On Tuesday May 17th, City Council voted on the proposal to seek private contractors to collect waste in Toronto west of Yonge. Thanks in part to TEA members' calls and emails, Councillors voted with the environment in mind!
The vote was an important day for Toronto and the environment. Councillors voted to go ahead with seeking private bids for waste collection despite the significant information gaps. However, Councillors across the City overwhelmingly rejected efforts to rush the vote through, demanding better environmental standards and that the final decision be made by Council -- not by staff as had been proposed.
Through the long day of debate, discussion and questions to staff, Councillors repeatedly asked for more information about waste diversion rates, contract monitoring and enforcement to ensure our waste programs are not put at risk. Staff were unable to answer a number of questions, and a few Councillors commented on conflicting numbers from staff, TEA's report and a report by a forensic accountant.
A number of motions and amendments were made seeking further details, strict reporting and stricter environmental standards. Councillors from across the City agreed that waste diversion targets must be safeguarded and surpassed, and that Council must see annual reports on any contractor's performance, including on environmental standards. Sadly, some motions for better environmental standards failed, however overall this is a significant victory for the environment.
A number of motions were very close - four votes were defeated by a tie. To see the detailed motions and to see how your Councillor voted, see the City of Toronto website here.
TEA has been researching the issue, talking with our members, and meeting with community groups and Councillors to answer their questions about private contracts and waste diversion. Thanks to our members for your phone calls and emails to Councillors - your Council heard your environmental concerns and responded!
In the coming months, TEA will continue to research the impact of contracts on waste diversion and monitor Council decisions on the issue.