The proposal, which was approved by the public works and infrastructure committee last week, had drawn criticism from a number of city councillors who said it would end up costing taxpayers more money in the long run while putting Scarborough’s city-leading trash diversion rates at risk.

For his part, Mayor John Tory had backed the plan, telling reporters that it had his “strong support,” but on Tuesday he appeared to have second thoughts, moving a motion to send the item back to staff for further study.

The motion, which was approved 40-4, made no mention of when staff would report back to the public works and infrastructure committee and Tory later acknowledged to reporters that it will probably take “some time.”

“I made no bones about the fact that I thought there was no harm in going out and asking but the consensus that could be achieved today was to get more information and try to draw a consensus around those facts,” Tory told reporters following the vote. “The important thing here is to do the right thing and on the maximum amount of facts we can have. I think it was made fairly clear that there weren’t adequate facts on the table.”

A staff report in 2015 concluded that no money would be saved by privatizing garbage collection east of Yonge Street, as was done west of Yonge Street under former Mayor Rob Ford in 2010. That report said that in 2014 the average cost of garbage collection per home in Etobicoke was $142.86 compared to $126.89 in Scarborough.

A report released in November, however, reversed course and called on the city to hold a managed competition procurement process for District 4, while leaving garbage collection in District 3 to unionized city workers for now.

Speaking with reporters, Tory said that he “concedes” that the cost of garbage collection by unionized workers in Toronto has gone down since 2010, making the numbers “less clear than they used to be.”

Tory also rejected a suggestion that he is backtracking on a campaign promise by not pushing ahead with privatized garbage collection city-wide.

“I think the public are concerned about us working together and doing the right thing and in order to do the right thing you have to have all the facts and we voted almost unanimously to get the facts that were missing. I think that’s what people will be focused on rather than what I or anyone else said during an election campaign,” he said.

Issue could resurface in 2019

Tory refused to provide a timeline for when staff may report back, only saying that it “will come back when it comes.”

One city councillor did tell CP24 that the issue isn’t likely be revived until after the expiration of CUPE Local 416’s contract in 2019.

As part of Tory’s motion, council also voted in favour of purchasing new trucks for District 4 as needed.

“This has the possibility of coming back in 2019 after the collective agreement runs out but I don’t think anybody would want to (privatize garbage collection in Scarborough). CUPE has certainly had a win here today,” Scarborough-Agincourt Coun. Jim Karygiannis said after the vote. “The numbers show that it costs less than them (CUPE) to collect the garbage in District 4 than a privatized company.”

Tory’s motion approved by council asks staff to report back on the results of “additional public consultations with CUPE representatives” and on a further analysis of long-term cost implications of privatizing garbage collection in Scarborough.

Currently, garbage pickup in Toronto is divided into four districts.

  • District 1 and 2, which encompasses everything west of Yonge Street, currently has privatized pickup.
  • District 3, which contains high density neighbourhoods between Yonge Street and Victoria Park, currently has trash collected by unionized city workers.
  • On Tuesday, the city voted to further study waste collection options for District 4, the Scarborough area.