with diverse sexual identities and expressions in the LGBTQ2SI+ communities.
City council should appoint qualified committee and board members that are diverse in gender, race, and geographic location.
The city appoints councillors and in some cases citizens to its Standing Committees and boards for institutions that deliver important public services, such as the Library Board and the Police Services Board. It is critical that these committees and boards reflect Toronto and include community members who have varied experiences when using public services.
City council should ensure that major construction, development, and infrastructure projects include community benefit agreements that create local jobs and training opportunities.
Community benefit agreements are an approach to securing investments and supports that address the needs of local residents, including training and jobs, as part of the construction of major infrastructure projects.
City council must ensure that Toronto remains a sanctuary city so that all residents will be able to access city services without fear.
In 2013, city council voted for Toronto to become Canada’s first sanctuary city — a city where non-status migrants can access city services from public health, police, child care, libraries, and more without fear of deportation. The city now calls this Access T.O. The city must continue to improve Access T.O. and become a city where public services can be accessed without fear.
Sidewalks must have the recommended 2.1 metre pedestrian clearway on arterial and collector roads to help create a more accessible Toronto.
Toronto’s crowded sidewalks make navigating the city a challenge for many. A recommended 2.1 metre minimum pedestrian clearway is specified in the council-approved Vibrant Streets Guidelines and in a number of council-approved by-laws. By increasing the minimum width of Toronto’s sidewalks, we would create a more accessible and safe public realm.
City council must make sure development is driven by community needs first.
Toronto is facing a housing crisis with skyrocketing rents, hundreds of thousands on waitlists for affordable housing, and thousands using homeless services. Meanwhile, the city is not doing enough to make sure new affordable housing is being built, leaving people squeezed out of Toronto. While our focus should be on the maintenance and expansion of TCHC, we need to make sure new private residential development includes affordable housing. The city now has the ability to use a tool called inclusionary zoning, which allows them to require developers to include affordable units in new developments. City council needs to use inclusionary zoning powers to ensure that new residential developments in Toronto include a high percentage of long term and deeply affordable units.
City council must keep librarians delivering our world class library services, so that when our libraries are open our librarians are there to serve.
Toronto Public Libraries and Toronto librarians are world class. We have one of the highest per capita visits and circulations in the world. Demand for more library hours and library service is high, but there are conservatives who think we can have libraries without librarians. This would mean that the library would be open but with only security cameras and security guards. Librarians are a fundamental part of our high quality library services in Toronto. They are part of our communities, they connect people to the information they need, and they help create welcoming public spaces.
Councillors and the mayor should work with other politicians and use their power to both vote in opposition and voice their opposition to Doug Ford’s attack on our city.
Premier Doug Ford is trying to run Toronto from Queen’s Park. Over the first few months of his term he has attacked our democracy. He has cut much-needed funding for critical services, such as overdose prevention sites, child care subsidies, social assistance, and programs for at-risk youth in Toronto. When he isn’t cutting our services, he’s trying to take them over - like his plans to upload the TTC to the province. We need our city councillors and mayor to stand up for Toronto and stand up to Doug Ford.