With the gravy train essentially out of steam (and gravy), the new budget marks Rob Ford’s toughest political test to date

With the gravy train essentially out of steam (and gravy), the new budget marks Rob Ford’s toughest political test to date

Rob Ford, possibly contemplating how to decrease spending and maintain city services (Image: Christopher Drost)

Today city manager Joe Pennachetti unveils the 2012 budget, which among other things entails the first projected spending decrease since amalgamation (something the National Post really wants you to know). No doubt, it’s big news. But more broadly, the story of the day is that Mayor Rob Ford is set to encounter one of his toughest tests on council to date, as he attempts to usher in a budget sure to be a far more taxing sell than 2011’s.

The Globe and Mail has the details:

Proposed cuts would shave close to $50 million off the city’s total spending, sources familiar with the budget say. At the same time, the city is counting on taxes to cover a greater share of its planned $9.35-billion budget, which also includes revenue from transfer payments, user fees and other sources. A growing assessment base and the proposed tax hike are expected to add close to $100 million to the city’s coffers, sources say.

Mr. Ford has been clear about his desire to shrink the size of Toronto’s government and reduce costs across the board. For too long, he argues, the city has lived beyond its means, relying on one-time revenue and bailouts from the province to balance its books.

But curbing spending is proving to be a greater task than the mayor envisioned when he promised voters he could cut costs and preserve services by finding the “gravy” at city hall—proof his critics say that there is no gravy after all.

The Globe goes on to note that cuts will make up only part of the book-balancing act—more money is expected from one-time sources, like real estate sales and selling off the city stake in Enwave. Of course, this is not Ford’s first real test as mayor; but it will likely be his most challenging. Fresh off a series of gaffes, the mayor’s also facing an eroding base at council (the power of the thumb is not what it once was), and unlike last year, Ford is without the momentum of a campaign that saw voters lash out against government spending. With the expense budgets reduced and the end of lavish retirement parties long over, Ford’s hard work begins today.

2012 the doomsday budget? Not so much [Toronto Star]
City to unveil ‘strong medicine’ budget Monday [Toronto Sun]
Toronto budget to feature lower spending, first annual drop since amalgamation [National Post]
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to seek 2.5-per-cent property-tax hike [Globe and Mail]