The Barns Market Turns 10, Community Updates & Go Solar
Tomorrow is Remembrance Day, and Lest We Forget the significance of the occasion, the City hosts a number of civic ceremonies that are open to the public. You can attend Old City Hall at 10:45 am, or watch the live stream on the City’s Youtube page. Find out about other civic ceremony locations here.
In the spirit of peace, I want to congratulate my friend Setsuko Thurlow for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in nuclear disarmament. Setsuko is a long-time Toronto resident and survivor of the Hiroshima bombing and has spent her lifetime advocating against nuclear proliferation. She receives the award on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), alongside executive director Beatrice Fihn. City Council recognized and congratulated Setsuko on her receipt of the Prize.
More good news: Toronto is leading the way on food policy and programming, and we’re getting international recognition for it! Along with Medical Officer of Health Dr. de Villa, I had the great honour of accepting an award in Valencia, Spain from the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact. The award is for Toronto Public Health’s initiative, Community Works for Newcomer Settlement. The award comes with the responsibility to share our best practices with other municipalities around the globe.
Last Friday, the first piece of the City Budget was released at committee. The Rate-Supported Budget covers the three main fee-for-service items: water, garbage collection, and parking. The operating cost for these items accounts for about 14% of the City’s overall budget. User fees also go toward capital infrastructure construction and repair. Budget Committee approved the staff recommended rate increases of 5% for water and 1.9% for solid waste collection; parking will remain the same. You can read more about the budget here.
Homeowners will have noticed the water rate increasing relatively steeply over the last few years. This is because Toronto’s water infrastructure requires considerable investment and renewal to keep up with the demand. Much of our existing infrastructure is old and due for repair, like the 80-year-old St. Clair reservoir currently undergoing refurbishment. The increasing rate for waste collection will be felt more keenly by those who pay for larger bins. The City wants to encourage people to take better advantage of their green and blue bins, by having smaller bins.
City Council will vote on the Rate-Supported Budget during its December meeting. The tax-supported budget, which accounts for the balance of City operating and capital expenditures, will be launched on December 5 and Council will vote on February 12.
At Council this week, we received the final evaluation for the Bloor bike lanes pilot. This was one of the most documented transportation pilots undertaken in Toronto, and by the numbers, was a resounding success. Cyclist volume increased by 49%, customer spending increased by over 4%, and 78% of survey respondents said they biked more often because of the separated lanes. Council voted 36-6 in support of making the lanes permanent and investigating expansion along Bloor!
The agenda included a number of important items related to Community Development and Recreation Committee. Toronto now has a more robust three year Child Care Growth Strategy, with phase 1 in progress. The strategy aims for program growth, increased affordability, and a thriving workforce. City staff also provided an assessment of the impact of affordable child care from an economic and social perspective.
There have been some new realities to contend with in the realm of immigration and settlement. A recent staff report highlighted the challenges of keeping up with fluctuating trends in refugee shelter needs. 2017 has seen a spike in demand, particularly for refugee families, for which there are few suitable options, and Council voted to take a number of actions to ease that burden. At the beginning of the month, the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship released increased immigration targets for the next three years, for both economic migrants and asylum seekers.
This is a welcome change, and as I come to the end of my tenure as Newcomer Advocate, I am proud to see that we’ve been able to close the gap somewhat on access to services and a good life here in Canada. My colleague, Councillor Neethan Shan, has been appointed as one of the two Newcomer Advocates. Councillor Shan is absolutely the best person for the job, as he came to Canada as an unaccompanied minor seeking refuge and over a relatively short time has established himself as a community leader and equity activist.
Stay tuned next month for more on the City budget and ways you can get involved!
Councillor Joe Mihevc
Ward 21, St. Paul’s West