5 major developments at Toronto council this year

As Toronto council wraps up for the summer, here's a look at five of the most significant developments at city hall since the last year.
The transit debate centred around Mayor Rob Ford and TTC chair Karen Stintz was one of the more significant developments over the last several months. (CBC)

Toronto council held its last meeting of the summer in the second week of July, capping a busy few months.

With a lengthy layoff looming until council's next meeting on Oct. 2, here's a look at five of the most significant developments in city hall since the start of the year:

Toronto budget passes

Toronto's budget was passed by council on Jan. 17, albeit without the inclusion of some $15 million worth of cuts championed by Mayor Rob Ford.

Coun. Josh Colle successfully moved a motion at the time to dedicate a portion of the city's $154-million surplus to reduce or remove some of the more contentious cuts, including TTC service reductions, the closure of five wading pools, and funding cuts to ice rinks and homeless shelters.

After the budget passed, Ford said the reduced cuts and the 2.5 per cent tax increase were nothing compared to what the left-leaning councillors would have wanted.

Labour peace

The city was able to come to agreements with all but one of its unions without major strikes or service disruptions. Library union members held a 10-day strike after failing to reach a deal. That impasse was broken on Mar. 29 when members agreed to a deal that ensured full-time positions wouldn't be converted to part-time roles and largely preserved benefits.

But other negotiations went more smoothly. Outside workers voted in February in favour of a deal that awarded wage increases for each of the next four years, but offered reduced benefits and job security.

A similar deal was struck the next month with the inside workers, although a final resolution with some part-time workers wasn't achieved until later. Securing labour peace while extracting significant concessions from city workers has been largely viewed as Ford's greatest victory in council this year.

Transit upheaval

However, in what was likely the most stinging defeat for Ford, council rejected his vision for building a subway line on Sheppard Avenue East and burying virtually all of the Eglinton Crosstown light rail line.

Many councillors, led by erstwhile Ford ally Karen Stintz, had questioned how Ford would finance his plan and chose instead to go with a plan that largely represented a scaled down version of the Transit City plan, which calls for the construction of four new light rail lines in the city. 

Ford was furious, called the vote "irrelevant" and unsuccessfully urged the province to reject the council vote.

New TTC head

TTC CEO Andy Byford took over after Gary Webster was fired. (Jim Curran/CBC)

Two weeks after the transit vote, TTC head Gary Webster, who was not on board with the mayor's vision for subway expansion, was fired by the commission on Feb. 21. The commission, which at the time was comprised of several Ford allies, voted 5-4 to turf Webster, who had worked at the service for 35 years.

Commissioner Maria Augimeri did not hide her disappointment at the move, at one point raising her voice to a yell and accusing those loyal to Ford of "abuse of power" for getting rid of a dissenting voice.

Prompted in part by the firing, chair Karen Stintz was able to get council's support at a Mar. 5 meeting to purge the commission of those who voted to oust Webster. Andy Byford, formerly the chief operating officer, was appointed to Webster's post under the title of CEO.

Plastic bag ban

The vote by council on June 6 to ban plastic bags resulted from a move by the mayor to try to get rid of a city bylaw that compelled retailers to charge five cents for every single-use plastic bag they gave out.

While council did vote on June 6 to rescind the bag fee requirement as of July 1, Ford was crossed by one of his own allies, Coun. David Shiner, who successfully moved to have the city ban retailers outright from distributing plastic bags starting in 2013.

The vote caused Ford not only to lash out at his adversaries in council, but also at his constituents, who he said weren't taking enough of an interest in city politics.