Toronto Homeowners Outraged as City Axes Specialty Leaf Collection Service

Coun. Stephen Holyday (Etobicoke Centre) tried unsuccessfully to have the city's special leaf collection service restored to some neighborhoods in his ward. He says he'll keep trying although it's not yet clear what his next steps will be. (Mike Smee/CBC)

In a move that’s sparked widespread discontent among residents, the City of Toronto has decided to eliminate a specialty leaf collection service, a decision that will save the city an estimated $2.3 million annually. This change has left many homeowners, who haven’t had to bag leaves in decades, feeling both furious and unfairly treated.

According to CBC News, the affected residents, primarily from Etobicoke, York, and Scarborough, have long enjoyed the convenience of simply raking leaves into small piles by the road. From there, city crews would collect the leaves using backhoes, suction trucks, or manual methods. This service has been a staple since leaf burning was outlawed in the 1960s, offering a significant convenience to those in the city’s most heavily-treed neighborhoods.

“People are furious,” said Councillor Stephen Holyday of Etobicoke Centre. “They’ve relied on this service and valued this very good service for many, many decades and it abruptly comes to an end.”

In some parts of the city, residents have not needed to bag their leaves. They could just pile then near the road, and city crews would come along and suction them up. (Coun. Stephen Holyday)

The decision to terminate the program, which serviced approximately 42,000 families, was made during the city council’s 2023 budget debates. City staff have defended the move, stating it will “align service levels with all other city areas, providing an equitable level of service to all Toronto residents.”

However, this rationale has not sat well with affected homeowners. Kenneth Copeman, of the Glen Agar Residents Association, expressed his dismay, highlighting the perceived unfairness of the city’s action. “You also have to look at some of the other stuff that the City of Toronto’s doing,” Copeman argued, pointing out that his property taxes contribute to services like sidewalk clearing, which are not universally available in his neighborhood.

Until this fall, residents in some of the city’s leafier neighborhoods could simply pile their leaves near the side of the road, instead of bagging them, for city pick up. (Mike Smee/CBC)

Despite a last-ditch effort by Holyday to save the program through a motion at the city council meeting, the plan was ultimately voted out. Holyday, however, has vowed not to give up on the issue. “This is important to people. I’ll continue to fight for it,” he told CBC Toronto.

City staff have been firm in their stance, stating, “The Mechanical Vacuum Leaf Collection Program was reviewed by City Council and was permanently discontinued as part of the 2023 budget process.”