The next act in the grand core service review theatre: don’t cut the gravy

The next act in the grand core service review theatre: don’t cut the gravy

Snow plowing: apparently not gravy (Image: picturenarrative from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool) 

Yesterday’s meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee was the council’s first look at what to actually do with the recommendations from KPMG about cutting non-core city services. The results of hours of deputations from citizens in Toronto? A huge punt. The committee decided to leave almost all of the recommendations to Mayor Rob Ford’s hand-picked executive committee.

According to the CBC:

Public works chairman Denzil Minnan-Wong said some of the more controversial recommendations likely won’t be on the table.

“Some of the more difficult ones will include eliminating fluoride from the drinking water, the street sweeping and the snow removal is going to be a real challenge for the committee,” the councillor said.

However, he said tough choices need to be made to rein in the city’s massive budget shortfall.

“We have a $770-million dollar problem staring us in the face and we have to move aggressively to address that or there’s going to be a massive tax increase,” Minnan-Wong said.

If changing the city’s standard for snow removal isn’t on the table, it’s a pretty good sign that this whole exercise has been a bit of a farce. City staff have been recommending that Toronto harmonize its snow-removal standards both citywide (no longer clearing windrows and sidewalks in the suburbs) and with other cities nearby (not clearing streets until there’s been more snowfall.) In 2007, they estimated that this could save the city $34 million.

To put it a bit more bluntly, the whole KPMG consultation basically confirmed what we already knew: most city expenses are either mandated or essential, and the stuff that can be cut is usually somebody’s sacred cow. The snow-removal stuff is sort of mundane, but if the mayor and his allies can’t screw up the nerve to cut that, then all the consulting in the world isn’t going to help. After passing through the executive committee, these KPMG recommendations will go to a full council meeting in September. We’ll be waiting to see if someone can stare down the suburban snow lobby, but we’re not going to hold our breath.

Public works committee plans $15M in cuts [CBC]
Public Works committee sends full list of possible cuts to executive [National Post]
Public works budget cuts shuffled to higher power [Toronto Sun]
Cost-cutting showdown set for fall [Globe and Mail]