Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Toronto City Council Scorecard: plastic bag fees, police board appointments & garbage budgets in the year-end spectacular

By: Metro Canada Published on Fri Dec 28 2012

Twelve months. Fourteen meetings. Thousands of agenda items. Forty-four councillors. One mayor. Way too many incidents where I wanted to smash my head into my desk.

Another year of Toronto City Council has come to a close.

In the final edition of the Toronto City Council Scorecard for 2012, I've added up the results from four major votes from the three-day meeting that took place between November 27 and November 29. Included are a couple of items related to the ever-interesting Solid Waste budget, an item having to do with the interminable plastic bag saga and a very close vote in which council decided to make the notoriously cranky (and thrifty) budget chief a member of the Police Services Board.

Click for bigger!

The votes added, from left-to-right:

EX25.10 was the item that approved the solid waste budget for 2013. This budget is considered entirely separate from the operating and capital budgets, because garbage collection is fully funded through user fees. That's one of those points to keep in mind when Mayor Rob Ford suggests that his efforts to contract out waste collection have greatly impacted the city's financial position.

Anyway, I've included two motions here. The first, by Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon, attempted to reverse a planned freeze on user fees you pay for trash pick-up in 2013. The argument, basically, is that the city would be better served in its efforts to meet its waste diversion targets if council approved an increase in line with inflation. The Ford administration opposed the idea. McMahon's motion failed, and a freeze was approved, on a close 22-19 vote.

The second motion relating to the Solid Waste budget, from left-leaning Coun. Pam McConnell, was a bid to halt a movement that would see the city start charging churches, charities and not-for-profit organizations for solid waste pick-up. This has been a contentious issue for quite some time. McConnell's motion doesn't reverse the city's policy that it will start charging such organizations, instead only asking that the city hold off on collecting the fees for now. It passed 23-18.

PW19.1 was the item that finally — maybe — put an end to our year-long civic nightmare surrounding plastic bags at grocery stores and whether they should be free or cost a nickel or perhaps be banned altogether. That council has spent so much time talking about plastic bags this year is embarrassing. The vote I've included is procedurally complicated, but here are the cliff notes.

  • City legal staff indicated that council shouldn't implement its earlier decision to ban plastic bags in Toronto. The legal report on the issue is confidential, but the odds are councillors were told the risk of a lawsuit was too great.
  • Council complied with the legal opinion, because they pretty much had to.
  • Coun. Gord Perks then attempted to move a motion that would reinstate the old five-cent fee for plastic bags.
  • Council Speaker Frances Nunziata ruled his motion out of order, arguing that council had already made its decision on the bag fee last spring.
  • Perks challenged that ruling.

The vote to uphold the chair is the vote you see above. Councillors opted to not debate the notion of reinstating the nickel fee after a 22-20 vote. Interestingly, the three councillors who were absent for the vote — two left-leaners and a centrist — might have made for a different outcome. I'd bet we'll see another conversation about a mandatory fee for plastic bags soon enough.

Last, ST8.1 was the item that included a bunch of mid-term appointments to various committees and boards across the city. Most of the appointments went through without debate, but an attempt to put Coun. Mike Del Grande on the Police Services Board (replacing Coun. Chin Lee) provoked a close vote. The budget chief was appointed by the skin of his teeth after a tie. (A notable vote against his appointment? Coun. Karen Stintz.)

Coun. Josh Matlow finally — finally! — falls below 30 per cent on his total Ford Nation percentage. That means, by my numbers, that the proudly even-handed councillor from St. Paul's can't lay claim to being a member of council's middle.

Aside from that, however, this was one of the better council meetings for Ford and co. They won three of the four major votes, and staff in the mayor's office seem to have effectively wrangled renewed support from certain councillors.

After a year mostly filled with political losses, Ford managed to eke out a few important wins at the end. Up next: the 2013 budget.

Number of identified major council votes in 2012: 22 (versus 34 in 2011)

Percentage of major votes won by the Ford administration in 2012: 31.8 per cent (versus 70.6 per cent in 2011)

Number of councillors who voted with Ford on every major item in 2012: Six (same as 2011)

Number of councillors who voted against Ford on every major item in 2012: 12 (versus zero in 2011)

Biggest drop in Ford Nation Percentage, 2011 vs. 2012

Chin Lee: -35 points

Ron Moeser: -32 points

Gloria Lindsay Luby -28 points

Mary-Margaret McMahon: -26 points

John Parker, Karen Stintz, Raymond Cho & Josh Colle: -25 points

Biggest gain in Ford Nation Percentage, 2011 vs. 2012

Giorgio Mammoliti, Frances Nunziata & Frank Di Giorgio: +3 points

Michael Thompson: +2 points

Pam McConnell: +1 point (From 4.7% in 2011 to 5.7% in 2012.)

This post was originally published at on 2012-12-28T00:00:00.000Z

About the author

Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
Website / Twitter / Email Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott


Follow Me on Twitter

Recent Posts

Recent Comments