A Toronto city councillor is fighting to bring mechanical leaf removal back to his ward – a luxury most of the city has gone without for decades – amid ‘tremendous’ concern from his constituents who say the move has made their lives more difficult.
Since the 1960s, residents in Etobicoke, York, and Scarborough have enjoyed mechanical vacuum leaf removal, a service provided by the city in which piles of leaves on residential properties are vacuumed up by a passing truck. Residents in every other ward have to bag their leaves for pickup.
In Toronto’s latest municipal budget, however, the service was axed from the remaining three regions. The city says that the move could save taxpayers an estimated $2.3 million per year.
“42,000 residents enjoyed this service,” Holyday told CTV News Toronto in an interview Monday morning. “Why wouldn’t I fight to sustain a service for the community that has elected me to represent them?”
In a city council meeting last month, Holyday made a final attempt to save the program. It failed to pass with eight councillors voting in favour and 13, against.
Since then the councillor said that he has heard frequently from constituents expressing “tremendous concern” over the issue.
“People are calling and writing in — people who have never called our office before — to let me know how upset they are about the cancellation of the program, how much more difficult it’s made their lives,” he said
In a statement, the city said the move was initially made to align service levels across the city to ensure “an equitable level of service to all residents.”
Holyday acknowledged the potential for savings while speaking with CTV News Toronto. But he said that there is still an argument for the service.
“I’m a pretty stingy guy, but I also understand that 42,000 households enjoyed this service and many of them are in Etobicoke centre,” he said. “There’s a lot of seniors here and until now, they’ve relied on this particular service.”
The mechanical leaf collection program in Etobicoke was a holdover from pre-amalgamation Toronto. The program was never expanded citywide but was allowed to remain in place in Etobicoke following amalgamation in 19998.
To those who have concerns that selective mechanical removal within the city may be unfair, Holyday pointed to his ward’s dense green space.
He also said that leaves from the Oak trees that are found throughout his ward don’t decompose well.
“They tend to clog things like storm sewers,” Holyday explained. “Many of [our ward’s] streets are ditched, so making sure that the ditches and storm drainage system is clear is really important.”
The city has previously said that the mechanical leaf collection program is being permanently scrapped.
However, Holyday said if enough constituents voice their concerns to the city, there will be enough time to put together a program for budget considerations next fall.