City council meeting is a day of reckoning for some, a manicure for others

City council meeting is a day of reckoning for some, a manicure for others

Rob Ford described yesterday as a “day of reckoning” at city hall 

Depending who you ask, yesterday was either a “day of reckoning” for the city of Toronto, or a day to debate “barely a fingernail trim in a city with a budget of more than $9 billion.” For Mayor Rob Ford it was the former, for Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee the latter. Gee reminds readers that the most controversial cuts have been deferred or rejected, meaning that the ongoing council meeting had little of the slashing and burning of city services that was expected. Yet, for whatever reason, Ford chose to portray the meeting as a dramatic one.

From Gee’s column (complete with a Monty Python reference!):

Library closings: off the table. Cutting back on street sweeping: sent back to the city manager for further study. All the hard decisions have been kicked down the road at least until budget meetings later this fall.

As a result, the much-anticipated special session of city council that began on Monday is shaping up to be a massive anticlimax. As Monty Python put it: suddenly, nothing happened. “Behind a bush, on the side of the road, there was no severed arm. No dismembered trunk of a man in his late 50s. No head in a bag. Nothing. Not a sausage.”

Of course, the obvious question now is where the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to balance the city budget will come from if not from service cuts. The Toronto Star suggests the extra money will be found in layoffs, more user-fee increases and possibly even a property tax hike. But another question worth asking is why, if Ford is intent on pushing these cuts through council, he describes them in such apocalyptic language. A few weeks ago, the Star offered a little insight into that question as well, arguing that Ford is more driven by a desire to shrink government than a desire to balance the books. In other words, the budget shortfall, and the fear it inspires, is simply a means to an end.

After all, $30 million in cuts won’t do much to balance the books, but it will push the city toward smaller government. And when Ford was asked to define “core service” yesterday, he listed five examples: police, fire, EMS, the TTC and road maintenance. Zoos and theatres, meanwhile, are “nonsense.”

City cuts would save less than $30 million [Toronto Star]
The cuts that never were [Globe and Mail]
Toronto city council debates budget cuts [Globe and Mail]
• City Hall considers wave of budget cuts [National Post]

(Images: City hall, Benson Kua; lightning, Leszek Leszczynski)