Toronto Is Speaking

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

6 thoughts on “Toronto Is Speaking

  1. The size of the so-called structural deficit happens to be quite comparable to the size of the TTC’s annual operating subsidy, which is paid by Toronto taxpayers to keep the subways rolling unprofitably into the suburbs. If Norm Kelly wants to tackle the structural deficit, the first thing he should ask is why on earth he would support building the Sheppard subway extension. Forget about how to pay for its construction: even if we got the thing for free, it would still bleed tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars from City coffers each year.

    The right-wingers on council need to understand that people are upset not just because they disagree with what they are trying to do, but because we realize they are too incompetent to do what they are trying to do.

    Another example: the biggest single operational cost to the City is the police budget, and the single biggest item in that budget is salaries. So does Mayor Ford rein in police wage spending? No, he does not. That’s bad enough, but because of this precedent, arbitrators will be required to offer similar raises to the fire department too. And because of Ford`s reckless, but emotionally-satisfying push to have the TTC declared an essential service, TTC employees too will receive a big wage increase in any arbitration. And what’s more, the designation actually makes it more difficult to contract out TTC services, which Ford`s people proposed to do. Meanwhile, we are spending over $100 million to not build Transit City and is considering wasting half a billion dollars more to not buy streetcars?

    It is one thing to cut services if it means saving money. It is another thing to cut services, and still leave us further in debt and less able to pay the remaining bills. Ford, Kelly, Holyday and Co. need to understand that it is not enough to talk like a conservative. You actually have to deliver the promised savings and efficiencies. And at the end of the day, the true numbers will come in, and reality will not be fooled.

    During WWII, South Pacific islanders watched in amazement as the US military landed, cleared land and constructed runways, after which airplanes began landing that were filled with food, supplies and other cargo. After the war, some islanders figured they would construct their own runways and control towers, out of bamboo and other island materials, in the hope that airplanes would land for them as well. These cargo cults did everything right: the runways were the right length, the towers in the right location, and the runway signalers moved their arms in the right way. But the airplanes did not land.

    And amazingly, half a century later, these islanders continue to ignore the evidence pointing to a flaw in their beliefs, and continue to toil away, improving their runways and control towers, replacing rotted-out coconut “headphones” with new ones, steadfast in their belief that one day the planes will land.

    Our Cargo Cult Conservatives are similarly doing everything “right.” They use the right terms, like “six sigma” and “nice-to-haves versus need-to-haves.” They sagely lecture about the need to privatize and contract out everything not nailed down (because contracting out is always cheaper — every single time!). They hire consultants who will tell them the correct dimensions of their bamboo runways and towers. But they refuse to acknowledge the evidence that their actions will not actually reduce costs, will not move more people efficiently through the city and will not improve the lives of Torontonians. They ignore the evidence, they ignore the people, they close their eyes and insist the planes will land.

    • The NEW TTC is Toronto Tax Coalition of 1…fearmongering about a 34% property tax hike when Ford said “upto 3%”
      With the property values going up & an additional 10,000 house holds near completion for 2012. The gap is looking around $300 million.

      I know you’re newish to the site but KISS; keep it simple silly.

  2. Speaking of Toronto is speaking, Mammoliti is trying to make Toronto speak as well: .

    And it looks like homelessness/panhandling is going to be the next issue to distract from the core services reviews. Two articles in the Sun in as many days with quotes from Holyday, and this innocuous gem on the Facebook group page:
    “Giorgio Mammoliti
    I would like to know about your views on homelessness and pan handling
    13 hours ago”

    • The SUN comment network is also BSing for Ford.

      Sept. 12-13 are FOUR public consultations held by the Community Development and Recreation Standing Committee. Deputations ON the 14th.

      *Monday Sept. 19 – Deputations to the Exec Committee

      **Monday Sept. 26 – City council vote on KPMGs reports…

      P.S. since Ward 2 is solid Ford. I’d like to see Mammoliti defeated(smile)

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