Toronto has moved one step closer toward private garbage collection across the entire city.
The city's public works and infrastructure committee unanimously passed a last-minute motion by chair Jaye Robinson Tuesday asking staff to report back on the viability of private garbage collection east of Yonge Street. But Mayor John Tory, who promised during his election campaign to contract out garbage across the city, appeared to back away from that promise, saying the move is not a foregone conclusion and that he still needs more information to make a decision.
"I stand in favour of saying to the people of Toronto that we have examined all the facts, that we have done what we need to do to make sure the garbage is being collected in the way that gives people the best service for the least amount of money possible," Mr. Tory said.
"If, for example, contracting out in one or two of the remaining divisions doesn't save any money, then people may say 'well, why would you bother?' I want to know what the facts are."
Ms. Robinson's request asks staff for "options to achieve savings and efficiencies in curbside waste collection" and to report back by April. If the committee votes to move forward after that report, the decision still will have to go to council for a vote.
Ms. Robinson, the mayor's hand-picked chair for the committee, was also cautious in her remarks.
"This issue of outsourcing garbage was front and centre in the campaign – particularly for the mayor. But we have to make sure it's cost-effective," she said. "If it's not cost-effective, there's no point in going forward."
When pressed on whether there is a possibility the city may not continue privatizing, she said, "We may not, no."
The city first privatized garbage collection in the areas west of Yonge Street in 2011. Since then, city staff have estimated the deal has saved the city about $11-million annually.
Beth Goodger, the city's general manager of solid waste, said performance by the private collectors has been "good," and that complaints have been "fairly consistent across the city."
"Really, you shouldn't know whether you have a public- or private-service provider," she said.