Each summer has its memorable characteristics and events. The events that define those two months of freedom and turn it into “that summer when….” This summer was no exception, and I’m sure the city of Toronto can all agree on its defining events. Summer ’09 was the summer of the strike.
Yes that’s right, the garbage strike. The one that lasted 35 days. The one that turned the city into an unsanitary, putrid dump site. The one that made Toronto an embarrassment for its citizens.
On June 22 at midnight municipal workers from two separate unions went on strike. Mainly, the cause of the strike was requests from the city for concessions from the union in the new contract. Other main issues were requests for changes in seniority, job security and the banking of sick days.
“I would ask people to be patient,” said Mayor David Miller early in the strike, as he remained optimistic that a deal could soon be made. The two sides, however, were “miles apart from a deal” according to a representative for outdoor workers, Mark Ferguson.
Of course, Toronto was in disorder. Within days, citizens were taking advantage of the strike and using it as an excuse to make Toronto a dumping ground. Needless to say, after 35 days without garbage removal made for a filthy and unhappy city. However, not only was the strike unpleasant for the city of Toronto, but tourism also took a hard hit.
Imagine you are visiting Toronto for the first time and all you see is piles of garbage lined up on the street and overflowing from the garbage cans. That’s not a very good first impression. Not only does this detract from Toronto tourism, but it is embarrassing for the city. Do we honestly want Toronto’s reputation to be that of a dirty city?
“I was walking down Queen St. when I heard a tourist say, ‘What’s with all the garbage? Isn’t Toronto supposed to be a clean city?’” recounted grade 12 student Lindsay Cho. Clearly Toronto has not met tourist’s standards.
After just two weeks of the strike, garbage cans were overflowing. The streets were littered with pop cans and food wrappers. The parks that children had waited all winter to play in were filled with bags upon bags of garbage. And, little did we know, we still had three and a half weeks of the strike left to go.
Many of the city’s large parks and residential neighbourhoods were affected by the garbage strike. Christie Pitts and Eglinton Park were immediately blocked off to be used as dump sites, and by the end of the month and a half long strike, the city was out of resources. So, they decided to turn Otter Creek into Toronto’s next major garbage can.
Otter Creek is a skating rink and park which is in the heart of North Toronto. Besides being situated in a very residential neighbourhood, it is also within walking distance of four major schools: Glenview Sr. Public School, John Ross Robertson Jr. Public School, Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, and Havergal College.
“I think it was short-sighted and irresponsible given its proximity to four schools and the fact that garbage attracts rodents,” commented one Toronto resident on the idea of an Otter Creek dump site.
On July 27th, after extensive bargaining, the two sides were able to reach an agreement. However by that time, Toronto had had enough of the strike. With their city in chaos, and their summer in ruins, citizens were angry and frustrated. And after all that hardship, the Union still got their banked sick days.