Council votes in favour of privatized garbage pickup
Web Staff, cp24.com
Published Tuesday, May 17, 2011 11:20PM EDT
TORONTO - City council voted in favour of privatizing garbage collection Tuesday evening.
By a 32-13 margin, council voted on an amended report to privatize waste collection for 165,00 homes in certain Toronto neighbourhoods.
Mayor Rob Ford, who campaigned on the idea of privatization saying it would result in millions of dollars in savings for the city, said he was happy with Tuesday night's vote.
"I'm glad that we're going to be saving over $60 million in the next four years," Ford said.
Councillors spent most of the morning debating a staff report from the public works and infrastructure committee that recommended the city immediately proceed with privatizing waste collection services west of Yonge Street to Etobicoke. The staff report suggested the issue not come back to council for final approval but councillors voted against that recommendation.
An Ipsos poll released Monday night ahead of the debate found 61 per cent of Toronto residents supported privatizing curbside garbage pickup west of Yonge Street.
The area is currently serviced by unionized public workers who said about 300 jobs are on the line if the city decided to proceed with private collection.
During Tuesday's meeting, Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said he didn't accept that many jobs will be lost. He told council that in fact, jobs would be created by the collector who is awarded the contract.
Minnan-Wong said the issue was mainly about customer service.
"The question is can we provide the same level of service so that we don't have the strike we had in 2009," he said referring to a public works strike that lasted more than a month. "The answer is yes. We are going to require the contractor provide continued service. Managers would have to get into the truck if there is some sort of labour dispute."
But the Toronto Environmental Alliance said the city was overestimating the savings that would come from privatization.
The TEA released its own report, titled Look Before You Leap, earlier this month. The report argued that privatizing garbage collection would only save $2 million annually, not the $7 million the city has promised.
The city said $1 million of that total would be spent on supervision and oversight of the new service, but the TEA claims the cost would actually be about $4.5 million or about 20 per cent of the contract's cost.
Members of the TEA wanted city council to reject the staff report and research the "true cost" of privatization.
Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE 416, said he also didn't believe the city's numbers. He said he wished the city had approached the union and asked them to try and find savings instead.
"We want a full debate on the facts, not decisions based on emotion," he said. "We believe that once the numbers come out, the true and verifiable ones, that city councillors will make the right decision and stick with city services."