Barring a catastrophe, Mayor Rob Ford will be on the 2014 campaign trail next year.
(He’s never really stopped campaigning since the day he was elected but officially, he can campaign starting this January.)
But as Toronto waits for the 2014 campaign, Ford has planted the seeds for a blockbuster campaign stump speech in the last few weeks.
The city has been conducting service level reviews of all its departments and the reports on those reviews have been coming to committees this month. Left-leaning councillors frustrated with a budget process where service levels are set based on the available cash rather than the service councillors think they should be providing residents have been trying to win the service level debate at the committee level. If they win at committee their motions go on to council to force a debate over service levels ahead of the 2014 budget. Losing this debate at council could lead to the tax hike for 2014 being higher than the 1.75% Ford has publicly promised because the city would have to raise more revenue to meet the higher service levels council has imposed.
At two committee meetings so far, the vote has been so close the mayor – a member of all council committees – has shown up to break the tie. A mayor using his vote at committee is a rare thing so Ford does make a big splash each time he shows up and votes. After the meetings Ford has argued he’s stopping the left from running wild with spending – compared to other boasts he’s made lately, this is fairly accurate.
If he’s smart, he’ll show up at the community development and recreation committee today where he’ll likely lose a vote but be able to illustrate he’s lining up against the left and fighting the good fight.
Which brings us to the 2014 election.
Most expect next year’s race will include at least two key players – Ford and Olivia Chow. The arch-conservative versus the arch-NDPer.
So imagine Ford’s on the campaign trail talking to seniors in a church basement or a crowd at Ford Fest 2014 or out at a barbecue in Scarborough. How does he win the votes of those sitting on the fence?
He tells this story:
Councillors on the left down at City Hall want to spend first and figure out how to pay for it later. We had a fight last year over service levels where they wanted to jack them up and by doing that, likely jack up your taxes. I wanted to ensure our budget committee could pay for services before we went about setting their levels to keep your taxes low. I was so committed to this, I walked into committee meetings and invoked my privilege as mayor to vote on these committees. I said no to spending, I cast my mayoral vote against spending to ensure you don’t get taxed to death. Now I ask you, who do you want in the mayor’s office? Do you want someone who will use their vote to stop spending or do you want someone who will use their vote to increase spending? I’ll tell you right now, folks, Olivia Chow will vote to spend. It’ll be spend, spend, spend, tax, tax, tax. Rob Ford will vote no, folks. Rob Ford has voted no and will keep doing everything to ensure you don’t pay more taxes than you need to.
And most Toronto residents who vote and who worry about paying the bills will hear that speech and will likely vote ‘yes’ to the mayor who votes no.