‘An absurd number’: Councillors deny request for $400K feasibility report for renovations
A city committee is pressing pause on a plan to spend $400,000 on a study to assess modernization options for Toronto’s council chamber, amid one councillor’s cry that the sum is an outrageous amount of taxpayer money to blow on a report.
“I think it’s just an absurd number to request,” Counc. Josh Matlow told the General Government and Licensing Committee Monday.
“I’m in no mood to just say, ‘here’s a blank cheque for $400,000 on the feasibility of doing something, never mind paying to actually do it.’”
Toronto city staff had asked councillors to approve the spending so they could map out how best to update the chamber, which was last renovated in 1998. Calling it a “unique opportunity” to address various issues with the massive meeting space, staff pointed out that chamber needs to meet specific accessibility requirements under provincial legislation by 2025.
Staff also cited the need to incorporate washroom access within the secure part of the chamber, add more emergency exits and update the audio visual and analog voting technologies.
Comfort for councillors was also on the list of suggested upgrades. “The desks are narrow and the seating area is cramped,” reads the staff report, suggesting a renovation could give elected officials more elbow-room.
Staff also pointed to the fact that fewer seats were required on the floor of the chamber given the size of council had been slashed in half. But councillors argued the city is still challenging that verdict through a recent application to the Supreme Court.
“We’re not sure how many councillors we’re going to have, some of us still have our fingers crossed that it will go back to a higher number,” Councillor John Filion told CTV News Toronto Monday.
Instead of green-lighting the $400,000 request, the committee opted Monday to ask staff to report back in December with a more specific breakdown that focused on the accessibility and modernization requirements. Councillor Paul Ainslie was the only one opposed, citing concerns about further delays.
“That’s a threshold, they can spend up to $400,000,” he told CTV News Toronto. “It doesn’t mean they’re going to go out and spend $400,000.”
“When you give them $400,000, they spend $400,000,” disagreed Councillor Frances Nunziata, who said there were no major comfort concerns with the chamber.
“If it’s not broken, why fix it?”