Councillor Josh Matlow held a debate on the merits of garbage privatization last night, pitting Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong against economist Hugh MacKenzie. I liked both John Michael McGrath’s coverage at Toronto Life and Carly Conway’s piece praising moderator Steve Paikin above everything else at Torontoist.
The truth of the matter — and this is the reason I think the event was only lightly attended — is that council will essentially be considering two items related to garbage privatization next week: outcome and process. The question of outcome is boring. I suspect most councillors believe that their constituents favour the outsourcing of trash collection. That’ll be enough to push them toward supporting the idea.
The process, on the other hand, is the far more interesting — and complicated — question. Councillors need to really dig deep and consider whether city council should authorize staff to approve the winning bid without oversight. Should Toronto really award a very very rich private sector contract with no input from elected officials?
It seems, at least, that even privatization-booster Minnan-Wong isn’t so sure the staff-recommended process is a good one. From the Toronto Star’s David Rider:
Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) also revealed that he’s “struggling” with a staff recommendation that council approve the bidding process but then let a staff committee award the final contract potentially worth $150 million.
He voted, along with three other public works members, in favour of that recommendation plus others put forward in a privatization report by senior works staff.
But asked about the clause, amid news that the manager who authored the report is moving to a private-sector firm expected to bid on the contract, Minnan-Wong voiced reservations.
Staff said the delay caused by taking the recommended bid to council will cost the city millions in possible savings, he noted, adding: “I’m struggling with this.”
The issue will be hashed out on the floor of council, he said.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out during the council meeting next week.