Three years ago, I called Jack Layton a loser. It was after one of those early megacity meetings, and Mayor Mel had doled out the plum committee chairs to his loyalists, leaving Layton to chair the environment and homelessness task forces -- relatively minor posts compared to, say, budget chief or the works committee.
There was no debate. No fight. The left was simply shut out of the power circle at City Hall.
Layton and his partner, councillor Olivia Chow, spent the better part of the next three years watching their Ps and Qs around Mel, finessing a few million here and there to combat child poverty and the homeless crisis.
The Adams Mine debate, however, put an end to that awkward tango with Mel.
An outraged Layton made the fight a top media draw by relentlessly scrutinizing every aspect of the deal and drawing out the debate in council. And it was councillor David Miller, with his keen lawyer's eye, who moved to have the clause concerning "unavoidable costs" struck from the deal.
Mel bought into that concession to comfort his nervous sheep, and it turned out to be a contract killer.
All along, Layton has favoured the Republic Services option, which could haul as much as 1.3 million tons of our waste annually to the company's dump in Michigan (and put about 186 trucks a day on the road). He knows the Republic contract isn't the solution. It just buys some time.
One of the first acts of the new and hopefully more enlightened council has to be to substantially raise our waste diversion from a dismal 25 per cent. Halifax has a 58-per-cent diversion rate now and is aiming for 70 per cent by 2002. Toronto, meanwhile, has targeted 50 per cent by 2006. That's too little too late.
Layton and the councillors who opposed the Adams Mine have a plan that they say can divert nearly 78 per cent of our waste from landfill by 2007.
The bottom line is that the new council has to commit real dollars to composting and recycling in the next budget. Otherwise, we'll all be losers.