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Welcome back. Now gird yourself

I had a nice holiday. You too? Peachy! Just don’t ask anyone who works for either Mayor Miller or his close allies how their vacations were. Many had to cancel their travel plans this summer, so they could help strategize and organize what will be an all-out push this fall in support of the proposed new land-transfer and vehicle-registration taxes. Expect a hustings-style campaign that will, in effect, amount to a referendum on David Miller’s plan for the city. By my reckoning, this is very good news.

Word in the corridors of City Hall is that Miller and the 21 councillors who voted with him on the taxes back in July will be very visible and very vocal in their defense of the taxes, which they intend to start calling “taxes,” effectively giving up on their preferred euphemism of “revenue tools.” Back in the summer, the only councillor who hit the talk-radio circuit to defend the taxes was Trinity-Spadina’s Adam Vaughan, who has been equally vocal in his criticism of the mayor’s ostrich-style handling of the issue. The objective of the fall campaign is to pressure the opposition faction on council, led in public by Don Valley East’s Denzil Minnan-Wong and in backrooms by Toronto Danforth’s Case Ootes, (deputy mayor during the Lastman era), to articulate a viable alternative.

Thus far, council’s opposition has floated a bunch of half-baked ideas (Rae days for council employees, no more golf perks, stop forcing private contractors to adhere to the city’s pay scale), but no coherent package of alternatives that would carry a block of votes. This doesn’t mean they can’t come up with one—I believe that a well-crafted package of cutbacks could actually gain widespread popular support (more on that in future posts)—but they’ll need to cobble it together in a hurry. E-Day for this campaign is October 22, when City Council will once again vote on the Mayor’s tax package. It could also end up being doomsday. If Miller loses, he can pretty much throw his entire election platform from last November into the recycling bin.

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