City Council Preview: September–October 2015

Photo by HiMY SYeD from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

In which we provide your cheat sheet for this month’s city council meeting, and let you know how you can follow along.

Today City Council returns from its summer break, and there’s a lot to cover on the agenda. Read about Toronto’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis; the taxi mess; the Gardiner mess; new shelter standards; and more.

Big-Ticket Items

  • Staff deliver a long-awaited report on taxis, limos, and Uber. Since coming to Toronto, Uber has been giving the taxi industry stiff competition. Taxi brokers hate it; many taxi drivers use it on the side; consumers love it; and the courts have left the decision in the City’s hands. The City is wary of some of UberX’s practices, which include: “surge pricing,” sidestepping insurance, flimsy screening procedures, and a lack of shared standards. To address these allegations and concerns, the City wants to create regulations to cover this new class of transportation.

    Accessibility for cabs and Uber is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, which, staff say, deserves its own report. In the meantime, they recommend issuing a bunch of the new taxi licenses, which require making vehicles accessible. This will be the mayor’s key item, which will make it the first item debated after the order paper is established.

    Related: Council Will Debate Uber in the Fall; Op-ed: The Uber Controversy and Dysfunctional Municipal Regulation

  • Hoo boy. The Province has launched its mandatory five-year review of key legislation regarding municipal government, including the Municipal Elections Act, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and the City of Toronto Act. It’s a good opportunity to consider and reshape the City’s governance structure to ensure it has the tools it needs. Some proposed amendments:

    • cutting ties with the much-maligned Ontario Municipal Board;
    • allowing the City to make affordable housing requirements for new developments;
    • letting the City create more kinds of taxes;
    • putting new limits on the vacant commercial property tax rebate

    Other possible changes, like term limits, ranked ballots, and new powers to enforce the MCIA, will be a tougher sell. Anyway, remember that this is just the beginning of a long process.

  • Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) has spearheaded the development of a resettlement strategy for Syrian refugees. Many municipal governments across the United States and Canada have already pledged to welcome and support refugees.

State of the Union