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FORUM: Turbulent time to take a seat (Jan. 2023)

January 24th, 2023 · No Comments

Governance, climate, and road safety goals emerge as priorities

By Dianne Saxe

Thank you all for selecting me as your city councillor. I would like to thank the Gleaner for inviting me to regularly update residents on what is happening in Ward 11 and at city council. 

The city government has only about nine per cent of the power and resources of the provincial and federal governments. What we do have is the largest and most visible impact on people’s daily lives. The task of being your councillor is endlessly challenging and fascinating, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Since commencing the new term on Nov. 15, the mayor and council have been hard at work coping with the onslaught of provincial changes to our city. Bills 3, 109, 23, and 39 have all created major upheavals and damage. In many cases, the full consequences are not yet known. 

On Nov. 24, council voted unanimously to oppose Bill 23 which will cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars a year and reduce our ability to protect liveability, affordability, and sustainability. In December, most councillors also voted to oppose Bill 39, the minority-rule, strong mayor powers that were not disclosed during the election campaign. Unfortunately, I was one of only nine councillors who voted to refer Bill 39 to executive committee; only that way would members of the public have had a chance to be heard about this massive change to our municipal government.

Despite this blizzard of changes, we made real progress on Dec. 14, the first council meeting where new business was permitted. After many years of failed efforts, this council passed a bylaw to authorize and regulate rooming houses across the entire city. This should lead to a significant increase in the availability of lower cost, single-room-occupancy dwellings across Toronto and compliance with fire codes, building codes, and similar tenant protections. This significant response to the housing crisis is long overdue. 

In another important vote, council directed staff to prepare a plan for significant intensification of housing across the city. I successfully amended this motion to include climate goals and other zoning changes that will promote 15-minute neighborhoods. These were key pieces of my campaign platform, and I am proud to see progress on them so soon. 

I have also been able to accelerate progress on road safety, especially for walkers and cyclists. For example:

City staff have begun updating the 311 app to make it more user-friendly for walkers and cyclists. 

Vision Zero improvements to several intersections are now scheduled for this summer. Others are already in place; for example, the intersection at Davenport and Dupont now includes a bike light and advance light for pedestrians. 

I have had multiple communications with Transportation about improving winter maintenance of bike lanes. Some improvements have occurred, for example, around Queens Park.

The TTC has agreed to my request that they preserve bike lanes across the Bloor-Yonge intersection while they construct their new subway platform. 

My first stand-alone member’s motion directed Transportation staff to report in March on how to improve cyclists’ safety when passing the many construction sites along the Bloor bike lanes. 

I am looking forward to sitting on the Infrastructure and Environment Committee, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Project Green, and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund board of directors. I am also pleased to chair the city’s Francophone Liaison Committee. 

The new strong mayor powers will mean significant changes to this year’s budget process. These changes include a more dominant role for the mayor, and less time for public input. The mayor will propose his budget on Jan. 10, and it must be approved no later than Feb. 14. I encourage everyone interested to submit comments in writing (by Jan. 18) or in person on Jan. 17. Please reach out to my office for any assistance.

December is a time of celebration and service for many. As a long-time volunteer in University-Rosedale, I would like to thank the organizations that hosted me last month, including Church of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields (and the wonderful Reverend Maggie), the Avenue Road Food Bank (Church of the Messiah), St. Peter’s Church’s Out of the Cold, the Fort York Food Bank, and the Scott Mission. 

With the whirlwind of provincial bills, plus some technical difficulties, we had a slow start answering some constituent emails. Please accept my apologies if we have been late in getting back to you, and please get back in touch at councillor_saxe@toronto.ca. My constituency staff are looking forward to assisting you. Sign up for updates or submit a comment at www.diannesaxe.ca. Our new website will be launched in January with a calendar, development updates, and contact information. 

Best wishes for the new year!

Dianne Saxe is city councillor for Ward 11, University-Rosedale.

Tags: Annex · Opinion

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