Early on as Toronto’s 2011 budget debate got rolling, there were questions about how much the city’s new budget chief, Mike Del Grande, was in the loop about matters budgetary. He’d been caught unawares with the mayor’s decision to freeze property taxes. (Must be how the mayor rolls. Ford For Toronto pointed out yesterday that TTC chair Karen Stintz was surprised to learn that Mayor Ford was planning to build a subway along Finch Avenue within 10 years. Not single-handedly, of course, although it may come to that.) But if Councillor Del Grande bears any ill-will toward the mayor for not being the second or third or twelfth to know about important decisions made, he certainly doesn’t show it. The good councillor from Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt is nothing if not magnanimous. And by magnanimous, I mean dyspeptic.
It was easy to assume going in that given Mayor Ford’s obsession with the bottom line and campaign pledge to stop the gravy train, his sibling and political soul mate would be a natural choice for budget chief. Brothers… are doin’ it for themselves. But maybe it all looked a little too cozy, too Ford-y. Besides, Councillor Doug was a neophyte to municipal politics. He’d need some time to pretend to learn the ropes.
So who better to front the Ford family’s plan to dismantle the city bit by bit than a chartered accountant? It’s not personal. It’s business. The numbers just don’t add up. Don’t believe us? Ask the guy with the pocket protector.
Councillor Del Grande has been ferocious in his role as holder of the purse strings, the man whose destiny it is to restore fiscal sanity to City Hall. He understands the meaning of a penny. You don’t. He’s a chartered accountant after all. You’re not.
Once more I sat in Committee Room #1 yesterday and watched as Councillor Del Grande bullied presided over the budget committee meeting. As we have written about very extensively before (here and here and here and here), there is nothing the councillor can’t take exception to, no contrary view that he can’t blow up into a hysterical tirade about discipline and responsibility. Not for nothing a former colleague on council nicknamed him Cardinal Del Grandstand.
It is shocking to find oneself in a room with, I don’t know, 30 or so other grown ups being bellowed at, finger pounding on the desk, condescendingly talked down to and berated. I half expected the budget chief to tell me I had detention after the meeting. Adults don’t speak to adults like that. Adults shouldn’t speak to children like that because adults who do often times end up alone in their twilight years, packed off to a nursing home where the staff drug them into a satisfying silence.
Such baleful arrogance is barely tolerable in those who’ve earned it through brilliance, acuity or genius. It’s absolutely unacceptable coming from someone in possession of none of those qualities. In fact, Budget Chief Del Grande represents the exact opposite of all those things.
Once Mike Del Grande signed on to Team Ford, he lost all entitlement he may have once had to lecture others about fiscal accountability. Despite acknowledging things were slightly more complicated than simply having a spending problem, Del Grande swallowed the poisoned pill of tax cuts and freezes and no service cuts. Any chartered accountant worth their salt would’ve seen the financial train wreck coming after the tourniquet was applied to the revenue streams, and run as fast as they could in the opposite direction. Instead, the councillor has stood firm, puffed out his cold, hollow chest and declared martial law on spending. Now it’s all about tightening our belts and lowering our expectations. Everything. Is. On. The. Table.
While the budget chief may think highly of himself as a slayer of big government spending, he’s actually nothing more than the presentable if rumpled front for darker motives. Aside from his slight mayoral campaign trope of Respect For The Taxpayers, Mayor Ford and Bros. Inc. have made no secret of their ultimate goal: to reduce government to little more than a skeleton crew. Protector of property and paver of roads. Everything else is gravy.
But to articulate that aspiration out loud sounds much crazier and less populist than it does when you’re at home, talking politics over family dinner. The public is far less enthusiastic if you tell them what you’re planning on taking away from them instead of all the money you’re going to save them. They need to be convinced they’re over-taxed not under-serviced.
Enter Michael Del Grande. He and his chartered accountancy diploma changes the channel. It isn’t a question of not wanting to be involved in social housing or day care or after school programs or environmental initiatives or libraries or the zoo or city planning. We. Just. Can’t. Afford. It. We no longer ask how can we do this or that because the answer will invariably be, we can’t. Dr. No. Mike Del Grande. C.A.
The thing is, he’d probably wear that badge with pride. He truly thinks he’s saving the city from its past profligacy which is what makes him so fucking insufferable not to mention dangerous. As he methodically counts the pennies and Ebenezerly brushes off widows and orphans he offers cover for the mayor to sell this asset off and privatized that service. Hey, folks. My heart bleeds for you. But we just can’t afford it anymore. Ask the budget chief. He’ll tell you. He’s a chartered accountant.
— distastefully submitted by Cityslikr