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FORUM: Improving our service standards takes resources (July 2020)

July 18th, 2022 · No Comments

Layton argues we can do better as a city

By Mike Layton

Toronto residents love to spend time outdoors, and as a city, we want to encourage people to do so by ensuring our parks provide the services they need. 

As the city grows, and warm weather arrives earlier in the year, we have seen the use of our parks begin earlier as well. 

We need to update and winterize our facilities, build new washrooms, and work at a lightning pace to get our fountains and facilities operational as quickly as possible. Anything less is a failure of the city to meet the needs of residents.

Councillor Mike Layton

Unfortunately, current service levels simply do not meet the needs of Toronto residents. 

On recent weekends, where temperatures soared to record-breaking levels, residents did not have access to drinking water because our park fountains had not yet been turned on. 

Public washrooms, of which there are not enough to begin with, are also not open in many parks in early spring.

The lack of access to drinking water and washrooms limits the enjoyment of our parks and has a disproportionate effect on seniors and children, among other vulnerable populations. 

As with snow clearing, equitable access to these services is necessary to provide a better quality of life. We must provide spaces where people can use washrooms with dignity and drink water from our fountains: these are essential services.

As our facilities are susceptible to freeze-thaw cycles, they must be shut down each year and reactivated in the spring once warmer weather arrives. 

Many will need to be inspected and tested before being turned back on. 

This is a difficult task to complete quickly in a large city without sufficient staff resources.

During my time on council, I have tried multiple times to expand our service levels by increasing resources available through the budget cycle. 

Unfortunately, council has not supported my efforts to spend money on these vital services, instead choosing to keep the status quo.

We need to update and winterize our facilities, build new washrooms, and work at a lightning pace to get our fountains and facilities operational as quickly as possible. Anything less is a failure of the city to meet the needs of residents.

The mayor has now brought forward a motion to council which asks city staff to modernize park operations and procedures and conduct improvements earlier in the spring, but there are no additional funds to support this ask. 

The fact is that the problem cannot be solved by simply directing staff to work harder. 

Our parks staff work very hard but are stretched thin; if we are going to provide the level of service that residents are calling for, increased funding is required.

A motion I have added to the council agenda requests a staff report on service standards for park fountains and washrooms, including how much it costs to decommission and bring them back online each year. 

The motion will also determine the city’s total budget for this work and how many staff are assigned to its completion. 

This report will allow us to fully understand the challenges and costs of current service levels and provide us with more information as to what improved services levels would cost. 

I hope to immediately make this service improvement, and I will continue to push for more resources and improved service levels to ensure that our parks are meeting the needs of Toronto residents.

Mike Layton is city councillor for Ward 11, University-Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Opinion