I tune in to Rogers (Monday 13 January) to watch the debate on land use policy and I get, instead, a load of garbage.
To my surprise and delight, Newmarket’s councillors have summonsed the Town’s garbage collectors, GFL (Green for Life), to give them a dressing down in public for the service they have (not) been providing. The councillors are on good form.
We learn that GFL bought the Town’s previous garbage collection company, Turtle Island, in December 2011 and things have been going steadily downhill since.
GFL’s District Manager Craig Nelson and Brian Kent, taking notes, are in the ducking stool. It is impossible to feel sorry for them.
First, they apologise for the delayed collections blaming the weather, truck breakdowns and “labour issues” in that order.
We are told five garbage trucks “went down” on 24 December and GFL had to bring in back up vehicles from all points of the compass and they too had problems.
We learn a staggering 25% of the refuse collectors are down with injuries.
Craig Nelson assures us things are going to be better “going forward”.
He tells us Newmarket can expect 7 recycling and 5 garbage trucks. In addition there will be spare vehicles and spare staff on hand. Going forward, he assures councillors his team will have the necessary resources.
Concluding his apologia, he says he is now “looking forward” to mending the relationship with the Town.
Chris Emanuel is first up with questions. He recites a series of earlier service failures in Ward 7, predating by months the catastrophic collapse in collection over Christmas and New Year. Nelson tells us injuries and broken down trucks were to blame.
Now an apoplectic Tom Vegh demands to know why his Christmas tree has not been picked up.
Nelson tells him: “We made a collective decision that garbage was more important than Christmas trees.”
Adding: “And we made that decision at 11.30am today.”
This infuriates the normally mild mannered Vegh even more. “Trees not picked up is not a good sign.”
Jane Twinney is the first to get to the heart of the matter when she says there aren’t enough people out there to get the job done.
She asks about one-man operation. She asks if one man driving the truck, getting out, picking up the garbage and getting back in the truck again can possibly be safe. There must be health and safety issues. Is this industry practice?
We are asked to believe that one man operation is OK so long as the garbage or recycling is going into the side of the truck rather than the back and the route is 40 km or less. Sounds like a load of old bollocks to me.
Tom Hempen expresses his concerns in his usual measured way. He wants GFL to help with the spring clean up in Ward 4. (We hear them say they will.)
Now a volcanic Joe Sponga erupts with fury.
He is concerned about regular staff being replaced by temps. He dismisses the alleged truck breakdowns as a cock-and-bull story. He explodes:
“I am not going to accept your apology. Pick up the garbage and don’t come here and waste my time!”
I think to myself, I don’t want to get on the wrong side of this guy! What a temper! What a dressing down! What a performance!
Now it is the turn of a sceptical Maddie Di Muccio who scolds the company before telling us:
“I love the principle of private garbage collection. It saves taxpayers millions of dollars.”
But her real target (as always) is Newmarket staff who, apparently, failed to check on the contractor despite numerous warnings. She won’t name names. They’ll know who she means.
Dave Kerwin, in full magisterial mode, weighs in. He tells us the company is treating its workers in an “almost inhuman” way, forcing them to pick up garbage in the late evening. “You’ve got a great labour force but you’ve got to treat them better.”
He warns GFL that if they overpaid for Turtle Island that’s their issue. They don’t make things balance out by cutting service levels. The old teacher in him is still alive and kicking. He is very effective.
Regional Councillor John Taylor wants to see a return to high levels of service but confesses he has his doubts. He wants to see “dollars flowing into this contract” with resources going into manpower and vehicle maintenance. Importantly, he also wants information on staffing levels. (This is an absolutely key point along with injury stats).
The Mayor wants a written plan of action, signed off by the top people in GFL.
Now it is back to Chris Emanuel. He thanks staff for their work in dealing with this crisis (They appreciate a few kind words.) Now the velvet glove comes off and I hear him calling for financial penalties against the company. I see everyone nodding in agreement.
All in all, a great performance by our councillors in holding GFL to account.
Ten out of ten.
Land Use Planning
Arguably the most important item on yesterday’s Committee of the Whole agenda was the one on possible changes to the system of land use planning in Ontario. The staff report on the Provincial Consultation Document should have provided a framework for a wide-ranging discussion on the failures of the current system and how it can be improved. Personally, I think the planning system is broken and needs a complete overhaul.
The deadline set by the Province was impossibly short and we learn that the Town’s comments have already been sent off. The Town’s Planning Director, Rick Nethery, explains
“staff provided comment but without the benefit of a Council endorsement”
I suppose that says it all.
John Taylor and Tom Hempen make a few comments about land banking but they sound listless. It takes Maddie Di Muccio to provide a spark.
She confesses candidly she doesn’t know what she will be endorsing if she votes for the report. (True. It is full of planning babble.) She says there should have been a workshop for all councillors, explaining issues in the report that are new and unfamiliar. She cites the “clergy principle” as a case in point. Her concerns are brushed off and she is offered a one-to-one with Rick Nethery.
She doesn’t get any support from her colleagues even though the point she makes is a fair one.
Di Muccio has no friends on Council or, for that matter, staff. For years she has poisoned the well, drip by drip, so that when she asks for support it is simply not forthcoming.
Councillors duly rubber stamp the comments, post hoc, as expected.
Di Muccio votes against.
No debate. But then, in truth, I suppose I never expected one.
The Town will not consider mediation before the conclusion of Phase 1 of the Glenway hearing which will determine whether any development at all should get the go-ahead. This is good news.
Maddie Di Muccio and Dave Kerwin voted against the motion moved by Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, without giving reasons.
Newmarket Town Hall Watch
The conceited content remains the same.