The Rob Ford Radio Recap: "Found Money"
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The Rob Ford Radio Recap: “Found Money”

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.

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Rob and Doug Ford in the studio. Photo courtesy of Newstalk 1010.

Welcome to another installment of the Rob Ford Radio Recap, dear Raccoon Nation. Who knows what wild shenanigans we’ll get up to this week? Will Rob express his disgust for streetcars? Will Doug state that he just hates spending taxpayer dollars on bicycle projects? Will Rob and Doug express concerns about the $19.4 million in extra costs related to delaying an environmental assessment of the Gardiner Expressway—a delay abetted by their public-works chair, Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East)? Two of three will be mentioned. Find out which!

1:11: Rob and Doug complain about the prospect of spending $1.2 million on showers for cyclists at City Hall, an issue that came up last week at a meeting of the government management committee. The showers were planned as part of the original Nathan Phillips Square revitalization. The plan also calls for 24 of City Hall’s 2,087 parking spots to be replaced by 380 spots for bike parking, a bike repair shop, and lockers. Even though this would mean a net gain of 356 parking spots at City Hall, I understand Rob’s frustration: how can you tell who the dirty cyclists are if they’re not dirty?

1:12: Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10, York Centre) joins the show. He can’t possibly support the stupid bike showers, which are totally bogus, right? The centrist councillor says he hopes to study the evidence and evaluate its merits. Rob does not like this response.

1:18: We’re talking about cleaning up parks, folks. There’s a good crowd of volunteers picking up trash at Earl Bales Park in North York, and Rob, Doug, Pasternak, and Gary Crawford (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest) really like it. Parks are great, guys.

1:20: Doug, speaking about the Porter Airlines jet proposal, is incredulous that former mayor David Miller would prefer to bulldoze Billy Bishop airport and make it a park and keep everything as a cow pasture. This, he thinks, shows how radical council is.

1:22: Rob complains that his opponents on council say no to everything, except higher taxes. This runs contrary to his previous complaint: that his opponents on council want more bike parking at council and lots of other things he doesn’t like.

1:29: Rob mutters about how he curses streetcars as he’s driving down Dundas Street, furthering my theory that he’s the world’s oldest 43-year-old.

1:37: Doug complains that Toronto has just the 33rd largest amount of available convention space among North American cities, a stat Grid senior editor Edward Keenan debunked in a recent piece. Just linking it in case you missed it, Doug.

1:44: Rob asks Pasternak how he feels now. He says he has some deep reservations about the long-term social impacts of a casino and describes council’s assessment of a downtown casino as “chilly.” Doug, as he frequently does when he’s upset, responds with an audible interrobang: “Chilly!?”

1:49: The casino-supporting mayor of Brantford, Chris Friel, has joined the show. Rob asks him how he’d convince Toronto councillors that a casino is right for the city. Credit where it’s due: this is a creative way to get political advice without paying for consultants.

1:50: The mayor of Brantford refers to casino money as “found money.” But there are numerous costs to this “found money,” such as the opportunity costs of foregoing other projects, social costs, the negative urban planning externalities, and the infrastructure needs that go along with it.

Here’s the thing about “found money”: in the end it’s always someone else’s lost money, and looking at just one side of the equation is a naive approach.

1:52: Crawford says he believes the province will be able to offer $100 million or more in annual hosting fees, which he thinks will make councillors support the casino.

1:54: And the bubble bursts. The mayor of Brantford says Rob and Doug’s hosting fee expectations are “way beyond reasonable,” and that he doesn’t believe the province or OLG will comply. Have you ever had to tell a friend that their great idea for a movie just might not work? Yeah, it feels like that.

1:57: Don’t worry, Doug has a theory. When you go into a business partnership with someone, you should be equal partners, and split everything 50/50. He says the province thinks Toronto just fell off the turnip truck and is playing them for fools, but he’s not one of those, no sir. As if to prove this, Doug throws out a lot of numbers. The city needs a minimum of $100 million, he says. The revenues will be $1.5 billion. He figures a 20 per cent hosting fee is conservative. That’s $300 million, folks.

A couple of notes here: municipalities typically get 5 per cent of slot revenue as their hosting fee, which means that his “conservative” estimate is four times bigger than the existing formula allows. And he’s basing his total on the gross of the entire complex, not slot revenue, so that’s wrong too. The Globe and Mail reported that under the existing formula—and Premier Wynne has consistently stated Toronto will not get a special deal—the City would receive about $20 million in exchange for hosting one of the world’s largest casinos. Even OLG’s forecast is only in the $50-$100 million range. Doug likes his ability to call it as it he sees it, so we shall do the same: Doug Ford, you’re wrong.

1:59: Rob, council’s number-one casino supporter, adds that the city should just make an offer to the province and go from there. Rob is not a good negotiator.

2:10: The chair of the parks and environment committee, Norm Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough Agincourt) joins the show.

2:19: Rob goes back to talking about the showers and bike parking space at City Hall. He asks Kelly what he thinks, and Kelly says that the government isn’t about all the things that you can do, but the things you can afford. He adds that there are other priorities, and this isn’t one of them. This is obviously why we’re spending so much time discussing it on the show today.

2:22: Doug rails about the costs of Nathan Phillips Square’s revitalization, but then Rob stops him because they need to cut to commercial. “If I don’t break, they’ll break my neck,” Rob says of the friendly Newstalk people.

2:27: Doug continues. He goes through the history of the Nathan Phillips Square revitalization project, which included unexpected costs and a failed attempt to raise private donations. He says this is unacceptable and points out how Sue-Ann Levy—his girlfriend, he adds—asked in her column how this could happen. Doug explains it’s because they didn’t have the votes on the government management committee, even though he shouted and did cartwheels and everything.

2:30: Rob and Doug sing along to The Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out.” The odds are good that this will accompany a montage sequence in the inevitable Rob Ford documentary.

2:38: Crawford says his ward needs more sidewalks for pedestrian safety. This might surprise some people, but sidewalks are very controversial in some parts of the city. According to a recent Spacing post, some constituents in Crawford’s ward worry they’ll ruin the “rural” feel in the area.

2:48: A caller phones in to say Rob is his political hero, but he’s upset that it’s necessary for volunteers to clean up parks. Aren’t parks employees doing their jobs? Can’t we outsource these activities, or get high schoolers to do them? Ron Swanson has a follower here.

3:00: Doug promises he’ll watch the tax-and-spend lefties at council and bids adieu with “God bless Ford Nation.” And God bless you, Councillor Ford.

The show was pretty loud, which is something, but it didn’t have any signature moments. In that way, it was more like a compilation show than a greatest hits album. Three out of five dogs.

As always, God bless you for reading, Raccoon Nation.

CORRECTION: April 15, 2013, 5:00 PM This post originally said that Doug Ford’s estimate of possible hosting fees from a Toronto casino was “400 per cent bigger” than is justified, considering what the province pays to other host cities. In fact, Ford’s estimate is four times the size of that more conservative estimate. Some wording has been changed to correct this mathematical error.