Two votes on stormwater in YSW

City Council also voted for two very interesting motions to reduce flooding, which has been a particular problem in parts of our riding.

One motion asks city staff to study a stormwater tax—which, if you think about it, is a rain tax. But it’s a super idea!

The trouble is that large, paved surfaces push much rainwater into the sewers. Right now, water users are charged for stormwater management, even though the water you use has nothing at all to do with how big your parking lot is. The motion introduced by Mike Layton will ask city staff to study taxing hard surface areas like parking lots. Councillor Frances Nunziata voted in favour. The motion narrowly carried.

A second motion, proposed by Nunziata, asks city staff to study naturalizing the Black Creek Channel.

The Black Creek was ‘channelized’ in the middle of the 20th century—meaning the river was replaced with a concrete channel instead of a natural environment.

Black Creek Channel, from the TRCA

The TRCA says that “while providing some riverine flood remediation benefits, [channels] do not fully protect the area from riverine flooding.”

Nunziata’s motion asks staff to consider “alternative design options for the Rockcliffe Riverine Flood Mitigation Project… and report on its findings.”

Possible flooding solution rejected in 2017.

A man walks under Weston’s Lawrence Avenue bridge the day after the floods of July 2013 (file).

One of the problems of living in a big city is that much of the surface is paved over. When it rains, water drains quickly and can raise river and stream levels as well as create flooding in low lying areas. The solution is well known. Plant trees, build green roofs and where possible create temporary holding tanks for sudden water flows. To pay for this, staff last year proposed charging homeowners for the amount of non-absorbing roof and parking surface on their property. These are the people creating the problem so it’s fair that they should help pay for the solution. When Toronto’s Executive Committee considered the matter, following the Mayor’s direction, they recommended voting against the charges.

Councillor Nunziata voted with the mayor when the matter came to a full meeting of council but today has issued a helpful email itemizing what to do if your basement floods. That will be of small comfort to the many people whose lives have been disrupted yet again.

Running a big city costs money. Without a mayor and council with the courage to do the right thing, ordinary people are left to suffer the consequences. Charging people for the runoff they create would encourage a reduction in stormwater runoff and help pay for larger-scale flood prevention measures.

Instead of following staff recommendations, Mayor Tory and Councillors Mammoliti, Nunziata and others seemed place their trust in the short memory of voters, believing their re-election chances are more important than flooded basements. Kindred spirit Giorgio Mammoliti framed the charge as a ‘roof tax’ that would not play well in the suburbs.

Are voters really that stupid?