A graph of the gap between the City’s operating budget and its revenue, courtesy of the Toronto Board of Trade.
The Toronto Board of Trade, which represents the interests of Toronto’s business sector, released a set of recommendations for mayoral candidates today, emphasizing several of what they deem to be the City’s most urgent needs over the course of the next administration.
“A well thought-out vision with a clear, comprehensive plan is needed to guide our city forward,” said Carol Wilding, the Board of Trade’s president, at a press conference this morning. “With just six weeks left until the election, no candidate has yet put forth a comprehensive plan on how they will address the challenges facing Toronto and advance Toronto’s capacity for economic growth and job creation.”
The Board’s recommendations include cost-cutting, in order to end the City’s growing dependence on one-time cash infusions; a more regional approach to transit development, in order to drive growth throughout the GTA; and reform at City Hall, in order to increase civic participation and encourage councillors to focus on citywide issues, rather than ward-specific ones.
Taken together, the recommendations (which were culled from a long series of previous discussion papers released as part of the Board of Trade’s VoteToronto 2010 campaign, and can be read in their entirety right here) comprise a set of policies that is at least comparable, in terms of depth, to any platform advanced by any mayoral candidate so far.
The Board is deliberately avoiding endorsing any particular candidate. Wilding would not say whose mayoral platform her organization considers to be the best. Neither would she deride or discount Rob Ford, despite repeated (and extremely creative) questioning along those lines from certain intrepid members of the press. (“We have worked and will work with whoever moves in,” she said.)
On transit, the Board is firmly behind The Big Move, Metrolinx’s estimated fifty-billion dollar regional transit plan, which includes controversial projects like the Union-Pearson rail link, PRESTO fare cards, and the always-beleaguered Transit City. This puts the Board in varying degrees of contention with every single mayoral front-runner, with the possible exception of Joe Pantalone, who (after some hedging in the early stages of the campaign) has voiced unconditional support for Transit City. The Big Move is still eighty percent unfunded, and the Board is asking candidates to propose models for raising the remaining forty-billion dollars necessary to bring the plan about.
The Board also recommends a number of measures to reduce the City’s annual budget shortfall, which they say will amount to nearly two-billion dollars per year by 2019, if allowed to grow unchecked. These include a call for the City to reduce spending on hiring and pensions, as well as a plea for multi-year budgeting. Also recommended is a public review of City programs and services, to determine what could be cut or contracted out.
These budget recommendations are more in line with those of George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi than those of Rob Ford, whose stated plans for cost-saving so far revolve around cutting perks at City Hall.
David Soknacki, former councillor, and City budget chief during Miller’s first term, was in attendance at the press conference.
“Every one of us would cut plant watering if that would solve the issue. We would cut the MasterCard,” he told the assembled press, alluding to Rob Ford’s campaign promises to cut the City Hall plant-watering budget and reduce councillor office budgets. “That’s easy…it’s visceral—people understand it. But the tough issues are dealing with police, with transit, with debt. That’s how you essentially free up the money.”
“I think people have to look at themselves in the mirror, as well…and say ‘what do I want from this city?'”
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