Rob Ford gives into the police budget, shoots himself in the foot
Rob Ford’s decision last week to approve a pricey police budget suggests there may be some wiggle room for other city departments asked to cut 10 per cent of their own operating budgets in order to keep the mayor happy. Although we hypothesized, after news broke of the pending police budget, that other city leaders might not have the guts to openly flout Ford’s request the way Bill Blair did, the Toronto Star reports that Ford’s concession has opened the door to two possibilities: it could prompt braver city staffers to ask for the same leniency granted to the police or it could force Ford to seek even more substantial cuts in other city departments.
From the Star:
Leaders of other city entities no doubt took an intense interest in Ford’s concession to Blair—most of all fire chief Bill Stewart. Stewart, voicing concerns nearly identical to Blair’s, has said a 10 per cent cut, of $37 million, would force him to lay off 400 firefighters and endanger public safety. Following Blair’s example, he may now stick to his hard line and dare Ford to call his bluff.
“There’s no doubt that all the agencies, boards and commissions will be looking at what the police services board has done,” said Councillor Janet Davis, a Ford critic. “It’s certainly sending a message to them that 10 per cent can’t necessarily be achieved—and won’t necessarily be required.”
Of course, it’s still unclear if Stewart will stand up to Ford (although, really, who’s gutsier than people who run into burning buildings for a living?). But what is apparent is that Ford has made a misstep. We’ve said before that the police debate would force Ford to choose between appearing tough on crime or fiscally conservative, and whether he gave in to Blair’s demands or not, Ford was poised to look ideologically inconsistent. Then again, barring some mass anti-Ford mobilization by police-friendly voters in the next election, holding true to his fiscal conservative roots probably had fewer political implications for the mayor.
• Ford’s concession to police may affect other budgets [Toronto Star]
• Ignoring cut request, Toronto police board passes almost billion dollar budget [Globe and Mail]
• ‘Huge task’ to cut back 2013 police budget [National Post]