Rob Ford’s demand for 10 per cent budget cuts in all city departments is looking more and more arbitrary

Rob Ford’s demand for 10 per cent budget cuts in all city departments is looking more and more arbitrary

Image: Christopher Drost 

With all the talk of Rob Ford’s gravy-stained business cards, it’s easy to forget that city hall is in the midst of a nasty budget battle. Today, the library budget committee will meet to discuss various proposalssome of them downright crazy—that would help meet Ford’s demand for 10 per cent budget cuts in all city departments. But will police chief Bill Blair’s outright refusal to meet the 10 per cent target have ripple effects elsewhere? Budget chief Mike Del Grande seems to think so.

The National Post has the story:

Indeed, the fact that Toronto police did not meet the 10 per cent spending-reduction target has opened the door for advocates of other departments to wonder why they must meet it.

Budget Chief Mike Del Grande said the position of the city manager has been that some areas will come in over asking, while others will come in under.

Mr. Del Grande will not say whether he’s expecting the fire department to miss the 10 per cent target, but he notes the similar challenges it shares with the police. Staffing is the biggest expense for both departments.

“The fire negotiations basically mirror the police negotiations because of the arbitration ruling passed,” Mr. Del Grande said. “We’ve been saddled with arbitration rulings that tie the city’s hand significantly. I joke that you can’t pass wind in this city without getting approval of the union.”

Ha! Good fart joke, Mr. Budget Chief. Of course, if union arbitration makes it so hard to negotiate budget cuts, perhaps the mayor should’ve considered this before a very public battle between the mayor and police chief—and before the mayor proposed all city departments tighten their belts to the same notch. Terrible dad jokes aside, Del Grande’s words suggest that city hall is slowly deviating from Ford’s original hard target. First it was 10 percent cuts in all city departments. Then it was 10 percent cuts in all city departments, except the police. Now, it appears to be more like 10 percent cuts everywhere that arbitration doesn’t make too complicated.

It won’t be particularly surprising if Ford breaks another promise. But it suggests that Ford’s 10 per cent figure was an arbitrary one. The notion that all city departments can afford equal cuts suggests that they’re all equally bloated (and, really, which ones were bloated to begin with?). Perhaps it’s appropriate that Del Grande made a bad joke; this whole situation certainly seems like one.

Next chapter in Toronto’s budget debate: library cuts [National Post]