Review of Mediation and Settlement on Planning Process 

This is to express our strong support for Councillor Gord Perks’ request for a review and report back on the negotiation process for development applications which have been appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). Residents Associations are frequently involved in these OLT appeals and have found the process to be inconsistent and not transparent.

We request that the review involve consultation with residents and resident associations, especially those who are “frequent travellers” at the OLT and are familiar with these issues.

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Effective Public Participation in City Planning Processes Update

This report provides a status report on public participation processes in City Planning in response to both a Members Motion moved by Councillor Jaye Robinson and adopted by City Council on April 27, and a Motion recommended by PHC and adopted by City Council on July 14-16, regarding systemic barriers.

FoNTRA wrote to City Council in strong support of Councillor Jaye Robinson’s Motion, as follows:

  • City Council direct the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, to review virtual planning consultation meetings, in consultation with members of the public, and report back to Planning and Housing Committee in the second quarter of 2021 with recommendations for improvement, including:
    1. guidelines and practices to ensure that virtual community consultation meetings are consistent and effective;
    2. strategies to improve opportunities for members of the public to participate in virtual community consultation meetings;
    3. best practices related to virtual consultation in other jurisdictions; and
    4. opportunities to improve accessibility for members of the public and, in particular, members of the public participating by phone.

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Municipal Conflict of Interest Act

City of Toronto Council Chamber

In January, 2021, we provided information on the Public Inquiry which recommended a conflict-of-interest overhaul for municipal councillors referencing Frank Marrocco’s report – Report of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry, Transparency and the Public Trust. One of his recommendations is to broaden the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to expand the definition of the personal or family interest that can put a politician in a conflict of interest.

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Update on Committee of Adjustment Virtual Public Hearings

FoNTRA has been active in bringing forward the concerns of residents across the area about the Committee of Adjustment, and interrelated processes in residential infill, such as neighbourhood planning guidelines, zoning review, TLAB appeals, and construction issues.

The Report responds to City Council direction and requests related to the COVID related measures taken by City Planning in the past year, which focus on four operational matters: application volume; staffing and panel member capacity; public notification improvements; and participation at virtual public hearings. The Report’s basic message is all about efficiency in handling volume, not about making decisions that are fair, that are based on input from neighbours, and that respect and maintain neighbourhood character. 

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Open Data Requirement

This is to express the strong support of the Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations (FoNTRA) for the Motion put forward by Councillor Paul Ainslie, Chair, General Government and Licensing Committee, and recommended by Executive Committee, as follows:

  1. City Council direct the City Manager to implement mandatory open data requirements in all reports submitted to standing committees for the purposes of ensuring the City can continue to build its open data platform, and City Council request Standing Committee Chairs to monitor their agendas for compliance with this requirement.

We appreciate the Motion’s reinforcement of the City’s commitment to Open Government and taking practical steps to ensure that the Open Data policy is implemented. 

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Review of Codes of Conduct for Members of Council, Local Boards and Adjudicative Boards

There is unquestionably a need for the City to review and update its Codes of Conduct for elected and appointed officials, especially in light of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry which recommended in November 2020 that municipal codes of conduct across Ontario, and related provincial legislation, be updated to improve transparency in local government. And the Government of Ontario has recently announced consultations, and a private members bill amending the City of Toronto Act, 2006 has been introduced, to specifically address workplace harassment and discrimination committed by members of Council. While the Motion header indicates the Review will cover Members of Council, Local Boards and Adjudicative Boards, the report appears to have a strong focus on Members of Council. We would recommend that equal attention should be focussed on Codes of Conduct application to Members of Local Boards and Adjudicative Boards also.

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Improving Virtual Community Consultation Meetings

This is to express FoNTRA’s strong support for Councillor Robinson’s Motion to be considered by City Council at its meeting of April 7, 2021:

City Council direct the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, to review virtual planning consultation meetings, in consultation with members of the public, and report back to Planning and Housing Committee in the second quarter of 2021 with recommendations for improvement, including:

  1. guidelines and practices to ensure that virtual community consultation meetings are consistent and effective;
  2. strategies to improve opportunities for members of the public to participate in virtual community consultation meetings;
  3. best practices related to virtual consultation in other jurisdictions; and
  4. opportunities to improve accessibility for members of the public and, in particular, members of the public participating by phone.

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Special Committee on Governance Summary of Findings

This is to provide our comments on the report and recommendations arising from the Special Committee on Governance (Committee) work relative to its mandate to consider the impacts on the City’s governance structure and processes arising from the reduction in the size of Council, and make recommendations to City Council on any further changes to its governance structure.

It reminds one of a WWII slogan…”Keep calm and carry on” i.e., that in general, things are fine, and there may be some tweaking required. On the contrary it is our impression that (1) the pressure on councillors, particularly in the central south/north corridor is intense, and unsustainable, and (2) the level and quality of discussion has declined in Standing Committees and in City Council due to the reduced number of Members, as Members are unable to cope with the range and complexity of the agendas that they are being asked to weigh in on. At this stage, it is impossible to know whether there are longer term implications of this concern.

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Public Input on City Council’s Governance System

This is to express FoNTRA’s strong support for the Proposal on Governance Changes and the work of the Special Committee (Proposal), submitted by the Harbord Village Residents’ Association (GV.New.GV1.2.1)

The provincially imposed changes to reduce the size of council has resulted in an increase in ward size, and in the councillor to resident ratio. We agree with Councillor Holyday that the governance issues facing the City of Toronto and its residents include:

“How the reduction in the size of Council has impacted, or may impact, the City’s governance; and Suggestions for changes to the City’s governance structure, including modernizing governance, following the reduction in the size of Council.”

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