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Is the Privatization of Toronto’s Trash Collection a Good Thing?

8 August 2012

Mayor Rob Ford certainly thinks so. Yesterday marked the first day that Green For Life started taking over Toronto’s trash. And if the first day on the job is any indication, the critics who fought so hard against this privatization will have their choice of things to pick from.

Like maybe the fact that it took the company over 13 hours to pick up the city’s trash, and the fact that some of it had to be left until this morning. Olivia Chow was strongly against the privatization of Toronto’s trash collection and she, and her mother, noticed that trash pickup was extremely slow yesterday. “My mother is in an extra bad mood today. The garbage hasn’t been picked up yet – the wonder of privatization,” she posted on Twitter.

Yes, there were some bumps in the road during the first day on the job for Green For Life. One reporter for the National Post commented that he had followed one of the trucks a distance that he could walk in five minutes. It took the truck nearly an hour and a half. And one can’t overlook the fact that even though trucks and crews weren’t called off the road until 9:15 p.m, there were still recycling bins left at over 500 houses.

“It was a hot day, crews were tired and darkness was upon us,” said Jim Harnum, manager of solid waste at City Hall. He did point out that while there were some cans left behind, there was also garbage picked up at 45,000 homes so that there would be “nothing left for raccoons.”

So what’s good in the deal, if crews are overextending themselves and still not getting the job done? Mayor Rob Ford and the other supporters at City Hall are simply trying to save money; and Green For Life says that by hiring them to pick up the trash, it will save taxpayers $11 million.

But Mark Ferguson, head of the Local 416 chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says that it just doesn’t work. “In order to make a contract they cut corners” he says, “We don’t accept the administration’s numbers.” He also points to the 90 temporary workers that the City laid off; and the 130 others that have been deployed, and wonders how that’s good for the city.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong though, also weighed in on the issue, and told Torontonians that in time, they may find that they prefer the new service; and that there are perks to slow service.

“They might be providing that customer service excellence and that might be slowing them down a bit,” says Mr. Minnan-Wong. “They are bringing in extra staff. And there is a silver lining to them not being able to finish at 5 p.m. We don’t pay for any overtime. We’ve got a straight-up contract with them.”

Maybe we all just have to give Green For Life a bit of a break. In just a few weeks they’ll become accustomed to the routes just as City workers once were, and things will start to pick up pace. Maybe the blue bins will even all get collected, on the same day. And if we can receive the same service for a lower price, isn’t it worth it to have a little bit of patience in the meantime?

What do you think? Is the privatization of Toronto’s trash collection a good thing?

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