The Awful Untruth

October 21, 2011

Of all the responses we get here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, the pushback we receive when criticizing Mayor Ford, by far the most frequent… No, wait. The 2nd most frequent, just after ‘Why don’t you guys get a real job?’… tends to be, ‘Well, Miller did the same thing.’, Miller being the former mayor, David Miller. Whether it’s how Mayor Ford’s conducting business at council or City Hall or fiddling with the budget numbers. Whenever we level a critique his way, we inevitably hear, ‘Well, Miller did the same thing.’

To which, our initial response is: yeah, so? It doesn’t make it right. The former mayor also received plenty of criticism. In politics, two negatives do not—you get where I’m going with that.

Besides, wasn’t this mayor elected on a platform that included not doing business as usual? He was going to be sticking up for the little guy by putting it to the fat cats and lazy bureaucrats. He’d put an end to all the backroom deals. Clear and transparent would be the Ford Administration. No more game playing with the budget. No sudden finds of hundreds of millions of dollars. We were going to get an open and honest debate.

Step forward all ye steadfast Ford supporters, and with straight faces all, tell us your man has kept his word. Follow the bouncing ball on the sing-along that has been the 2012 police services budget debacle and belt out the coda that it’s all been on the up and up, yep, an open and honest debate. Without cracking a smile or a knowing grin. Tell us this is exactly what you voted for.

“It’s a huge reduction!” exclaims TPS board member, Councillor Frances Nunziata.

Wait, what? No. No, it isn’t, Councillor. Not only is the police services budget not facing ‘a huge reduction’, there’s no reduction at all. None. In fact, just the opposite. They’re getting an increase.

David Hains over at The Clamshell, Daniel Dale at the Toronto Star and Ford For Toronto’s Matt Elliott all go into much more interesting detail than I can but here’s the nuts and bolts of the situation. Mayor Ford demanded a 10% reduction to all city departments based on their 2011 budgets. Putting it to the fat cats and lazy bureaucrats. Police Chief Bill Blair announced he could do no such thing without laying off front line police officers and endangering public safety. So instead, he asked for an increase. A modest one by the police standards but an increase nonetheless.

All hell breaks loose. A showdown seems imminent between the mayor and police chief. Hardcore Ford ally and TPS vice-chair Michael Thompson plays the heavy, letting it be known that the police budget faces the same pressure as every other department and agency in the city. There must be a 10% cut or else…

Last week’s TPS meeting to deal with the impasse was postponed at the last minute. Details of some sort of compromise leak out. We learn that the mayor’s OK with the 10% cut being carried out over a two year period which, if my math skills are up to snuff, isn’t 10% but 5%. It’s an offer made to no one else on the city payroll.

Then comes yesterday’s news of an agreement. The chief has found almost 5% in cuts, 4.6% to be precise for the 2012 budget, through attrition, a 10% reduction in senior management and a host of other bits and bites. No layoffs of police. The city’s safety has not been compromised. The rest of the cuts will come next year.

“It’s a huge reduction!” exclaims TPS board member, Councillor Frances Nunziata.

OK, actually the councillor’s right. It is a huge reduction. Just not from the 2011 budget which is what the mayor called  for. It’s nothing more than a reduction in the original ask from the TPS. The one everyone got up in arms about and said wasn’t possible. The 1.6% increase Chief Blair proposed that, apparently, put his job in jeopardy. He scaled that back 4.6% and settled instead for a mere .6% increase.

An increase, folks. The Police Services Board approved an increase to the police budget not a cut which every other department is facing. There’s no cut to the police budget. There’s just less of an increase.

“It’s a huge reduction!” Shut up, Frances. Doesn’t matter how many times you say it. It simply isn’t true.

What does Mayor Ford have to say about such an about face? Who knows? He was coaching football at the time. How about his hard-assed enforcer on the TPS board, Michael Thomspon? Away on family business.

So what this says is that the mayor holds the police to an entirely different standard than the rest of the city departments. He boasts about giving them a pay increase while everyone else on the city payroll must make do with less. For the overall budget to balance, somebody’s going to have to give up more to make up for the TPS increase. (Nope. Don’t say it, Frances. It’s an increase. Shh-shh!)

Now, maybe Mayor Ford values the police more than any other employee of the city. Perhaps his worldview is such that happy police make for a happy town. I wouldn’t agree but there it is.

Or maybe the mayor’s afraid of the police. Butting heads with them would put a serious dent in his law and order veneer. They might remind voters that on the campaign trail the mayor promised 100 new police officers and delivered none. Bad optics all round.

But the straight-shooting, tell it like it is mayor ain’t talking. Instead he’s hiding behind monumental spin, trying to convince us that an increase is really a decrease, black is white, up is down and there we go through the looking glass, people.

Just like every other politician Rob Ford railed about as a candidate, saying one thing to get elected and doing the exact opposite when in office. The kind of politician he pledged not to be. It’s all just business as usual.

matter of factly submitted by Cityslikr