Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

City Council Scorecard: Predicting the result of next week’s Gardiner debate

By: Metro Canada Published on Fri Jun 05 2015

That was the weird, overlong session with a bizarre interlude where Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti noisily pretended to be a raccoon in order to test the city’s new green bin design.

Aside from that, there wasn’t much of note. I added three votes: on taxi license reform, the loosening of food truck restrictions, and the new green bins. All of them were easy victories for Mayor John Tory. You can view the updated scorecard in Google Docs here, or download it as a PDF or PNG.

Council’s next big vote will come on Wednesday, when they debate the future of the Gardiner Expressway East. Based on public statements, their voting histories and some shadowy inside sources, I’ve been keeping a running tally of councillor positions on the issue.

Here’s how the vote projection looks right now.

You can view this projection as a PDF with source notes.

I won’t sugarcoat things. Right now, I expect council will narrowly vote to support the so-called “hybrid” design for the Gardiner east of Jarvis, which would keep the elevated expressway as it is with some modifications to the ramps.

With 19 members of council — including the mayor — leaning toward supporting that option, just four of the nine “unknown” votes need to shift to that side to ensure victory for Tory.

It looks doable. Though he’s said little up to this point, colleagues expect Coun. Raymond Cho to support maintaining the elevated Gardiner-DVP link. Rookie Coun. Jon Burnside has done a significant amount of research, but has said recently that he’s “leaning heavily” toward the hybrid. Coun. John Campbell seems legitimately on the fence, but his voting history indicates he’s more likely to vote with the mayor. And Scarborough’s Coun. Jim Karygiannis has published a constituent survey that seems to hint at a hybrid vote.

Those four votes would bring the hybrid side to 23 — an absolute majority.

But it’s not over yet. This issue is still very much in the spotlight. Over the past week, a gaggle of experts and very important people have weighed in, with virtually all of them favouring the option that would see the east Gardiner replaced with a boulevard. I’d expect that to continue right up until the vote.

The shape of the council meeting itself will also play a significant role in the outcome.

For example, how many councillors will be able to attend? If there are absences, the threshold for victory is lower. Will Coun. Rob Ford, fresh off serious surgery, show up?

Another question: will there be an effort to delay this decision? City staff have warned that a long delay would be unwise — because of, you know, falling concrete — but the notion of deferring the decision until after council’s summer break to allow for more consultation might gain some traction.

Then there’s all the technical stuff that could play a big role. Which councillor will motion in favour of their preferred option first? The order of votes will matter. Will someone — like Ford, if he’s well enough to attend — also present a motion for a third option, to leave the Gardiner as it is with no modifications at all? If so, will that option cause some of the councillors I’ve projected as hybrid supporters to change their votes?

Perhaps most importantly, if this does go down as a narrow victory for Tory, what about the aftermath? Issues of this scale — especially if they’re decided by a narrow vote — tend to have a way of coming back to council.

And for Tory, there’s the political ramifications. He ran for mayor with big talk about “One Toronto” — bringing the city together and repairing the ideological and geographic rifts of the Ford years.

Instead, he faces a divided council and a divided public. Whether he wins or loses next week, this isn’t what the mayor promised.

This post was originally published at on 2015-06-05T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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