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NORTH YORK MIRROR | Thursday, August 8, 2013 |

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opinion

The North York Mirror is published every Tuesday and Thursday at 175 Gordon Baker Rd., Toronto, ON, M2H 0A2, by Metroland Media Toronto, a Division of Metroland Media Group Ltd.

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Efficient management demands assessment

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t would appear two of the city’s unions are ready to fight it out over who gets dispatched to emergency 911 calls. The battle between unions representing Toronto’s firefighters and paramedics stems from a decision, more than a year ago, to change 911 protocol and take firefighters off more than 50 types of medical calls. A decision made after recommendations from a panel of medical experts were adopted by a tiered response committee, which included members from fire, police and emergency medical services (EMS). Both sides argue residents will be impacted because their services are essential to the medical needs of Torontonians. The president of Toronto’s paramedics union believes firefighters are not trained to handle certain medical calls; on the other side of the coin, firefighters, who are usually the first to arrive on scene, believe they provide essential services. In the end, the medical needs of Torontonians is the most important thing – something our view both sides understand. However, that doesn’t change the Service analysis necessity to open a discussion on how all parties involved in a 911 should be call – police, fire, and EMS – can work together. ongoing The amount of fire calls has dropped drastically, which led the city to debate its funding to Toronto Fire Services during its recent budget debates. Fire services warned any drop in funding would lead to the closing of some fire stations, and the laying off of firefighters. The panic passed, but not before many Torontonians voiced their opinions. Fear that not having a neighbourhood fire station could have adverse effects when a fire call does come in was honest. However, where was the discussion as to how best to save money when it comes to 911 calls? An entire crew of firefighters does not need to attend a simple medical issue. Does EMS have to attend every 911 call? There are times police need not attend a 911 call. In the end, no department should be exempt from analysis just because the way things used to be is the way things should be. The year-long changes led to 50 types of medical calls being removed from firefighters, and 22 added. In the end, a half-dozen of the 50 removed calls were reinstated. All departments need to be assessed and reassessed as often as possible – not to protect jobs, but to ensure that those services are being managed efficiently. In the case of emergency services, analysis and reassessment should be ongoing as it’s the safety of Torontonians at stake.

Write us The North York Mirror welcomes letters of 400 words or less. All submissions must include name, address and a daytime telephone number for verification purposes. We reserve the right to edit, condense or reject letters. Copyright in letters remains with the author but the publisher and affiliates may freely reproduce them in print, electronic or other forms. Letters can be sent to letters@ insidetoronto.com, or mailed to The North York Mirror, 175 Gordon Baker Rd. Toronto, ON, M2H 0A2.

column

Outsourcing not an obvious solution

Well before candidates register for next year’s mayoral campaign, outsourcing the rest of Toronto’s residential waste pickup is shaping up to be a defining issue. Although candidates will pose the question in stark terms, it is probably in the public interest to take a middle course. Since the mid-1990s Etobicoke has been satisfied with its private contractor. Recently council added the balance of single-family houses west of Yonge Street to private waste collection, generating about $6 million in savings annually. Service has improved as well, so much so that complaints in the areas of private collection are about half of the rate for city workers. Nor are corners being cut: City staff report that the private hauler is compliant to all regulations. Doing basic arithmetic, outsourcing the balance of the city might save perhaps

david soknacki beyond the headlines another $10 million per year, almost enough to pay for the entire city’s service enhancements for 2013, including adding 40 paramedics. On the surface, outsourcing seems to be an easy decision. But it’s not. One area of consideration is the city workforce. Although the contract allows for the redeployment of workers with more than 15 years’ seniority, the scale of change for contracting out the rest of the city’s waste collection is massive. The decision will impact about 500 workers, or almost 50 per cent of the department’s remaining labour force. Retraining and disruption will be significant challenges. Next comes the matter of the trucks. While taxpayers will no longer need to

set aside about $10 million annually in fleet replacement, the public’s investment in waste collection trucks will be almost worthless if all are sold at once. Also worth consideration is the stability of the parties across the table. At present there is competition among well-financed waste management companies. However, as in any industry, there is uncertainty. Not too long ago the largest U.S. waste hauler broke apart, and Toronto’s current hauler was founded as recently as in 1995. Should the city aggressively outsource by reassigning all of its waste collection workers, and sell all of its trucks, residents could bear significant and potentially costly risks. One way to capture savings, manage disruption while providing motivation is to encourage competition from within, by encouraging management and workers to submit their own bid. In Toronto’s case, the

target area is large enough to be divided, so managing competition is viable. It’s a process that works in dozens of cities throughout North America, including in the City of Ottawa. Already there is a positive reaction to competitive pressure. According to Jim Harnum, general manager of the city’s solid waste management division, “We see that staff are responding. They realize that, ‘Hey, we’re going to lose our jobs if we don’t be part of this team....There’s value in having in-house as well as contracted out. That gives us the ability to keep contractors honest.” If given the chance in Toronto, managed competition has the potential of keeping contractors competitive, employees motivated, and lowering costs for taxpayers, while reducing public risk. David Soknacki is a former City of Toronto councillor and budget chief. Contact him at www.soknacki.com

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Noy w aug08  

We are a local newspaper reflecting the lives of our readers by covering what’s important to them: The people and events in their own commun...

Noy w aug08  

We are a local newspaper reflecting the lives of our readers by covering what’s important to them: The people and events in their own commun...

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