West-end trash privatization plan draws critics

Some Toronto city councillors are raising a stink about the way the city is moving to privatize garbage collection in the city's west end.
165,000 homes in Toronto are a step closer to private garbage collection, Genevieve Tomney reports 1:59

Some Toronto city councillors are raising a stink about the way the city is moving to privatize garbage collection in the city’s west end.

A staff report released Monday said the move to contract out residential garbage collection west of Yonge Street to the Etobicoke border and north to Steeles Avenue will save the city $6 million. The report also includes plans to contract out trash pickup in parks and other public areas for an additional $2 million in savings.

"The taxpayers will benefit by reduced costs while sustaining equivalent service," Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong told reporters on Monday.

But the report also recommends that council delegate approval of any private garbage contract to a bid committee instead of a council vote.  

Under normal city procedure, any contract that exceeds $20 million and seven years in length would go to council for approval. However, the report released Monday calls for the contract to instead be approved by a bid committee and not council, a move Minnan-Wong said will save the city $3.3 million in costs.  

But some council members are decrying the move as undemocratic.

"I'm astounded that a $20-million contract isn't going to come back to council, I've never seen that," said Coun. Janet Davis. "This is another example of our mayor being completely anti-democratic and taking control away from council and handing it to an administrative committee." 

300 city jobs affected

Minnan-Wong said more than 300 part-time jobs would be lost if the plan is given the green light. CUPE local 416, which represents the affected workers said many of the positions affected are full-time and that the city will have to shuffle more than 200 of those employees into other departments.

The city first announced in February its plans to open garbage collection in the western half of the city to competitive bidding. Privatizing garbage pickup once the contract with unionized workers expires at the end of 2011 is one of Mayor Rob Ford's priorities.

The affected area has about 165,000 homes.

Etobicoke is not affected, having already struck a deal to have private garbage collection before Toronto municipalities amalgamated in 1999. Nor is the portion of the city east of Yonge Street.

After the public works committee discusses the report, it will go to council for a vote in May. If a majority of councillors approve the plan, the city will then issue tenders for garbage pickup in the affected areas.