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July 7, 2009, 8 e-mails

J. B. wrote:

That would be, the dumping of inappropriate materials, impossible to police. This morning walking back from an impressively clean Dufferin Grove with my dog, we came across discarded, soiled diapers on the sidewalk. What are we supposed to do? I didn't have a doggy bag large enough to scoop this.

So inappropriate behaviour will probably become the 'new normal'.....

M. E. wrote:

Just read in the Metro that the Scadding court compost thing has been shut down by the minister of health. Apparently accepting compost from multiple households is a health hazard (this really is the justification), while dumping them in parks is not :-(

Sorry, it was the ministry of the environment, not the ministry of health that shut it down.

B. S. wrote:

I have received responses to the question whether the Union and the City could collaborate to remove the hazards and to the question whether they would allow us to do it.

I have received a "No" on both counts from CUPE. And the City will not "deal in hypothetical situations". I have appended the responses below.

There will not be a "Miracle of Christie Pits Park".

What next? I am taking the position that we currently have a hazard to human health and the environment in our parks, hazards that arise from improvised and insufficient management of the waste, as well as from exposure to pesticides, antibiotics and toxins.

I can think of four paths to address the issue and I would like to share my thoughts with you as I am trying to think this through:

Wrap it up

Would a technical solution make the problem tolerable? I could envision the whole ice rink under a silage tarp that keeps the rainwater off, the birds out, some of the smell in and the toxins better contained. Is this just a band-aid or is it a pragmatic solution?

Obtain an injunction against the garbage in the park

There is a risk to health and environment, we have asked for its removal and that was declined. Where else can we turn to? Is this a matter for the legal system now? Is this the time to attempt obtaining an injunction to have the garbage removed and stored safely?

Settle the labour dispute

I don't know how the negotiations are going. Could pressure on both negotiating parties be generated to settle quickly? And would generating pressure be possible without taking sides in the labour dispute? I don't see how, but maybe I just haven't had the right idea.

Legislate back to work

The Ontario legislature is a neutral party in the strike. Contacting all three constituent parties to advocate for back to work legislation may be an approach that is not taking sides in the dispute. Or is it?

I'll try to get some opinions on these directions. Any feedback is of course welcome and helpful.

The replies I have received:

'''Response from CUPE, relayed via Risa Pancer in the Ontario Regional Office of CUPE National:'''

Unfortunately, the Toronto Civic Employees Union, Local 416 cannot agree to your request and suspend their labour action to remove the garbage and residue from the Christie Pits Park as they are on legal strike. The union members would be crossing their own picket line to do their own work if they agreed to this. Nor can CUPE agree to the request to stand down the picket lines to allow a private contractor or private citizens to come in to do their work while they remain on strike.

Thank you for taking the time to enquire into this.

'''Response from Stuart Green, Deputy Director of Communications in Mayor Miller's office:'''

As a rule, we don't deal in hypothetical situations. If and when you have firmer information to share, we can revisit.

C. S. wrote:

I agree with your assessment and believe that the injunction is the best option. We have already had one pregnant woman vacate her house due to the odor and hazardous waste spill. Do we have anyone with legal expertise in the FoCPP group?

On another related topic: It is clear that the "24 hour security" on the dump is in-effective (or more likely non-existent), evidenced by the illegal dumping around the fence. I plan to remove as much as I can today with my truck.

Do we have a strategy for this illegal dumping? Was 24 hour security a condition of the temporary dump permit?

C. S. wrote:

Here is an example of the illegal dumping at the park. There is more beside the East fence.

(If you look closely, you can see the "President's Choice Green" logo on the garbage bags. Wonder if the criminal who dumped these bags understands the hypocrisy of their actions?)

C. A. wrote:

Thanks B. for putting those four options out there.

I contacted a friend of mine, a long time union member, who is on strike right now. She had this to say:

The MOH has not said it is a hazard. In 2002, the MOH, Sheela Basrur, resisted the declaration by the Ontario MOH to declare the garbage strike a hazard (the real reason being that the Pope was coming). Contact David McKeown and ask him what would constitute a hazard in his opinion.

The only thing to do in the interim is to put pressure on the City and the union.

This is what I think needs to happen. Both sides are entrenched. They didn't even sit down yesterday. The City needs to take benefits off the table and the union needs to lower its increase demands. Write an open letter to the newspapers or send out a press release and say that.

According to my friend, there are varying opinions within the union itself and the hard line approach is not a unanimous one. It seems like the city is divided as well. If the community has faith in the process and the parties involved than I think it's a fair option. If not, and I personally don't, but I am just one voice, maybe the injunction is the way to go. Or of course, a community-based initiative that cleans up the park ourselves. (Risky, but heroic!)

I will support whatever the community decides.

B. S. wrote:

A private initiative to clean up does not seem to be an option; according to the response from CUPE:

[...] Nor can CUPE agree to the request to stand down the picket lines to allow a private contractor or private citizens to come in to do their work while they remain on strike. [...]

At least CUPE is clear and forthright on their position ... Boris

PS: What caused the back-to-work legislation in 2002? According to the Canadian Press[1] it was not actually the Pope.

"The 2002 strike came to an end with legislation, but McGuinty says at that time there had been an advisory from health officials urging government action."

[1] http://tinyurl.com/LBTW2002

K. H. wrote:

Legistlating the Cupe members back to work will mean that CUPE looses and sends a very anti-labour message. I think the best option is neighbourhood response to the garbage, getting our own contractors to move the garbage and asking Cupe picket members to allow us to do this. CUPE may loose the PR campaign if they are not allowing the garbage to be removed. It is one thing to have labour solidarity and quite another to make people suffer so needlessly. We need to clean up our park, the union and the city don't seem interested and that is very sad. Then maybe both the City and the union will understand that the people in Toronto are getting tired of the lack of negotiation going on between these two parties at the table.

I think there is alot of concern within the union at the way negotiating is done. People like CUPE's Risa Pancer make alot of money the longer this strike drags out. That is the truth and the average CUPE member with a family to feed is suffering too.

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Content last modified on July 08, 2009, at 02:24 PM EST