Day two of deptuations: 200 people still left to speak, and we start proceedings with a singing of Mr. Grinch.
8:47 PM: Last speaker of the evening: Hamish Wilson. Opening line: “Cars are subsidized.” Frank Di Giorgio: drivers just saw an 8% hike in gas prices. Aren’t they paying enough? And with that, deputations for budget 2012 are done. Thanks for following along! We’ll be back for some preliminary votes tomorrow.
8:35 PM: New rhetorical heights have been reached! Frank Di Giorgio just came awfully close to calling affordable housing “ghettos.” (Full quote: “What if you have nothing BUT affordable housing?”Why don’t we just build ghettos?”) This was followed in short order by a deputants whose deputation consisted primarily of playing the tape of Rob Ford saying “No cuts…guaranteed.” And then, on questioning: “the people of Toronto sold their souls for sixty bucks.” Perhaps the first deputant to implicate votes as responsible for budget cuts, and not just council.
8:20 PM: Doug Ford: “Do you want to just tax beer—the [radio] 640 and 1010 crowd?—or do you want to tax wine and liquor as well?” Mike Layton interjects: “hey, I drink beer and watch the CBC!”
8:12 PM: Most innovative revenue-generating tool suggestion of this entire two-day meeting: beer tax! Courtesy of David Kidd, deputant 326.
7:49 PM: In response to a deputation from Emily Alfred of the Toronto Enviornmental Alliance, who spoke about the need for preserving funding for the Toronto Environment Office, Doug Ford asks: ““What’s more important—giving a small fraction up, or feeding these children I’ve heard about for two days from probably every single person? Are you willing to give up a little bit of funding for children?”
7:38 PM: “You have manufactured a crisis, and you haven’t listened to the solutions that have been presented to you over and over and over again.” Deputant 303, Leigh Valliere.
7:21 PM: One of the day’s most eloquent speakers, Amy Katz (deputant 294) spoke about the reprecussions of raising user fees to access programming at community centres. When the same was done for adults previously, she says, City staff predicted a 20% drop in participation—but the actual drop was 61%. Now that similar increases are contemplated for youth, she says we can expect the same. And that will lead to increased police, health care, and other costs, she says. “My response,” she says to Doug Ford, who asks her how she’d suggest the City pay for the programs, “is how are you going to pay for these cuts?”
6:57 PM: Back from the dinner break. On deputant registered at number 285. The overwhelming trend of deputants opposing cuts persists unabated. Questions from councillors are coming much slower now—fewer of them are here, and they seem inclined to get through the rest of the speakers’ list as quickly as possible.
5:26 PM: In a subtle development, deputants are fighting back against pro-budget councillors asking anti-cut deputants where they live by pre-emptively saying what part of Toronto they’re from. “Hi, I’m Robert Cerjanec and I live in Don Valley East too,” says deputant 267, for instance. Others, to make a point, say simply “I live in Toronto.”
5:15 PM: John Kiru is the executive director of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA). He tells the Budget Committee that the City needs to work better with the BIAs, and is hoping they will work to increase funding to them to foster their economic development efforts.
4:45 PM: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, an extended Hitler metaphor. Deputant 238, Paul Codd, begins his deputation with a long narration of the rise of the Nazis, without mentioning them by name. Councillors let him continue to the end. In questioning, Pasternak calls the comparison dispicable.
4:25 PM: Fun fact: Councillor Pasternak took a class from John Sewell in 1979, says it helped inspire him to run for office.
4:20 PM: Now up at Budget: former mayor John Sewell. “I must say I never expected that I’d be down here arguing about the city budget.” He is very disappointed overall, but is here especially to defend shared use facilities, a program he says he helped start when he was in office. “It is a really short-term outlook that you are taking” in reducing recreational opportunities for children. Says the costs will worsten down the line, as these programs help keep kids on a path to greater success later in life. “I personally think you are wrong in assuming that people think we can’t afford to pay for good services.”
3:34 PM: Melinda Norner, deputant 209, has her voice break a bit as she talks about Warden Woods, a community centre in Scarborough whose support and services helped her after her sister’s death. Peter Milczyn has been chairing and he, like Doug Ford yesterday, is calm and genial and is mindful of the clock, but not inflexible. The impact the various styles of chairing the meeting have on the tenor of the conversation is significant. (Del Grande, Budget Committee chair, is still in the room, though he hasn’t run the meeting for much of the day.) Still no staunch advocates for cuts.
2:08 PM: Meet Toronto’s newest activists, the Shand family children. They didn’t say much, but they did have signs, and a carboard train:
1:46 PM: Back on track, now at deputant 187. So far today continues being much more fraught than yesterday—it feels like Ford allies got together late last night, decided they had a bad day yesterday, and agreed to show some muscle in response today.
1:40 PM: For the second time today (the first was at 9:30 this morning), the meeting is slow getting underway because they don’t have quorum—not enough members of the Budget Committee present.
12:14 PM: A rare find! Deputant 185, Mark J. Richardson, actively and strongly calling for an increase in user fees—says we pay too little to access City pools, programming. And then…nuance! Upon questioning he delves further, saying he doesn’t think these user fees should be imposed on everyone unilaterally. We need a mechnanism to ensure the middle class who can afford to pay does so, without penalizing the poor who cannot. With that…lunch break.
11:56 AM: “Have you talked to your MPP? We’re pretty much just a branch of the province,” says Doug Ford, to a deputant concerned about the state of schools. A rare quality in a politician: according himself less status than he’s actually entitled to.
11:34 AM: Our first removal of a deputant. Del Grande asks security to escort a heckler out. (On the heckling scale, she was more of a minor irritation than a major disturbance.) Her name is Elizabeth Roley and she is deputant 212.
11:01 AM: “There are fewer fighters on the streets today than there were in 1998″— Ed Kennedy, president of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, and deputant 172.
10:55 AM: “We believe that this budget is a recipe for the expansion of homelessness in Toronto”—Said Dirie, represeting Housing Action Now.
10:53 AM: We are, at this point, up to deputant number 170 on the list. This morning’s deputants have so far been unanimously opposed to cuts.
10:38 AM: We are literally having a time out. Del Grande has asked everyone in the room to take a quiet minute to compose themselves.
10:31 AM: Inside the committee room, we are having a head-desk banging kind of day. Budget chief Mike Del Grande warns everyone before things get started that they need to respect the rules and that he’ll have no compunction clearing the room, and then proceeds to challenge several claims made in deputations yesterday. Giorgio Mammoliti is here asking deputants lots of questions—or rather two questions over and over again: “where do you live?” and “are you aware that people in other parts of the city don’t want to have their taxes go up?”. He is framing those coming to depute, and more generally those opposed to the cuts, as downtowners, and implying that they are being selfish at the expense of suburbanites. A bit of shouting.
10:07 AM: Today’s action started not inside Committee Room 1 but just inside the front doors of City Hall, where a group of several dozen parents, many accompanied by their small children, gathered to prepare for a “Stop the Child Care Cuts” action. They made sure to point out that this doesn’t mean they endorse other kinds of cuts—and they went to great lengths to emphasize that many cuts affect children, not just the ones regarding child care services directly. Said one mother: “I want to work, I want to contribute to my community, and I can’t do that without a child care subsidy.”
After a bit of a warm up the kids and their parents marched up the stairs to the second floor and circled the rotunda, singing all the while (to the tune of “Mr. Grinch”):
You’re a mean one Mr. Ford,
These cuts make you a heel,
You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
You’re as charming as an eel,
You’re plan is a bad banana,
with a greasy, black peel!
You’re a foul one, Mr. Ford,
Closing child care’s a nasty stunt,
Your heart is full of unwashed socks,
Yur soul is full of gunk,
And then, the children shouted: “The three words that best describe your child care plans are as follows, and I quote: STINK, STANK, STUNK!