Just after Toronto made a ghastly mistake on par with buying into Mike Harris’ Common Sense Revolution and elected Rob Ford, the Gravy-Train guzzling buffoon, I took a serious look at his platform and its feasibility, and just how good of a deal his supporters were really getting. At the time, I made a list of predictions as to what we’d see happen. Being as we’re over 100 days in, let’s see how we’re doing. Only predictions that have shown any change are addressed here.
Prediction Two: The Vehicle Registration Tax Will Die
In my previous post, I pointed out that this would die due to vast unpopularity, while simulatenously noting that it was a necessary evil of a revenue stream that David Miller enacted to try and keep the budgets balanced. I also pointed out that Ford had yet to explain how he would compensate for the lost revenue stream, other than ‘finding all the gravy.’
Well, as predicted, the tax bit the dust, and the city now faces a $774M shortfall for 2012, with Ford, as yet, finding very little gravy to substantiate his platforms or claims. Even better, we’re now spending money on consultants to hunt down gravy. I thought Ford knew, concretely, of tons of it? I thought the tax money was unnecessary? Instead, For5d blew the city’s entire surplus to make the 2011 budget work and – surprise! – just as he derided Miller for doing, he went looking to Dalton McGuinty for a handout already.
Predictions Four and Five: The odds of new subway being approved and even started during Ford’s term is next to nil; as Ford as already admitted, don’t go kissing the streetcars goodbye just yet.
I still see streetcars everywhere, and have heard nothing new since Ford reluctantly admitted to the media (after the transit experts weighed in with *gasp* facts and research) that they weren’t such a done deal. As for Ford’s transit plan, it now includes the Eglinton LRT (O RLY? Maybe because it was always a good and necessary idea?), although Ford is hedging on the full extension of it to the airport, which would faciliate commuters from the suburbs – you know, the people that currently drive in here and congest our roads for poor people like Ford? *sniffle, sheds tear*
Ford is pushing ahead, demanding extra billions to convert the planned Sheppard LRT into a subway that connects the Yonge-University loop to the Scarborough RT. He also claims he is going to somehow find money to revitalize the SRT. As things stand right now, no money is promised from Metrolinx, Dalton McGuinty has given him a chilly reception, telling him there is no more money to be had, and private financers via billboards etc. are being considered for that corridor now. Yeah, because private always works out well for the public masses.
Prediction Six: Slashed councillor budgets will happen, although the financial relevance is minimal compared to overall operations.
Like any councillor in their right mind in a recession would be against this… That said, there was some quibbling over the exact reduction, but in the end, this easily passed. Not that it’s helping much with the massive impending shortfall…
Prediction Ten: The garbage collection for the city will either worsen in quality or be sold for nearly the same costs as the current deal, meaning no astronomical $20 Million in savings per year, only marginal savings.
This, along with his new transit plan, are the next big items on Ford’s list, but they certainly won’t be as easy as the VRT. According to The Toronto Star, a staff report regarding contracting out garbage will be forthcoming in April, with it reaching city council in May. CUPE 416 is already gearing up for a fight on this one. By the way, the TTC Union, faced with essential service legislation even as Kinnear promised no strikes during the next round of negotiations, is also gearing up to trash Ford and his cronies when their contract expires March 31st. This could be a very long summer, folks… and an expensive one.
That said, I’m wagering that private garbage collection will happen, but it won’t be much of a savings. The Brothers Ford will claim we are getting more value for the same buck but… well, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Other Developments Worth Paying Attention To:
I strongly suggest that voters pay close attention to the situation with the Toronto Community Housing Council as a metaphor for Ford’s entire approach to the city. In finding overspending, he rebuked the entire council – even though some of the members were on it less than 3 months and had no involvement (Councillors Augimeri and Cho hadn’t even attended a meeting yet since appointment!) – and then proceeded to demand, push, bluster and dodge proper channels as best he could to fire the entire lot. One of his main City Hall supporters? Mammoliti, who, by the way, was part of the TCHC for the vast duration of these overspending incidents. Ford then forces into place retired politician Case Ootes.
Who is Case Ootes? A retired city politician, and the former deputy mayor during the computer leasing scandal of Lastman’s heyday, That’s right: a guy implicitly involved in mismanaged city spending is single-handedly going to be allowed to clean up the TCHC. He’s also going to receive $25,000 for a few months’ work, while still collecting his city pension and enjoying that $99K severance from leaving council. And, as NOW Magazine points out, he had a steady track record for voting against repairs to community housing. This is the man who will hold the interests of our most disadvantaged families and people in his hands? Are you kidding me?
Now, you would think Ford would be fully in support of a motion to monitor and publicly post all large expenditures for the TCHC, if firing the board and bringing in Case Ootes is indeed to restore confidence after this audit. Yet he and his brother voted against this public accountability (check the City voting records yourself). Why? Easy enough to tell, judging from Ootes’ first days on the job: Ootes’ role is to force the opinion that city assets – namely, homes housing TCHC’s families – should be sold off for profit, supposedly to repair other units. Really, Ford’s desperately looking to fill that $774M gap in 2012. He’s also got Ootes mulling full privatization… which, as most any tenant knows, will make the TCHC about profit, not assistance for those in trouble.
But what does Ford care? None of his friends or family are poor. He’s never known poverty. His constituents of old are predominantly wealthy or upper-middle class – at least, his main supporters are. Those are the people he answers to, Toronto – not the rest of you.
I almost want to paraphrase the addage about WWII – “When they came for…” – but I’m sure the point will be missed by those allowing the wool to slip over their eyes. I fear for Toronto, and Ontario, as people continue to vote for slogans and to ‘punish’ people, instead of for the parties with their best interests at heart.