City Council Formally Opposes Bill 23, Demands Conservative MPPs Answer to Council
All members of Hamilton City Council voted to oppose Ontario Premier Doug Ford's Bill 23 overhaul of Ontario's land use planning and development charges laws.
The Bill is part of a package of decisions allowing greenfield development on the Greenbelt, removes many development charges on new developments, forces municipalities to fund sprawl, and overrides local planning controls.
The Bill, which Premier Doug Ford's government passed in November, was opposed by groups across the political spectrum.
Protests occurred across Ontario. Approximately 1000 people rallied against the Bill in front of Hamilton City Hall on December 4th.
City of Hamilton staff will calculate the costs of Bill 23 and what it will mean for Hamilton's property taxes. Hamilton's initial estimate is between $14-million to $25-million per year in forgone development charge revenue.
The City of Mississauga summarizes Bill 23 on their website explaining "Why you can't afford Bill 23".
Mississauga residents are receiving political ad pamphlets in their mailboxes calling for them to pressure their local Conservative MPPs to reverse the legislation.
During the next few weeks, I will write on development charges explaining how municipalities use them, how they are calculated, the arguments against DCs and some of the arguments for reform.
For those interested Hamilton's 2019 Development Charges Background Study is 666 pages detailing what Hamilton's DCs fund. [Note: the 2019 DC Bylaw is under appeal at the Ontario Land Tribunal.]
A new study is due for release to the public in 2023. The 2019 study expires in 2024.
For today, I will also share the link to a newly published paper arguing against development charges by Western University Professor Emeritus of Political Science Andrew Sancton.
Council Votes 14-1 To "Invite" MPPs Lumsden and Skelly "To Discuss" Bill 23
During the Council debate on Bill 23, Ward 8 Clr John-Paul Danko moved a motion to demand Hamilton's Conservative MPPs Neil Lumsden and Donna Skelly "appear before this council and answer for the reckless, irreversible harm that the government of which they are a part are doing to the City of Hamilton and the taxpayers that we represent."
The wording was watered down from Danko's initial strong language to be an "invite" "to appear" "to discuss" "concerns surrounding Bill 23."
The amended motion passed 14-1 with Ward 2 Clr Cameron Kroetsch opposed.
Kroetsch stated the motion "verges on slightly on the theatrical though I do understand the desire to want to do it," adding, "I don't think it's really the thing we should be doing. Kroetsch suggested Council should travel to Queen's Park and speak to the government in that forum.
Hamilton's Committee of Adjustment Approves Renoviction Variances
Facing the risk of homelessness, 100 Charlton Avenue West residents came to City Hall on Thursday hoping to remain housed.
The new building owners wish to gut the building, removing six three-bedroom units with long-term tenants to be replaced by twelve smaller single-bedroom apartments, which will rent for significantly more profit.
The developer needs full exception from parking requirements. The City's parking formula states the building should have 15 parking spaces and a loading zone. It has none.
Michael choked up, saying, "We're going to be kicked to the curb."
"We are the people that live there. We need to stay in our homes. We don't have anywhere else to go."
Susan McArthur asked the City "to protect the tenants and Hamilton's affordable housing stock."
Hamilton's Committee of Adjustment voted 5-2 in favour of the developer's variance request meaning residents will be evicted in a few months.
The vote was divided between members who work in the real estate voting in favour. The two members opposed are retirees.
As the teary-eyed residents left the Council Chamber contemplating their fate, staff began reading the next file – variances to expand the Mission Services emergency shelter.
The juxtaposition could not be any more pronounced.
During the election, a few candidates promised to reform the Committee of Adjustment in response to the CoA opposition to Secondary Dwelling Units.
Committee members claim SDU rental units will turn Hamilton's neighbourhoods into "ghettos" and vote against SDUs they suspect may be rented to post-secondary students.
What is the most common reason they oppose SDUs? Parking.
Apparently, rental units in Hamilton need a dedicated parking spot – except if the landlord is a prominent developer.
CoA members are political appointees.
Many of them have been on the CoA for over a decade.
It's a powerful position. They can rezone neighbourhoods, overturn secondary plans, and grant exceptions from nearly any City planning rule.
The new Council planned to address qualifications and expectations for the CoA as part of a pending review of all agencies, boards, and agencies.
With the CoA voting in favour of a renoviction, the new Council may need to act sooner.
In an unfathomable ending, as teary-eyed residents left the Council Chamber contemplating the likelihood of becoming homeless, city staff began reading the next file – variances to expand the Mission Services emergency shelter being constructed at 400 King Street East.
City Clerk Ordered to Comply With Freedom of Information Rules
In the latest in a series of you can't make this up rulings from Ontario's Information and Privacy Commission involving the City of Hamilton, the IPC is giving the City Clerk's Manager of Records until January 6 to properly process and respond to a freedom of information request for records and policies about the City's freedom of information office.
An FOI asking the FOI office to release its policies for processing FOI requires the IPC to explain FOI 101. You can't make this up.
There is much to unpack in this latest IPC ruling involving Hamilton City Clerks. I break down the ruling and its suborders in a story on TPR.
Hamilton is the only single-tier municipality with multiple adverse IPC rulings of this nature.
In MO-3771, May 2019, an IPC Adjudicator took the unprecedented step of publicly chastising Hamilton's City Clerks writing:
"I feel it necessary to point out that the city … did not participate in the inquiry of the appeal. I remind the city of its obligations as an institution under the Act" after the City Clerks "did not respond to the letter or to the mediator's voice message."
Hamilton is the largest municipality in Canada that responds to FOIs by letter mail as a delaying method.
Hamilton only accepts FOI requests by mail or in person.
The Act does not explicitly require the City to provide service by email or online, leaving operational decisions to the municipal clerks and chief administrative officers.
Hamilton Police Investigating Drag Story Time Disruption as a Hate Incident
Ward 2 Clr Cameron Kroetsch, in his capacity as a member of the Police Services Board, asked Hamilton Police to further explain their response to protests that occurred surrounding Terryberry Library on November 24, 2022.
The Library hosted a drag queen storytime that day.
Protesters chanted against the event outside of the library. A larger contingent of counter-protesters tried to drown them out.
Hamilton Police kept the two groups separate.
In response to questions at the Police Board meeting on December 15, Deputy Police Chief Ryan Diodati states the attempt to disrupt the event is being investigated as a "hate incident." Police declined to elaborate citing ongoing investigations.
Media reports from the date in question stated there was some pushing.
CHCH reported one protester tried to enter the library. [CHCH noted a few of the protesters in Hamilton were also involved in similar protests in Oakville.]
Conservative columnist Joe Warmington of The Toronto Sun wrote there were "more supporters than detractors" outside the library.
Mayor Andrea Horwath condemned "the actions of organized hate and discrimination" calling the protest "unacceptable."
Drag queen storytime events have become a target of right-wing media and commentators in recent months.
The Terryberry event was the second hosted by the Hamilton Public Library. An earlier event at the Binbrook library occurred without any protests.
In his December monthly report [unrelated to Kroetsch's tweets] to the Library Board, published Friday, Hamilton Public Library Chief Librarian and CEO Paul Takala wrote:
"We asked Hamilton Police Services to ensure the event could happen safely. I want to thank the Police Service for the support they provided to ensure no one was hurt and the program itself could happen without disruption. I spent most of the program outside where the protesters were kept separate by Police from the larger number of community members showing their support. The communication between the Police and HPL, the professionalism and restraint of the Officers present all assisted in keeping everyone safe." [pg 35]
During Wednesday's Library Board meeting, Takala added, "I'm glad we didn't have to cancel the event," that the police presence was essential.
The Library Board went into closed session to discuss the security implications of the protests.
Clr A Wilson Moves Up Heritage Review of Osler House
Ward 13 Clr Alex Wilson lifted a section of November's Municipal Heritage Committee report to return the Osler House at 30 South Street West in Dundas to the heritage designation priority list.
The change comes only days after McMaster University told Metroland journalist Craig Campbell they are selling the property because of concerns regarding "racist views" held by Sir William Osler.
The property was on the City's list of properties for heritage study before McMaster purchased it in January 2021. The City de-prioritized the study knowing the property's heritage interest was secure.
Wilson's motion passed. Staff will research and report on potential heritage designation by December 2024.
Taxi Scrips Fraud Report
Hamilton's Transit division has another embarrassing preventable scandal on its hands.
The City's Taxi Scrips were being misused with "certain gas stations" accepting taxi scrips for fuel purchases.
Scrip coupons were "acquired by third parties and used as barter in illegitimate exchange transactions and by parties that are not eligible to be subsidized," write the City's internal auditors.
Taxi Scrips are paper coupons which eligible persons requiring accessible transit can purchase to ride taxis instead of waiting for and using DARTS accessible transit services.
Users pay $24 for a coupon book worth $40 in scrips. The scrips are similar to cash for taxi companies.
The City reimburses the taxi companies for the face value of coupons.
Officially, companies must provide trip information including passenger number, date, trip, cab number, pick up and drop off location.
In practice, the City's Transit Division did not ask for the information, and did not bother to verify the submitted coupons.
Only 3 percent of scrips inspected by the City's internal auditors "sampled were found to be in compliance with the contractual requirements."
"There is so much missing information from the redeemed taxi scrips that ongoing compliance assessment and monitoring for illicit activity … is not feasible."
The terrible bookkeeping by HSR managers means nobody will be held responsible for potential fraud. The managers remain in their positions.
City Hall Job Postings
The City's 2023 summer student jobs applications are now open. This past summer (2022), the City was unable to fill all positions and took the unusual step of hiring secondary students for the months of July and August to fill four-month post-secondary student positions that was unfilled. If you know a young person, let them know.
Mayor Andrea Horwath is hiring a Strategic Initiatives & Policy Advisor and a Community Engagement Advisor. The Mayor is using an open competitive process for the positions. Applications closed on Saturday.
The City is hiring a Director for a new Housing Secretariat.
City Hall states the position will fill gaps and assist the existing Director of Housing position and the existing CEO CityHousing positions by being more focused upon creating new affordable housing and protecting existing market-affordable housing.
The new position "is going to identify and work upon existing work underway across city departments in the community, and includes short term strategies with concrete actions that can be undertaken immediately while simultaneously working towards the mid and long term strategies that will optimize resources available to each sector."
The HSR is adding a new transit planning position, Senior Project Manager – Transit Planning – LRT Integration.
The HSR's (Re)Envision strategy is ongoing, having been paused for the past two years. There are no timelines for the strategy's reports on how to change the HSR's over 50-year old route structure.
Now Ward 4 Clr Tammy Hwang's former city job is posted for hire.
Numerous land-use development planner positions are, once again, posted. The shortage of planners across the GTHA means the City cannot get enough applicants. The City is using college-educated planning technicians in 'junior' roles traditionally reserved for university-educated planners. The techs are doing good work, but the City needs university-educated planners who can secure professional designations to meet the requirements of the Planning Act – especially when processing complex applications.
Hamilton Facing Court Challenge After Declining Abortion Bus Ad
Ontario's Divisional Court is granting intervenor status to a pro-choice group in the latest court case regarding anti-abortion/pro-life ads on public transit in Hamilton.
The Court ruling states the City of Hamilton rejected an advertisement from The Association for Reformed Political Action Canada that refers to a sonogram image of a late-term fetus in the womb as a person.
The City decision stated the ad needed "to be revised so as not to reflect personhood in relation to" the sonogram image.
Pro-choice organization Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada asked for and was granted intervenor status.
"ARCC would be able to provide additional perspectives that would assist the court in understanding the broader potential impact of the court's decision on those not before the court," ruled Justice Sandra Nishikawa.
Oral arguments in court are months away, at least. With an intervenor, this case may reach the Supreme Court of Canada and finally settle how municipalities should address these kinds of advertisements.
More about this case, including background info, on TPR here.
Library Service Hours Expanding (Again)
The Hamilton Public Library system plans to further expand its hours in 2023 once the system fills 22 positions that are presently vacant: [pg 27]
- Central Library's first floor will open at 8:00 a.m. on weekdays and Saturdays.
- The Red Hill, Turner Park, and Waterdown branches will open on Sundays.
- Study Hall hours will be added at Central, Turner Park, and Valley Park branches.
(Presently Dundas, Red Hill, Terryberry and Waterdown offer Study Hall hours.)
- Study Hall hours will be added at Central, Turner Park, and Valley Park branches.
Library Considering New Branch at Pier 8
In a new update, the HPL's Chief Librarian writes "we will continue to explore options for a potential branch Library at the Discovery Centre. The location would provide an ideal place for a full-service branch library that could also highlight Local History & Archives exhibits and further advance Truth and Reconciliation initiatives." [pg 28]
Takala told the Library Board that City staff are interested in the Library putting together a plan for a branch. The Library will be ask the City to fund a feasibility study.
New Council Orders Release of Chedoke Creek Outside Legal Spending
The new City Council ordered the release of the City's outside legal spending on the Chedoke Creek 24-billion litre sewage spill.
$195,000 is the outside legal costs "with unbilled work in progress of approximately $40,000, exclusive of HST."
NG9-1-1 Provincial Funding Applications Open
Hamilton is budgeting $31.7-million for the next generation 9-1-1 project.
This week, the Province of Ontario opened applications to receive provincial funding for the non-capital portions of the project. Hamilton's non-capital budget for the project is $7.1-million.
The City has until January 10 to apply for provincial funding.
Red Hill Inquiry Entering Phase 2
In late October, the Red Hill Parkway Inquiry completed its first phase – testimony of officials, experts, and those involved with the Red Hill Valley Parkway.
It is now preparing to begin the second phase.
"Phase 2 will focus on expert evidence looking at factors that contributed to motor vehicle accidents on the Red Hill Valley Parkway, as well as policy and governance issues at the City of Hamilton that arise from the Inquiry's Terms of Reference," the Inquiry's update states.
Both the City of Hamilton and Golder Associates are seeking to add their experts to Phase 2.
The City wishes to counter other expert testimony regarding alleged problems on the parkway including the number of collisions, inconsistent friction, and wet weather performance.
The City argues, "it is important that the Commissioner receives a balanced response on the technical issues relating to the safety and design of the RHVP." [PDF: City's submission outlining planned oral arguments]
Golder Associates Ltd., the contractor who wrote the buried friction report, plans to argue there are "gaps" in the expert reports commissioned by the Inquiry and will submit further expert evidence regarding asphalt selection, testing, and testing methods.
During Tuesday's oral arguments, Justice Wilton-Seigel probed the City's requests. A few times the Justice noted if the City wished to hire more experts to provide different opinions than the earlier City experts, this will have "timing and cost consequences."
The Justice granted some of the City's requests and granted Golders' requests.
The City seeks to enter new evidence to the Inquiry, primarily to argue no negligence by the municipality regarding friction maintenance and monitoring because no municipalities have these programs.
"Given that the City has called this Inquiry, I am reluctant to prevent the City from putting forward this evidence if, in its considered opinion, this evidence is necessary notwithstanding such timing and cost implications," noted the Justice.
Phase 2 evidence hearings will be heard on February 16-17 and 21-23.
Oral closing submissions will be heard on March 22-24.
Dates are subject to change, if the City requests to add more evidence.
The Collingwood Inquiry report was issued 11 months after closing arguments.
E-Scooters to Launch in Spring
Bird Canada will launch an e-scooter service in Hamilton this coming spring. They've signed a licensing deal with the City of Hamilton.
City procurement documents included a minimum schedule of fees.
Key to the deal is Bird Canada will pay an "operating offset" to Hamilton Bike Share.
City Hall is working to find non-tax levy funding for Bike Share to ensure its long-term viability. The payments from Bird to Bike Share will significantly advance this goal.
Bird Canada is committing to a 30-minute response time for "misparked" scooters, being a Living Wage Employer, and providing discounts to ensure low-income riders can use the system.
City Hall Now Keeps COVID Forecast Secret
The secrecy surrounding City Hall's COVID forecasting contract using Scarsin software is near absolute.
The City signed a non-competitive contract this summer, keeping the purchase price secret.
The contract is worth more than $250,000. We know this because staff needed Council's rubber stamp on the purchase.
A partial release of the Scarsin forecast was made public, that was until the last week of November when City Hall announced it will no longer share even this.
"What we've seen recently is the many factors that help to determine the level of COVID-19 spread and the Scarsin forecasting have become more complex – including the relationship with the rise and competition of other respiratory viruses that may be reducing the spread of COVID-19. As a result, Scarsin COVID-19 forecasting will not be published," wrote Hamilton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson.
Hamilton Police Ending Overnight Noise Duty
Hamilton Police says due to "ongoing staffing challenges," the police service will no longer provide paid overtime duty officers for overnight noise bylaw enforcement.
The City's Director of Municipal Law Enforcement writes noise enforcement will now end at 1:00 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
City Staff Failed to Get Permits Before Cutting Down 23 Trees on a Designated Heritage Property
Who hasn't accidentally forgotten to get a permit to knock down 23 trees on a designated heritage property?
City staff recommended giving themselves a "retroactive" permit for tree removal at Battlefield House and Park in Stoney Creek.
The retroactive permit was approved.
HSR Service Cuts for Winter and Spring
Hamilton's public transit agency says it will end service at 9:00 p.m. on January 1st, February 20, and April 7.
Shift workers and others who need transit on those nights will have to find another way to get around the city.
City Hall has yet to announce if it will provide service on New Years' Eve.
City Emails with Passwords Pasted on the Internet
Internet hacks happen often. A list of approx. 2.9-million emails with passwords were posted as a paste in recent days. There are 208 @hamilton.ca emails on the list. The hack appears to be prior to 2012, many of the names are now retired.
This is an excellent reminder to use strong and unique passwords for your accounts.
CHML: Chief says Hamilton' fortunate' amid Canada-wide survey reporting diminishing firefighter numbers
A good follow-up by CHML on a national report stating there is a shortage of firefighters across Canada.
Hamilton's Fire Chief told CHML that Hamilton is thankfully not experiencing the same challenges.