Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Fails the Test of Budget Leadership

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Fails the Test of Budget Leadership

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford fails the test of budget leadership

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Jan. 28:

If effective budget leadership is defined by results, then Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is already resigned to irrelevance. His misguided strategy of claiming to have found $50 million through painless cuts, but keeping his plan secret, amounts to a confession of hopelessness.

When city council's budget debate begins on Wednesday, expect Ford to rant and rave about excess spending while presenting a menu of dubious savings. This is more about burnishing his image as a tax-fighter in an election year than actual budget changes. And, sadly, he won't be alone in game-playing and grandstanding.

The budget process this year is uncommonly hectic and disorganized. As noted by the Star's Royson James, a leadership vacuum at city hall has opened the floodgates to chaos. That can only disappoint anyone expecting a reasoned and careful approach to municipal finances.

City staff originally recommended a 2.5-per-cent residential property tax increase, costing the average Toronto household $64. About $28 was to go toward covering the rising cost of existing operations; $23 would pay for new and enhanced services (such as improved public transit), and $13 was a new tax funding Ford's ill-judged Scarborough subway expansion. By the time that project is done and paid for, it will have cost the average household at least $1,200. The $13 hit this year is just a tiny first step.

Ford, of course, railed that 2.5 per cent was too high an increase. He claimed an agreement had been in place, for months, to hold it to 1.75 per cent -- including his subway tax. But if Ford truly believes that he has fallen prey to delusion. There was no such accord.

Instead, there's flux. The executive committee weighed in last week trimming the residential tax increase to 2.3 per cent. But councillors added new spending, totaling $4.8 million, for school breakfast programs, youth recreation, support for theatres, and to keep a fire truck from being taken out of service.

Money for that expansion, and the tax reduction, was found by fiddling with projections for what the city would earn from its land transfer tax. …

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