Sheppard East Vote Delayed to March 22, 2012

Council did not finish its debate by 8pm on March 21, and a motion to extend time failed, barely, on a vote of 28-15 (a 2/3 majority was needed because this would be a procedural change).

The pro-subway forces are running the clock, but they are simply wasting everyone’s time.  On a simple majority basis, the LRT option will pass.

Come back at 9:30 am on March 22.

16 thoughts on “Sheppard East Vote Delayed to March 22, 2012

  1. Well, at least Toronto politics aren’t boring.

    However, I would like to suggest that “anti-LRT” would be a better term than “pro-subway”. I’m pro-subway, where and when appropriate, which includes projected ridership and cost among other criteria. I imagine almost everybody here is probably pro-subway by this meaning.

    Can anybody summarize briefly the rules governing the duration of the debate? Does each councillor get a certain amount of time to speak? What about questions, etc.? I assume there is some sort of time limit and this meeting won’t just get adjourned every day for a month or two or until the provincial government expels city hall from the province.

    Steve: Here is a brief explanation. There is only one item on the agenda because this is a special meeting, but otherwise most of the debating rules stay the same. The first round allows members to ask questions of staff (a preliminary presentation might have happened at Council, but that’s been taken care of already). The list of questioners is maintained by computer with buttons at each Councillor’s seat to make standard requests (about which more later). Each member gets 5 minutes for questions and replies. Once that’s out of the way, it’s time for members to speak to the item.

    Typically, the first few to speak to an item will either be proposing the item as submitted, or will move amendments to it. A member gets up to 5 minutes to speak, and can request a 2 minute extension. Under former administrations, these extensions were routinely granted on a voice vote, but Rob Ford wants every single vote recorded, and it takes time for everyone to vote for this trivial grace that is always extended to all members. If the member proposed a motion, then other members of Council have 2 minutes to ask questions of the mover. This can take a long time as we shall see later. Members can also speak to a proposal that has come forward in a motion.

    It is possible that members may offer amendments to others’ motions. Sometimes these are friendly changes intended to improve the language, sometimes they are intended to sabotage or poison the motion itself. Keeping track of the strategy on these can get tricky, and knowing procedure helps to ensure that things get voted on in the “correct” order because they have been properly framed.

    The pattern of speakers to the main item, possible motions of amendment and questions on the amendment continue until we are through all members who wish to speak. This was close to happening today, but it didn’t (see below).

    Once all of the motions are on the floor and debate is over, the City Clerk organizes them in order of precedence. They are not voted on in the order they are made. Amendments to motions must be voted on before the motions they affect (because this could change the sense of what is proposed), and then come amendments to the item itself. Motions to refer the item to another body or to staff for further study take precedence because if they pass, there is no further debate until the item comes back.

    What happened to day was that the Fords clearly wanted to run the clock to the scheduled 8 pm adjournment in the hope of having a more favourable voting balance at a future meeting. Councillor Thompson proposed the almost standard motion the Fords put forward when there is an item they don’t want — refer the whole thing off to staff, or to a committee which Ford controls, where the item will languish. Normally, this would give us a straight up-and-down vote, and the Fords would have known it could not possibly pass. Their strategy was not actually refer the item, but to have every one of their allies speak to the motion thereby preventing any forward motion to actual votes. This is a variation on the schoolboy prank attempted some week ago of denying quorum when a meeting resumed after lunch so that a debate would not continue. Ford will use any procedural trick available to him to block his imminent defeat.

    This brought us to the scheduled adjournment, and a 2/3 majority is required to waive the previously agreed to Order Paper and change either the time of adjournment, or the time and date of reconvening which have been agreed to at the beginning of the meeting. There were various motions trying to set different lengths of extension and different times to resume, but the standout was The Mayor’s proposal that the whole item be put over for two weeks until April 4. Council roundly rejected this. They will be back at 9:30 am on March 22.

    Yes, it is possible for debate to go interminably, although there is a procedure allowing for closure of debate. However, this requires a 2/3 majority and with the current balance of power, could not be passed. As long as someone comes up with more amendments, we could go on forever with a filibuster. This is an example of “responsible government”.

    That’s the short version. There are a lot of wrinkles I have left out.


  2. It seems that the disposition of powers is 25 to 19. There was mentioned in the Star Blog that some of the LRT-loving councilors might not be there tomorrow – something that Doug was loudly counting on. Will the motion pass by 20 to 19 then?

    Let’s assume the motion to approve Sheppard LRT will pass tomorrow. What are the chances that this issue won’t be brought back in the following months? I mean are there any procedural obstacles against that? I believe when it is done – it is done. But it might not be the case with Ford. He has already threatened to derail LRT plans if his Sheppard Subway is not approved.

    Steve: I am not sure exactly what scheme the Fords are counting on to catch the pro-LRT folks with their numbers down. Don’t forget that they could run the clock too with a filibuster to let their folks get back from whatever, if any, conflicting engagement they may have. Indeed, given the importance of this vote, any other engagement is almost secondary. The Fords have been singularly inept at counting votes and managing this sort of strategy for months.

    As for the future, I am sure Ford will use everything he can to block an LRT plan. That’s why the reconstitution of the TTC was so important because it eliminated that agency as a place where mischief could prevent staff from proceeding apace.


  3. Oh, an important update from Robyn Doolittle:

    So I’ve done a minor canvass – LRT lovers say they’ll have the votes tomo too. Let’s see what Team Ford can come up with in the next 13 hrs.


  4. Hi Steve.

    I hope that you are right about the LRT motion passing. I am sick and tired of the Fords, the left over “Toronto Sun” hacks and all the rest of them wasting our time and tax dollars on the obsolete concept of a suburban subway line. I am crossing my fingers and preparing my whiskey collection for whatever the outcome might be.


  5. Is it possible that Ford is trying to postpone the vote until the Inside workers go out on strike which they would do if Ford manouevered them into it? I don’t think Council can meet during such a strike.

    Steve: Certainly a plausible scheme, but utterly despicable.


  6. Is it just me or does it seem like all the pro-subway voices wouldn’t take a subway if it showed up at their door tomorrow?


  7. As to whether Ford can stop things after he has lost the vote, does it not move to the Premier to decide once Council has made it’s decision? I should think that would put the decision at least beyond Ford’s reach, Mind you, Ford has made it clear that he doesn’t care what Council decides, he will still block it. He is a true tyrant. When is that Paul Magdar/ClaytonRuby court case?


  8. I am thinking that with Council deciding to go with LRT, and the TTC board out of Ford’s control, his next attempts to block things will involve departments that will have to co-operate with construction in some way or another.

    Don’t undo your seatbelts yet – the ride will still be a little bumpy!

    Steve: At some point, that sort of interference could result in a direction by Council to the City Manager. Mayor Ford does not seem to realize or care that he is creating much ill-will that could harden attempts to strip his ability to achieve anything in the remainder of his term.


  9. I must say I found Andy Byford to be a total disgrace.

    The head of a transit company should not be supporting inappropriate technologies. There is no case for a subway on Sheppard based on the pure ridership numbers even were the money available. To suggest otherwise in his capacity is merely confusing the issue. I contrast this to the way David Gunn comported himself in front of council during the last Sheppard subway debate. (where unfortunately despite his candor a stupid decision was made)


  10. According to tweets from John Lorinc, construction on Finch and Sheppard wouldn’t start till 2016. Do the decisions made today/last month really have to survive another municipal and provincial election cycle each in order to see the light of day? Is there some way to make the decisions for Finch and Sheppard binding?

    Steve: Not really. Best bet is to elect a Mayor and Council who support the LRT plans. Not sure about that 2016 date. Metrolinx is being coy, but they shouldn’t. I suspect they have already stage-managed their capital flows for the 5-in-10 plan to spend a lot on Eglinton in the short term. Finch was always going to be in the “out” years, and they may have shifted Sheppard money to 2016 in anticipation of a subway construction start then. Definitely this is a question worth chasing.


  11. I think people like John Parker are mistaken in thinking that they can happily work with Ford on other issues after the transit vote. Oh, how everyone keeps underestimating Ford.


  12. Wow! is all I can say at the conclusion of today’s marathon special meeting of Toronto City Council – that decisive 24 to 19 vote in favour of LRT on Sheppard.

    I have just faxed a memorandum to this corporation that there are quite a few councillors (plus a mayor and his brother) who are clamouring for Subways in a Canadian town of some considerable size located on the north shore of Lake Ontario. I’d love to see them have their wishes fulfilled.

    From my 800 km (500 mile) remove here in Chicago, I watched much of yesterday’s and today’s proceedings on “Rogers TV” webstream.

    It was agonizing listening to all the anti-lrt (pro-subway) bloviation by Ford’s council supporters – clearly they were doing all they could to delay or derail a substantive vote. It was easy to see who among the 44 councillors used their intelligence and spoke directly to the issue of the right transit choice, given the nature of the route and funds available. Ford’s people just endlessly parrotted the same old “subways or nothing” schtick. Depressing.

    I hope this vote lays to rest once and for all Ford’s unilateral declaration that “Transit City is dead and the war on the car is over!” It’s plain as day that Rob and Doug are now going to set about to do all they can to stop the LRT by any means at their disposal. Council today swung a sledgehammer at and smashed open a virulent hornets’ nest, and now the dreadful insects are going to swarm upon and painfully sting all their perceived enemies with a vengeance the likes of which Torontonians may never have seen. The days to come are doubtless going to be something to watch – to see to how far the Ford Bros. will go to show what eminently sore losers they are and how spitefully and maliciously they exact their revenge.

    Is it up to the Province to take the next step, now that McGuinty has gotten the clear directive he asked from Toronto City Council?

    What a terribly long-drawn-out and painful time since that memorable day when Mayor Ford took his oath of office and his well-chosen speaker Don Cherry gave those wonderfully tasteful, inspirational and conciliatory welcoming remarks before all of Toronto’s citizens.


  13. Take away the money for the controversial light rail sections (everything except the Eglinton tunnel) and give the few billion remaining to GO Transit. This is enough to get a serious Lakeshore GO train upgrade project up and running.

    There is no point in forcing light rail (which I think is totally inadequate to deal with current/future traffic problems on Eglinton, Sheppard, 401, Hwy 7 etc.) down the throats of a hostile mayor who will sue Metrolinx delaying any construction until 2015.

    Steve: You lost. Get used to it.


  14. I wouldn’t be too hard on TTC CEO Andy Byford; some media and some Councillors tried to take parts of his response out of context. He was at a later point in the debate trying to set the record straight while still being consistent with what he said, but it was clear he was uneasy with answering the question to begin with. He did try to defer to the will and direction of Council to avoid answering the question, since it was a policy matter he was being asked to opine on, but he was put on the spot anyway to give what in reality was a bit of an abstract opinion (which wasn’t useful to the debate since the debate was to do with a specific corridor, not an abstract corridor, as a policy of city-building).

    His position was that a city the size of Toronto does need more subways, and in the case of the overstressed Yonge subway and the need that creates for a DRL, he is absolutely correct.

    It’s a loaded question he was given, since he was asked if money were no object, which would he prefer. If money were no object, his services wouldn’t even be required – his position wouldn’t exist. His job is to make the system run as smoothly as possible with the money (and other resources) available.


  15. I’m in agreement with Karl. Byford yesterday was clearly nervous, as this is his first council meeting as TTC CEO. The tenor of his remarks was extremely cautious. The subway answer that was used widely afterwards was taken out of context, and I think Byford knew that whatever he said would be.

    As an aside: who was the TTC staffer sitting to Byford’s right, and who became the unwitting straight man to Pam McConnell worrying about her grandkids? I think his first name was Saleh. He conducted himself with aplomb throughout.

    Steve: He is Sameh Ghaly, and he is in charge of what has come to be called the Rapid Transit department (formerly Transit City).


  16. Steve: He is Sameh Ghaly, and he is in charge of what has come to be called the Rapid Transit department (formerly Transit City).

    Begin comedy skit:

    1: Oh, I hope that the TTC continues with this name. “Rapid transit” sounds much more effective than Transit City. It has good words.
    2: Yes it does.
    1: It has “Rapid” … rapid is good
    2: better than slow, certainly.
    1: And it has transit. That’s a good word too.
    2: Yes, it implies that it will take us places.
    1: And I like how they use “transit” after “rapid”
    2: better than using “transit” before “city” … because when you think about it, we’re already in the city, so why do we need to talk about the city?

    Ok, seriously though …

    Andrew said:

    There is no point in forcing light rail (which I think is totally inadequate to deal with current/future traffic problems on Eglinton, Sheppard, 401, Hwy 7 etc.) down the throats of a hostile mayor who will sue Metrolinx delaying any construction until 2015.

    Moaz: Frankly, Andrew, if Mayor Ford wants to sue Metrolinx, he can go right ahead. Of course, he would need to do it as a private citizen and he can bankrupt his company to find the money to do so. Ford has been skating on the edge of a minor conflict of interest (using his company money to pay for his municipal office budget) for years … if he wants to turn that minor thing into a major conflict, let him do so.

    I know Steve has already said that the Provincial Government has committed 8.4 billion dollars to Toronto no matter what. Even if this Mayor doesn’t want the money, council certainly will.

    But I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to right now have another mayor, maybe two (Mississauga & Brampton) speak up about how their cities are already cooperating to build better public transit on Hurontario St ( and how their councils have voted in favour of building LRT (no subway debates here) on Hurontario Street, and most importantly, that they would be happy to have money from the province in order to get their project started.

    With all this talk about Scarborough having the population to “deserve” a subway, well, Mississauga & Brampton combined dwarf Scarborough (in population & land area) and they have plans to build density along Hurontario, and they are talking sensibly – about upgraded bus services now, LRT in the future – with no unnecessary talk about subways. Amazing that well-sprawled Peel Region could be the voice of reason when it comes to rapid transit.

    Cheers, Moaz


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