On the chopping block: we put odds on which city-funded projects will survive Ford’s first term

On the chopping block: we put odds on which city-funded projects will survive Ford’s first term

The sparkle's fading on the proposed stacked ice rink complex (Images: 3LHD Architects/RDH Architects) 

One thing we know about Rob Ford is that he hates it when the city—pardon us, his city—spends money on things that the private sector could do instead. That’s his argument against funding parades (shortly before banning them from major streets, we reckon) and increasing arts funding, to name but two. Of course, the private sector can do a lot of things, so there are a number of items on a hypothetical kill list for the new council. Today, the Toronto Star offers a guess at what might be at number one: that multi-storey hockey rink that city council can afford only half of.

“We shouldn’t be in the business of building hockey arenas. Why doesn’t the private sector come in and build this?” Ford told the Star in late August, suggesting the project would be in serious trouble if he was elected.

“We have to stop the wasteful spending. The gravy train has to come to an end.”

The glittering, innovative showcase for the portlands was proposed after a ground-level “snowflake” design, estimated to cost $17 million less, was criticized as being too sprawling and uninspiring for the location. With an ice shortage in the city, parents are clamouring for downtown rinks.

Cutting the funding for a hockey rink anywhere in Canada seems like a risky proposition. Who wants to be on the wrong side of a Tim Hortons–fuelled, Don Cherry–led mob?  Still, cutting the rink will keep the city from putting up $34 million, and that’s why people voted for Ford, right? We put the rink’s odds of survival at about 5 to 1. But there’s so much more that can be axed if Ford wants to cut all those taxes and stop all those gravy trains. Below, a look at what else Ford can kill to balance the city’s books.

1. Deal to sell homes worth millions—for about $400,000
Toronto Community Housing is offloading at below-market rates 20 homes that could be worth millions. The homes are going to a First Nations NGO that helps the homeless or at risk. We don’t know if Ford wants to pick a fight over assistance to natives living in poverty so early in his term as mayor. Besides, the deal might actually save the city money: if the houses were sold at market rates, TCHC would then have to pay top dollar to house the NGOs.
Odds of survival: 1:1.

2. Bike lane extensions
Ford has consistently argued against bike lanes on the roads, and so long as money is tight, we don’t think his off-road bike trails will be a high priority. Sorry, cyclists. Hope the Jarvis bike lane was fun while it lasted.
Odds of survival: 20:1.

3. 311 expansions
While the city’s phone help line has been reasonably popular, Ford voted against expanding the service, arguing instead that councillors should be taking these calls directly.  (This despite 311 briefly endorsing him.) Of course, Ford himself is mayor now and will be getting plenty of calls. If the mayor-elect can keep it up, maybe the city won’t need 311 at all anymore. Then again, if Ford gets his wish of cutting council in half, the city might need 311 just so people can find out who their councillor is.
Odds of survival: 10:1.

4. New libraries and community centres
On one hand, community services could help bridge the divide between the suburban groups that largely voted for Ford and the downtown elites who allegedly ignore them. On the other hand, gravy train. Ford has already voted against new money for libraries and community centres—plus, he’s promised to cut city staff by attrition, including paid bookworms. Perhaps the city could find savings with a “cut librarians, buy Kindles” plan?
Odds of survival:  8:1.

5. Green roofs
Stop crying over spilled organic soy milk. Who do you think the mayor is, Joe Pantalone? The only green Ford wants to see on roofs is the stacks of cash he’s saving taxpayers. He’s already voted against eco-roofs for Victoria Park and Dufferin TTC stations.
Odds of survival: 500:1.