Rob Ford declares victory on budget cuts—but his support base looks wobbly

Rob Ford declares victory on budget cuts—but his support base looks wobbly

Thinking, thinking, thinking... (Image: Christopher Drost)

While provincial leaders wowed us last night with dazzling hand gestures and their ability to stick to talking points, Toronto councillors voted to cut roughly $28 million from the city’s budget. Sure, that may sounds like a lot of dough, but it’s really not. If you take Rob Ford at his word that the city’s budget shortfall is $774 million, $28 million is barely a drop in the gravy boat. Still, last night’s outcome gave city politicians on both sides of the aisle an opportunity to declare victory: some boasted about saving services from the mayor’s axe, others claimed they reduced waste at city hall (and Ford somehow managed to celebrate both at once).

The Globe has the story:

Instead, councillors passed a hodgepodge of cuts that amount to less than one-third of one per cent of the city’s $9-billion-plus budget. The mayor played the vote both ways—claiming to have spared beloved services and found $28 million in “service adjustments,” as well as another $65 million in possible cuts that were referred to this fall’s budget discussions.

“This is a huge victory,” the mayor told reporters after the vote. “Childcare saved. Libraries saved. We don’t reduce grass cutting in the parks. It’s a win-win for everyone. This is an example. There is waste at city hall.”

The mayor’s opponents were quick to claim victory as well, noting that several services are no longer on the chopping block, removed either during last week’s 20-hour executive committee meeting or during two days of council debate.

While the mayor’s support base has by no means completely eroded, it certainly looks less stable these days. The Star reports that some of Ford’s own allies acted as swing votes in the mayor’s defeats yesterday, and Matt Elliott’s council scorecard provides a detailed breakdown of the votes, revealing the size of Ford’s minority on particular losses.

All this probably doesn’t represent a political epiphany from the mayor’s allies: small-c conservatives will stay small-c conservatives for the time being, and their votes will continue to reflect that. A more reliable thesis is that widespread public outcry on issues like the Fords’ failed waterfront coup and the proposed service cuts has weakened the mayor’s grip on council, bringing a little more political independence to city hall—at least for the time being.

Council approves some cuts, rejects others [Toronto Star]
City’s War on Waste will continue: Levy [Toronto Sun]
Ford claims “huge victory” for a tiny bite out of the budget [Globe and Mail]
What was cut from the Toronto budget [National Post]