The Toronto Star’s David Rider put on his columnist hat this weekend and delivered a hell of a piece on the farcical budget process going on at City Hall:
After hearing thousands of words, and seeing some tears, the 13 executive members voted with lightning speed to refer all of KPMG’s suggested cuts to their Sept. 19 meeting. Ford and his policy chief Mark Towhey are weighing what and how much they can cut. The plan will be predetermined.
The challenge for them isn’t erasing the deficit, but convincing councillors and the public they need to keep slicing after it’s gone.
As the Star pointed out, the budget surplus from 2010 and other monies, including an expected 10-cent TTC hike, bring the 2012 operating deficit from $774 million to $443 million. In addition, the administration is looking at forgoing a traditional annual transfer of $200 million from the operating budget to capital. Efficiencies will be found, user fees hiked.
About a month into his term of office, Rob Ford changed the boilerplate language that goes out on the bottom of all city-issued press releases. His staff struck out the phrase “Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents” and replaced it with Toronto’s government is dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city.” (Emphasis added.)
For those who doubt that this budget process is driven by anything but a sincere need to balance city services with fiscal realities, take note: the mayor’s agenda to prioritize cuts to government over public services isn’t hidden away somewhere. It’s plainly stated on every city press release.