Home > Reportcard08 > 4. The Cost of Delay

4. The Cost of Delay

 

 

Toronto has vaulted itself to leadership status on climate change both in commitment and action. Mayor Miller now chairs the C40, an impressive group of municipal leaders from around the world who are stepping up to act on climate change, often in the face of their nation states’ inaction, by making aggressive strides in carbon reduction. This has put Toronto in both the national and international spotlight. Too often Toronto’s progress on environmental initiatives is slowed due to delays in policy development and program implementation. These delays threaten Toronto’s reputation as a world leader on climate change, as well as the tangible benefits that come from action, such as cleaner air and greener jobs for our local communities.

Record of Delays in Developing and Implementing Environmental Programs

A quick review of delays (past and present) clearly shows what is it at stake. We provide a more detailed review of key delayed programs and recommendations under Change is in the Air in Appendix A, which can be viewed in the full report.

Community Right to Know Bylaw

Toronto’s Community Right to Know (CRTK) Bylaw, which took nine years to develop, sits at the most extreme end of the delay spectrum. First recommended by Council in 2000 and then again in 2002, CRTK wallowed in the Chief Administrative Officer’s hands until taken over by the Toronto Board of Health in 2005. Development was further delayed under the Medical Officer of Health and his highly skilled Environmental Protection Office when reports showed up, months late, calling for more reports. A draft bylaw and program finally reached Council in late 2008. Council finally had the reports necessary to adopt the bylaw nine years after they first committed to it. The public will have to wait until 2011 to receive meaningful information about who is polluting in their neighbourhood.

A major part of the delay was due to a lack of effective coordination between various agencies to get the work done. Bureaucratic divisions between Toronto Public Health, a quasi-independent agency, and other departments involved in environmental matters made collaboration slow and difficult. Some staff simply did not believe the program was a good idea, regardless of Council’s decisions, and opposed its development.

Local Food Procurement Policy

On the other end of the spectrum is the Local Food Procurement Policy, which was delayed by 10 months. The City’s cost containment measures in the fall of 2007 led to reduced capacity to put this program together. Development also suffered from a lack of coordination between city departments that were going to have to implement the purchasing policy. Both resulted in a controversial report coming to Committee in May 2008 with vocal opposition from some staff. The report was deferred and a new report did not come back to the Council Committee until October 2008. As a result, Markham, not Toronto, became the first GTA municipality with a local food procurement policy.

** It is assumed that no meaningful implementation will be able to take place without budget allocation, which is unavailable until 2010.


Looking at the past gives us good reason for concern about current programs that are delayed. Almost one quarter (24%) of the Change is in the Air recommendations have been delayed by over six months and many by over a year (see Appendix A in the full report). Those dealing with Green Power Procurement and the Sustainable Energy Plan are the most worrisome. Both of these programs are essential to the City’s ability to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets. Key implementation reports for both of these programs are delayed by over a year.

Toronto is also falling behind on its commitment to a green economy. In July 2007, City Council adopted the Green Economic Sector Development Strategy Work Plan. The strategy recommended that the City create a Green Manufacturing Action Team and that it report in December 2007 on initial steps to revitalize Toronto’s manufacturing through green initiatives. That report never came and the team has not met in a year. The strategy also promised workforce development and training programs, energy retrofits for homes and buildings, local procurement policies, and assistance for small businesses. Some of these programs have been adopted in other forms by City Council, through Live Green Toronto and local food procurement. The 2008 Capital Budget committed $75,000 to the Green Economic Sector Development Strategy, but there has been no report as to how the funds have been used for implementation. Delay in implementing the strategy is largely due to lack of capacity and leadership in the Economic Development department, which has had very high turn over in its senior staff over the last two years.

Now that Toronto is among the world leaders on climate change, we can no longer accept delays that traditionally plague many City environmental initiatives. If we want to be, as Mayor Miller promises, the greenest city in North America, we need to set a new standard for getting work done. It is not just about keeping Toronto in the environmental winner's circle; it is about ensuring that Toronto can meet its stated long-term commitments to clean up our air, land and water, and make Toronto more prosperous in the process.

 

Identifying the Challenges and the Solutions of Delay 

We interviewed a number of stakeholders, both inside and outside City Hall, about why programs get delayed. Almost every one of them highlighted lack of coordination and collaboration between departments as the biggest cause of delay.

The Toronto Environmental Office (TEO) is mandated to coordinate development and implementation of environmental programs across the corporation and in the community. However, TEO regularly faces challenges in meeting this mandate, especially when programs involve departments and agencies outside the “cluster” of departments where the TEO is housed. Toronto's City departments and agencies are divided into three clusters or ‘silos’ that are managed independently by Deputy City Managers, who report to the City Manager.

TEO’s cluster includes most of the hard services such as water, waste, and transportation. However, economic development, parks, real estate management and fleet services function outside TEO’s cluster and manage significant environmental programs. Agencies such as Toronto Public Health, Toronto Hydro, Toronto Community Housing Corporation and the TTC are even more removed from the TEO and some stakeholders note that these agencies, which undertake significant environmental programming, have received few benefits from TEO’s coordinative role.

The Executive Environmental Team, a group of senior staff who meet monthly, was also established to increase collaboration and coordination at a senior management level. Most internal stakeholders we talked to felt that the EET was not realizing its potential. Although a useful space for reporting what each department is doing on environmental initiatives, the EET is under-utilized for the collaborative interdepartmental discussions and decision-making needed to implement City Council’s aggressive agenda.

Often noted in our interviews was the belief that some senior level bureaucrats have not adopted City Council’s passion for the environment. In other instances, some think capacity is an issue, as is clearly seen with Toronto’s economic development department and its delayed implementation of the Green Economic Development strategy. Most often, stakeholders thought that greater accountability within the corporation and to the public would help solve these challenges.