In the winter of 2011-12, a mysterious pile of garbage appeared on a Toronto city street.
Then the video recording began: a wiry man in a grey sweatshirt operating a small black motorised rubbish cart. As the camera panned to the black figure, he rolled forward some more, wheeling an enormous solid bin about eight metres.
Minutes later, the man stood over the bin, powering it at a standstill with his face. He lowered the bin to the ground and wheeled it back. He later disappeared.
It was the work of an unknown operator called Tom Jenner, who, two months earlier, was hired to haul away loose waste. His job: save the city money, clean up the streets. And with those qualifications, it was the job of the city to do it.
But Jenner never showed up to his promised job. In his place, private haulers who never met Jenner for any reason show up at dawn and pull out a noisy generator and a wayward tonneau hanging from a trailer, tipped over. At a second stop, the hauler races to dig a deeper hole in the ground.
And with that, an estimated $1.6m in cost savings per year vanished.
This week, the inspector general of the City of Toronto told councillors his office has since inspected 21 collectments. Over the last seven years, inspectors found that 78% of their deliveries were delivered after hours.
Public works staff should have known the rules. They were supposed to hold an agreement in their possession that would allow garbage to be collected on behalf of the city in the middle of the night, when the schedule was most overbooked.
But Jenner apparently got his job through no screening. Private haulers or private companies won “outstanding bids” in bidding for a contract to collect all the city’s garbage. The inspector general said he was told the workers were hired via a lottery.
Steve Kim had lived in the area of Eglinton Avenue West where he found that big pile of black garbage.
It was worse than trash on the street. It was people.
“I used to wait until late in the morning, but then all of a sudden I started seeing the light. I could just see these private trucks in the middle of the night as they were coming and going. It’s crazy,” he said.
Over the last seven years, he’s done his part to clean up the streets – but the money and work was paid in by an undeserving partner.