It has been a very busy and productive week at City Hall.
On Tuesday, we had an important Executive Committee meeting where we approved the results of the Shared Services Study. This will help the City of Toronto save up to $65 million each year, without impacting frontline services to Toronto residents.
We also approved a study to look at reducing the size of Council by half, an important issue that I campaigned on. I look forward to seeing the results of this study come back to Executive Committee in the coming months.
This week, I also took a strong stand against the Metrolinx plan to slap billions of dollars in new taxes on the backs of hard working Toronto families. Until the Premier exhausts every other available avenue, I will not support new taxes on residents who are already telling me: “we just can’t afford it”.
There are many ways to engage the private sector and reduce the cost of building transit. Unfortunately, the Province’s plan ignores many of these options and instead takes the easy way out- by passing the burden on to the taxpayer.
We have shown at Toronto City Hall that there is a better way to do things. Under my leadership, we have reduced the size and cost of government and found savings that we are now investing into our infrastructure needs.
In just two years, we have reduced our City’s planned debt by $800 million. At the same time, we are investing $1.2 billion more on our capital priorities. We have proven that if the political will exists, it can be done.
On Wednesday, we woke up to a major flood on the DVP and across the City. I met with staff and received a full update on the situation. I am very proud to say that the City’s response systems worked perfectly and our operational response was excellent.
I also met with our Auditor General, Jeff Griffiths and the CEO of Toronto Community Housing Corporation, Eugene Jones. They briefed me on the excellent news coming out of TCHC, which was presented at Audit Committee earlier in the week.
The City of Toronto is responsible for providing affordable housing to 164,000 tenants.
It is no secret, my administration inherited a complete mess at Toronto Community Housing. Once elected Mayor, I moved quickly to address these problems.
In 2011, the Auditor General reported on procurement practices and employee expenses at TCHC. The City was shocked to learn about rampant misuse of funds, a complete lack of accountability and disgraceful customer service.
While many of the most vulnerable residents in Toronto lived in horrifying conditions, TCHC management threw lavish Christmas parties, took expensive getaways and abused expense accounts. I immediately called for the resignation of the board and removal of the CEO.
Folks, I am so proud to say that Toronto Community Housing is now turning the corner.Today, we have a new board of directors and senior management team. TCHC is now committed to customer service excellence, accountability, transparency and running as efficiently and effectively as possible. Every employee knows their role and is held accountable for it.
By changing procurement practices we have been able to find $5.4 million in annual savings, with much more to come. By transferring the TCHC fleet of vehicles to the City’s Fleet Services, we have been able to save $2.6 million and by holding employees accountable for their expenses, we are saving $1 million every year.
At the same time, we are investing every available penny to pay down the $751 million repair backlog we inherited, and improve the living conditions of our tenants. This is exactly what I was elected to do.
On Friday, I also met with Stephen Buckley, the General Manager of Transportation Services, to deal with structural issues staff identified with respect to the Dufferin Street Bridge.
We moved quickly to come up with a plan of action to address these issues while keeping residents safe and minimizing the impact on traffic.
The bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic for 18 months beginning on June 12. During construction of the temporary bridge, access will remain open to pedestrians and cyclists.
I’m also happy to announce that I have hired four new team members this week. They are a talented group who are ready to work hard on the priorities of my administration.
Be sure to listen to my weekly radio show on Newstalk 1010 on Sunday between 1 and 3 pm.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office or I, if we can ever be of assistance to you.
Mayor Rob Ford