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Another mayor-less council meeting; debate on relief line & ward boundaries

Toronto city council is meeting Tuesday for a second time without Mayor Rob Ford since he took a leave of absence.

Councillors are discussing a host of administrative issues, including the re-appointment of ombudsman Fiona Crean, approving an $800,000 review on the redrawing of ward boundaries and a study of the downtown relief line.

It is the third-last meeting of this city council before the municipal election.

The meeting began at 9:30 a.m. Click here to watch a live stream and click here for the full meeting agenda.

In Tuesday morning’s session council adopted a motion to evaluate community interest in opening 24-hour drop-in shelters for women.

Before getting to the agenda, councillors voted whether to meet on Thursday with some arguing council should not be in session on the day of the provincial election. A vote passed 32-5 to meet until 4 p.m. Thursday if necessary.

Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow was in council chambers, taking in the proceedings from the public gallery. Chow announced Tuesday that if elected she will ask the province to cut down municipal election campaigns from 10 months to four.

“There’s no reason to have a municipal election that is 10 times longer than the provincial one,” Chow said.

Mayor Rob Ford’s campaign manager, Coun. Doug Ford, agreed with her, saying “I don’t think it takes the people of Toronto that long to figure out who they’re voting for.”

When the councillor approached her, Chow appeared ready for a political confrontation but showed genuine surprise when Ford supported her idea.

“My gosh, wow,” she said.

“Well, this is going to be probably the one and only time you’re going to hear Olivia Chow and I agree on anything,” Ford said.

After the lunch recess council discussed a motion, which passed 29-8 with amendments, to ensure undocumented Torontonians, including the homeless and refugee claimants, have access to city services. Click here to read the agenda item.

Below are some other items up for discussion at the council meeting.

Redrawing ward boundaries

In an effort to amend an imbalance in the number of citizens represented by each councillor, the city has started looking into redrawing the ward boundaries. Council chose a third-party reviewer, Canadian Urban Institute, in March to conduct a two-year long review and recommend how to go about the plan. But one of the main questions at this meeting is whether to approve the $800,000 required to conduct the review.

Click here to read the agenda item.

Downtown relief line

For decades, the downtown relief line has been the much-dreamed-about-but-never-built solution to the overcrowding on the Yonge subway line south of Bloor. The three main provincial party leaders have included some form of downtown relief line in their transit platforms this election, and at least one mayoral front-runner, Karen Stintz, is committed to the idea of building an additional subway line downtown.

If approved, the next phase of the city’s study is determining the potential stops and route alignment of a rapid relief line.

Click here to read the agenda item.

Ombudsman term

Ombudsman Fiona Crean’s term is set to end November 2015. Council will vote whether to extend that term by an addition five years. Crean has released a series of high-profile reports during her term, including one on Toronto Community Housing human resource policies that led to the ouster of CEO Gene Jones and other executives.

Click here to read the agenda item.

Vacancy in Ward 20

Councillors are expected to officially declare a vacancy in Ward 20, the former ward of Adam Vaughan, who stepped down to run federally for the Liberals. A replacement will be appointed on July 7.

Click here to read the agenda item.

Paid duty police

Coun. Josh Matlow has put forth a recommendation that traffic direction be done by peace officers rather than paid duty police officers.

Click here to read the agenda item.

Railway cargo safety

Council will discuss the options for avoiding rail cargo disasters like the one seen in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

Click here to read the agenda item.

With files from Kevin Misener, 680News