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42 Comments

politics

City Council Reverses Many Key Ford Cuts, Passes Budget the Mayor Never Wanted

After months of debate, Toronto city council has passed its 2012 budget.

Josh Colle introducing a motion to reverse budget cuts at City Hall this morning.

In a stunning loss for Mayor Rob Ford and his allies, in one day of debate councillors have reversed a significant raft of cuts he was pushing to include in the 2012 budget. Among them: closures of shelters, daycare spaces, and pools; cuts to community grants (to fund things like HIV-prevention services); a major cut to the library system; and a major cut to the TTC. Not all of those cuts were reversed: the library is still scaling back on staff and collections, and perhaps most prominently the TTC will still need to reduce service on three dozen bus routes, but the full force of the original draft budget has been substantially blunted.

A few key moments marked today’s debate, and will likely shape the dynamic at City Hall over the coming months:

  • Streetcars are the enemy. Ford and his allies are trying very hard to make streetcar funding the lynchpin of this debate. We can’t afford to reverse any of these other proposed cuts, they keep saying, because council (under Miller is implied though not always said aloud) pushed through a $700 million streetcar purchase that we don’t know how to pay for. By focusing on the streetcars—which Ford didn’t want to buy in the first place— throughout today’s debate they were trying to paint left-leaning councillors who supported the streetcar purchase into a corner. “You want those streetcars? This is how we have to pay for them.” This tactic, as it turns out, failed completely. (Possibly because many councillors maintain that most large infrastructure purchases are paid for through debt and that this is an appropriate financing tool—though nobody on council’s right is prepared to consider that among the menu of funding options.) Even so, expect this line of argument to be repeated often, both as a caution against anyone who suggests any more infrastructure spending and in framing future budget debates.
  • Josh Colle comes out from hiding, and stakes a position against Ford. As we wrote earlier today, in many ways this debate was Colle’s coming out party. The councillor has been flying under the radar since his election, voting as a centrist (with Ford a little over 40 per cent of the time) and keeping quiet when it came to most major debates. Having shepherded the Lawrence Heights revitalization project through a major council vote in November, he now seems more comfortable opposing the mayor. Today, in a move that was unprecedented for him, he moved a major raft of changes to the budget, the effect of which was to reverse many of Ford’s proposed cuts. He put himself directly in the firing line—his motion was the subject of much of the debate today—and he’ll be a new force on council in virtue of his willingness to do so.

The question now is what’s next for Ford? Ford staked his mayoralty—though not his campaign for election—on his bid to shrink the size of government, to reduce the scope of what we think City Hall ought to be doing. That bid has just suffered a major blow. Tomorrow’s story will be how he spins the vote—and, crucially, how this affects the momentum that’s been building towards a lockout of City workers.

See our liveblog of the full day’s debate.

Comments

  • Theo3

    Go toronto. Lift your voice

  • JGerz

    You know, if you’re going to write about a budget, certain salient point should probably be included.The city’s deficit and debt do come to mind as being somewhat important.

    • Anonymous

      You know, if you’re going to read an article about two very specific aspects of the budget debate, certain criticisms of the article probably shouldn’t be voiced. Complaining that it isn’t an all-encompassing primer on the state of city finances comes to mind as being somewhat misplaced.

    • Anonymous

      Deficit? Toronto’s posted a surplus every year for what, the past six years running?

    • Anonymous

      City’s deficit?!?! THERE’S A SURPLUS!!

      • Anonymous

        Not according to Doug Ford. Something something would you spend your Christmas bonus like a drunken sailor? They must still have Kouvalis on retainer to help with the spin.

    • Anonymous

      I’ll help you out: the City’s operating deficit is $0, as it has been every year, as is required by law.

    • http://piorkowski.ca qviri

      The debt that’s something like $2.5B to $3B versus a $9.5B operating budget, the rough equivalent of a household carrying a $30k mortgage while earning $95k a year after tax? The debt that, as a ratio of operating revenue, is less than half than that of Montreal’s? The debt that financial analysts are not alarmed about and have given a “high investment-grade rating” (not that I’m that into opinions of Moody’s, but nevertheless)? Yeah, maybe that debt should have been mentioned.

  • http://canadatoo.blogspot.com/ C2

    Stand up and be counted.

  • Stella

    Ok all well and good. Now could someone who is actually awake at Torontoist edit and proof read this so it makes a modicum of sense?

  • tired of ford’s fiat

    If Ford really had integrity, he would have announced a 10% reduction of his own salary and moved council to do same. Then he might have gotten some credibility on the scrooge budget.As it is, he got some to stand up and push back. Colle has shown Ford that he has some of his own weight to swing in council. It will be an interesting time to be a fly on the wall at city hall.

    • Anonymous

      He already got council to freeze their salaries last year. As for a personal cut, what would that prove? He’s a millionaire. He wouldn’t be making any sacrifice.

      Getting the police to cut their budget by 10% would have proven he has some integrity.

  • Anonymous

    Anyway: Hooray!

    Remember to contact your councillor – if they did they right thing and voted against Ford on this – and thank them for doing the right thing.

    • Anon

      Most annoying commenter ever.

      • Anonymous

        Go home Rob.

    • MER1978

      I’m going to at least send an email to councillor_colle@toronto.ca

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-VanBrunt/100000364351684 John VanBrunt

      WOW councillors do have what God gave them? a mind and a heart……I guess MR Potter will have to come up with other scheems! it is a wonderful life,good work councillors……..

  • Juls

    this is the least informative article ever

    • MER1978

      “this is the least informative article ever”

      You’ll have to remind us to not hold a gun to your head + make you read it next time.

      • Juls

        Noticing a headline beginning with “City Council Reverses Many Key Ford Cuts” I read this to learn what items in Ford’s proposed budget passed and what items did not. The writing is vague on this, simply stating that councillors “reversed a significant raft of cuts he was pushing to include.”

        In terms of the purported “key moments” in City Hall yesterday, we are told Colle stepped up with a new proposal, which is exactly what the photo caption states, and that streetcars were the focus, reiterating the point about the TTC in the first paragraph.

        What I objected to is basically fluffy journalism. Makes me think the Torontoist is more concerned with the race to the Twitter ticker than with substance.

        Congratulations and thanks to constituents who contacted their councillors. In a provincial/federal situation, this is analogous to nonconfidence, which I am sure did not escape the notice of people in City Hall.

    • Nick

      This is one of the most exciting articles ever, if you’ve been following city politics at all over the past year! Yay! And good point, @qviri, re. debt. Interesting analogy to mortgages. We’re not Greece here by any stretch of the imagination. Further, it makes sense to borrow to get better infrastructure now – that’s what we all do and govts. can do it more cheaply that we can.

      • http://piorkowski.ca qviri

        You know, I’m actually not thrilled about the mortgage analogy. Housing is often a household’s largest expense and a mortgage is a common way of obtaining this expense. Toronto’s expenses – police, TTC, social services – don’t really translate easily into household equivalents.

        Since the debt is normally issued to pay for infrastructure investment, something like a $30k car loan for a truck for your business (or maybe non-profit) that brings in $95k yearly might be more accurate. It’s more significant than a $30k mortgage.

        Here is a fun fact though: in the 2011 budget, payments on that ominous debt were around 6.8% of all expenses (http://www.toronto.ca/budget2011/2011_budget_summary/pdf/cbo/2011operatingsummary.pdf chart 3, debt charges and capital & corporate financing).

        • Anonymous

          “Charges” seems like a confusing word to use for that 6.8% of expenses, isn’t it?

          Isn’t it a “debt payment”: paying down the debt capital and interest?

          • http://piorkowski.ca qviri

            I’m not quite qualified to discuss word choices in this case, sorry. I understand “charge” to be substantially similar to “payment” but don’t know if this is technically correct from an accounting point of view. “Debt charges” and “capital & corporate financing” are names of the two categories that add up to 6.8% that the city document used.

          • Anonymous

            I mean it in the folk sense. When I read “Charge”, I interpret it as “interest only”.

            People don’t talk about their “mortgage charge” every month.

          • chrisoftoronto

            Yes, there is amoritization in there.

            It’s important to remember that it’s not just a big blob of debt, it’s a series of bonds. The city puts out a bond issue, pays interest for 30 years, then pays it off in its entirety; with the rotating roster of bonds maturing, we’re pretty much constantly paying off debt.

            If we were to stop issuing new bonds (which is usually to finance capital projects, we’re not taking out new bonds to pay out old ones), the debt would go away on its own over a few decades.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=687131252 Thor Volokwyn

    Great article. Thanks for the summary!

  • Anonymous

    Woo hoo! Stealth councilors to the rescue. “Immigrant Women’s Centre voted $50K increase”? Was Ford out of the room?

  • lam

    Where does one find out how specific city counsellors voted on this budget?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Eye/661317929 Tim Eye

    Looks like Ford’s been called out…”Edsel”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Eye/661317929 Tim Eye

    Looks like Ford’s been called out…”Edsel”

  • Anonymous

    Anyone check out the Sun tonight? It’s like a trip to Bizarro World! They sound like a pretty sad bunch of hyper-partisan propagandists right now.

    But seriously, what a sad excuse for a newspaper. Just try to get more than 2 paragraphs into Sue-Ann Levy’s “analysis” and you’ll see what I mean.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-VanBrunt/100000364351684 John VanBrunt

      The Sun is the most in accuret paper in the world, read the star,it tells it like it is,ya….the Sun has pictures LOL

    • Anonymous

      For the full trippy experience, people should venture over and read Sue-Ann Levy’s column:

      http://www.torontosun.com/2012/01/17/mushy-middle-willing-accomplices

      It’s got SAL in full rhetorical flow: “champagne-swilling socialists”*, drive-by insinuations about Josh Colle, the works. This is what bitterness looks like, everyone. No looking critically at her own case, and where the administration might have been more successful in persuading councillors. Just pure, undiluted bile.

      * Are these the Marises of politics? I am somewhat on the left, and I have never actually seen this occur.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-VanBrunt/100000364351684 John VanBrunt

    Rob ford is self glorifying him self.as thats what the peaple wanted.the peaple voted for because,he at the time was the only councilor worth it,now whos running next?so we can throw this mad man out,blaming these poor working union peaple for City halls mess they created cutting corp- taxesthe only dog in council is Ford!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    What ended up happening to the high park zoo?

    • Anonymous

      The motion was ruled out of order by the City Clerk (we’re still trying to get clarification on the technicalities of just why) so it was never voted on.

  • Will722

    TTC is Toronto’s biggest thorn ! Cut it back !

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