Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

For the first time in four years, things are looking up at Toronto city hall

By: Metro Published on Mon Jan 12 2015

It may have been bitterly cold outside, but last week I actually felt warm feelings toward city hall.

That sounds weird, I know. I’m still struggling with it. I’m way more accustomed to criticizing local government than I am to praising it. But after four Ford-filled years, it’s important to note that — for a week at least — there was mostly good news coming from Toronto’s municipal government under new mayor John Tory.

Let’s recap. It started last Monday, as Tory actually followed through on a promise as police started towing delivery trucks and other vehicles parked in no-stopping zones.

Later, Tory’s public works chairwoman Jaye Robinson made it clear that this government won’t just barrel through and contract out garbage collection east of Yonge Street without first getting the facts.

Soon after, police chief Bill Blair announced he was suspending police carding, a practice tied to the absurd notion that the police should totally be able to stop anyone on the street and ask if they’ve committed any crimes. Last month, Tory called carding “corrosive.”

And finally, as the temperature fell further and demands came in from anti-poverty advocates to open warming centres for the city’s homeless, Tory’s office acted quickly to open more shelter space. The mayor even talked up the need to invest in better shelter services and better mental health care.

A guy could get used to this kind of government. But that’s not to say everything’s perfect.

I’m skeptical, for instance, that Tory’s stepped-up traffic enforcement will do much to fix congestion over the long term. Nothing will ever make driving in Toronto easy or fun, which is why we need to heavily invest in alternatives. And hey, maybe these enforcement measures should come up with better supports to help businesses find workable alternatives for deliveries.

And while Blair’s decision to suspend carding is welcome news at the surface level, there’s a worrying lack of details. I’d like to see a transparent commitment that police will put an end to stopping people on the street without cause — and the profiling that comes with it.

Then there’s the issue of shelters. While I’ll laud Tory for his response to the cold weather — when confronted with a cold snap in 2013, his predecessor said the city had “more than enough” shelter beds — the simple truth is this: a homeless person still died last week after spending a night huddled in a city transit shelter. That’s unacceptable in a city as rich as Toronto.

We can do better — a lot better.

Still, it’s worth acknowledging that for the first time in four years, doing better at least seems possible. There’s still a long way to go, but at least I’m not dreading the trip.

This post was originally published at on 2015-01-12T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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