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The Globe & Mail’s Elizabeth Church brings us up to speed on the latest proposed service cut from the no-service-cuts gang at City Hall:
Toronto’s blue box program is the latest initiative to face money-saving cuts, with a plan to limit curbside collection to what residents can cram into their recycling bin.
The move is part of next year’s proposed solid waste budget and is expected to save the city about $500,000. The measure would end the long-standing practice that allows city residents to place any overflow from their recycling bins beside their blue box in clear bags.
A staff report notes that residents can “upsize” their blue bins for free if the new limit is a problem.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the city’s public works committee, also noted that residents can obtain a second blue bin if one is not enough to meet their needs.
via Cuts to blue box program urged over environmentalists’ objections | Globe & Mail. (Emphasis added.)
Okay. So there’s Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, Chair of Public Works and good buddy of the mayor’s office, defending a cost-cutting move that will make it more challenging for residents to recycle.
Now let’s travel back to 2009, when the city’s solid waste management division attempted to make a similar policy change. Seems Denzil Minnan-Wong had some thoughts on this policy back then.
As reported by the National Post’s Allison Haines:
Toronto will soon be refusing to pick up the overflow bottles, cans and newspapers that don’t fit in the city’s new recycling bins — the latest in a series of changes to the curb-side collection program that require the cooperation of befuddled residents.
Still, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Don Valley East) said the message is the city is making things more difficult for the most avid recyclers.
“I’ve already heard from a few of my residents. They think it’s completely stupid,” he said. “We’re saying no to recyclers and we’re making it even harder for them to participate — I suppose it’s because it’s too much work for the garbage collectors to get out of their truck.”
via Toronto: New bin regime spawns new rules, confusion for avid recyclers | National Post. (Emphasis added; third-party link as old Post articles sure are hard to find since they switched to WordPress.)
So which is it, Denzil Minnan-Wong? Do your residents still think this change is stupid? Or has the fact that you’re now on good terms with the mayor somehow changed their mind?
One of the more interesting sideshows of the Rob Ford administration has been watching various councillors who seemed so comfortable in their role angrily opposing and shouting down David Miller wrestle with the realities of being in power. It’s almost inevitable that they’ll end up contradicting themselves. (For other examples, see also: Karen Stintz and Giorgio Mammoliti.)
On the change itself: it is stupid. It’s easy to say that residents can just get a bigger bin, or even a second bin, but that doesn’t really hold true for residents in the Old City, who have already had to cram the new-style garbage bins into the limited space they have in their front yards. This shouldn’t be a revelatory statement but maybe it is: not everyone has a garage in this city.
As is his habit these days, Budget Chief Mike Del Grande speaks most plainly and maybe-inadvertantly reveals the real thinking behind this move. He told Inside Toronto’s David Nickle that the reason behind eliminating overflow pick-up was purely political:
This year, the solid waste budget will see residential rates frozen – in part, according to budget chief Mike Del Grande, because of contracting out of more garbage collection that was approved at the last meeting of Toronto Council.
“It would be difficult, to say on solid waste, to increase fees when we just went through a big humongous process to save a lot of money,” said Del Brande. “We can’t do that when you have $11 million in savings.”
In other words: the Ford administration wanted people to feel like the move to contract out garbage had saved them money. And the only way to achieve that was to cut service.