NEWS

Bag fee fund, cutting red tape top councillors' priorities

04/25/2012 10:40 EDT | Updated 06/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Two Toronto councillors who will be meeting with Mayor Rob Ford about shaping council's agenda in the coming months listed cutting red tape for businesses and boosting the city's tree canopy as among their top priorities.

Coun. Michelle Berardinetti told CBC's Metro Morning that her top priority would be to find a way to convince businesses to redirect the proceeds from the five-cent plastic bag fee to a fund that will help protect the city's tree canopy.

The emerald ash borer bug has been responsible for a lot of damage to the canopy and the money from the plastic bag fee would be used to help battle the infestation.

Currently, retail businesses get to keep the money they make from charging customers that fee, but Berardinetti hopes to convince them to give over a portion of the money to save the city's trees.

The councillor has been pushing for the change for some time and acknowledged that the mayor is "not a fan of that."

But Berardinetti said some major corporations have already expressed interest in donating some of their bag fee money.

"However, it's fallen by the wayside slightly because of a lack of ability to connect with the city," she said.

Berardinetti, whose husband, Lorenzo Berardinetti, is a member of the governing provincial Liberals, said her connections with Queen's Park and support from fellow councillors for the change means that "we're going to be able to see light at the end of the tunnel and make sure that our tree canopy stays in place and grows."

'Dealing with the city is still very difficult'

Coun. Josh Colle, whose father Mike is also a provincial Liberal, said he wants council to focus on cutting red tape for businesses.

The one thing he's hearing from many businesses is that "dealing with the city is still very difficult."

"I had one manufacturer in my ward who said, 'You know, if I was going to do a renovation, to be honest, Josh, I would draw the blinds and do it at night instead of going to the city, because of the delay with permits and approvals and all of that kind of stuff,'" he said.

Colle is also among a band of centrist councillors who are holding their own separate brainstorming meeting to identify ways to move the council agenda forward.

He dismissed notions that the councillors are trying to seize the agenda from the mayor, saying Ford has approached the councillors and asked for their input on issues.

"I don't think that it should be the mayor that is simply setting the entire agenda. You have 44 councillors down there and we should all be coming up with ideas and putting those forward," said Berardinetti.

Both Berardinetti and Colle say they will be meeting with Ford in the coming days.

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