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Centrist councillors wary of trash proposal - National Post

April 28, 2011
Natalie Alcoba
National Post

A number of centrist councillors have reservations about the current proposal to contract out trash pickup west of Yonge Street, which could complicate things for Mayor Rob Ford when he seeks approval at next month’s council meeting.

As expected, the public works and infrastructure committee voted on Tuesday to press ahead with a plan to privatize curb-side collection, along with pickup in parks and more sidewalk vacuuming services, a move that would eliminate 300 city jobs and save $8-million a year.

The union is mounting a public relations campaign that includes distributing pamphlets portraying the benefits of public waste collection in an effort to get the public on its side — and sway centrist councillors to vote in its favour.

Several councillors interviewed by the National Post remain undecided on the contentious issue; they’re not opposed to the idea of contracting out, but they have questions about the process. Chief among them a recommendation to delegate authority to award the winning contract to a bid committee, instead of city council.

Staff argue that doing so will speed up the process and allow the city to see more savings. If approved, council would not see the terms and conditions drafted by staff in the city’s requests for quotation prior to their issuance, according to a city spokeswoman. The lowest bid that meets all the requirements will be awarded the contract.

“Normally, councillors do not see the terms of a contract for approval because council or committee has already approved the recommendations forming the basis of the tender and required services and delegated authority to city staff to prepare, negotiate and secure the necessary contracts,” Pat Barrett, a city spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

Councillor Ana Bailao (Davenport) says Toronto has to look at “different ways of doing things” to attack its deficit, but she would still want to know the terms of a garbage pick up contract, so she can make sure it follows the fair wage policy.

“There are certain decisions that when you hit a financial threshold, council has to play a meaningful role in that decision-making process,” said Councillor Josh Colle, Eglinton-Lawrence.

For Beaches-East York Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, who calls herself the “the eco-witch of the east,” it’s about waste diversion. She was rattled by a 2009 incident reported by the Toronto Environmental Alliance that saw York Region send 4,000 tonnes of blue bin materials to landfill because of problems with a private contractor.

“I can tell you that I need to be convinced that it would be a financially responsible move and it would see the savings that staff are suggesting,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who represents the midtown ward of St. Paul’s.

“We’re hearing the different ideological perspectives but we’re all trying to get to the root of the question, which is are we moving in the direction of privatization because of remaining angst of the strike or is it a fiscally prudent decision that will support quality service or is it a bit of both?”

Scarborough Southwest Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, a member of the Mayor’s executive who has occasionally broken ranks at council, is planning to side with him on this one.

“This really is not a big deal, other than saving the money, which is a big deal,” said Councillor Peter Milczyn, also an executive member, noting that Etobicoke already contracts out pick up, and the city uses private collectors to haul trash out of virtually all high rise buildings. “For some people it’s an ideological thing. It’s not for me. Why should we spend more money to have our garbage picked up?”

As originally published here: http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/04/28/centrist-councillors-wary-of-trash-proposal/

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