I believe it’s very important for Torontonians to know the work of City Council. This end of term report provides you information on the decisions and accomplishments that have been made by your municipal government.
Transit City is the most comprehensive undertaking ever to create new transit routes that will join the entire city with fast and efficient light rail transit (LRTs). For the first time in Toronto’s history, the new lines proposed for Eglinton, Sheppard and Finch will connect Scarborough to Etobicoke without having to route through the downtown. For the 50% of Torontonians who rely on transit, this upgrade will mean significantly reduced travel times.
The new cars for these lines will be fully accessible as will the new street cars that are being bought to service our downtown area. This means families with strollers, Torontonians with walkers and those in wheelchairs will have complete access to travel across the city. The new cars will be longer and carry more people, thereby eliminating the rush hour crush so often experienced on Queen in the morning.
There has been steady progress as Waterfront Toronto – the City’s partner in waterfront development – has opened exciting new public realm projects like Sugar Beach and the Wave Deck that have captured the imagination of residents and tourists. Waterfront, development has been moving steadily east with the new Corus Entertainment building, and the George Brown Campus plan for East BayFront.
The environmental assessment to determine whether the Gardiner will remain up or come down was initiated this term, and the plan for the Lower Donlands, which redesigns the mouth of the Don and brings it naturally into the harbour, was recently adopted.
Closer to home, the very popular Cherry Beach sports fields were constructed and with their natural turf, they’ve extended the soccer season by many weeks. The Leslie Street Greening project beautifies the gateway to the Leslie Street spit. The Toronto Regional Conservation Authority will construct a new visitor centre on the spit and a new bird banding station will also be part of the park infrastructure.
West Donlands site is under construction with a new park and the athletes’ village for the Pan Am games, which will revert to housing once the games are over. The long-abandoned Railway Lands across the foot of the city have been steadily developed. After many years, work has finally begun on Union Station – the transportation hub for GO and VIA – to refurbish this landmark, connect it to the waterfront and eventually connect it to Pearson Airport.
Your City Council tackled climate change in a big way with a Climate Change Plan for greenhouse gas reductions. A Severe Weather Plan to mitigate against complications affecting us from changing climate was prepared, as well as an Energy Plan based on conservation, demand reduction and renewables.
City Council passed an energy retrofit loan for homeowners and an energy efficiency program for low income households. Toronto Hydro remained in public hands and is a recognized energy leader in the field of conservation, demand reduction and renewable energy. And Mayor Miller was made Chair of the C40, a group of 40 key cities in the world that are committed to environmental stewardship.
Under the Live Green banner, City Council established neighbourhood projects involving all Torontonians and businesses in the challenge to reduce greenhouse gases. Great strides were made in revamping building permit systems to facilitate residential environment upgrades like solar installations. Green development standards were extended to apply to new parking lots, and City Council passed a new green roof bylaw for new large buildings.
A local food strategy is being established which features local farmers’ markets and the purchase of locally grown foods from the Greenbelt for City run institutions. And the city assumed ecological stewardship of the Don and Humber River Valleys for generations to come in a historic move that made them part of Ontario’s Provincial Greenbelt.
|City HallThis term brought the City of Toronto Act that recognizes Toronto as a major urban centre and gives the City some basic rights of governance. City Council created three accountability offices to oversee the work of Council and city staff. They are the Lobbyist Registar, the Integrity Commissioner and the Omsbudsman, all created with a view to making City Council and city business more transparent and accountable. Toronto is the first city in Canada to have these three offices.
311, the one-stop connection for City services to the public, was realized and the City put more key services online. Nathan Phillips Square revitalization was initiated and the new green roof on city hall was opened. City Council put a tax on utility companies who dig up and patch the streets. We increased the hours that libraries are open to the public, and set better regulations for billboards including a publicly mandated approval committee. A 5% tax on billboards was initiated with the revenue applied to building Toronto’s arts and culture plan.
In 2007, Toronto City Council approved one of the most aggressive lead pipe replacement programs in North America. Through this program, the City-owned portion of all lead pipes will be replaced over a nine-year period.
A beg bug strategy to contain and reduce the city's bedbug problem was developed. All City facilities and City agencies were made breast-feeding friendly. The number of off-leash areas for dogs were doubled, and the Bixi Bike Rentals – so popular in Montreal and Paris – were brought to Toronto. The City also won the right to be the host for the 2015 Pan Am Games, which will bring much-needed sports infrastructure to the city.
| HousingThis term, Council passed the HOT (Housing Opportunities for Toronto) plan. The most comprehensive housing strategy ever developed in the city, it is frequently cited by other cities as a model to emulate. Council continued to support the rejuvenation of Toronto Community Housing (TCH) sites including phase two of Regent Park, the redevelopment of Lawrence Heights at Lawrence and Bathurst, and the regeneration of Alexandra Park in downtown Toronto at Spadina and Dundas. Council also directed $75 million to TCH repairs and much-needed kitchen and bathroom replacement.
Ten pilot sites for a Tower Renewal program were selected. This is an innovative initiative that retrofits large apartment towers with cladding, new windows and other upgrades in order to achieve very significant green house gas reductions.
Council continued its strong support for supportive housing and affordable home ownership. Our innovative Street to Homes program, which moves people off the street and into homes to get them back on their feet, was recognized by other cities who requested seminars on the program by our city staff. A “landlord licensing” system – the MRAB -was approved and is in operation for multi residential buildings in order to bring standards up for tenants living in apartments. Council also made a commitment and followed through on the development of Aboriginal housing, including the transfer of 20 family homes to Wigwamen, an Aboriginal housing agency.
All of this has been accomplished in spite of the failure of senior levels of government to address serious issues of downloading and financial imbalance. The City of Toronto only receives seven cents of each tax dollar that you as a resident pay in taxes – all the rest goes to Queen’s Park or Ottawa. The massive costs of social services and transit still fall unfairly on property taxpayers, and I will continue to join with others in calling for a fair deal for our city.
Toronto is continually recognized as a city where people really want to live; it enjoys a tremendous international reputation. This is because it’s a safe city that thrives on diversity. Its strength is that it is based on successful, healthy neighbourhoods and an economic strategy that maintains and attracts business.
|Protecting EmploymentThrough a number of decisions, City Council put great focus on the long term economic health of the City of Toronto. The capital budget for 2009-10 was very consciously developed with an economic stimulus package to keep Toronto out of the depths of recession. This worked. Development charges were frozen in order to aid economic stimulation during the recession, and the commercial tax rate for small business fell steadily. Council fought to retain employment lands – including those on Eastern Avenue – from being consumed by large big box retail.
A policy of incremental financing, and tax increment financing was established to help anchor industries in key parts of the city such as the film district in order to attract development and employment. Council established Toronto Employment Services and two new major arms length corporations, Build Toronto and Invest Toronto. Build Toronto will unlock the value of property held by the City of Toronto and aid in economic development. Invest Toronto is aggressively seeking to draw industry and commerce to do business within the city’s borders.
There are many more accomplishments which can be listed, but I wanted to give you a succinct overview of accomplishments which will enhance the city for many years to come. I am very proud to have worked alongside the Mayor and my Council colleagues to continue building a city of which we can all feel extremely proud.