Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was elected last fall on a promise to “trim the fat from City Hall”. Easier said than done, as Royson James of the Toronto Star reports (“Rob Ford’s gravy train running on fumes”, July 12, 2011). The Mayor commissioned internationally-reknowned consultants KPMG to review the city’s expenses and determine what services could be cut. The results were far from surprising: in the public works and infrastructure department, the City could save money by:
- keeping blue boxes out of apartments and condos
- reducing snow clearing, grass cutting and street sweeping
- ending fluoridation of Toronto’s drinking water
And that’s it…in fact, the City of Toronto considers each of these options regularly and has decided time and time again not to implement them because they’re political powderkegs. KPMG wrote that 97% of the City of Toronto’s expenses in the public works and infrastructure department were core municipal services. G. Michael Warren, in a Toronto Star editorial (“Ford Nation’s grim future”, July 6, 2011), outlines the reasons why the inner suburban “economically challenged members of the Ford Nation”, who depend heavily on city services, are the most likely to suffer from service decreases. I’m pretty sure cutting back on snow clearing isn’t an option: the 1999 “Snowmageddon” storm dumped 118 centimetres of snow on Toronto and Mayor Mel Lastman was forced to call in the army to clear 5000 km of roads. Another major storm hit Toronto this January.
Seven more reports on the city departments, efficiencies and room for “fat trimming” will be released shortly.
The Mayor has made headlines recently for voting against six wildly popular community grants (he was defeated 43-1 on the first four programs, 42-2 on the fifth, and 41-3 on the sixth). He ruffled feathers by refusing to attend Toronto’s Pride Parade. After Ford shut down Transit City, the Province of Ontario even blames “municipalities like Toronto and politicians like Rob Ford” for traffic gridlock (“Fed up with traffic gridlock? Not our fault, Liberals say”, Toronto Star July 12, 2011). Rookie councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, citing “the current administration”, recently commissioned a private-sector revitalization plan for Yonge Street. Although she agrees that it could set a dangerous precedent, there was no way a new plan would have been approved in the current mood of fiscal restraint.