Every Sunday, Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Doug, host The City, a two-hour talk show on Newstalk 1010. We listen so you don't have to.
Oh, boy—another week, another instalment of our favourite radio show! There aren’t too many of these left, because the show will have to go off the air once Rob formally files his nomination papers for the 2014 mayoral election. Sure, he’s been campaigning on this show for almost two years, but that’s because rules are for wusses. Let’s find out which ones Rob and Doug break today!
1:11: Because the sun rose in the east today, the mayor is angry. He doesn’t like spending money to research bike lanes. The mayor says, “Folks, we’re spending $450,000 to study bike lanes on Bloor. Bloor, Dupont, that package deal. That’s ridiculous.” And we all imagine him shaking his fist in fury. He justifies his opposition by saying he plans to spend money elsewhere, just not on these bike lanes. “We’re spending $90 million on bike paths through our parks, connecting all our trails,” he says. Doug adds, “That’s double the amount the previous administration did.”
It’s true that the 2013-2022 capital budget plan proposed 100 kilometres of off-road bicycle paths, 80 kilometres of on-street connections, and 8,000 more bicycle parking spaces. But there’s a difference between having the targets and following through on them. The Fords think they can oppose specific proposals for bike parking or bike lanes while still taking credit for generally supporting them. Also, the Bloor portion of the study that they object to is only budgeted for $250,000. Just saying.
1:12: The mayor thanks Gene Jones, the CEO of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, for backing off a $2-million plan to renovate the corporation’s offices. “I don’t think he ever had the intention of doing that. It was all misconstrued one way or another,” says the mayor. This is at odds with statements from Jones, who voluntarily gave the media a tour of his “little manager’s office” to justify the proposed renovation. But whatever, facts schmacts.
1:12: Rob Ford, unfiltered: “It’s a year until we’re back at the polls, folks, and I’m just drooling, I’m absolutely salivating for this next election.”
1:13: Rob compares his anticipation for the campaign to how you feel before a hockey game, when you want to jump over the boards and drop the gloves to fight. I thought the point of hockey was to score goals.
1:14: Rob exaggerates how much the city’s unemployment rate has dropped—something he has repeatedly done. Since he took office, it hasn’t fallen by 4 per cent as he claims, but 2.3 per cent.
1:16: Rob makes a promise: “We’re going to get subways on Sheppard, we’re going to get subways on Finch—guaranteed.” People who live along Sheppard and Finch: You know those phone calls where the foghorn blows, and you’re told you won a cruise vacation? Well, in this case, the captain is Rob Ford, and he’s promising subways. But there’s no subway coming, and the sooner people hang up on what he’s selling, the sooner those neighbourhoods will be able to get rapid transit in the form of LRT lines.
1:18: As Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” plays the show back from commercial, the mayor wishes the Toronto rapper a happy birthday. Is this real life?
1:20: Rob: “Folks, I hate tooting my own horn” (which is something that people say before they go beep beep). “But we have done a phenomenal job…we can go through the list.” Since I’m in a fact-checky mood, let’s do this. Let’s unlock the Rob and Doug Ford Radio Recap: Super Fact-Check Edition. Exciting!
1:21: Rob promises that property tax increases will be 1.5 per cent for each of the next four years. Given that taxes will be raised 1.6 per cent over the next three years to help finance the three-stop Bloor-Danforth subway extension, and given that inflation is usually between 2 and 2.5 per cent, following through on this promise would not be feasible without significant service cuts.
1:22: Once again, the mayor makes his exaggerated claim about unemployment, and promises that the level will go lower than 7 per cent. First, any politician has only minimal control over unemployment figures, as they’re mostly the product of broader economic factors. Secondly, when the mayor was asked in a press conference what specific policies he’d implemented to produce those job figures, he said “cutting red tape,” without specifying what that meant.
1:23: The mayor says, “We’ve had no labour disruption.” This is false, because I remember seeing some really awesome picket signs during the library workers’ strike.
1:27: The mayor says, “I know for a fact customer service has improved in this city.” This is a difficult claim to measure, but the mayor has wanted to cancel 311, the City’s service helpline, for a long time. At a recent committee meeting, he also voted against improving service levels for the 25 per cent of callers who, when they inquire about their property tax, hang up because they’ve been on hold too long. He also wanted to eliminate the City ombudsman’s office, which acts as an advocate for citizens who are treated unfairly by the municipal bureaucracy. But you know, Rob has inspected numerous piles of sand. So there’s that.
1:29: Our unreliable narrator Doug Ford chides members of the media for not doing their research and for getting the numbers wrong. Rob adds, “Well, we’ll be hitting back like they’ve never seen. There will be so many lefts, they’ll be begging for a right, trust me.”
1:30: The mayor says, “There’s no more strikes at the TTC.” It’s true that the TTC has been made an essential service, but this doesn’t prevent transit workers from going on a wildcat strike, as they did in 2006. It also promises to make transit more expensive, because arbitrated contract settlements are costlier than negotiated agreements. In a 2008 study for the C.D. Howe Institute, Benjamin Dachis concluded that the cost of making the TTC an essential service would be about $8 million a year. In other words, it would cost transit riders the equivalent of a 10-cent fare increase every four years.
1:31: Doug says, “It would cost $50 to $75, maybe $100 million a day if the TTC shut down.” Pro tip: it really looks like you’re making up numbers when you give three different figures for one claim. The first number actually has some validity, because it was used in a 2008 TTC report. Mind you, that report recommended against making the TTC an essential service. It also calculated the economic impact of doing so by estimating that a TTC strike would result in a 10-per cent reduction in the amount of goods and services produced in Toronto—without justifying where that number came from. There’s an old journalism adage that goes, “Round numbers, hollow arguments,” and that seems pretty apt.
1:32: Rob takes credit for investing in the fire department. In fact, he wanted to reduce the number of fire trucks, continue to leave positions unfilled, and close a station at Runnymede. The mayor eventually agreed to a compromise in the 2013 budget. Doug Holyday, who at that time was still deputy mayor, referred to it as the “IKEA Monkey Budget,” which is funny, because Holyday knew who IKEA Monkey was.
1:33: Rob then takes credit for fixing up Toronto Community Housing. “We replaced the senior management,” he says, although TCHC’s hiring practices under new CEO Gene Jones are now the subject of both internal and external reviews.
The mayor continues.
“We’ve approved the sale of 78 stand-alone units to generate funds to address the $751-million [state of good repair] backlog.” This is almost correct, except that the state of good repair backlog has increased to $862 million in the past year.
“We will be selling more units,” says the mayor. “Don’t know if it’s going to be this term, but it’s going to be next term.” Another fact: the waiting list for social housing is the longest it has ever been, with 165,723 people requesting 90,060 units. It’s understandable to want to take better care of the City’s existing units, but solving that problem by reducing the portfolio only exacerbates the waiting-list problem. Also, the mayor already tried to sell 675 units, but couldn’t find support on council.
1:36: Now Sun journalist Sue-Ann Levy is on the show. Doug refers to her as “one of the best columnists in the country.” Levy, whose signature is coming up with grade-school nicknames for people she doesn’t like, says she’s amazed at how nasty the media is toward the mayor.
1:41: Rob doesn’t like the panel the premier put together to examine how to fund transit, and, in a tone both questioning and incredulous, points out that the panel members are getting paid. It’s true that chair Anne Golden and vice-chair Paul Bedford are getting paid, but no other members of the panel are.
1:45: Levy mentions her as-yet-unpublished book about City Hall, and claims two publishers turned her down because they felt she was being “too fair” to the mayor. So we know it’s going to be hard-hitting journalism.
1:46: Levy says she doesn’t want to see the mayor doing nothing but campaigning for the next year. She says some real political action is needed. Sue-Ann and I finally agree.
1:47: Rob says Levy is the best columnist around. Christopher Hume is going to be so angry.
1:50: The mayor cites a big improvement at TCHC. “Things are happening,” he says. This past week, TCHC announced that it needs an additional $2.6 billion for capital repairs over the next 10 years. This is on top of its current $862-million backlog. Rob then says he inherited a $750-million backlog from the previous administration. However, reports show that it was $650 million at the start of 2011. So the capital repair deficit has grown by $210 million on Rob Ford’s watch—much faster than anticipated. The blame is not solely his—there are a lot of structural problems that contribute to this—but things aren’t great at TCHC, and if you want to take credit for employment numbers, then you have to own the files that are getting worse, too.
1:51: Out-of-context Doug Ford quote about TCHC: “As in the U.S., they call it ‘the projects.’”
1:52: Doug talks about the plan for the $2.6 billion in additional capital repairs as though it’s fully funded. But the City is calling on the province and federal government each to contribute $862 million toward the repairs, and there’s no sign that any of that money is actually coming. Also, a portion of the City’s contribution will be taken from the TCHC’s existing operating budget, a difference that will need to be made up in some other way.
1:54: Rob says, “I wish the media would print some of these councillors’ votes.” Well, Rob, Metro‘s Matt Elliott has just the blog for you. It even has your name in it! Mind you, it’s a reference to Jed Bartlet, whom you may not like.
1:55: Rob Ford, who just voted to raise property taxes 1.6 per cent to finance an unnecessary subway plan, chastises councillors for voting for various transit revenue tools rather than financing transit through “efficiencies.”
1:56: Rob takes credit for committee and council agendas being posted online for the public to see. “This has never been done before,” he says of something that has totally been done before. Now, it’s true that on his first day as mayor, the City launched a new online application that lets users browse minutes and agendas, and it’s very good. But it’s not as though the mayor made that happen in a day. I judge this claim to be “Pants on Fire.”
1:57: Rob says, “You don’t hear about these lavish dinners anymore.” Note: the Toronto Sun recently ran an article about a $25,000 dinner party at Casa Loma that was paid for by three City agencies. Frankly, it’s something we shouldn’t be too alarmed about—this is part of promoting the city—but it certainly doesn’t live up to the standard the mayor holds others to.
1:59: Rob encourages City employees to notify him of any wrongdoing, and says he’ll take care of their problems. However, when the City’s ombudsman released a scathing report about eviction practices at TCHC, the mayor chose to skip most of the debate, then returned only to defend the evictions, although he had clearly not read the report. You can see the video or read the transcript. It’s one of the most instructive council debates for anyone trying to figure out how the mayor thinks. In the end, he exited the chamber and avoided casting a vote.
1:59: Rob again claims that he has saved the City a billion dollars. He has not, and this claim has been debunked by the Grid, Metro, and the Globe and Mail. Heck, even the mayor’s former press secretary has written that this is an exaggeration. Rob goes on to say that the people who say it’s not true are calling City CFO Robert Rossini and City Manager Joe Pennachetti liars. No, Rob, on this one I’m calling you a liar, because the CFO and City Manager don’t make this claim.
Rob then goes on to list the ways he has “saved” a billion dollars— for example, cutting the vehicle registration tax and raising user fees. If you’re confused—because those two things create contradictory budget effects and neither qualifies as a “saving”—then you’re not alone.
2:04: Rob claims that the 2011 budget came in at the same amount as the 2010 budget, and that the 2012 budget was less than the 2011 budget, and that the 2013 budget was the same as the 2012 budget. So, logically, the 2013 budget should be less than the 2010 budget. Except the 2013 budget, both gross and net, was $200 million more than the 2010 budget. Now, one can argue that $200 million is a small amount when we’re talking about a $9.4-billion gross operating budget, but why wouldn’t Ford just say that?
2:06: Rob: “I really want someone to challenge me on these numbers, and I’ll debate them until the cows come home.” Rob, get your people to get in touch with my people. Let’s make this happen.
2:11: Rob and Doug claim that they balanced the budget for the first time ever without using a surplus. Meanwhile, former budget chief Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East) tweets her own fact-check: “2010 Budget balanced at launch without surplus. I left it in the bank for Rob. $367mil. He spent it in 2 months.”
2:13: Rob previews his campaign rhetoric by saying he doesn’t believe Torontonians will choose a tax-and-spend mayor, because they’ve seen the light. Maybe Rob could be a preacher if he loses the campaign? Or he could buy the Argos; he’d be happy there.
2:14: Rob and Doug again wrongly claim that there have been no labour disruptions this term, and then incorrectly state that theirs is the first Toronto administration not to have a strike. In his first term, David Miller didn’t face a strike.
2:16: Doug mentions that Carroll is “going ballistic on Twitter” and adds that she’s the person who “got them into this mess in the first place.” Far from a mess, the Ford administration inherited a record $367-million surplus and a AA+ credit rating. Rob goes on to point out that mayoral candidate David Soknacki preceded her as budget chief and should take some blame, too. He shouldn’t, because if there’s any blame to be had, it belongs to the structure of Toronto’s government, which makes the budget situation difficult to manage year to year in spite of a growing economy. That’s a difficult idea to communicate on the radio in a soundbite, so here’s a Walrus article by John Lorinc that explains it.
2:18: The mayor counts “building the Scarborough subway” as one of his accomplishments. This may be confusing if you’ve been in Scarborough lately and didn’t see the new subway. That’s because it won’t be coming until 2023 at the earliest—and it still needs multiple approvals from council before any construction can start. It’s true that the mayor has ordered an environmental assessment on a three-stop subway extension, but given the state of transit in Toronto, I’ll believe it when I see it.
2:19: The mayor claims he got “shortchanged by $400 million” by Kathleen Wynne when it came to the Scarborough subway extension. It’s true that the province had originally allotted $1.8 billion for the Scarborough LRT and then decreased that to $1.48 billion for the subway request. However, that’s because $320 million was going to be spent on Kennedy Station. That amount is being reallocated to the Eglinton LRT project.
2:20: Doug: “The argument about LRTs and subways is very clear in my mind. The people want subways. They’re going to vote for someone who is going to build subways. That’s a world-class city.” World-class populism!
2:25: “We’re maintaining…decades-old playground equipment,” says the mayor. Okay, so Toronto has 860 playgrounds. It currently replaces 10 a year. That means that at its current pace, the City would replace each playground once every 86 years. Best practice is to replace them closer to every 25 to 30 years. Recently, the parks committee had a vote on whether to replace 30 playgrounds a year rather than 10 in order to meet that standard. In a highly unusual move, the mayor joined the committee to cast the deciding vote against the item.
So, yeah, that’s embarrassing.
2:27: Rob cites investments in childcare, homeless shelters, community centres, and libraries. He routinely votes against all of these things, and tried to reduce their service levels in the 2012 budget battle, before taking those proposed cuts off the table.
2:31: The mayor and Doug invite people to come to the mayor’s office for Halloween. No word on what kind of candy they’ll be handing out.
2:38: Doug says Rob has put more money into the arts than any other mayor. It’s true that arts funding has increased; however, that’s not because of the mayor. In fact, the arts funding battle is one of Toronto’s great activist success stories. Beautiful City fought for 10 years to increase funding to the arts through a billboard fee, and finally succeeded this past January. They didn’t get much help from Rob Ford, who originally voted against the billboard tax, arguing that billboards help businesses and create jobs. He also vowed that artists wouldn’t see the money and derided the activists who supported it as being jobless. So this is not Rob Ford’s victory, although it is one for the arts.
2:46: Jim calls in. He wants Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) to resign her seat if she runs for mayor. Of course, Rob Ford didn’t resign from council when he ran for mayor, and there’s no expectation Stintz will either. She did announce Monday that she’ll resign as TTC Chair when her campaign begins, though.
2:48: Peter on line two is upset with Waterfront Toronto. He thinks the organization uses too many consultants, and when he asked about their credentials, he didn’t get a straight answer. Peter then says, “These guys are as corrupt as the day is long, and you know what, I put a complaint in with the auditor general.” Is Peter a crank? Maybe. Do Rob and Doug take his complaint seriously? Definitely. Do people love them for this? Yes.
3:00: And Doug blesses Ford Nation.
God bless you for getting through that, Raccoon Nation, because that was exhausting. So what was the moral of today’s show? Well, apparently there are lots of exaggerations, half-truths, contradictions, and lies packed into every episode. Who knew? Now, some of this may come across as nitpicking, and that’s understandable. But if the mayor is going to make forceful arguments for his re-election for two hours every Sunday, then he should at least do it with facts and honest arguments. Talk-radio listeners are a cynical bunch, so maybe they don’t expect anything more from a politician, but that’s not good enough. Respecting taxpayers—or citizens—isn’t just something that happens at budget time. If there’s one thing that can be said truthfully about Rob Ford, it’s that he demeans public discourse.
1 out of 5 pairs of pants on fire.
This article originally stated that the 2008 TTC strike was a wildcat strike. That was not the case: while little notice was given, TTC workers were, in fact, in legal strike position prior to the withdrawal of service.