Toronto Is Speaking

August 8, 2011

Having missed the marathon Executive Committee meeting a couple weeks back, I’ve been following Matt Elliott’s Toronto Spoke series at Ford For Toronto. The impression that immediately springs to mind is that this city is full of intelligent, well-spoken, engaged citizens who are very concerned about the direction we’re headed. Yes, ideologues like Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong may write them off as statistically invalid or whatever other nonsense comes from his gob and not part of the hardworking, taxpaying Ford Nation Councillors Doug Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti assure us are fully behind their ongoing experiment in de-governmenting. But they came. They spoke. They delivered their part of the bargain in what is called participatory democracy.

One such deputatant was Henry Faber. A self-described small business owner, Mr. Faber delivered a thorough thrashing of KPMG’s Core Services Review. The numbers. The methodology. The whole enchilada. In about 2 and a half minutes. Watch it and cheer wildly.

The key point for me came when, after the deputation was done, councillors were allowed to ask questions of the deputant. It is a familiar pattern to those who follow such things regularly. Visiting councillors are almost exclusively not part of the mayor’s crew go first and their task seems to be to assist deputants in navigating the process and further explain their views after the original 3 minutes has expired. (Usually 5 minutes but shortened during this particular Executive Committee meeting to accommodate the demand if you’re looking at the glass being half full). Then it is the turn of councillors sitting on the committee to rise from their slumber and make an effort to dismiss, diminish or discredit a deputant if they’re perceived to be speaking against the mayor’s plans.

With Mr. Faber it was Councillor Norm Kelly speaking up to do Mayor Ford’s bidding. At the 8’46” mark Councillor Kelly piped up with the question: “Do you believe that there is a systemic indebtedness in the budget process for the city of Toronto of between a half billion to three-quarters of a billion dollars per year. Do you believe that?” the councillor asked. “I’m confused by the number…” Mr. Faber answered.

Ain’t we all, Henry. Ain’t we all.

Let’s grant Councillor Kelly that notion. It does seem that come every budget cycle, the city must grapple with a shortfall that is initially in that range. So yes, Toronto does face an annual ‘systemic indebtedness’. As does every other city in this province, country, continent. Municipalities are woefully underfunded, the majority of our tax dollars going in an inversely proportional degree to where they are needed to be spent. They then come, trickling down, from the feds and provinces in discretionary dribs and drabs in wholly inadequate amounts. If fiscal conservatives truly wanted to deliver taxpayers bang for their bucks, this would be where they’d start. Fixing an antiquated and broken system of taxation.

Instead, what the likes of Councillor Kelly seem to be intent on is using this ‘systemic indebtedness’ to scale back municipal governance to its barest of bones and beyond. To pretend that our ‘systemic indebtedness’ is the result of profligacy on the part of previous administrations at City Hall. This, despite the fact that the very report Team Ford commissioned from KPMG points to the exact opposite of that make believe scenario. Toronto is run in a highly efficient manner and is already — for anyone looking for real answers – a lean operation.

No matter. The likes of Councillor Kelly want to make it more lean, more efficient even if it means starving the city. Enforced ideological anorexia where the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us bear the heaviest burden and the real culprits get off untouched. If the radical right wingers on council were really as tough and hardnosed as they claim, they’d be taking our fight to the true bullies. Our elected representatives at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa. But they couldn’t do that to their new fishing buddies. BFFs. Best Fishing Friends.

What’s even more galling about all this is that Team Ford keeps spouting its Government Run Like A Business mantra. Would they really run a business like they’re attempting to run this government? Cutting revenue streams? Cutting services? What kind of business does that? A business that doesn’t plan on staying in business for too long, I’m thinking. Which is becoming glaringly apparent as we head toward the budget battles of 2012. Like true neoconservatives everywhere, Mayor Ford and his gang are determined only to drive the city of Toronto into the ground.

spoken wordily submitted by Cityslikr