Environment

Reimagining the Garden: Edwards Gardens and Toronto Botanical Garden Master Plan

The city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation division is currently partnering with the Toronto Botanical Garden on an initiative called Reimagining the Gardens.

In consultation with the public, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and other City of Toronto divisions, PF&R and the TBG is developing a master plan which outlines long-term physical, environmental and program improvements for the gardens, as well as a Management Plan to guide implementation and operations for the future.

The goal is to think holistically about long-term plans for Edwards Gardens, the ravine system and the TBG complex within Edwards Gardens to help elevate them to the level of other globally-renowned gardens and attractions in an ecologically and fiscally responsible manner.

The third and final Public Open House was recently held on June 7 where the draft concept was presented and comments from the public were heard. To review the presentation, please click here.

You are invited to provide input through their survey. To participate in the survey, please click here.

For more information on the Master Plan, visit the website or contact Ruthanne Henry, Senior Project Coordinator and the city’s lead on this project, at rhenry@toronto.ca.

My Environment Day 2017

It’s that time of year again – Community Environment Day is right around the corner!

Date: Saturday, April 8
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Location: York Mills Collegiate Institute (490 York Mills Road)

Environment Day provides a great opportunity to clear out forgotten items as well as used electronics and household hazardous waste.

You can bring everything from computer equipment and electronics to compact and fluorescent light bulbs for disposal and recycling. Items for donation will also be accepted such as sporting goods, books and small household items like dishes and utensils. Hope to see you there!

Clean Toronto Together 2017

It’s that time of year again! As the weather warms up and spring cleaning begins, the city is looking ahead to its annual Clean Toronto Together & Community Cleanup Day events.

Each year, thousands of Torontonians gather at the end of April to remove litter and beautify our city – last year, more than 190,000 residents took part in over 1,000 cleanups!

On Friday, April 21, schools and businesses are invited to participate in the 20-Minute Makeover.

On Saturday, April 22, neighbours and residents associations are invited to clean up a local playground, trail, or park.

Registration for this event opens TODAY, March 1!

The city supplies you with litter and recycling bags and helps coordinate special litter pickups when your event ends.

For more information, please visit this link or contact Jeff McCormick with the city’s Environment & Energy Division at jeff.mccormick@toronto.ca.

Reviewing the Sewers Bylaw

For the past two years, Toronto Water has been conducting a review of the Sewers Bylaw. The purpose of the bylaw is to regulate the discharge of chemicals, or subject pollutants, into our city’s sanitary and storm sewers.

As part of the review process, I requested staff to conduct a comprehensive review of subject pollutants listed in the Sewers Bylaw. The goal is to determine whether there are additional chemicals of concern that may be impacting our wastewater treatment plant operations and should be added to this list.

A full review is not only sensible but also timely as the list hasn’t been updated since 2013. It will ensure that our bylaw aligns with the best practices and regulatory mechanisms of other levels of government.

The bottom line is that our water is constantly recycled and becomes our drinking water. It’s key that we work to reduce pollution at the source and ensure the protection of our water system.

You can read the full text of my motion here.

You can also read the Toronto Environmental Alliance’s response to my motion, which received unanimous support from the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee.

Toronto Airspace Noise Review

Over the past few months, the consultants at Helios have been reviewing the feedback and issues shared with them as part of the Toronto Airspace Noise Review and identifying options to help mitigate aviation noise in our community.

The next round of public meetings will be held in March. Everyone is invited to attend the meeting that best suits their schedule or location. The meeting in Toronto, specifically, has been arranged on a Saturday morning to give those who are unable to attend weeknight meetings an opportunity to engage with this review.

In these meetings, the consultants will be presenting their thoughts on mitigation options as well as additional ideas you may have. At this stage, the recommendations have not been finalized – there is still an opportunity for the consultants to introduce and consider more options.

Meetings will be held on the following dates:

  • Wednesday, March 1, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Mississauga (Hilton Garden Inn, 1870 Matheson Boulevard)
  • Thursday, March 2, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Oakville (St. Luke’s Community Centre, 3114 Dundas Street West)
  • Saturday, March 4, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in North York (Novotel North York, 3 Park Home Avenue)

For more information, please visit this link.

Expanding Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Toronto

At the September meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, my colleagues and I discussed the growth of the electric vehicle (EV) market and the need for infrastructure to support this green technology.

While the demand for EVs is increasing, the infrastructure for charging these vehicles is lagging behind. Public charging stations are often inconvenient for EV users who may have to leave their cars overnight to charge them and walk long distances to their homes.

In order to encourage the expansion of EV infrastructure in Toronto, I moved a motion requesting city staff to consider making EV stations a mandatory requirement under the Toronto Green Standard (TGS).

The TGS is a two-tier set of performance measures for sustainable site and building design. Tier 1 is required for all new construction in Toronto and tier 2 is a voluntary level of performance with a financial incentive. The TGS is important as it integrates environmental performance requirements to improve our air and water quality, reduce GHG emissions and lead to an overall healthier, more liveable city.

You can read my motion here.

Staff will be reporting back to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee this spring on a strategy to expand the number of EV charging stations throughout the city – stay tuned!

Compostable Coffee Pods

As Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, I’m committed to helping Toronto reach its waste diversion target of 70 percent.

With approximately 1 in 4 households in Canada using single-serve coffee brewers, millions of single-serve coffee pods are going to landfill each and every year.

Most coffee pods are made entirely or partly from plastic and thus come with a heavy environmental cost. However, a number of coffee companies – including Toronto-based businesses – are developing pods that are more environmentally friendly, including compostable and recyclable options.

With that in mind, I moved a motion at the October meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee requesting the city review the impacts of coffee pods on our waste management system, including our recycling and organics programs.

Close collaboration between the coffee industry, the City of Toronto and the province is a key piece of this review. As we encourage the industry to continue to develop more environmentally sustainable products, we also need to consider the central role of municipalities, who are responsible for processing the products through to end of life.

City staff will be reporting back in 2017 – stay tuned!

Strengthening Enforcement of Toronto’s Tree Bylaws

This past summer, 40 trees were illegally removed by a developer on Bayview Avenue. This is one of the most significant violations of the tree bylaws in Toronto to date.

In October, I requested that city staff prosecute this case at the Ontario Court of Justice and pursue the maximum penalty.

To stop developers from committing similar violations in the future, I also moved a motion directing staff to strengthen the city’s tree bylaws. In particular, I asked for improvements to the investigations process to make it more transparent, efficient and accessible.

Most importantly, I’ve requested staff to consider stiffer penalties for bylaw contraventions, including higher fines, stop work orders and the suspension of building permits.

Incidences of illegal tree removals are occurring across our city, and the City of Toronto needs to take a tougher stance and send a clear message that cutting down trees without permits is unacceptable and will be met with severe penalties.

The Future of Autonomous Vehicles in Toronto

Autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles will soon be a reality on Toronto’s streets.

Earlier this spring, I requested Transportation Services draw up specific recommendations on how the City of Toronto and its various divisions can prepare for the arrival and expansion of autonomous vehicle technology.

As Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, I want to make our city a leader in transportation planning and innovation.

Driverless cars could be available in North America in significant numbers as early as 2020. By 2030, up to 15 percent of new cars could be fully autonomous. As of January 1, 2016, Ontario became the first province in the country to allow companies to road test autonomous vehicles.

The introduction of autonomous vehicles into our society is going to bring new opportunities and new challenges – that’s why it’s imperative that Toronto make strategic decisions now to shape the changing technological future of our city.

You can read my motion by clicking here.

Staff will be reporting back to the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee by the end of this year, so stay tuned!

Province Passes New Waste-Free Ontario Act

As the Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, earlier this spring I was pleased to represent the City of Toronto before the Standing Committee on Social Policy at the Provincial Legislative Assembly for consideration of Bill 151, Waste-Free Ontario Act.

Every year in Ontario, more than eight million tonnes of waste is sent to landfill. Greenhouse gas emissions have also risen by 25 percent between 1990 and 2012 as more and more waste is disposed of in landfills.

The Waste-Free Ontario Act, passed on June 1, 2016, is going to increase waste diversion, require producers to take full responsibility for their products and packaging and help fight climate change.

You can read my full deputation at the Legislative Assembly by clicking here.

I also had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray, to discuss Bill 151 and how the City of Toronto, as the largest municipality in the province, could take a leadership role in championing a “Zero Waste” vision and building a circular economy.

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Have Your Say on Toronto’s Ravines

The city has been working with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and consulting with the public since early 2015 to develop a strategy on Toronto’s ravines.

 

Ravines provide many important ecological benefits and recreation opportunities and are crucial to the functioning of the city. They are also a fragile resource. With population growth, new development and climate change putting increased pressure on ravines, a strategy to guide their future management, use, enhancement and protection is critical.

The strategy will aim to navigate the fine line between protection and use, and identify the actions and investments needed to ensure Toronto’s ravines remain resilient and can be enjoyed and celebrated for years to come.

Developed by Parks, Forestry and Recreation, together with City Planning and Toronto Water and in consultation with other City divisions, TRCA, the public and a wide range of stakeholders, this strategy is scheduled to be completed in April 2017.

For additional information, please click here.

To date, a vision and set of principles and actions have been developed to represent the core ideas and values that will guide the city in future decision-making related to ravines and address the challenges and opportunities in the ravine system. Before finalizing the principles and recommendations, city staff would like to hear from the public.

You’re invited to provide input by participating in the upcoming Ravine Strategy pop-up consultations, detailed below:

North York District:

  • Saturday, July 2 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Northwood Park (behind the community centre on the north side of the asphalt path), 15 Clubhouse Ct.
  • Friday, July 8 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Edithvale Community Centre, 131 Finch Ave. W.

Not Wanted in Your Blue Bin Campaign

Solid Waste Management Services has launched a new campaign this summer to bring awareness to residents about reducing blue bin recycling contamination.

In 2015, approximately 45,000 tonnes of garbage and organic waste were mistakenly put in the recycling.

Blue bin contamination is a problem for a number of reasons:

  • The Material Recovery Facility (MRF) can separate some contamination, but there is a limit to the amount it can remove.
  • Loads that exceed an accepted level of contamination may end up in a landfill.
  • Removing contaminated materials from recyclable materials increases costs.

Here are some of the most common culprits:

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Managing Toronto’s Water Treatment System – Microbeads

Our city works hard to maintain high water safety and treatment standards. Toronto Water conducts more tests – for more substances – than is required by the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards.

We as residents can do our part by showing caution with what we discharge into our city’s wastewater system and, by extension, our major freshwater ecosystem, Lake Ontario.

You may have read in the news about mircrobeads, small plastic particles commonly found in many body washes, face scrubs and toothpastes, among other products. The very small size of microbeads means that they typically bypass municipal wastewater treatment systems.

In 2013, 1.1 million plastic particles per square kilometer were found in Canada’s five Great Lakes, with the highest concentration found in our own backyard – Lake Ontario.

In December 2015, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bill banning companies from using microbeads in their products. The Canadian federal government is currently developing similar legislation.

It’s also important to remember that pharmaceuticals should not be flushed or disposed of in garbage or green bins.

Pharmacies in Toronto have a “take back” program and will safely dispose of any hazardous waste.

In December 2015, I had the pleasure of hearing presentations by Greenwood College’s Grade 8 Class on how microbeads affect our water. As Chair of Public Works, I was very impressed by their research and hard work.

In December 2015, I had the pleasure of hearing presentations by Greenwood College’s Grade 8 Class on how microbeads affect our water. As Chair of Public Works, I was very impressed by their research and hard work.

Wilket Creek Rehabilitation Project

Update - February 19, 2016

As you may know, the City of Toronto – in partnership with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) – has been studying the geomorphic systems and habitat of the Wilket Creek subwatershed in order to better understand the erosion that threatens municipal land and infrastructure within Wilket Creek Park.

The restoration is part of a Master Plan that is being carried out according to the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment process.

I’m pleased to share that work at Site 3 (part of Phase 2) wrapped up in late 2015 and included the protection of approximately 125m of existing sanitary sewer infrastructure as well as 400m of channel improvements along the watercourse.

This spring, crews will finish bank restoration in conjunction with trail paving and restorative plantings.

In addition, Parks and TRCA are in the process of developing designs for the next phase of work which will see the installation of a new pedestrian bridge to reconnect the main trail to the staircase leading up to the playing fields and stables.

Work is scheduled to begin this summer and will extend into fall.

June 19, 2017

In partnership with the city, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has undertaken an environmental assessment to develop a long-term plan to stabilize Wilket Creek.

This spring, a number of residents reached out to my office with concerns about the project and the environmental impact of recent work in the area surrounding the creek. I immediately reached out to the TRCA and pulled together a meeting to address the issues. At the meeting, TRCA staff committed to taking any and all measures to reduce the footprint of the work and provided key contacts for residents.

I also attended the most recent public meeting where TRCA staff reviewed the different options for creek stabilization and discussed preferred solutions. If you would like more information about this study or want to receive updates, please contact Patricia Newland, Project Manager, at (416) 392-9690 or pnewland@trca.on.ca.

Basement Flooding Master Plan Environmental Assessment Study

City staff are currently conducting a Basement Flooding Study Master Plan that covers parts of Wards 16, 22, 15 and 25.

A Notice of Study Commencement was recently released and includes information about the process as well as upcoming public consultations.

The project team also released its first newsletter with frequently asked questions and a link to their online survey so that residents can participate early in the process.

For more information, please click here.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact Mae Lee, Senior Public Consultation Coordinator, at either 416-392-8210 or rmlee@toronto.ca.

Top Tips for Summer

Yard Waste

From mid-March to December, leaf and yard waste is collected every other week on your scheduled garbage day. City staff advise that you should wait until the evening before your collection date to put your waste on the curb.

The city collects plant and tree trimmings, weeds, brush and bundles of branches, but does not collect soil, sod, grass clippings, logs or tree stumps. Instead, compost grass clippings or reuse them on your lawn – an easy way to maintain nutrient-rich soil!

Toronto Water

Gardening

  • Disconnect your downspout and use rainwater to water your grass and gardens.
  • Extra watering is not always required – the rain is often enough.
  • Sweep sidewalks and driveways clean instead of using a hose.
  • Start planning your water-efficient, natural garden using native plants and trees.

Environment and Water Efficiency

  • Use commercial car wash facilities to wash your car – they are required to follow a set of practices determined by the city, including treating wastewater and discharging it into the sanitary sewer system where it will receive further treatment.
  • A leaky toilet or tap can cost an extra $600/month – fix leaks to avoid being charged.
  • It costs only $0.002 to fill a reusable water bottle.
  • Pool water may contain chemicals. Click here for pool drainage tips and advice.
  • The city doesn’t conduct door-to-door water tests – be careful of sales people making that claim.

For more information on how you can be more water efficient, please click here.

2014 Traffic Signal Synchronizations – Great Results

Cutting congestion and gridlock remains my number one priority as Chair of Public Works.

That’s why I’m pleased to share the results of the city’s 2014 Traffic Signal Coordination Program.

In 2014, the city synchronized 224 traffic signals on 7 major corridors, including Yonge, Leslie and Sheppard.

The results were impressive, including:

  • A 10% decrease in overall vehicle delay;
  • A 4.5% decrease in fuel consumption (equivalent to the CO2 emissions from 693 homes’ electricity use for one year!); and,
  • A 4.6% decrease in emissions.

Overall, the 2014 work resulted in an estimated annual savings of nearly $17 million in reduced congestion-related costs.

Signal synchronisations also offer a great return on investment. The benefit-cost ratio of the 7 major corridors retimed in 2014 was 63 to 1!

Better yet, there’s more in store for 2015. 343 synchronizations on 11 major corridors are scheduled this year, bringing the four year synchronization total to nearly 1,000 since the program began in 2012.

Waste Disposal Tips – What Goes Where?

Recycling (Blue Bins)
Many of the products we consume come in packaging that can be recycled rather than sent to landfills! These include beverage and food containers, home and personal product containers, takeout food containers, retail shopping bags and paper.

Organics (Green Bins)
The benefit of properly disposing organic waste is that it can be reused as compost down the line! This includes food waste, coffee grinds, and animal waste.

Garbage (Black/Grey Bins or Yellow Bags)
Many of the items we dispose of can be reused or recycled as noted above. If, however, items must make their way to the landfill, it’s important to know what’s accepted and what’s not.

Household Hazardous Waste
Batteries, cleaning products and paint are all examples of waste that should be disposed of responsibly. The city offers a free service called Toxic Taxi, which allows residents to request a free pick-up of hazardous waste. For a complete list of what counts as hazardous waste and for drop-off depot locations, please visit this link.

Electronic Waste
As technology improves, we are constantly turning over devices and electronics. Including everything from cell phones to fax machines, e-waste can be part of your curbside collection. For more information on what it includes and how to set it out, please visit this link.

Don’t forget to think of others when considering the disposal of items in your home! The City’sReUseIt program offers information on how to donate unwanted items to not-for-profit agencies.

If you have any questions about what can or cannot be disposed of, you can also contact 311 – they would be happy to help!

Trees in Toronto Panel Discussion

Please mark off the evening of Thursday, February 13 for an exciting discussion about the impacts of extreme weather events on our city and, in particular, our tree canopy! I will be moderating an all-star panel of expert gardener and well-known author Mark Cullen, LEAF Executive Director Janet McKay and University of Toronto cultural anthropology professor Hilary Cunningham.

Ward 25er Peter Jones is taking the lead and organizing the event and deserves thanks for all of his efforts to date! Peter is one of the founders of For Our Grandchildren, a non-profit that aims to connect and empower grandparents concerned about the impending effects of climate change. Discussion will centre around the damage sustained during the ice storm as well as what steps can be taken so that we are better prepared for the next extreme weather event.

The event is set for 7:30-9 p.m. on Thursday, February 13 at the Lawrence Park Community Church (2180 Bayview Avenue), and you can register online here. I encourage you to attend!

 

Learning from the Ice Storm

The city’s comprehensive review of its response to December’s ice storm came to July’s City Council meeting.

The review includes key recommendations to improve the city’s response to extreme weather events that grew out of motions I brought forward earlier this year.

Information was difficult to find during the storm, and the review calls for the development of new and proactive communication channels, particularly for vulnerable populations and those experiencing power disruptions.

As you know, our tree canopy was hard hit by the storm, and another important recommendation directs Urban Forestry to work with Toronto Hydro to review its hydro-line clearing program and improve our grid’s resiliency going forward.