Updated: Wed Jun. 24 2009 8:29:46 PM
The city of Toronto says it will be opening another 19 waste transfer sites as it again pleaded for people not to engage in illegal dumping.
City manager Joe Pennachetti told a news briefing on Wednesday that the locations of the new sites will be unveiled on Thursday afternoon.
"These locations will accept waste from residents and yellow-bag customers free of charge," he said.
City official Geoff Rathbone told reporters the city doesn't have many options because it is such a dense urban environment. The sites will be chosen to put them close to where the garbage is being generated while trying to balance against "local concerns," he said.
"But certainly all of our sites will be safe, they'll be controlled, and they had to be permitted by Ontario's Ministry of the Environment," he said.
Dr. David McKeown, the city's chief medical officer of health, said measures will be taken to control pests at these sites. "Public health staff will be monitoring the sites on a regular basis," he said.
There's no evidence of any health problems resulting so far, he said.
One site appears to be going up near Sunnyside Beach, right beside a path heavily used by bicyclists and roller-bladers. "Whose idea was this?" one woman asked CTV Toronto.
Strikers have been blocking access to transfer stations since the strike began Monday morning, making for a tense, frustrating process.
"The city is working continuously to resolve this situation," Pennachetti said.
Rathbone later told reporters that progress had been made with the union in terms of a standardized process for the transfer stations, which should end wide variation in wait times for people coming to drop off garbage.
City officials said 59 tickets have been issued so far for illegal dumping. The minimum fine is $380. The maximum fine is $10,000 for individuals and $50,000 for businesses.
McKeown said illegal dump sites are more likely to cause public health problems than legal ones.
Pennachetti warned too that with Canada Day fast approaching, city-run events and those that take place on city-owned properties are cancelled. "However, if the strike ends by the weekend, some of these events may be able to go ahead on a modified basis," he said.
Earlier, Toronto's civic workers rallied outside city hall, urging each other to keep fighting as their strike settled into its third day amid ongoing negotiation talks.
About 200 people showed up at the rally to support about 2,400 inside and outside city workers, including the heads of other unions across Ontario. Union officials took to the microphone at the rally, asking members not to accept concessions.
The rally comes on the heels of an Angus-Reid poll that says three-quarters of respondents want unionized employees to drop contract demands and get back to work.
Workers walking the picket line said management is to blame.
"If it wasn't for management's mismanagement of money we wouldn't be here," one woman told CTV Toronto.
One male protester said he's fighting for the city to invest in the community.
"Good jobs mean a good community," he said.
Resolution not imminent
Toronto Mayor David Miller told CTV's Canada AM Wednesday that the city is no closer to reaching a resolution.
"Negotiators for both sides are at the table negotiating and there is some progress but I don't think I would characterize it as being close to a resolution at this point," he said.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty also sounded off on the strike Wednesday, urging Torontonians to have patience.
He said that he too has been inconvenienced by the strike but that both sides deserve time to negotiate. McGuinty also said it's too soon to start talking about back-to-work legislation.
"So they're not going to pick up my garbage this week, so it looks, at this point in time," McGuinty said. "I will be inconvenienced as will many here in the City of Toronto, but I think it's important that we hold our fire and allow the two sides to do what needs doing."
He said the province would be glad to appoint a mediator to help negotiations along.
Toronto's municipal workers went on strike at the stroke of midnight Sunday, leaving the city without garbage pick-up, summer camp, swimming pools and daycare. About 24,000 indoor and outdoor workers walked off the job.
The main points of contention include job security, seniority, scheduling and sick-day benefits.
The tension was palpable between Torontonians and picketers protesting outside several garbage transfer stations on Wednesday.
Toronto police were on hand to make sure the situation remained peaceful.
Since the strike began, mounds of illegally dumped garbage has been spotted in public parks and beaches.
Miller said the city has been in close contact with health officials about the possible risks to the public of having garbage exposed in public places for an extended period of time.
Although Miller said the city is not close to reaching a settlement, he said he's focusing on negotiations rather than the possibility of an extended strike.
"We have contingency plans for everything but I'm thinking about today's negotiations, not next week, so let's see what progress we can make today," he said. "By far our preference is to reach a negotiated settlement and get people back to work but the settlement has to be one that's affordable to the city," he added.
Besides garbage collection, the strike affects the following :
- child-care centres
- libraries located inside community centres golf courses
- the Toronto Island ferries
- recreation centres
- wedding services
- city-run sexual health and dental clinics
- restaurant inspections
- city-run events in public squares and public parks
Public transit, police officers, fire services are not affected by the strike. Emergency calls for ambulance and paramedic services will continue as usual, the city says. However, non-emergency and low-priority calls might experience a delay.
Court services including parking ticket payments are still available to the public.
City officials have outlined their contingency plan on Toronto's official website Toronto.ca.
With reports from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney and Reshmi Nair