Toronto city council will conclude its first meeting of the new four-year term on Thursday by debating motions on a variety of topics, such as opting in or out of allowing retail cannabis stores and appointing council members to boards and committees.
Should private cannabis stores be allowed to operate in Toronto?
A major topic up for consideration will be whether or not council wants Toronto to opt out of allowing retail cannabis locations in the city.
In a report, municipal staff recommended permitting privately run businesses to operate under a provincial licensing regime. The report said it would crack down on the illegal market and would reduce marijuana access by youth.
Under the provincial legislation, municipalities have a one-time opt-out deadline of Jan. 22. Stores will be allowed to open as soon as April 1. Regulations would allow stand-alone stores to be open any day between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., but the businesses must be at least 150 metres away from schools and restrict entry to anyone under the age of 19.
The only current legal way of getting recreational marijuana in the province is online through the government-run retailer Ontario Cannabis Store.
Approximately $40 million will be given to local governments across the province over two years to help with costs associated with the legalization of marijuana. The funding will be distributed in two rounds. Staff said the city would receive more than $3 million in the first round.
On Wednesday, Mayor John Tory said he wants Toronto to allow the businesses to operate. He also said he will be calling for more powers to govern the number of stores as well as their location.
“I will vote for opting in tomorrow because I believe that rather than leaving the retail supply of marijuana in the hands of people who are doing it illegally, that we’re better off to have a regulated approach,” he said.
Coun. Mike Colle (Ward 8 Eglinton-Lawrence) said he is in favour of opting out — for now.
“If we opt in, it’s forever so if you opt out, you could opt in at a later date. I think what we should do is say: ‘Listen, we’re not going to be part of this unless you give us some local control,’” he said.
Colle, who was elected to city council in October, said he heard “real apprehension” about the issue from residents throughout the campaign. He also called for increased, sustainable funding to address ongoing enforcement and other related costs.
“We just need some say of the number and where they go. In a city of three million people, we need to have some say in this because it’s a big change,” he said.
“The money being offered is really a pittance considering what the staffing costs are going to be to serve the people.”
Coun. Jim Karygiannis (Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt) said in a statement on Tuesday that he’s going to ask council to back his request for the ability of individual wards to be exempt from opting in.
UPDATE: In a 20-to-four vote, Toronto council voted to opt in and allow retail cannabis stores in the city.
Accelerating Vision Zero road safety initiatives
Amid ongoing concerns about pedestrian and cycling safety as well as traffic-related deaths this year, Coun. Jaye Robinson (Ward 15 Don Valley West) is calling for more money in 2019 to accelerate portions of the City of Toronto’s Vision Zero plan.
In addition to other proposals, her motions call for the installation of all remaining school safety zones by the end of next year as well as potential improvements to the school crossing guard program.
Critics have argued that the city’s plan, which aims to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths to zero by 2021, needs to be improved.
Robinson is also asking for council to endorse a NDP MPP’s bill calling for increased penalties for those involved in collisions where pedestrians or cyclists are seriously injured or killed.
According to the most recent Toronto police statistics, there have been 62 fatal collisions in Toronto this year.
UPDATE: Council approved the motions.
Guideline for talks on Ontario government’s plan to upload subway system
As the Ontario government continues to look at uploading the TTC’s subway system, staff are looking for direction from council on guidelines for talks.
“As two orders of government, the city and province need to establish a clear and transparent process for evaluating what is in the best interest of transit riders and how best to provide mobility options to the communities both parties have a responsibility to serve,” the report said.
“There are elements of the province’s proposal to date that require further clarification and development, an assessment of risks and opportunities and sharing of key information to allow for informed decision-making.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford campaigned during the provincial election on uploading the subway as a part of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario’s plans for transit and transportation.
UPDATE: Council reaffirmed its support for keeping the TTC owned by the City of Toronto and agreed to engage in discussions with the province.
Extending the King Street pilot project
Staff are asking for permission to extend the King Street pilot project until July 31 in order to have “sufficient time” to review the findings presented by staff before council’s summer recess.
The pilot project area, which runs along King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis streets, launched in November 2017 and was supposed to end by Dec. 31. The corridor prioritizes transit by making it local traffic access only. Vehicles are restricted from turning left and only right-turn “loops” are allowed. East-west through traffic isn’t allowed at key intersections.
Recent data has shown an increase in ridership and streetcar reliability along the 504 King streetcar line through the corridor, but several business owners have complained about a decline in customer spending due to vehicle restrictions.
UPDATE: Council approved the extension.
11 sites recommended for affordable housing
Tory will be recommending the use of 11 city-owned sites near major transit corridors for affordable mixed-income and mixed-use developments.
Staff will be asked to report back in January on how to expedite Tory’s “Housing Now” initiative. Proponents will be encouraged to include a mix of affording ownership and rental units.
UPDATE: Council approved the motion.
Confirming deputy mayors and council appointments
As the smaller, 26-ward council settles into the new term, members will now vote to confirm a slate of recommended appointments to agencies, boards and committees.
Here are several key postings announced on Wednesday:
– Denzil Minnan-Wong to continue serving as statutory deputy mayor
– Ana Bailão to continue serving as deputy mayor, will now chair the planning and housing standing committee
– Stephen Holyday to continue serving as deputy mayor, will now chair special committee on governance
– Michael Thompson appointed deputy mayor, will now chair economic and community development standing committee
– Paul Ainslie to chair general government and licensing standing committee
– James Pasternak to chair infrastructure and environment standing committee
– Gary Crawford to continue chairing budget committee
– Jaye Robinson to chair Toronto Transit Commission
– Michael Ford and Frances Nunziata to serve on Toronto Police Services Board with John Tory
UPDATE: Council approved the report with minor changes.