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Who’s in Charge Here?

City council has passed its 2013 budget. Maybe next year they can tackle our actual problems.

Photo by {a href=""}Sandra Herber{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

It’s hard to know how to refer to the document that is the 2013 budget. It is some sort of altered beast: neither total slash-and-burn, nor a recipe for healthy growth. Something no one is entirely happy with, or completely disappointed in.

Quite possibly, this budget is the perfect campaign vehicle for Rob Ford, with its mish-mash of added funding for the arts, the fire department, and children’s nutrition programs, combined with spending cuts in other areas and another unhelpfully constrained tax increase. Keeping the lefty tax-and-spend “piranhas” at bay, as the mayor claimed at a post-vote press conference. Compromise! Consensus!

The fact is, this year’s budget further internalizes the mayor and other conservatives’ baleful view of taxes, spending, and debt. Even with today’s addition of some $12 million of funding (some of which is provincial money), it is still a numbers-before-people budget. It is the soulless calculation of a chartered accountant obsessed with achieving an ever-higher credit rating at the expense of everything else. For what, exactly? Bragging rights?

And so, in order to keep to our fiscally conservative talking points, the Toronto Botanical Garden will need to scramble for $60,000. Public Health won’t get $104,000 in AIDS and drug prevention programs, and an attempt to eliminate drop-in fees for children at indoor pools went nowhere. We haven’t begun to address a worsening shortage in daycare spaces (today’s addition of 264 spots notwithstanding), and we’ll have fewer shelter bed nights this year than last.

Many of those proposals are similar to ones that were adopted last year, when a coalition of centrist councillors worked with those on council’s left to overturn many of Ford’s proposed budget changes. This year, though some initiatives did pass, they were notably smaller in scope. In the vacuum of leadership created by Mayor Ford’s legal problems, a coherent opposition failed to materialize even when he made conciliatory but ultimately puny gestures of fiscal magnanimity over the past week. Most councillors were content to settle for a grab-bag of haphazard add-ons, all high profile and politically popular, instead of coalescing into a force to fully counter the mayor’s worst small government instincts.

I heap most of my scorn on the TTC chair Karen Stintz. The goodwill she generated earlier this term, for wrestling the transit file from the mayor’s destructive clutches, should be entirely gone now. She stood silently by during this budget cycle as funding was flat-lined and fares went up five cents. Oh sure, capital spending continues apace with subway and LRT lines under construction, new subway cars making their appearance, and with articulated buses on the horizon. But existing streetcars, buses, and subways remain packed to the rafters during peak hours and beyond. Ridership numbers continue to break records but the services groans under the additional strain.

Stintz and a majority of her colleagues even swatted away a motion to add $5 million to the TTC budget to enhance service. Insignificant, I guess. Should we be expecting some sort of windfall in 2014? Where will it come from? Sudden senior levels of government interest in transit? A splurge of campaign year generosity from city council? A rejection based on little more than hopes and prayers, to use the budget chief’s phrase.

This is a council that wouldn’t budge from a 2 per cent property tax increase this year—well below the rate of inflation—following a below-inflation increase last year and an outright freeze the year before that. But 2014 is going to be like Christmas! Next year we’ll totally deal with congestion, OK?

Rather than step up and assume control of the City’s governance, a solid majority on council decided instead to mirror the uncertainty surrounding the mayor right now. It was a game of leadership hot potato. No, I don’t want to take charge. You take charge. No, you take charge. No, you. Battling to a standstill, any forward progress bogged down in entrenched indecision.

Not to worry, folks. Next year will be better. Next year’s always better.


  • Lecious Delight

    No matter what Rob Ford does, you will bring this partisan attack on him. You are acting like a dictator. Unless Rob Ford does things your way, he is an evil man

    Toronto Botanical Garden – If you want to have one then YOU pay for it. why isn’t there an entrace fee? why should people who don’t visit/want the TBG have to pay for it (taxes).

    Children can live without going to a swimming pool. If you want your kids to go swimming then either than taking them 3 times a week, take them once a week. Also you as the parent can actually pay for YOUR kid instead of others.

    Daycare spaces – Start being a responsible parent, ask the grandparents of the child, there are up to 4 of them. Also, ever thought to not have a child if you can’t take care of one? RESPONSIBLE PARENTING.

    Rob Ford didn’ have destructive clutches. It is people like you who think everything should be downtown.

    There is construction going all over North York and Scarborough. Yet it won’t get any transit in your world. Downtown Construction will get the DLR.

    Ever thought that there is a cheaper alternative to downtown relief line? NO, because in your world, things should be your way. You do know that creating jobs in the suburbs means suburb Torontonians can actually stay in the suburbs and not need to travel downtown?

    Oh yeah, average wait downtown for transit is 5-10 minutes. oh the cruelty to ask downtowners to wait 5-10 minutes. the cruelty to ask them to fill the streetcars with more than 2-5 people. While in the suburbs, average wait is 20 minutes at times.

    Why add $5m when you can make people pay fare by distance. Oh yeah, the reason why TTC has no money is because of people like you who think every special interest group should get a discounted fare. You are homeless, senior, bald, fat, etc…all get discount meaning TTC gets less money.

    Tax payers pay for the leeches that you are friends with that are on ODSP/OW/etc…and instead of getting a job, they spend their assistance money on Iphones/blackberries and laptops and spend all their time at City Hall bitching about things.

    It is people like you who bring this partisan bullshit.

    The TCHC board was wasting money in x-mas parties, godiva chocolate gifts, meetings at spas. All under Former Budget Chief Carroll. Under Ford/Del Grande that stopped.

    Yet you twisted it that Ford was going to kick all those leeches out.

    • Gordon Yarley

      You are seriously deluded.

    • NoRace2TheBottom

      It’s people like you with your ‘race-to-the-bottom’ mentality that are ruining what could be one of the world’s best cities. Self-centered jackasses like yourself and voters who think like you won’t be satisfied until there are no services, no parks, and no programs.

      I want to live in a great city, and I’m not afriad to pay for it. Property taxes are an efficient and effective way to raise funds for things that improve the lives of everyone — efficient and affordable transit reduces air pollution. Gardens, parks, libraries and art installations are attractions and add an oasis from the busy city streets. Free activities for children keep them from getting in trouble and out of gangs.

      You sound like you’d be happier in failed American cities like Buffalo, Detroit, and Baltimore — where your ideas of slash-and-burn city budgets lived and died.

    • johndot

      Rob Ford isn’t evil. Just a dip-sh*t.
      But I am enjoying gawking at the Gravy Train-wreck from a safe distance outside of TO.

    • vampchick21

      Well, if that’s not a case of FUGM, I don’t know what is.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      How stupid are you? Here, let me enumerate:

      1) This same argument can be applied to everything paid for or supplemented with taxes: hospitals, police, roads, food inspection, military, etc.

      2) Not every family in Toronto is middle-class and can afford private pool memberships or even has time to take their kids halfway across the city to the nearest available pool.
      2b) Removing physical activities for children is a great way to make them lazy and obese for the rest of their lives.

      3) What makes you assume everyone with kids has living parents to call on for babysitter duty, parents who are even within driving distance, or mentally/physically capable of caring for kids on a daily basis?

      4) Ford has done everything he can to destroy transit planning in this city, distracting council and the media with fantasies about subways in the least-populated parts of the city and empty promises of private funding, not to mention vague threats made to remove streetcars, plus his budget-mandated slashes to TTC services.

      5) The Sheppard line has had over a BILLION DOLLARS of residential and commercial development since opening and it STILL RUNS AT HALF CAPACITY OR LESS, equivalent to a busy bus.
      5b) Transit City would have brought appropriate rail transit to these growing areas of the suburbs, but Ford killed it and tried to kill its reincarnations. Those LRTs would have opened in 2015.

      6) There are cheaper transit modes but none of them viable for a DRL.
      6b) City Council doesn’t have the power to “create jobs in the suburbs”, force companies to relocate there, only permit companies to start up out there, or any other permutation of this fantasy you’re spouting.
      6c) Creating new jobs in the suburbs doesn’t solve the transit problems Downtown already faces, unless you plan on having thousands of people fired.

      7) Wait time and service frequency correspond to volume.
      7b) Bus service in the suburbs was reduced because Ford insisted on a 10% budget cut, remember?

      8) The TTC has “no money” because it isn’t properly supported by the province or Ottawa. TTC riders already pay fares that subsidize every ride – going 4 stops downtown pays for the suburbanite going 20 stops.

      9) They also snort marijuana and eat babies!

      10) You wear your all-forms-of-conservativism on your sleeve.

      11) And under Ford, his private company got their street repaved for a party, he cost the city $65 MILLION DOLLARS by cancelling plans he had no authority to cancel, he wasted countless hours and taxpayer dollars with his Conflict of Interest case, he set up meetings between his private clients and city staff, he’s derailed or threatened to derail developments plans years in the making, et cetera et cetera.

  • Gordon Yarley

    Everything about this? Seriously stupid pricks. Unbelievable. Cannot believe they are ignoring the needy AGAIN AND screwing over the homeless, AIDS victims, TTC riders, Tenants and most of the poor of Toronto. Thanks Toronto Council. Thanks for nothing.

  • Astin44

    Wow, that post comes off as whiny. While there are valid points, it takes a step away from Torontoist’s usual quality of article when it comes to these topics. In most negotiations, when you find compromise, you find some level of functionality.

    There is still a large chunk of Toronto’s population that have right-wing fiscal views, and another surprise council move of “restore all the funding!” is just going to piss them off. You want a functional government? That means not everybody gets what they want in this environment.

    And despite Toronto’s relative financial health, the economy of the world is still a mess. Priorities have to be set.

    Then there’s Lecious Delight over there… who was making some kind of right-wing sense, and then slid downhill quickly into the usual suburb-vs-downtown baiting and general insanity.

    Have you been on a downtown streetcar during the week at rush hour? Or the subway? More than 2-5 people? Try “cramming in the 3rd one in a row, hoping you don’t get pushed out the door while smelling the glorious odours of a packed vehicle”.

    That said, I really do wish they’d look into zone fares for the TTC. Something that could be far more possible once Presto is in place.

  • Jane

    As long as you fools keep voting for people like the Ford Bros, Perks, Minnin-Wong, Davis, Mammoliti, Nunziata and Cho, you will continue to get crap!

  • johndot

    [Did Ford's tax-freeze vote mean he opposed his own budget? Del Grande: "You would think that. I would think that. He doesn't think that."] — Tweet from Jonathan Goldsbie

    Gold Jerry! Gold!