Bluffs Advocate

Waste Collection

The Facts Are Clear—Public Waste Collection Is Faster, Better and Cheaper For Scarborough

Ernst & Young's report to City Public Works Committee confirms mix of public and private solid waste management yields better service, more savings

By Kevin Wilson

            The facts are in.

A report presented to City Council's Public Works and Infrastructure Committee shows contracting out more of the city's garbage, recycling, and organics disposal to the private sector would be a recipe for higher costs and poorer service.

The committee requested last January that city staff prepare the report to determine what the potential cost savings might be with the contracting out of the remaining solid waste management functions now performed directly by the city.

At the committee's request, the report's findings were also reviewed by accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Currently, private contractors collect garbage, recycling, and organics west of Yonge Street, while City of Toronto employees do the same jobs east of Yonge.

The report showed that the current mix of public and private services the city uses to manage solid waste keeps the private sector workers honest, because they know the city has the capacity to perform the work in-house. In communities where the private sector has a monopoly on solid waste collection, private companies can gouge taxpayers, particularly during weather emergencies like last winter's blackout.

In fact, Ernst & Young's report noted that, "The ability of the City to replace the service provider in the event of a service disruption, whether in-house or outside contractor should be a key consideration in the cost/benefit analysis."

Simply put—the private sector is kept honest by the presence of a public sector that's able to do the job better, faster, and cheaper. At the same time, the presence of the private sector creates a competitive environment that challenges both sides to deliver the best possible service.

The report affirms what many other municipalities, including Ottawa, Vancouver, Hamilton, and others already know—keeping all or part of a vital public service like solid waste management in public hands is vitally important.

While the City's Public Works and Infrastructure Committee voted to shelve the report for a year rather than accepting the facts they'd asked for, a broad and diverse range of voices from across the political spectrum is speaking out for Toronto's current mix of public and private waste management.

John Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, writing in the Toronto Sun, noted that "the real cost of any more contracting out is that it becomes irreversible. If the committee decides to contract out any more of the city's garbage collection, it is deciding to stop providing the service in the city. Forever."

Gordon Chong, a former Toronto City Councillor, TTC Vice-Chair, and member of former Mayor Rob Ford's transition team, penned an article for the Sun, in which he said that "Toronto taxpayers are winners with the existing model, and when the issue comes back to council after further study, the current system should be left as it is."