Toronto city council to move ahead with controversial $1.4B snow-clearing deal

Toronto city council voted 20-5 Thursday to approve $1.4 billion worth of snow-clearing contracts Thursday — the majority of which were won by two companies and their joint venture — despite lingering questions about whether or not the winning companies will be able to get the job done. 

The move will dictate how snow-clearing in the city gets done for at least the next seven years.

The vote comes after staff warned in a supplementary report released just ahead of the Thursday meeting there would be “considerable risk” of not being able to clear roads, sidewalks and bike lanes by the time snow starts flying in 2022, that would jeopardize public safety if council didn’t approve the deal this week.

“The industry advised that they require between nine and 12 months to procure and outfit the equipment required for winter maintenance services. The current market conditions may require additional lead time,” the report said.

Earlier this month, the infrastructure and environment committee debated on the matter. Several rival snow-clearing companies who were shut out of work they’ve done for decades warned councillors there that they have “grave concerns” about the outcome of the city’s new negotiated request for proposal (nRFP) process, and claimed it was neither fair nor transparent while also being littered with “red flags.”

Council voted unanimously to request the Auditor General to review the nRFP process Thursday.

A referral motion moved by Scarborough Coun. Paul Ainslie during the meeting that would have sent the plan back to the infrastructure and environment committee for more review was shot down by a vote of 9-15.

Ainslie said he had a number of concerns surrounding the plan such as the lack of information provided around snow trucks and plows and the plan not being looked at through a fairness monitor.

“Staff have said that if we don’t approve this come next October and we have a snowstorm, there’s a likelihood that the streets won’t get plowed, nor the sidewalks,” Ainslie said.

“To the same extent, if the companies can’t buy those plows and trucks nine to 12 months from now, they’re not getting plowed.”

In response to Ainslie, Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, was opposed to the referral, saying it is normal for companies to wait for large contracts to be approved before purchasing vehicles.

“This is a procurement issue, in terms of buying vehicles that happens with every large contract,” Minnan-Wong said.

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