Self-Service Or, You’re On Your Own

“We set service standards by making budget cuts.”

— Councillor Gord(on) Perks

Or maybe that should’ve read:

“.stuc tegdub gnikam yb sdradnats ecivres tes eW”

In Mayor Rob Ford’s Toronto, we do things all back-asswards like, and call it, ‘Thinking Outside of The Box’ as if nobody’s ever, ever used that phrase before. Cut first and ask questions later. Because everyone knows City Hall is bloated. No one’s even going to notice a 10% cut across the board. That’s just how much fat there is.

So we spend millions of dollars on outside consultants to outline what we’re allowed to cut. We use that as a rationale to cut. Then we go back to the same consultants and ask them to tell us what we should cut. Ooops. Too late. That’s already gone. What’s next on your list?

It’s what’s been called making policy through the budget process. You can’t govern what you don’t have, right? Daycares? Yeah, we did that once, a little while back but… you know, we kind of ran out of money. The province totally screwed us. So we don’t do that anymore. What are you going to do?

Libraries? Yeah, they used to be really popular. People would line up outside some branches before the doors even opened. But for no particular reason, we hacked away some 10% from them and, funnily enough, not as many folks use the facilities as before. Who’dve guessed? There seems to be some co-relation between number of hours open and usage. The numbers are down. Numbers don’t lie. What are you going to do?

As for the TTC? Don’t get me started. Cut back there and people still kept coming. It’s almost as if they needed to use transit or something. But we’ll keep at `er. Delay having that subway built. Hit a few snags unnecessarily burying the Eglinton LRT. Sooner or later people are just going to have to get back into their cars.

What might seem haphazard or maybe even bordering on outright incompetency at first blush, takes on a much darker hue upon closer inspection. A method to the apparent madness. Why risk negative political fallout entering into a full on debate on the council floor about your intentions when you can back door it in a committee room, packed full of your hand picked supporters?

Where once Mayor Ford stood tall, proudly proclaiming his libertarian view of limited government, what it should be in the business of, essentially roads clean, roads safe, now he cowered behind a lacy veil of financial constraint. Financial constraint brought on by his own doing, no less, keeping property tax bumps under the rate of inflation and repealing a tax his very own brother’s 2nd favourite city after Chicago is now about to jostle the province to allow them to institute. Less an ideological warrior prepared to fight and die on the hill of principle and more of a craven, political schemer.

Seriously. If I told them what I was really up to, they’dve never elected me in the first place.

It’s the proverbial death by a 1000 backroom cuts. Never coming out and officially deep sixing anything, nothing that bold. It’s just a slow bleed. We didn’t kill anything. People just kind of lost interest, I guess.

At one point during Tuesday’s 2012 budget wrap up (which really wasn’t because many items got booted to the next meeting on January 9th), Councillor Paul Ainslie strolled into the room. Since he wasn’t a member of the budget committee, he couldn’t introduce an item himself. So fellow Team Ford teammate and budget committee member, Councillor John Parker did his bidding for him.

What bidding was that, you ask? Well, what with all the flurry of proposed cuts happening, arch-conservative Ainslie couldn’t stomach the idea of a pool in his Ward 43 being axed. But to save it from the chopping block, the rule is, you have to offer up an offset, an equal reduction in spending somewhere else, so as to keep the balanced budget in place.

Well, alright then, thinks Councillor Ainslie. Why don’t we just take the money needed to save my pool right out of the city’s Environmental office? Why not indeed. While on the surface such a trade off seems to make absolutely no sense – pool? environment? huh? – to those looking to get the city out of the environment business, it’s so deliciously obvious. An added bonus for Councillor Ainslie as it will help nip in the bud any further talk from the city of that crazy wind power business.

“You will have made the choice not to be able to afford these programs,” Councillor Perks told the budget committee.

That’s the core of the idea of making policy through the budget process. Intentionally drain the coffers, render programs, agencies, departments ill-operational. Kill their ability to function properly. When they no longer are able to adequately serve the public, you can rationalize putting the final nail in the coffin. Why the hell are we putting money into this? It’s not helping anyone. Let’s get rid of it.

Small government by stealth. Keeping your hands clean as you cause increased hardship to those who thought you were in it looking out for the little guy. So with a straight face you can claim you’d love to fund all this stuff. Your hearts bleed for anyone who depends on these services but the fact is, at the end of the day, (it’s always at the end of the day) the money’s just not there. Sorry, folks. Wish we could help.

record straighteningly submitted by Cityslikr

2 thoughts on “Self-Service Or, You’re On Your Own

  1. 3 more years of this crap. I can’t understand how a person can continue to make error after error and still have a job. For all goverment left and right.

    The only positive about Ford is people are starting to care more about politics. (Maybe)

  2. In my deputation; I mentioned something about capacity building for future growth yet they are cutting back on service while charging more!

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