More core service reviews, more of the same message: the gravy is missing
Yet another core service review has come out today—this time relating to parks and the environment and leaked early to the National Post—and the message is largely the same as the previous ones: in a nutshell, the vast majority of services are essential or legally required, leaving almost no room to shrink the city’s spending. The few small services identified by the latest KPMG report as expendable included tree-planting (ruled out immediately by committee chair Norm Kelly), grass-cutting, support for urban agriculture and, the biggie, disbanding the Toronto Environment Office, which KPMG says is “largely discretionary.” Is it too cynical of us to wonder whether Mayor Rob Ford would be happy to axe pinko-hippie projects like urban agriculture as long as suburban parks stay neatly trimmed?
Basically, after almost a week of these reports coming out, the results were best summed up by Ed Keenan in The Grid:
But at a glance, the most astonishing thing about it is that it could have been written by the campaign to re-elect David Miller, or by councillors like Shelley Carroll, Gord Perks, Adam Vaughan and Janet Davis.
That is: the conclusions drawn by the consultants hired by Rob Ford are the same as the talking points of Rob Ford’s opponents: that there is very little inefficiency in Toronto’s government (KPMG says 96 per cent of services in Public Works—the area covered by this phase of the report—are required) and that finding savings for taxpayers will require cutting services.
Seriously, that’s what it says. Rob Ford, of course, campaigned by saying repeatedly that he would lower taxes without cutting services. He said repeatedly that simply making the functioning of government more efficient and eliminating waste would realize huge savings. He said, “we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” KPMG, after being paid handsomely by Ford’s city hall, would beg to differ, it seems.
In fairness to the mayor, there are further reports to come out, including some that will look at delivering city services more efficiently, rather than focusing solely on cuts. And who knows? Maybe those reports will find the pot of gold that city staff have been hiding from the mayor so far. But we think it’s more likely that Toronto is looking at some pretty hefty tax increases (and their kissing cousins, user-fee hikes) in the next year.
(Gravy boat: Naval History & Heritage Command)