Executive Committee Debates Budget Cuts
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Executive Committee Debates Budget Cuts

After a summer of consultant reports, debate, and marathon meetings, city council's Executive Committee is debating a final list of proposed cuts. We'll be liveblogging as long as the meeting lasts.

Photo by Laura Godfrey/Torontoist.

6:24 AM: Now, bed. Analysis tomorrow, once we’ve had a chance to process a little.

5:18 AM: All motions have been unanimously approved. Nobody is completely sure what this means, but it seems to be the case that many of these cuts have been put off but not definitively taken off the table. Some may be considered again in November, when the budget meetings actually commence.

5:05 AM: Summary: Shiner’s motions take certain cuts off the table; Mammoliti’s push them back to later in the budget cycle.

4:55 AM: Thompson moves to remove Riverdale Farm from list of farms and zoos for sale (at least for now).

4:49 AM: Milczyn has one motion: create a “strong” Heritage Toronto by consolidating it with museum services.

4:47 AM: “Mr. Mayor, happy birthday to me.” Mammoliti says he has 20 motions. Many of these are moving recommendations from the City Manager’s proposed set of cuts.

4:39 AM: Now onto motions. Shiner wants to reject proposals regarding snow clearing, grass cutting, TTC, library, and community grants cuts.

4:29 AM: “I can’t imagine what would represent more of a contemptuous process for our democracy today.” Kristyn Wong-Tam. Fragedakis, Layton, McConnell all chiming in with profound concerns as well. Worth noting: they were no obligation to stay here. So far all those speeches were by visiting councilors—Executive Committee members haven’t spoken yet.

4:17 AM: Gord Perks: I get two seconds to speak to each of 89 recommendations.” [Pauses two seconds]. “That was daycare.” Goes on to say that the City is seriously lowballing revenue projections, and forcing a vote before actual revenue figures are available—the cuts may not be necessary at all. “This is not governance, this is the thing that governments do when they are not doing their job. This is wreckage.”

4:15 AM: Adam Vaughan: “I’ve been around this place for 25 years worth of budgets. I have never seen a document that is so short of facts… I have never seen a budget process more corrupt. Not corrupt in a legal sense, but corrupt as a process… This is the most sinister piece of legislation that has ever been in front of this city council, and it needs to be stopped.”

4:06 AM: Ana Bailão: What we’ve learned from these mtgs is that “Torontonians care about their city…. They want a moderate approach.” And another voice joining the chorus, Josh Matlow: “We are not well informed enough to make these decisions today.”He goes on to say that people want more than just the services the City is absolutely legally required to provide.

4:05 AM: Mary-Margaret McMahon: “I will not blindly slash and burn and cut things that make our city great.” (Note: she doesn’t vote today, as she is not on the Executive Committee.)

4:02 AM: “I don’t even know what these cuts mean”—Janet Davis. She lists all the pieces of information they don’t have.

3:58 AM: Mihevc: “This is not a debate among Torontonians. Every single meeting has been a rally…to maintain a strong city.” And then: “What these three reports represent is the most massive change to city government in 14 years… This does not even come close to the information we require to make wise and intelligent choices.”

3:57 AM: Questions of staff finished. Speakers now—councillors each get three minutes to state their views.

3:42 AM: By the way, that $774 opening pressure on the budget? City manager now softening his language, saying it may be $600 or $500 million.

3:35 AM: For a process expressly designed to ensure councillors are able to make informed votes, this is a travesty in several ways at once. Trying to decide on $100 million in cuts based on two minutes of questioning. Where’s the fire? No reason—none—not to allow councillors the standard allotment of five minutes per item (instead of two minutes for three items).

3:32 AM: Also, if we don’t know how much individual items will save, this raises the question: how on earth did they arrive at the total??

3:29 AM: Well, here’s a twist. We know how much the slate of cuts is supposed to save total. No idea how much individual items will save. Informed voting is not even in theory possible, if you want to consider cuts individually rather than the whole set.

3:24 AM: These questions of staff are going nowhere fast. Dozens and dozens of items to consider. Streamlining is one thing, but no intelligent Q&A possible in two minutes or less.

3:12 AM: Procedural outrage! Councillors only get two minutes apiece to question staff on all three agenda items—not just the budget cuts, but also the user fees, and the staff reductions.

3:07 AM: And…we are done deputations! Total: 173 deputants spoke; 3 in favour of cuts, 1 in favour of user fee increases. Now, councillors begin debating the proposals before them and considering any potential amendments.

2:55 AM: “My name is Andrea Calver, and I love Toronto. Mayor Ford, I have never heard you say why you love Toronto.” Deputant 352.

2:39 AM: The red bow-tied Jon Catzel, number 342, suggests Ford cut his own salary to $10.25/hr, like private sector trash collectors.

2:27 AM: Overall, this meeting feels less rambunctious—and less slumber party-like—than the last marathon session. On the other hand, this group showed up knowing they’d be here til all hours.

2:26 AM: “Rob Ford, you are a liar! You promised us no cuts! Where is the gravy??!” Paul Choi, deputant 329. Deputation stopped for being unparliamentary.

1:57 AM: Alicia Pang is deputant number 190. She begins by turning and facing the assembled deputants and speaking to them rather than to the councillors. “How would you like if we turned our backs to you,” ask Mammoliti and Holyday. That, presumably, was her point. Pang then turns around and continues to speak, now facing the councillors. “This whole process is disrespectful. None of you is listening to what I have to say.”

1:44 AM: Shelley Carroll gets the eggs. Yes, we are jealous.

1:39 AM: Dan Eldridge, chair of Riverdale Farm Advisory Council. He brought eggs from the farm! Also, says that animal care only cost $30,000 year—figure has been significantly overblown by KPMG report. “I’m not egging the deputant on!” says Shelley Carroll, as she asks Eldridge a question.

1:26 AM: And now, Bob Kinnear. “Toronto has the most economically efficient transit system in North America…I do not understand why this well-known fact is meaningless to you… By cutting transit you are on the wrong side of history. There is still time to be on the right side of history. There is time to stop the crazy train.”

1:18 AM: Math! Deputants: 149 (#266 on list). Pro cuts: 3; pro user fee increase: 1; worried about fluoride: 5; opposing cuts: everyone else.

12:43 AM: It is Giorgio Mammoliti’s 50th birthday. There is pie and singing over here in the Exec Cmte meeting. “Nothing makes me happier than to be here with all of you today,” says Giorgio. “Even the unions.”

11:39 PM: “Go low and go for the knees.” Stephen Braun, deputant 227, who says Rob Ford coached him in high school. “And I see nothing has changed.” And then a minute later: “Mayor Ford, you are running this city like you coached me in football—like the schoolyard bully.”

11:09 PM: Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s): “Thank you Santa, for coming all this way. Do you feel Torontonians are getting Scrooged?”

11:04 PM: Next deputant: Santa Claus! (aka Carolyn Johnson, deputant 214). She is here to talk about the Xmas Fund, and Del Grande is personally offended. “This is a joke.” “So is this meeting!” “Don’t be a Scrooge!” And then Adam Vaughan: “Any chance you’d give us a preview of who is on the naughty list?”

10:52 PM: Math! By our count 119 deputants have spoken; up to 210 on the list (due to no shows). Pro cuts: three. Pro user fee increases: one.

10:45 PM: Mayor’s back!

10:39 PM: “If TCHC keeps going the way that it’s going, some of those buildings are going to fall down.” Kenn Hale, director of legal services for the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and deputant number 208.

10:26 PM: Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth) tweets: “My mum just arrived to the all-nighter with homemade Greek biscuits in Cmtee room 2.”

10:13 PM: “Big round of applause for Elizabeth, number 200!” Doug Holyday, who is chairing in Ford’s absence. At this rate we’ll be done deputations before dawn.

9:46 PM: Roy Mitchell, deputant 191, offers the mayor—who has sadly left the room—a Unity Award, for uniting Torontonians in their opposition to budget cuts.

Deputant number 191, Roy Mitchell, offers the mayor a Unity Award.

9:24 PM: “I’m wearing black because I’m watching the death of my democracy.” Deputant Jason Robins (184). Can hear whoops across the hall.

9:21 PM: First media care package of the day over at Exec! Timbits, juice, and coffee. If you’re thinking of coming down and checking things out, we spied bagels and cream cheese in the other room, too.

9:17 PM: Committee Room 1 is ful, and there’s a good presence in two overflow rooms. The meeting overall feels more subdued than the last marathon Executive Meeting, but at least as determined. Deputants showing up knowing they were going to be here all night.

7:59 PM: “You have eliminated sources of revenue. You are the source of the problem.” Sonja Greckol, deputant 153.

7:54 PM: We—and the Executive Committee—are back up and running. On deputant 151 of 361 registered. So far: three in favour of cuts; five worried about fluoride.

To help deal with overflow, the Executive Committee meeting is being screened in the City Hall rotunda.

6:27 PM: And now Doug Holyday and Mark Ferguson, head of CUPE 416, are fighting about whether or not they had scheduled meetings that may or may not have been cancelled. Considerable shouting. And with that, we break for dinner! Back at 7:15.

6:01 PM: Reverend Maggie Helwig, appalled that affordable housing cuts are on the table. “We have a housing crisis in this city.” As she hits the two minute mark and Ford cuts her off: “We have a choice! We have a choice!” Applause.

5:57 PM: First resident to address Riverdale Farm, surprisingly. A “cultural jewel” says deputant 128, Lisa Brylowski.

5:48 PM: “You can’t ask the province to make the TTC an essential service and then two months later kill bus routes.” York University student Sonia Stramaglia. She tells Ford she wants to have his job one day, and wants there to still be a city left to run. A surivor of a random sexual assault,” she describes the 25 minute walk from the nearest subway station as the worst thing she needs to do.

5:31 PM: According to the list, we’re at deputant number 115. Actual deputations given: 69. Of those, three were in favour of the budget/service cuts, four were very concerned about water fluoridation, and the rest are opposed to service cuts.

3:34 PM: Debbie Field, executive director of FoodShare, now up. Says one of their programs would be cut because it is so small (gets $10,000 from the City) because it is run by volunteers. Among the proposed cuts are community grants that are $10,000 or less. Also in danger: the Good Food Box program, which delivers locally grown produce to residents across the city.

3:31 PM: Time for a tally! 46 deputants have spoken (they are on #69 on the list, due to no-shows); 43 opposed to cuts, 3 in favour.

3:08 PM: Jaye Robinson and Michael Thompson to the rescue! “Thank you for joining us,” someone from the deputant gallery shouts out.

3:07 PM: And…no quorum in the room at Executive. Need seven members minimum, have only six. If nobody shows up in 15 minutes, the meeting will be automatically cancelled.

2:49 PM: Susan Crocker, chair of the Toronto Arts Foundation, and Karen Tisch, president of the Toronto Arts Council, depute back-to-back. Both emphasize the importance of City grants as providing seed money which enables arts organizations to then find private sector donors to come on board with funding as well.

2:29 PM: David Greig lives in Etobicoke. He deputes, and then budget chief Mike Del Grande says: “You’ve provided us with no good alternative except to say “tax the rich.” Reply? “That’s a damn good idea!”

2:14 PM: Deputations continuing apace at City Hall. Feels like everyone is running on too much caffeine: much sprint, less substance.

2:05 PM: Now up: Margaret Smuk, who volunteers at one of the City’s long-term care facilities. She points out that one reason the City runs these is that their facilities accept patients (such as those with mental disabilities) that privately operated facilities do not.

1:54 PM: 29th deputant is Matthew McGuire of Toronto Taxpayers Coalition. First to favour lower taxes at the expense of services.

1:43 PM: And, we’re back after lunch. On deputant number 26. Nicely, a bunch of councillors have pitched in to provide sandwiches and apples for the deputants who are waiting to speak.

12:28 PM: And, we’re done with the morning session. Thus far: 25 deputants; 24 opposed to budget cuts, and one mum on cuts but in favour of increasing user fees. Ford drank his coffee this morning: right now the pace of deputations all feels a bit breathless. The Executive Committee will be back at 1:30, and so will we.

12:18 PM: Ann Dembinski, president of CUPE 79, now up. Her first order of business: rejecting insinuations that union members “are not real Torontonians.”

11:57 AM: Yelly Granny is back! And she has some suggestions: “Let’s not destroy the city we love. We should be creating an age-friendly city for all Torontonians.” She would list some examples, but “can’t, no time.”

11:21 AM: Little kids singing to the tune of Old MacDonald: “T.O. island had a farm, E-I-E-I-O. Please don’t take away our farm, E-I-E-I-O.” So far: 11 deputants, 11 opposed to proposed cuts. 11th, up now: “I want to remind you that our mayor campaigned on a platform of no cuts.”

11:01 AM: Beverly Smith reads out human rights charter during her deputation, breaks down in tears.

10:55 AM: Final total on number of registered deputants: 361. At five minutes apiece (allowing for a couple of questions each), and assuming only 50 per cent attendance: 15 hours.

10:53 AM: “People will die” if we cut HIV/AIDS funding. Keith Hambly, deputant number five.

10:37 AM: Ford is now taking applause out of subsequent councillor’s questioning time. Clearly trying to run through list fast as possible. Second deputant, Ron McAllister, protests, “I need to speed read to make two points… I took time off work to try to make the city a bit better.”

10:22 AM: Wow. Two minutes goes by REALLY fast. These depuations are going to be a tough challenge for many who were expecting to have more time. Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) has one minute to question the deputant. He doesn’t even get to finish the question, much less does she have a chance to answer.

10:20 AM: First deputant: Michelle St-Amour, U of T graduate student union. “We take offence” at claims that people who have been deputing or answering polls are “not the right Torontonians.”

10:15 AM: Amazing resource: blogger David Hains has made a spreadsheet comparing proposed cuts to campaign promises.

10:05 AM: City manager Joe Pennachetti detailing proposed cuts; the ones on the table today will save approximately $100 million. (As other commenters have pointed out, this is about the amount of revenue the now-killed Vehicle Registration Tax and an inflationary property tax increase would have brought in.)

At the barricades outside City Hall, activists have clipped "don't hang us out to dry!" shirts as commentary on the proposed budget cuts.

9:50 AM: Mammoliti continues: “The last crowd that was here would from time to time erupt in applause or boos or whatever… It’s worth noting that any eruption will move into the deputants’ time.” Ford agrees, warns assembled residents to keep quiet.

9:48 AM: First motion of the day: Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) moves to cut speaking time to two minutes from the typical five, with councillors getting one minute each to question speakers. Passes. Deputants have until 10 a.m. to register to speak.

9:45 AM: Ford continues, “Even at a reduced speaking time, we are going to listen to every single deputant…We are going to sit here for 25 hours, like we did last time.” It’s official: #cityhallslumberparty2 is on.

9:38 AM: Mayor calls the meeting to order. This meeting, he says, is the next step in helping the City “address the long-standing structural deficit in its finances.” Says government has been adding programs since amalgamation, outstripping their capacity to pay for them. “We must find permanent reductions in our cost base, either by changing what we do or by doing it more efficiently. We must also begin to look for new non-tax revenues that can grower faster than our tax base.”