The next time Mayor John Tory, Joe Cressy, Ana Bailao, budget chief Gary Crawford or anyone else whines about provincial budget cuts, I will tell them they’ve dug their own fiscal hole and remind them of their short-sighted vote at 3:45 p.m. on June 19, 2019.

After avoiding the controversial debate for 1 1/2 days, Tory and 18 others decided in the final hours of this week’s council meeting not to open up City Hall to construction bids from all union and non-union shops.


In other words, council’s self-styled “progressives”  said no to competition, fairness, inclusivity and raking in up to $400-million in cost savings for taxpayers by opening up bids on major construction projects — and yes to the status quo, closed-shop way of doing business at City Hall.

Road construction in the downtown core of Toronto. (Stan Behal/Toronto Sun files)

The status quo means only nine select unions will continue to be awarded contracts, along with one more union — — the Labour International Union of North America (LiUNA) — which council also voted to let “voluntarily” join their nice little closed shop.

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The questions were so limited on this very complicated matter, the debate so rushed and the motions from Bailao and Councillor Michael Thompson so staged, it quickly became clear that everything my union sources told me this past weekend was true about the die already being cast to opt out of Section 9 of the Labour Relations Act.

Bailao — reduced to twisting herself into pretzels to justify her motions– foolishly claimed that savings of 2% to 5% on the city’s construction bill is “peanuts” and said she gave preferential treatment to LiUNA because they “do good work.”

The province passed Section 9 of the Labour Relations Act in April, removing a two-decades-old loophole that allowed tendering by only nine select unions on major and costly construction projects at the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC).

All three entities had or have until July 3 to decide whether to opt out of the policy. I’m willing to bet the TDSB and TCHC will follow the city’s decision.

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The use of that loophole, together with a fair wage policy that dictates contractors pay union wages on city jobs, helped explain why splash pads, community centres, homeless shelters, police stations, renovations of Union Station and Nathan Phillips Square, stairs in city parks and playgrounds — among other construction projects — are forever costed out at a premium by the city, TCHC and the TDSB.

A union source told me last weekend that under closed-shop tendering, it costs 25% to 30% more to do the same job in Toronto.

City Manager Chris Murray — thrown under the bus by the mayor and council after he produced two reports recommending that the city move to open tendering — calculated the savings to be a conservative $12 million to $48 million per year.

But Sean Reid, vice-president and Ontario regional director of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA), has consistently said the savings could reach as much as $400 million a year.

Reid blasted council after the vote, noting councillors had a golden opportunity to save taxpayers millions of dollars, but chose not to.

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“It’s just plain politicking when a cash-strapped city council passes up substantial savings and puts special interest groups ahead of their own constituents,” he said.

Councillor Stephen Holyday, who moved the motion to go with open tendering, put on an orange life jacket to try to convince his fellow councillors that the city’s fiscal ship is steering “towards a reef” and it’s the responsibility of council to aim the ship in a different direction.

“It takes guts and fortitude to deal with this,” he said.

But come hell or high water, councillors were determined to protect the status quo– and by doing so, they’ve lost all credibility with Toronto taxpayers.

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Paul Ainslie; Ana Bailao, Brad Bradford, Shelley Carroll, Mike Colle, Gary Crawford, Joe Cressy, Paula Fletcher, Mark Grimes, Cynthia Lai, Mike Layton, Josh Matlow, Jennifer McKelvie, Frances Nunziata, James Pasternak, Gord Perks, Anthony Perruzza, John Tory, Kristyn Wong-Tam.

NO: John Filion, Michael Ford, Stephen Holyday, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Jaye Robinson.

MISSING: Jim Karygiannis, Michael Thompson.



LEVY: City council foresakes taxpayers in tendering vote



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