Councillor Josh Matlow

680 News: City Council approves garbage privatization plan

TORONTO, Ont. – Toronto City Council has approved a plan to privatize garbage collection west of Yonge Street.  The final vote was 32-13 in favour of the plan.

“Over 70 per cent of the people on council support it and it almost matches the 60 per cent of people in the city that want garbage privatized,” Rob Ford said. 

The plan would contract out the garbage pickup for 165,000 homes west of Yonge Street to the Etobicoke border.

Dozens of union supporters wearing bright orange t-shirts filled City Hall council chambers as councilors debated the issues of privatization.

Mayor Rob Ford promised to privatize garbage collection and needed a majority of councillors to agree. Ford said it was a matter of saving the public millions of dollars.

“Times are tough and we have to find every way to save money and deliver services more efficiently.”

There had been some heated exchanges between councilors before the debate, which then continued into council chambers, Tuesday.

Originally city managers would give final approval of the contract, but councillor Denzil Minnen Wong said it will now go back to council.

“We think the public wants this report to come back to council, so that’s what we’re doing,” Wong said.

“It’s not to be done behind closed doors. I think that’s good insurance policy and good for residents of this city, CUPE’s Mark Ferguson welcomes the move.

The debate focused on garage collection costs –  private vs. public – and how many jobs would be eliminated.

It’s estimated about 300 temporary jobs would be lost, but Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said they could reapply to the private sector.

“There are no permanent workers that will be out of jobs. The temporary ones, yes,” Holyday said. “But the temporary ones will also have an opportunity to get on with whichever company would win the contract.”

However, while some Toronto councillors are in favour for the change, others like Ward 31 Councillor Janet Davis is not.

“I’m not prepared to kick 300 garbage workers out the door for what is very questionable in terms of savings.”

Councillor Josh Matlow, Ward 22, said that two-thirds of Torontonians are in favour of garbage privatization, and although it did not guarantee an end to trash strikes, it made it less likely to happen than if it were under a public sector agreement.

Council did pass a motion requiring city staff to review all of private bids to ensure they’re cheaper than city collection, and Ferguson said that is a partial victory.

“Democracy has be upheld, and that is a win. We’re not afraid to put our numbers up against the private sector,” he said.

Meanwhile, a new Ipsos Reid poll showed Torontonians have given the green light to Toronto City Council to approve the recommendation to contract out all of the trash collection from the Etobicoke border to Yonge Street.

The poll, released Monday, found six in ten people “support” the recommendation.

That number is twice the proportion that “opposes” the recommendation.

Residents of Etobicoke were the largest supporters of the recommendation with 75 per cent, while 55 per cent were in support in downtown Toronto.

City council will debate the issue of contracting out trash collection on Tuesday.

It is estimated that the city would save $60-million if the plan is approved however union representatives say it will cost the city in the long run.

“We have consistently worked with the City of Toronto to collect garbage more efficiently and inexpensively,” CUPE local 416 president Mark Ferguson said in an online statement on May 4.

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