Disillusionment, thy name is Ford: city gravy hunters find out governing is, like, hard and stuff
During the election campaign, Rob Ford repeatedly said that there was no question that, if elected, he would be able to find and destroy the ocean of gravy that was flooding city hall. Even right after his victory in the election, he was quoted as saying, “There’s a lot of fat down at city hall, and there’s a lot of waste” when asked about filling the fiscal hole his tax cuts would create. There’s just one problem in the cold light of a February budget meeting: the “fat” and “waste” Ford promised he’d cut just doesn’t seem to be there—at least, not according to the Toronto Star, which informs us that reality is starting to sink in.
Insiders—ranging from members of the budget and executive committees to city financial staff—say that bubbling pot of gravy still hasn’t been found. The financial renaissance Ford campaigned on is still a few years away, they say.
“Honestly, it’s going to be a challenge,” said Councillor Doug Ford, vice-chair of the budget committee and the mayor’s brother. “This administration did not put the city in the position we’re in. You can’t change the world in 100 days. We’ve already done so much and we’ll continue to do more.”
In his short time in office, Mayor Ford has scored a number of symbolic victories. Office budget caps for councillors and the mayor took a $1.46 million whack. Ford won his longtime battle against free food at council and committee meetings. That cut is worth $48,000 to taxpayers. And by coaxing councillors into a pay freeze, he drained another $110,000 worth of gravy.
Important? Absolutely. But it’s still small potatoes.
As the Star notes, Ford’s crack budget team has actually made things substantially worse by draining the city’s reserves as well, meaning that next year Toronto is looking at filling a budget hole that’s about $730 million wide.
How to bridge the gap? A good old-fashioned fire sale of city assets. Potentially up for sale are everything from the city’s $18 billion in real estate holdings to the Toronto Parking Authority and Enwave.
The objective, says Doug Ford, is for Toronto to be like Mississsauga—debt-free and with substantial cash reserves. Of course, Mississauga is also considering a whopping 8 percent tax increase this year and building 30 km of new bike lanes, making the municipal metaphor as clear as, well, gravy.
(Image: Dennis Jarvis)