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In Ottawa this week the city and its employees, represented by CUPE 503, stood side by side to announce that together they had found a cost effective way to deliver top notch residential waste collection for local citizens. By keeping the service in-house rather than using a private company the City saved nearly $5 million dollars over four years.

Meanwhile in Toronto, the Mayor has chosen a different road.

On Feb. 7, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford gave notice to CUPE 416 that he intends to contract out all residential curbside collection of waste on the west side of the city and a variety of other waste collection operations.

So how did the two cities arrive at such different conclusions?

In Ottawa the city and the union worked together to compare the cost of delivering the services in-house compared against private sector options and the in-house option emerged as the better choice. According to an independent audit by Ernst and Young, this in house service has been an average of $900,000 cheaper per year than the lowest private sector bid.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said in a news release that “this is a great example of how when the City and its labour union partners work together very good things can be achieved for works, the municipality and taxpayers. We value our great working relationship with CUPE and look forward to the continued success of the in-house solid waste collection group.”

Ford’s announcement was made without engaging in this kind of process and was made despite a recent report by the Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiatives which shows that the cost to collect garbage in the city of Toronto is in fact 30 per cent below the provincial average. The service is working well and is cost effective.

The numbers show that Toronto’s waste collection service is one of the most effective in the province.

These proposals from the Ford administration aren’t about saving money,” said Mark Ferguson, president of CUPE Local 416 which represents Toronto’s outside workers. “This is purely an ideological attack on the public sector workers.”

Ferguson says he’s always willing to discuss ways in which the city can deliver high-quality service efficiently and cost effectively. In doing so, it’s important to put all the facts on the table.