The Week at Toronto City Hall #7
Drug decriminalization, vacant home tax, and the looming 2022 budget
On the agenda next week at Toronto City Hall: decriminalizing drug possession for personal use; the Rate Supported Budgets get sent off to Council; the Parliament Slip; the new Vacant Home Tax; and more. Plus, a notorious taxon debuts in this week’s Bug Report.
The Week at Toronto City Hall: Drug decrim, vacant home tax, the looming 2022 budget
MONDAY: 🩺 The Board of Health votes on whether to apply to Health Canada for a legal exemption that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs. The mayor, the police, and many local organizations are on board, with the caveat that we don’t know the exact details yet—which could change a lot. In their letters, the HIV Legal Network [PDF] and the Ontario Harm Reduction Network [PDF] both caution against making it a health or medical issue rather than one based on human rights; setting the limits too low; and not putting people who use drugs, particularly those who are most affected by drug laws, in leadership roles. See Jennifer Pagliaro’s Star story for more.
There will also be the regular COVID-19 update, although news about the omicron variant broke too soon to make it into the Medical Officer of Health’s report.
👉 The Civic Appointments Committee will appoint members of the public to the Toronto Investment Board, the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority, and the Aboriginal Affairs Advisory Committee (pending Council’s approval, of course).
📚 The Toronto Public Library Board continues to deal with the fallout from the TPL renting event space for a talk by a notorious anti-transgender activist. They may have the City Librarian report to the 2SLGBTQ Advisory Committee in the new year.
(A policy allowing the TPL to refuse room bookings for events that promote hate was introduced in 2017, after a notorious white nationalist booked a room for a memorial service for a lawyer known for representing white nationalists.)
TUESDAY: ✍️ Executive Committee votes on the 2022 Rate Supported Budgets (waste, water, and parking) before sending it off to City Council. They will also approve the 2022 interim budget—basically, a provisional measure so the City government can keep working until the actual budget is approved in February. Here’s where I’d throw in some nerd stuff about revenue and stuff, except COVID-19 has thrown everything off. These past couple of years are going to screw with everyone’s charts for decades to come.
We’re a step closer to implementing a Vacant Home Tax! At 1% of CVA (current value assessment), assuming 1% of homes are vacant, “the vacant home tax could yield $55 to $66 million in (gross) tax revenue per year.” But we won’t really know until the program is actually under way.
Municipal Licensing & Standards is planning to revamp business licensing and zoning for restaurants, bars, and clubs. The definitions have always been fuzzy and inconsistent. For example, where’s the line between a pool hall and a bar with some pool tables? What kind of zoning do you need for an establishment that is a restaurant during the day and turns into a bar with occasional club nights in the evening? And how do you crack down on rowdy bars (a perpetual councillor headache) while also supporting the live music scene? A final report is coming next year; stay tuned.
🛠️ The Toronto & East York Committee of Adjustment [PDF]: The Parliament Slip is, surprisingly, not a funky dance move invented by George Clinton. It’s the slice of harbour where Queen’s Quay East meets Parliament St., where Waterfront Toronto hopes to develop a “destination”. Plus, two laneway suites.
🚈 The Toronto Transit Commission gets the business case for the Bloor-Yonge Station expansion. Fun fact from the report [PDF]: “Total traffic is expected to increase by 67% from 507,900 daily trips in 2019 to 846,900 in 2056.” Also, what did we learn from implementing Automatic Train Control [PDF] on Line 1?
This week has some other juicy ones, though, like $5,724,679 for electric vehicle equipment and $100,437 for childminding services. (Updated to clarify the $5,724,679 is for electric vehicle equipment, not vehicles.)
THURSDAY: 🐼 At the Board of Management of the Toronto Zoo: the Zoo has only been open for the second half of 2021, but comparing the year’s revenue and attendance to last year’s, things are looking up. Also, the mandatory vaccination policy implemented in October didn’t affect the numbers.
🏢 Toronto Community Housing Board: Three years ago, an Ombudsman Toronto investigation found that TCH tenants applying for emergency transfers faced a years-long, opaque, and arbitrary process. As a result, TCH created a new category, Crisis priority transfers, for tenants in danger or witness to traumatic incidents. The Board will learn about how that’s been going [PDF].
🛠️ At the Etobicoke York Committee of Adjustment [PDF]: I’m at the drive-through restaurant/I’m at the weed store/I’m at the combination drive-through restaurant and weed store. (Okay, so they’re two separate establishments next door to each other. Sorry.)
FRIDAY: 🏗 The CreateTO HR Committee gets an update on, among other things, how the City’s real estate agency is responding to the 2020 Employee Engagement Survey. (A lot more DEI [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] stuff.)
THE WEEK AFTER NEXT: City Council meets to pass the Rate-Supported Budgets, right before taking a break for the holidays. Except for Bid Award Committee meetings, of course. The Bid Award Committee meetings must go on.
Nev’s Bug Report
Any seasoned city-dweller will be familiar with the dreaded German cockroach (Blatella germanica). But #NotAllCockroaches are pests! In Toronto, one species you might encounter in the “wild” is the dusky cockroach (Ectobius lapponicus). North America’s native Ectobius went extinct millions of years ago; this species was introduced from Europe about 35 years ago. It lives in low vegetation and leaf litter in human environments. This paper [PDF] notes: “Given that Ectobius lapponicus is not considered invasive (i.e., negative ecological consequences) in natural habitats, nor as a human pest, its introduction can be considered relatively benign.” Should you cross paths with one, simply mind your own business.
In Monday’s edition of City Hall Watcher: The start of a new month means a new edition of Lobbyist Watch — City Hall Watcher’s exhaustive summary of City Hall lobbying activity. You don’t get this kind of reporting anywhere else. This month: the Bingo industry can apparently afford to hire a whole platoon of lobbyists? And Toronto may get talking lamp posts? And a former councillor has returned to City Hall, this time as a lobbyist? That last one isn’t surprising, at least. Subscribe to get it all straight to your inbox.
— Matt Elliott
As ever, thank you so much for reading! Questions, suggestions, and corrections are always welcome. And if you want to support more work like this, subscribe with the button below.