The Numbers Stink (And Other Trash Puns)

Is there a reason we can’t get some concrete numbers on the cost of hauling away our garbage and recycling? We must have to budget for it every year, right? So where are the cold hard figures?

Because without them, pricing possible savings from privatizing waste collection is pretty much a crap shoot. I mean, look at the numbers being bandied about. The C.D. Howe Institute suggested last fall that Toronto could save a cool $49 mil/year if it contracted out all its garbage duties. On the campaign trail, Rob Ford said it’d be $20 million. His announcement Monday vowed to reduce our costs by $8 million with privatizing everywhere west of Yonge Street. Yesterday his Deputy Mayor, Doug Holyday, thought city-wide we could save in the neighbourhood of $16-18 million. Of course, the union involved assured us privatizing garbage collection would cost us money. But we know they’re hardly honest brokers in all this.

It’s enough to make your head spin and get you all discombobulated. Both the Toronto Star’s Royson James and Sue-Ann Levy over at the Sun found the numbers game being played kind of confusing although, to be honest, we have it on good authority that Ms. Levy can become disoriented if given a tangled ball of yarn. While there’s a wave of reaction in favour of outsourcing garbage and recycling collection – our mayor has said government has no business in the refuse business – it’s a sentiment that is based almost exclusively on blind, ideological faith in the notion that the private sector will always be more efficient and less costly than the public sector. I’d really like to see some numbers to back that claim up.

As the former mayor of Etobicoke back in the 90s, Doug Holyday privatized garbage collection there and now claims it saves $2 million annually. That’s great if true, Mr. Hoylday, but could I see it in writing? Not that I don’t believe you or anything but as the architect of garbage privatization, you’ve got some vested interest in trumpeting that number as a fact. In her column on Monday, Ms. Levy dismisses out of hand union assertions on costs as ‘nonsense’ while embracing whole-heartedly the information she gets from a group calling itself the Ontario Waste Management Association. The OWMA, you say? Who’s that? 300 private sector companies, some of whom, arguably, will stand to gain from the outsourcing of Toronto’s garbage and recycling collection.

The numbers they bandy about are in almost direct opposition to those provided by the folks over at the Progressive Economics Forum who seem to have examined the pro-privatization arguments put forth by the C.D. Howe and Toronto Board of Trade and found both wanting. In his post yesterday, Toby Sanger shows the city of Ottawa saving money with their unionized city employees collecting garbage in the downtown core. After studying the issue, Peterborough decided against outsourcing its garbage collection.

Now, I’m no economist (although I do have an uncle who played one on TV’s Beachcombers years ago), so I can’t say for certain who’s right and who’s wrong on this issue. The numbers just aren’t there. Every professed cost saving on one side can be countered by an argument of increases from the other. And yes, the dividing line is almost exclusively drawn through the swamp of ideology.

What is clear however is that the issue of outsourcing public sector services is a complex matter. The black and white manner in which garbage privatization here in Toronto is being promoted is not based on anything resembling a solid argument. Asserting that bringing in the private sector will save us money and increase efficiency and throwing out any old number that suits you’re fancy is meaningless and, ultimately, harmful if you turn out to be incorrect. Before rushing in and taking this very significant step based solely on biased opinion and tainted, dubious research, how be you start showing us the money.

number crunchingly submitted by Cityslikr

8 thoughts on “The Numbers Stink (And Other Trash Puns)

  1. The CDHowe which used the wrong technique is way out! So is Ford at $20 M & Holyday with $16 M.
    Minnan Wong knows that if they go with the area west of Yonge it would be politically viable & lead to a more realistic $8 M a year.
    It is unlikely CUPE 416 will bid given the Union busting measure. So if the 300-400 of the 1341 workers with the least seniority are let go & replaced with someone for $10 less per hour in wages/benefits. I would enter $10 X 2000 hours X 300 workers would equal $6 M assuming OIL doesn’t go up and so forth. The Ford plan is giving up territory closer to the St. Thomas Dump rather than the East of Victoria Park which would require more travel for the fleet. $3 M saved in a phased in 2012.
    Lastly, under Lastman it was 5 years in for a strike & under Miller it was 6 years in for a strike. I suspect that uner Ford it will be year 2. Not too many people want to pick OR dump garbage in -20 temps.

  2. Your sycophants are all experts too! How convenient cityslittr that all your non-censored posters are just as bright as you. It must be nice for busy fools to have friends like Sonny.

    OK, Mr. MacQuarie.

    We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke temporarily allow you off your leash. Please, enlighten us with your views of the numbers in question in terms of garbage privatization. We are all ears.

    • 18 hours later…Peter gave nothing other than the usual personal attack! Read some of the dailies & they conclude there will be a strike or a lock out. Ward 2 Councillor; Doug Ford is even talking about selling assets to fill in next year’s budget hole even though he said there is 10% gravy to be cut…

      Rob Frod plays with the numbers talking “40 day strike” when the fact it was 30 something.
      Could explain why key note Naheed Nenshi: Calgary mayor is inspiring an audience on the strengths & challenges facing urban regions.

      • Dear Sonny,

        To be fair to Mr. MacQuarie, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have been restricting his comments for fear of boring our readers to tears. We’ve let this one through to see if he can respond in a reasonable, rational manner.

        We’re not holding our breath.

  3. I’d cast my vote against censoring the guy. Let him say his piece – his opinions may be transparent and ill-conceived but they’re a good reminder of the kind of person that got us into this mess.

    He might be a closed-minded crank, but he’s OUR closed-minded crank 😉

    • Behold the reason why we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have seen fit to banish Peter MacQuarie from our comment section. He makes no arguments, debates no issues but merely flings the feces from his fetid little pinhead….

      Oh mcflash, you are such a revolutionary. You’re challenging the authority of the poopiehead libtard? You must have been watching CNN these past two weeks – does that make you an International socialist?

      I have no problem posting here, except for one. Why does cityslittr insist on jumping in each time I give an opinion? Is he that much of a control freak? IHe reminds me of Joey Pants.

      BTW, I don’t believe we are “in a mess”. Like others here, you’re just winding yourself up and getting decent socialists a bad rep in the process. Like Sonny and cityslittr getting all het up about garbage. (was it cityslittr’s mum that got the bee into his bonnet?)

  4. And again, no rational discussion or discourse. Just nonsensical blather wasting everybody’s time. We gave you another opportunity to sit at the grown-up table, Mr. MacQuarie, and all you could do was drool and make everyone except yourself slightly uncomfortable.

    Talk to you again soon.

    AFUITBS = All Fucked Up Inhaling Thc Bull Shitters

    cityslittr still believes his opinions are better than all others. As if his sycophants proffer arguments, debate and don’t fling shit.

    He’s terrified I expose him again.

    You censor – you lose.

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