Pot shops, power shifts, and the potential provincial upload of the TTC

8:59 a.m. Dec. 14, 2018. A carousel is one of the amusements at the holiday fair at Nathan Phillips Square, running until Dec. 23.
8:59 a.m. Dec. 14, 2018. A carousel is one of the amusements at the holiday fair at Nathan Phillips Square, running until Dec. 23.

Weekend Newsbrief: Dec 16, 2018

What happened at city hall this week (special edition)

Legal pot shops set to open in Toronto in April… Black Lives Matter get pulled into debate

Toronto City Council voted to allow provincially-licensed pot shops in the city on Thursday, following decisions by the municipalities of Mississauga and Markham to opt out of the licensing system. Shortly after council’s decision — with impeccable timing — the provincial government released a statement saying only 25 licences will be issued for pot shops to open April 1, 2019.

During the council vote, Councillor Frances Nunziata spoke her mind about the pot shops that currently exist in her ward, and took a swipe at the group Black Lives Matter in the process. “I have a number of dispensaries in my ward, illegal, that I’ve had for a while, and we’ve tried to close them down, one in particular we have raided five times. I personally as well with the police raided – they’re charged – they go to court – they reopen – they’ve got signs on the front saying that proceeds go to Black Lives Matter – they’re urinating all over the streets…

In response, Desmond Cole tweeted, “Councillor @FrancesNunziata just suggested that Black Lives Matter receives profits from illegal dispensaries in Toronto[.] fellow councillors in the meeting didn’t object to this racist and unsubstantiated lie, the meeting is just continuing like nothing happened.” Councillor Gord Perks later made an attempt to get Nunziata to withdraw the comment, calling it unacceptable and that it “impunes an entire group“ and therefore not appropriate for council chambers. “I’m just commenting on what’s there,” Nunziata said, making clear she was referring to a sign on the window.

Analysis: Try substituting ‘Black Lives Matter’ with another group and see how it sounds.

Transit news

Council voted to extend the King St. pilot until July 2019, and decided to move forward with talks with the province about their intention to upload the TTC. The debate about the city’s transportation system was held in public, despite the confidential report by the city manager and city solicitor on the item. Mayor John Tory moved motions that support keeping ownership of the TTC but that authorize staff to “engage in discussions” with the province and report back “as necessary” while also paying a third-party to value the associated assets. The mayor’s motions also requested the province “to demonstrate clearly and with evidence the goals they believe can only be achieved through a change in subway ownership,” and prioritized building the relief line. There will also be an engagement process.

Analysis: In the debate, Tory said the best way deal with the provincial government’s idea to upload the subway is to sit down at the table, or else something drastic like the cutting of council seats could happen because the province has the power to do what it wants. Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong and Councillor Ana Bailão both suggested the outcome of the sale of the TTC isn’t known. Josh Matlow’s motion, which deleted the city manager’s recommendations to engage with the province, took more of a ‘hang back and wait until the province tells us what they actually want to do’ approach (this lost 3 – 22) while Tory’s was ‘let’s start talking now’ strategy (this vote was broken in 5 parts and won 23 – 2, 25 – 0, 24 – 1, 25 – 0 and 23 – 2). Only the future can tell how Tory’s leadership will turn out in this new fight against the province, but if one thing is clear from the past, the premier’s cutting of council shows — in the immortal words of Tom Waits — “He’s got the fire and the fury” to do what he wants.

Power shifts at city hall

New term of council, new councillors, and new committee leadership.

Like with any beginning of council, councillors put in their choices for what committees they want to sit on. The new smaller council means councillors will sit on fewer committees and boards, and there will be fewer committees that report right to city council.

The new structure will see an Economic and Community Development Committee chaired by Michael Thompson, a General Government and Licensing Committee chaired by Paul Ainslie, an Infrastructure and Environment Committee chaired by James Pasternak, and a Planning and Housing Committee chaired by Ana Bailão. The new committees are meant to be interim while a special governance committee, chaired by Stephen Holyday, considers the impacts of the reduced council size on city hall politics, policies and processes.

Michal Hay, executive director of Progress Toronto told Signal Toronto it’s a chance for “longer conversation about what we need to do to make sure that we have a fulsome democracy as a city.” (Read the story)

Analysis: Most councillors got their first or second choice for the committees however two didn’t get any of their choices. Read which two got the shaft, who was appointed to which board, and the new councillor rebel list i.e. who didn’t bother choosing the mayor’s executive committee in any of their choices. (For members)

In other news


This Newsbrief is by Arianne Robinson with contributions from Matt Elliott.