Toronto councillors approved the 2013 budget this week and continued to buzz about what to do if Mayor Rob Ford gets tossed out of office.
Here’s a rundown of five things we learned at City Hall this week:
1) Mayor Rob Ford will vote for a tax freeze no matter what
It was practically a no-win situation for Ford. His vote for the freeze goes against the proposed budget he’s been haranguing councillors to support without any changes but he’s a tax fighter so likely didn’t want to be on the record voting against a possible tax freeze.
The tax-averse Ford told his allies he voted for the tax freeze because he was confident if it passed, they could go back into the budget and find the savings to make it work.
Ex-Budget Chief Mike Del Grande was baffled by Ford’s tax freeze vote.
“I don’t think he understood what that vote meant,” Del Grande told the Sun Thursday. “I can’t explain it. It is one of those unsolved mysteries of the universe.”
Del Grande said that vote signaled a wavering on the budget just as the debate was getting underway.
“You don’t leave an opening for the barbarians,” he said.
2) Councillor Doug Ford blames Mike Del Grande for bringing him to City Hall
“I hold Mike Del Grande accountable for one thing – for getting me down here,” Ford said Thursday. “He was responsible for getting me here.”
Ford met Del Grande for the first time back in 2010. The elder Ford was back in town from Chicago and went out for dinner at Swiss Chalet with Del Grande and Mayor Rob Ford.
“(He) sat me down, looked at me, lied through his teeth and said (being a councillor) was a part-time job,” Ford said. “And the mayor lied too.
“That’s exactly what they said, it is a part-time job, a couple days a week. He lied through his teeth. But I love the guy.”
3) Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday sticks to his principles (even if it could possibly cost him the mayor’s chair)
While that prospect would lead some councillors to address councillors fairly carefully in case he’ll need 22 of their votes at some point in the near future, it doesn’t seem to be factoring into Holyday’s council floor speeches.
Holyday blasted councillors for pushing for around $51 million in spending increases to various parts of the proposed document.
“We’re setting it up for next year for an absolute disaster,” Holyday told council. “We’re going to put this into the budget this year, next year we’re probably to have to fund it through taxes and (an election year) is not the year to be going to the residents with large tax increase. Some of you won’t survive it.”
The Etobicoke councillor went on to say there were so many requests for councillors “pet projects” being made they might as well call it “the Ikea monkey budget.”
He also slammed councillors for folding on cuts to Toronto Fire in the 2013 budget.
“If the councillors in this chamber haven’t got the backbone to stand up on their own two feet and make their own decisions un-pressured by unions and un-pressured by special interests groups then they shouldn’t be here,” Holyday yelled. “Find another line of work.”
Councillor Paula Fletcher was quick to make a quip as Holyday wrapped up.
“Was that your speech for appointment?” Fletcher asked.
4) Mayor Rob Ford was right in the middle of behind-the-scenes negotiations to compromise on proposed cuts to Toronto Fire
Councillor Paula Fletcher says Ford was in the midst of discussions with councillors as they hammered out a motion to avert the proposed cuts to Toronto Fire – which he had been urging councillors to support.
Fletcher moved a motion, worth around $5 million, to stop the cuts for a year and hire around 63 firefighters. Councillors eager to avoid the fire cuts warned Ford they’d have to support Fletcher’s motion if an alternative wasn’t crafted. That lit a fire under Ford to broker a deal.
The $3.1 million compromise supported by Ford stops the cuts and hires firefighters until more information is available in July.
“It was hot and heated for a number of hours,” Fletcher said after the vote.
“He was happy that we weren’t going for the whole year and we had the $3 million compromise for the six months.”
5) Mayor Rob Ford and former Budget Chief Mike Del Grande agree on one thing – councillors are “piranhas” when money is involved
In the wake of the 2013 budget, both Ford and Del Grande described councillors as piranhas when it comes to spending.
Ford told reporters Wednesday the $12 million council added into the budget could have been worse given the spend-hungry councillors at City Hall.
“It could have been $50 (million) more. We fended them off. They’re like piranha. So you’re going to get bitten a few times but you know what you’re in there,” he said. “They could have been a lot worse but you know what we got away unscathed … no one touched our surplus.”
A day after he handed his resignation to Ford, Del Grande said it was funny the mayor used the word “piranha” because that’s exactly how he felt as he steered the budget through the process.
“They’re like piranhas to the bone. They’ll even also try to eat the bone as well,” Del Grande said.