Trash talk: debate is about process, not outcome

Natalie Alcoba covers some of the reaction from councillors following last week’s executive committee meeting about the ongoing plan to privatize waste collection in the city. The meeting was marked by various theatrics. You probably read about them.

Councillor Josh Matlow does a good job of summing up the important parts of this ongoing debate:

“I can tell you that I need to be convinced that it would be a financially responsible move and it would see the savings that staff are suggesting,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who represents the midtown ward of St. Paul’s.

“We’re hearing the different ideological perspectives but we’re all trying to get to the root of the question, which is are we moving in the direction of privatization because of remaining angst of the strike or is it a fiscally prudent decision that will support quality service or is it a bit of both?”

via Centrist councillors wary of trash proposal | Posted Toronto | National Post.

Privatized garbage pick-up became an inevitability the second Ford’s numbers came in on October 25. Of all the various things the mayor lays claim to have a mandate to do, this one is actually legit. People want this.

I get the ideological objection. I wish people would stop trying to tear union jobs down and instead try to build non-union jobs up. A race to the bottom on labour costs isn’t going to be good for anyone.

But privatized garbage collection doesn’t necessarily represent a titanic shift for this city. We can still be a good, progressive city, even with tendered trash.

Despite persistent needling from right-wingers like Sue-Ann Levy and Frances Nunziata, wading into a deep ideological debate about the modern role of the labour union and Toronto’s recent collective bargaining snafus will only serve to distract from the real issue: that this specific plan is starting to look like a shitty deal for this city.

The process is being rushed through at near-breakneck speed. Despite representing nearly a quarter billion dollars, the final contract won’t be approved by council before its signed. A bad deal signed now will only get worse when the contract comes up for renewal. By then, the city’s negotiating position will have been made weaker by the sale of trucks and collection equipment, making in-sourcing a more costly endeavour. As there are only a few vendors capable of servicing a large city like Toronto in the first place, competition will be limited.

If we are going to go down this road, let’s take the necessary care to do things the right way. Let’s examine our options with proper oversight. Let’s not let the spectre of an expiring labour contract force us into a deal that only looks good in the short-term.

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