Mayor’s executive approves discounts for low-income TTC riders

Update:

A TTC Subway/RT Map. photo of fightyourtickets.ca
A TTC Subway/RT Map. photo of fightyourtickets.ca

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Committee unanimously endorsed the plan, which would see the TTC give eligible residents 33 per cent off of single adult fare and 21 per cent off an adult monthly pass.

The mayor’s executive committee has approved a plan to give discounts to low-income transit users, but without the amendments pushed for by anti-poverty activists.

During a late evening session on Thursday, the committee unanimously endorsed the plan, which would see the TTC give eligible residents 33 per cent off of single adult fare and 21 per cent off an adult monthly pass.

The landmark Fair Pass Program has been under development for years and would radically shake up the TTC’s concession system by linking fare discounts to riders’ ability to pay.

More than a dozen anti-poverty advocates spoke at the committee, and, while most lauded the policy, they also urged the mayor’s inner circle to make it more robust.

“We are requesting that the discounts are deeper, the rollout is faster,” said Jessica Bell of TTCriders and the Fair Fare Coalition.

She asked that the discount fare program, which would cost $48 million a year when fully phased in by 2021, not be paid for by reducing concession fares to other groups.

The city currently spends $72 million on discounts for seniors, secondary and post-secondary students and children under 13 years of age.

The mayor has suggested the cost of the low-income discount could be offset by “reviewing” the existing programs.

Under the policy, which still has to be approved by city council, Toronto adults who make less than 15 per cent above the low-income measure would be eligible for the fare discount. The cutoff would be $45,075 for a two-parent, two-child household; $31,522 for a single-parent, one-child household, and $22,537 for a single person.
Under the policy, which still has to be approved by city council, Toronto adults who make less than 15 per cent above the low-income measure would be eligible for the fare discount. The cutoff would be $45,075 for a two-parent, two-child household; $31,522 for a single-parent, one-child household, and $22,537 for a single person.

Several deputants asked that people on social assistance be given free transit passes, and that the Fair Pass program, which won’t start being phased in until 2018, be implemented right away.

“Why keep 193,000 low-income citizens waiting when the need has been identified and the solution is right here?” asked Yvette Roberts, coordinator of Young Parents With No Fixed Address. She said economically marginalized residents are forgoing job opportunities and medical appointments because they can’t afford transit.

“We’re seeking immediate implementation. No more delays. Do the right thing now!” she said.

City staff told the committee that the fare plan couldn’t be implemented until the Presto fare program is in place. The TTC’s full network will be Presto-enabled by the end of the year, but the agency won’t phase out its other payment methods until sometime in 2017.

In a speech to the committee, Mayor John Tory said he understood the deputants’ urgency.

“It’s never fast enough. It’s never enough. The discount is never deep enough. I understand that. We’d like to do a lot more. But, at the end of the day, I think we’re doing something substantial here,” he said.

Under the policy, which still has to be approved by city council, Toronto adults who make less than 15 per cent above the low-income measure would be eligible for the fare discount. The cutoff would be $45,075 for a two-parent, two-child household; $31,522 for a single-parent, one-child household, and $22,537 for a single person.

Slightly fewer than 200,000 transit users would qualify, according to a report by city staff. Residents already receiving provincial transportation supports wouldn’t qualify.

The program would be rolled out in three phases, starting in 2018 with Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works clients, followed by residents who receive housing and child care subsidies in 2019, and all others in 2020 and 2021. Most eligible transit users wouldn’t get the discount until the third phase.

The plan will be debated at council’s next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 13 and 14.

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Ontario lawyers to combat systemic racism in profession

Update:

Justice. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Justice. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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There is a serious problem that needs to be addressed,’ working group chair says.

Larger law firms would be expected to work toward racial diversification and have to report on their progress under recommendations approved without opposition Friday by the profession’s regulatory body in Ontario following hours of emotional debate.

In addition, the Law Society of Upper Canada will look to put measures in place to ensure legal workplaces do more to combat  systemic racism and discrimination in their ranks, its governing body decided.

The recommendations — 13 in all — flowed from a working group that looked at the career obstacles black and other visible minority lawyers face. The group, set up in 2012, spent the last few years coming up with its report based on consultations and submissions from around the province.

Raj Anand, co-chairman of the group, who said he’s been the subject of racial slurs, called it gratifying the law society approved the report.

Exterior of Osgoode Hall. This is where the Law Society of Upper Canada is housed,
Exterior of Osgoode Hall. This is where the Law Society of Upper Canada is housed. photo by fightyourtickets.ca.

‘A serious problem that needs to be addressed’

“There is a serious problem that needs to be addressed,” Anand said.

“We now can move forward to implement these important recommendations, which reinforce the special responsibility of lawyers and paralegals to promote human rights in their own workplaces — and in their relationships with the justice system and the public.”

Under measures that are now slated to be put in place, any firm with at least 10 lawyers and paralegals would have to designate someone responsible for implementing a policy that addresses issues such as fair recruitment, retention and advancement.

Companies would also have to do a diversity self-assessment, and send the information to the law society every two years.

The governing body would also keep tabs on the progress law firms with at least 25 lawyers and paralegals are making in promoting diversity by looking at a “demographic data and inclusion index.”

http://fightyourtickets.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/PC294006_6970.jpg
The Law Society of Upper Canada. The law society, which governs more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000 paralegals in Ontario, will set up a specialized and trained team to address complaints of discrimination. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Visible-minority lawyers argue professional barriers linger

One lawyer, Sid Troister, sparked passionate discussion by questioning whether one measure should be mandatory as recommended. He called for a separate vote on each recommendation rather than a vote on the package as a whole. His motion was easily voted down and the report then passed with one amendment.

Although the proportion of visible-minority lawyers has increased in the last 15 years, many of them have long complained of the professional barriers they encounter, and relatively few black lawyers practise in large firms.

The working group, struck in response to the complaints, found a culture in which racialized lawyers and paralegals face significant challenges throughout their legal careers. Problems include assumptions of incompetence from judges and clients, denial of opportunities for professional advancement, and colleagues who shut them out of workplace social gatherings.

‘Overt discrimination and bias’

“Overt discrimination and bias are a feature of daily life,” the group found. “Racialization is a constant and persistent
factor.”

Another recommendation is to make it explicit that any systemic discrimination or reprisal for complaints of discrimination and harassment would be considered breaches of professional conduct, which would spell out that members are obliged to promote principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.

The law society, which governs more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000 paralegals in Ontario, would also set up a specialized and trained team to address complaints of discrimination.

Paul Schabas, the treasurer of the law society, called Friday’s adoption of the report and its recommendations a big step toward ensuring the legal profession is “diverse, inclusive and free of discrimination and harassment.”

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Ontario ombudsman launches investigation into use of solitary confinement in jails

Update:

Ombudsman Paul Dubé says he launched the investigation in light of the "serious issues raised in an increasing number of complaints" about the use of segregation in the province's correctional facilities.

Ombudsman Paul Dubé says he launched the investigation in light of the “serious issues raised in an increasing number of complaints” about the use of segregation in the province’s correctional facilities.

see source

Paul Dubé’s office received over 500 segregation-related complaints in past 3 years

The Ontario ombudsman has opened an investigation into how the province tracks and reviews the placement of inmates in solitary confinement in its jails.

Ombudsman Paul Dubé says he launched the investigation in light of the “serious issues raised in an increasing number of complaints” about the use of segregation in the province’s correctional facilities.

Dubé says his office has received over 500 segregation-related complaints in the past three years, and he wants an end to indefinite solitary confinement.

The Liberal government announced last month it appointed federal correctional investigator Howard Sapers to lead a review into the use of segregation, including the possibility of ending the use of indefinite isolation.

Sapers, who will become Ontario’s independent adviser on corrections Jan. 1, has previously called for legislated caps on the time inmates spend in segregation.

The ombudsman says his investigation into segregation was planned before Sapers was appointed by the province, and will “enhance” his work.

Correctional Services Minister David Orazietti recently announced several changes to Ontario’s policies on segregation, including a plan to lower a 30-day cap on disciplinary segregation to 15 consecutive days.

However, inmates can still be held in administrative segregation — for example for safety reasons —  indefinitely.

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Toronto road tolls, championed by Mayor John Tory, OK’d at executive committee

Update:

Nathan Philips Square which contains Toronto's City Hall. The parking ticket counter at Metro Hall at 55 John Street will close today and be temporarily re-located to the main floor at Toronto's City Hall at 100 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Tory’s motion to implement the road tolls — which could cost around $2 per trip — was approved, although with some amendments introduced by other councillors, including a potential yearly cap on how much commuters will pay in tolls. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

see source

Hotel and short-term accomodation tax also clears major city hall hurdle after debate.

Mayor John Tory’s executive committee unanimously approved moving forward with road tolls for the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway on Thursday, though not without some fierce debate.

Council voted 24-21 in favour of the so-called hybrid plan for the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway, which runs from Jarvis Street to the Don Valley Parkway.
Gardiner expressway, east of the DVP. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Council will also consider a tax on hotels and short-term accommodations, like Airbnb rentals. The city won’t, however, seek permission from the province to tax alcohol or tobacco sales, an option that had been tabled at the beginning of the day.

The budget committee, meanwhile, will be asked to look at the possibility of introducing a 0.5 per cent property tax levy that will be directed to the City Building Fund. It will also consider changing the land transfer tax rebates given to first-time homebuyers so they are in line with the new rules unveiled by the province last month.

Motorists entering this ramp from Bay street will now be soon be paying for the opportunity to drive on the Gardiner Expressway or the Don Valley Parkway. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

The city is grappling with how to pay for $33 billion worth of major transit and infrastructure projects.

Tory’s motion to implement the road tolls — which could cost around $2 per trip — was approved, although with some amendments introduced by other councillors, including a potential yearly cap on how much commuters will pay in tolls.

Queen's Park. Tow Trucks in the GTA took their "awareness campaign" to Queen's Park this morning, in an effort to inform the motoring public and other tow truck operators of the government's plans under Bill 15, specifically placing tow truck driver's under the authority of the CVOR. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Queen’s Park. City council would still have to approve road tolls before they come into effect. The city would also need approval from Queen’s Park. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

City council would still have to approve road tolls before they come into effect. The city would also need approval from Queen’s Park tolls in.

Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who represents Ward 34, Don Valley East, introduced the motion calling on city council to cap the amount Torontonians will pay on tolls per year, though he declined to set a specific amount.

“My residents are affected more than any other community in the city,” he said.

“You have to spread the pain of these revenue tools.”

Minnan-Wong’s motion also suggested looking at how the tolls will be collected, suggesting a dynamic pricing model could be put in place.

The executive committee also unanimously approved a motion by Coun. David Shiner that recommends asking the province to exempt any road tolls from the Harmonized Sales Tax.

Drivers may not like paying the tolls, Shiner said, but they’d hate “paying a tax on a tax.”

Budget Chief Gary Crawford, meanwhile, defended dropping the potential alcohol and tobacco taxes, saying the revenue tools the executive committee did approve were the fairest, most affordable and most transparent.

Gardiner Expressway. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Tory wants to impose a toll of roughly $2 on the two major highways leading to Toronto’s downtown core. photo by fightyourtickets.ca.

Some fighting back against taxes

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who showed up to the meeting with a pair of boxing gloves, told CBC Toronto he is going to fight “every tax and every fee.”

“In a flash, we’ve approved an unprecedented amount of taxes and fees to be looked at without consulting the rest of Toronto,” he said.

Sean Meagher, executive director of the non-profit social justice organization Social Planning Toronto, expressed concern that road tolls would affect the budget years from now, but are not an immediate fix.

“The city manager’s named a bunch of very useful tools — things like harmonizing the land transfer tax, closing some tax loopholes for corporations,” he said.

“Those are things we can have in the immediate term.”

‘A step in the right direction’

Potential road toll revenue is earmarked for transit and infrastructure projects. With this plan, city council is “finally beginning to take action on fighting congestion and building more transit,” Tory said during a midday news conference.

But Tory has previously said that, while road tolls will raise about $200 million annually, the potential revenue would still fall short of addressing all the city’s transit needs.

“It’s a really good start but it’s not going to be sufficient,” said City Manager Peter Wallace during the morning meeting session.

Speaking to CBC Toronto, Coun. Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina, said the proposed tolls and taxes are a “a step in the right direction.”

“The city of Toronto doesn’t have the money today to maintain the city we have, let alone the money to build the city we want,” he said.

“And if you’re going to build a strong city, and a fair city, you need to pay for it.”

Tory not backing down

In his news conference, Tory said he’s glad to have a “good, open, lengthy discussion” about the proposed revenue tools.

But he coupled this with strong words to anyone opposing the measures, either at city hall or Queen’s Park.

“If they are opposed to road tolls, and some of these other measures as a means for paying for some of these kinds of things, I think they have an obligation to spell out what they would use instead,” Tory said.

Or, he added, detractors should “indicate honestly to the public that they would have no intention of supporting the measures that I believe are absolutely necessary.

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Sticker snafu hits Toronto on-street parking system

Update:

Nathan Philips Square which contains Toronto's City Hall. The parking ticket counter at Metro Hall at 55 John Street will close today and be temporarily re-located to the main floor at Toronto's City Hall at 100 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Toronto’s City Hall at Nathan Philips Square. Motorists who purchased six-month stickers that are about to expire should renew them online or in person at city hall, says a City of Toronto manager. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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The city says a “delivery problem” involving the sticker suppliers means they won’t arrive until December.

Many of the tens of thousands of Toronto motorists with overnight on-street parking permits are receiving temporary paper renewals after a city administrative problem.

The same problem also saw renewal notices, telling people to reapply if they want to replace six-month permits expiring Wednesday, mailed out later than usual.

Vince Loffredi, a City of Toronto manager, said temporary renewal permits were mailed last Thursday to motorists who paid for a full year and are automatically mailed the second six-month sticker.

Drivers who bought six-month stickers that are about to expire, and want to renew, should renew them online or in person at city hall and they will get the paper renewals to be cut out and displayed in windshields, he said.

Parking enforcement has been instructed to not give tickets to drivers with expired stickers and no temporary permit until Dec. 12. That shouldn’t affect parking revenues, the city says, because drivers with expired permits normally get a one-week grace period.

Drivers who do not have a permit and are buying one for the first time won’t be affected because those permits are in stock.

The city expects to receive, and send out, the Dec. 1 to May 31 renewal stickers before the end of December.

The city says the problem happened when its staff decided to cross-reference parking information with other city records as part of a review of the permit process, and that took significantly longer than expected.

 

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