Mayor David Miller says he’s been clear all along about the consequences of failing to adopt the proposed new revenue tools. Hmmm. The city’s Web site includes a page full of reports, facts and figures from the last five months here. Nowhere can I find anything that spells out such consequences as the service cuts the city is now contemplating. I point your attention, in particular, to Question #2 of May’s public consultations, which misleadingly asks: “What type of expenditures should the new revenues be used for: Enhanced existing services? City-building type initiatives? To help solve the fiscal imbalance?”
Given the phrasing of the question, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the status quo — no new taxes, keep current city services as they are — was a perfectly viable option. When city staff reported back to the executive committee in June, they noted that the public remained unconvinced of the city’s need for new taxes and wondered why the Mayor and councillors weren’t a formal part of the consultation process. That June report went on to explain that the city’s 2008 budget shortfall will be in the order of $575 million, and that the new revenues will be largely have to be spent just to maintain existing services and bridging the shortfall.
It all reads like a very polite dance around the harsh truths of the matter. Truth number one: the city needs these new revenues even if the province uploads the cost of social services. Truth number two: failure to secure new revenues means service cuts. It’s all so obliquely stated that even Brian Ashton, who sits on the Mayor’s executive committee and had all these reports under his nose, didn’t believe the situation was so dire. If the mayor had been perfectly clear, he probably wouldn’t have lost Monday’s vote.