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Snow, parks and waste review proposal falls flat after councillors raise privatization fears

No councillors other than Shoemaker volunteered to sit on the proposed committee
20141201 Matthew Shoemaker KA
FILE PHOTO: Ward 3 councillor Matthew Shoemaker. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday

Matthew Shoemaker said he was shocked none of his fellow councillors seconded his motion — to find savings within three city departments which collectively have a budget of $11-million annually. 

Shoemaker put forth a resolution during last night's council meeting to create a proposed committee to review winter maintenance, parks maintenance and waste collection in the city.

Some, including Ward 1 Councillor Steve Butland, saw the motion as an attempt to privatize those Public Works and Transportation Department services.

He was so against the idea, Butland brought up his opposition early — while council was speaking about the upcoming report on the city's economic development initiatives.

Butland said he had been receiving phone calls from residents, like the city employees who mostly filled the gallery at the Civic Centre during the meeting.

“Mr. Butland, will I be losing my job as a result of privatizing?” said the Ward 1 councillor, emulating the phone calls.

Mayor Christian Provenzano suggested Butland speak about the motion at hand regarding economic development.

When the matter did come up later in the meeting, Shoemaker’s motion was not debated due to the lack of a seconder.

Provenzano also suggested the motion was incomplete, as no councillors other than Shoemaker volunteered to sit on the proposed committee.

“If we don’t have two people willing to sit on this committee with councillor Shoemaker, I don’t think the motion proceeds,” said Provenzano.

Despite their being no motion, the mayor gave Shoemaker an opportunity to respond to Butland’s earlier comments.

“It’s shocking to me that members of this council don’t understand what this motion says. It is not a motion to privatize snowplowing, as it’s been misconstrued,” said Shoemaker.

The Ward 3 councillor said the intent of the non-motion was to look at those three cost centres in an effort to find savings.

“I challenge every one of you to look at Essar laid-off employees, Tenaris laid-off employees and tell them you weren’t even willing to look at saving costs in our budget in future years and explain to them why their taxes are going to go up in future years. You weren’t even willing to assess whether or not there were savings to be had. Congratulations to all of you for not even looking at these cost centres,” said Shoemaker.

Other councillors in attendance seemed to object to Shoemaker’s comments.

Provenzano said Shoemaker went further with his comments than expected. The mayor said he just wanted to give the councillor an opportunity to respond to Butland’s earlier comments.

“The motion isn’t before us, so we shouldn’t be debating it,” said Provenzano.

Later, in the budget meeting — which immediately followed the city council meeting — and while asking questions of the commissioner of human resources, Ward 5 councillor Frank Fata referenced the non-motion when he suggested city jobs are ‘pretty secure.’

“We kind of proved that tonight by example of the almost-resolution,” said Fata.

Speaking to SooToday between the two meetings last night, Shoemaker said he was dumbfounded as to why council would not examine those cost centres and said by not doing so, council was demonstrating an abdication of their responsibility. 

“It’s frustrating that council is unwilling to even examine some of these costs,” said Shoemaker.