Rob Ford’s to-do list for today: slash budgets, cut taxes, declare TTC an essential service

Rob Ford’s to-do list for today: slash budgets, cut taxes, declare TTC an essential service

City hall gets busy (Image: Benson Kua)

Toronto’s city council tackles three of Rob Ford’s biggest priorities today: cutting councillors’ office budgets, eliminating the Vehicle Registration Tax and (the biggie) asking the province to declare the TTC an essential service.  According to the Toronto Star, the only real unknown is how the fight over TTC designation will shake out.

Ford wants council to ask the provincial government to designate the TTC an essential service. The designation, already applied to police and fire services, would deny TTC workers the right to strike.

Council rejected a similar proposal by one vote in 2008. In an October Star survey, 10 of the 32 councillors who responded said they supported the proposal, 13 said they did not, and 9 were undecided; Doug Holyday will now vote with Ford.

Proponents of the essential service tag say the TTC is critical to the functioning of the city. Opponents say the tag would hurt taxpayers, since unresolved labour disputes would be settled by arbitrators whose decisions are frequently friendlier to workers than negotiated collective agreements.

It’s early yet, and the meeting has already achieved what Jonathan Goldsbie has called “farce-level entertainment” as newbie councilor Mary Margaret McMahon lectured councilors on the long, drawn-out battle last week over snack time and budget process—and was heckled back to her seat.

Believe it or not, this is a major achievement compared to council’s history of first-time meetings. Like the one from 2007 where carping between conservative councillors and David Miller managed to scuttle something as basic as taking a picture. This morning, council actually managed to get the picture taken, albeit with two councilors stuck in traffic and therefore absent.  (Insert the Transit City joke of choice here.)

With such an auspicious start, surely council will make their city proud today.

• Ford seeks three wins at first big council meeting [Toronto Star]
• Watch Toronto City Council live [RogersTV]