Councillors may have home security covered
Staff recommend city reimburse members due to threats
Councillors may soon be able to expense home security systems, following an increase in threats to elected officials in Toronto and across the country.
City staff recommend members of council be reimbursed for up to $2,000 to set up home security, and up to $100 a month for a security monitoring subscription, noting that similar policies have been passed in Calgary, Hamilton, Waterloo and Ottawa.
The Star has reported that councillors have received death threats and abusive phone calls and messages. Some have had their constituency windows smashed and protestors on their doorsteps after their home addresses were shared online. The attacks escalated dramatically during the pandemic, raising concern that fewer people — in particular women and people of colour who are often specifically targeted — will choose to run for office.
“My family and my wife didn’t get into politics. I made that decision. They supported me wholeheartedly but … the threats to myself seem to be on the increase and I don’t want to see that trickling in into my family,” said Coun. Paul Ainslie (Scarborough-Guildwood) who already has a home security system.
“It has got a lot more ugly, almost threatening. We used to get complaints but the threatening behaviour, it’s three or four times what it used to be,” said Coun. Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence).
The city’s executive committee discussed the staff report on updating councillor budgets Tuesday but postponed approving it for council debate in order to receive staff input on another pressing concern: expenses related to the “reality of the digital age,” as Coun. Paula Fletcher (Toronto-Danforth) summarized it.
She noted that councillor offices now have new expenses from videoconferencing software like Zoom to email marketing service Mailchimp. Coun. Jennifer McKelvie (Scarborough—Rouge Park) added that councillor staff are also now all using cellphones for work, another expense that is not currently fully accounted for.
Next week’s city council meeting will, however, consider the city’s revamped CaféTO program that promises to address the complaints of slow approval times and onerous regulations including accessible platforms. Now restaurants whose plans were approved for 2023 will be fast-tracked through the 2024 application process.
More than 200 businesses have already been pre-approved, according to city staff, while 105 need to submit additional material. The official application period will open in January, six weeks earlier than previously.
Mayor Olivia Chow welcomed the changes, which she said will allow restaurant owners to tell their customers well in advance they are going to be able to enjoy outdoor patio space.
“It’s going to be a fast smooth process. On top of it, it will be one-stop shop. Rather than dealing with all these different folks, they’re going to have one place, the transportation department that will make all the decisions,” said Chow.
The city collects about $500,000 in fees and spends an additional $3.236 million to keep CaféTO going, according to staff.
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited