Toronto’s first core service review is out; on the menu: cuts, cuts and more cuts
When he was running for office in 2010, Mayor Rob Ford repeatedly assured voters that he could deliver his budget promises to the city’s taxpayers through increased efficiencies and not through service cuts. Take, for example, one of the good mayor’s favourite lines on the campaign trail: “We don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.” Then, again, just days before the election, he told the Toronto Star that he guaranteed services would not be cut. But this morning the city unveiled the first of several core service reviews, and the long and the short of it is that apparently by efficiencies, Ford really meant cuts.
Today’s report, from consultants at KPMG, suggests many, many things that the city budget should trim or cut outright, but here’s a list some of the key areas we’ll be keeping our eye on:
• Fluoride in the water: The report suggests that the city could save money by stopping the fluoridation of the city’s water supply. This will make the anti-fluoride crowd that were at so many debates last year, and maybe the most cynical of dentists, very happy, but we can’t help but wonder if yellow is really going to catch on as the new dental fashion.
• Green bins: The KPMG report states repeatedly that Toronto’s targets for keeping garbage out of landfills are too high to be practical—but glass, paper and plastic recycling (in the blue bin program) are legally required in Ontario. Presumably, then, the green bin program, which is more expensive, is being targeted here.
• Bike lanes: We thought that in axing the Jarvis Street bike lanes, council’s appetite for making city streets less bike-friendly would be satisfied. Apparently, we were wrong. According to today’s report, bike lanes are one of the few opportunities in the budget for “high” savings (meaning potential savings of 20 per cent or more). We’ll be waiting with bated breath to see what exactly that means for Denzil Minnan-Wong’s new bike plan.
Obviously, there’s much, much more in the report—we’ll also be looking to see if suburban residents finally have to start shovelling their own sidewalks—but the overarching story is pretty much what we expected: the vast majority of services the city delivers show little potential for cost savings. This isn’t a surprise, so we suspect it’ll mostly be ignored. For now, we’re looking forward to the unholy political firestorm that’s about to descend on city council, as even Ford’s allies start to ponder whether they’ll want to run for re-election as the people who gave their voters’ kids more cavities.