Tough Choices

It seems like just yesterday when we put Budget 2011 to bed, safe in the knowledge that we’d have a respite before its younger sibling… Budget 2012, we’ll call her… made an appearance. But then, KPMG’s Core Services Review kicked off and it seemed as if all we ever talked about was Budget 2012, Budget 2012, Budget 2012. Remember? She was going to be a beast. $774 million of unmitigated disaster if not properly housebroken. There were all night deputations, and then more deputations. Toronto just couldn’t get enough of Budget 2012 talk.

And now here we are. Sometime by late this week, Thursday very likely, we will officially be in 2012, budgetarily speaking. They do grow up so fast, don’t they?

We already know that in whatever form the budget emerges after running the city council gauntlet beginning this morning, it won’t be as draconian or Dickensian as the one initially floated by the mayor’s office. The public pushback saw to that. The non-ideologues in and around Team Ford blanched, deciding it might be political suicide to be seen going after children so directly. So things like nutritional programs were spared as were libraries, sort of, although how exactly the TPL is going to cut its budget by a full 10% without closing branches or reducing hours is a bit of a mystery. The math if fuzzy but comfy enough for centre-right councillors like Jaye Robinson to abide.

After that certainty – that the budget won’t be as nasty as it could’ve been – it’s anybody’s guess how it’ll all turn out. What we do know is, at least from the perspective of those in favour of a more cut-y, less revenue generating-y budget, whatever form Budget 2012 takes it will all be because of David Miller. The last of his administration’s surpluses – one time savings, I should say – spent, the only thing left for him to contribute is being the scapegoat.

To whit, half-wit, the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy yesterday: Blame Miller for city’s mess! [Exclamation point added. I mean, how could they run that headline without an exclamation mark?] It’s not so much a new column as it is a Best of Sue-Ann compilation of favourite catchphrases (“Socialist Silly Hall”), numbers and percentages devoid of any context whatsoever ($400 billion! 250%!!) and long since dead horses, dug up to beat on the decomposed remains (yep, the St. Clair right of way.) Two budgets on, when push comes to shove, and supporters of the mayor are still burning David Miller effigies.

Stopping the buck by passing the buck. As if an increase in spending is the anomaly for a city that continues to grow. As if infrastructure needs only exist in the mind of spendthrift governments. As if a vibrant and dynamic public transit isn’t necessary for a 21st-century big city.

The fate of Budget 2012 will ultimately come down to whose version of being tough prevails. The mayor, the budget chief and all those who fall in line behind them will try and convince enough of the council colleagues that being tough means saying no, and saying no often, to those they perceive as ‘special interests’. Unions, low income children, artsy-fartsy artists, the homeless and the marginalized. They’ve all been coddled too long and with too much of our hard earned dollars. Enough is enough.

The other side, the ‘silly socialists’ will try to convince a majority of councillors that being tough means standing firm in the face of adversity and not tossing the weakest of us overboard in order to keep afloat. Being tough means not resorting to fatuous scaremongering (Greece! Spain!) as some form of meaningful debate. Being tough means dealing with the hand that’s dealt you by the other levels of government – times are tough; you’re on your own – and not shirking your own duty to those who elected you to represent them.

Being tough is about crafting a budget that delivers both the most benefit and least amount of pain to the greatest number of people and not simply piecing together 23 votes by any means necessary. Regardless of your opinion of the former mayor, David Miller is not any part of that equation. This week is all about Mayor Rob Ford and the kind of tough he really is.

…but sensitively submitted by Cityslikr

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