Toronto city council pushes to scrap incentives for private snow removal

It is estimated that the city spent $36.8m on those private haulers last year but finally that figure may be coming down

Toronto scrap collectors will benefit from a truce between the city’s snow plow operators and city officials, but it may come at the expense of the private contractors who were meant to have saved taxpayers millions on who should and should not clean up the mess.

The Conservative MSP for Toronto West, Todd Smith, tabled a bill in the Ontario legislature on Tuesday that would essentially reduce to zero the incentive for the private companies to compete for more business and the accompanying costs to taxpayers.

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As soon as the municipality announced it would privatize the bulk of its snow-removal business the city’s private haulers took it upon themselves to help the city out and win more business. They lobbied to be considered for any large contracts.

Between 2004 and 2011, private trash haulers helped save Toronto taxpayers $33.9m by winning what would have been controversial and expensive snow clearing contracts. The problem was they would not accept work after 2011, so the city had to pay extra for waste-hauling and other work in the interim.

The concerns of the drivers, organized as the Union Solidarity Group, became public over the last year as the number of private companies increased on the city’s streets.

“Eliminating the incentives to competition and consolidation will lead to denser, longer-lasting collection service. It will not lower costs and it will not level the playing field. Instead it will simply drive the companies with better productivity out of business and lower rates for consumers,” Smith said.

There are 76 private companies in Toronto’s snow removal fleet. The U-Solidarity group says the private haulers this year have divided the city up into 32 smaller districts, ensuring that a driver is never more than 15 minutes away from a customer.

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In an August statement, the union argued that driver fatigue was being a major issue and that the company owners – accused of giving themselves salary increases and a 5% wage hike every year – were preventing the workers from getting paid for what they were really doing. “They’re acting as if nothing’s wrong and the drivers aren’t concerned because they’re better rewarded than the city,” a spokeswoman for the group, Blair Feickert, told the Toronto Star.

A report compiled by Smith’s office said the City of Toronto spent $36.8m on those private trash haulers last year, but that those costs were projected to decrease significantly this year because city officials were only clearing a certain area of the city’s streets and that would become cheaper than allowing private companies to sweep it all.

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