Mayor Chow: Overhaul of Toronto city services to begin within weeks

Mayor Olivia Chow told Global News in an exclusive interview a new process reviewing the delivery of city services will begin in a matter of weeks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Toronto’s oft-maligned system of reporting grievances throughout the city will soon be leveraged as a process focusing on improving city services and change will begin in a matter of weeks, Global News has learned in an exclusive interview with Mayor Olivia Chow.

When the mayor named her new heads of committees, she announced Coun. Stephen Holiday would be in charge of leveraging 311 data with the purpose of improving city services. In an interview at the mayor’s office on Wednesday, Chow revealed she would get the ball rolling on that process when her executive committee next meets in three weeks.

“I’ve long believed we have to deliver fast, responsive and effective services. I think there is room for improvement,” said Mayor Chow. She said the team Holyday will be heading up will be clearly saying they will deliver on improving city services.

Click to play video: 'Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow reveals executive committee'
Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow reveals executive committee

The target date comes as calls to better deliver core services are ramping up among council members amid talks of potential new revenue sources. Beaches-East York councillor Brad Bradford is among those who think residents aren’t getting what they expect from the city, regardless of how much they’re paying in taxes.

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“People start to lose confidence and frankly they’re frustrated at the level of service they’re receiving from the city. All of this is at the same time that the bureaucracy has grown 25 per cent, the budget has gone from $11 billion to $16.5 billion,” said Bradford. He said people aren’t seeing the improvements they’re paying for and the city needs to do better.

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While the review will be tapping into its 311 data, it may be required to look at the quality of 311 itself. The system of reporting complaints in the city is often at the centre of those calls.

Michael Finkelstein said he was told it could take up to 10 days for a bylaw officer to respond to his pressing health and safety complaint. Matthew Bingley/Global News

Michael Finkelstein told Global News on Wednesday his calls to 311 earlier this week, reporting that a neighbouring demolition site wasn’t following the necessary health and safety practices, yielded an unsatisfactory response.

Finkelstein said the contractors on the job site weren’t spraying down debris while an excavator knocked down an old house, resulting in massive plumes of dust, raising concerns over what was being spread with the dust.

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When he phoned 311, Finkelstein said he was told he could expect a visit from a bylaw officer up to 10 days later.

“It’s not at all acceptable. They have to have something put into effect where they prioritize health and safety issues and send inspectors there ASAP,” he said.

Finkelstein said contractors weren’t spraying a demolition site with water to keep dust down. Shortly after Global News arrived at the scene, workers began spraying the site. Matthew Bingley/Global News

Finkelstein said the mayor should look into a triage system to ensure health and safety matters are put to the top of the response list. Mayor Chow said when Holyday looks at the data coming in during his services review, Finkelstein’s idea should be considered.

“If I were him doing it, we will prioritize those that are health and safety, those that had to be responded to quite immediately,” she said.

Chow added that following a 311 call, residents deserve to know the outcome of their complaint much sooner.

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“It’s not that difficult to do, we just have to focus on it,” she said.

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