Nothing says simple, local government like street cleaners. In Toronto’s case, however, street cleaners are longer on hours and whose salary would then be shared by city councilors, political staffers and their aides.
In 2017, the Toronto city council set aside $50,000 per year for the purposes of hiring private trash haulers to pick up the garbage and recycling left behind by city workers—despite the fact that is those workers had just complained to the clerk’s office that this arrangement had the potential to drive their wages, benefits and job security into the ground.
“We’re aware of the need for labour flexibility to deal with reductions in the number of staff and hours,” Toronto City Clerk Ulli Watkiss wrote in the motion calling for the service review. “Toronto does not want to do this by resorting to the city’s full capabilities, which would include raising rates and/or reducing the goods and services provided.”
But when it came to actually approving the budget of $780,000 per year for trash haulers, Toronto council turned a real bargain. The private haulers were supposed to help the city save $1 million a year, but, after a year, they were the only providers offering services in the city’s north and east areas—despite the fact that the city’s short-term strategy backfired and residents complained in a flood of negative online reviews to the City Council’s website.
Toronto failed to turn the private contractors into a revenue stream that would pay the city back for its outlay, according to a report published by Toronto’s auditor general in June. The report also found the $9.3 million a year spent on private hauling was entirely unnecessary because Toronto owed $8.4 million to its three private haulers after it had already cashed in.
One year later, the Toronto city council has not officially reviewed the details of the recommendation by the city clerk, but it has kept the secret service’s service study inside its deliberations—and despite protests by both councillors and citizens alike, council has formally re-appointed private trash haulers at above-market prices that leave taxpayers picking up the tab.