Council Scorecard: Toronto’s 2014 budget debate shows just how few allies Rob Ford has left
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Following Toronto City Council’s debate on the 2014 operating and capital budgets, it’s easy enough to calculate how many political allies Mayor Rob Ford has left.
He’s got four.
That’s what my City Council Scorecard says anyway. Just four councillors voted with Ford on more than 60 per cent of the major items that came before council as part of the budget meeting held on Jan. 29 and 30. After his various misadventures, Ford is a long way from the solid council support he once enjoyed. He’s effectively just as marginalized now as he was as a cranky councillor in the years before the 2010 election.
With so very few friends left, Ford got walloped on the 2014 budget. My new update to the City Council Scorecard tells the story, with nine new votes added — only one of which saw Ford come out on the winning side.
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The votes added:
EX37.3 (Uphold) came after Coun. Josh Matlow challenged a ruling made by Chair Frances Nunziata that disallowed councillors from voting on the planned property tax increase for the Scarborough subway separately from the increase needed to cover the general budget. Had this passed, it would have been council’s best shot at delaying the subway until after this year’s municipal election. But it failed narrowly — 23-22. I wrote about this vote and the Scarborough subway issue last week.
Then came a series of votes on motions raised by Ford on item EX37.1 —the big budget item. He said they could save the city up to $60 million, but they totalled less than a third of that and were generally not very well thought out. I covered them in more depth in an earlier article.
Because the City Council Scorecard is supposed to track major votes that either relate to Ford’s political agenda or get a lot of attention, I included all the Ford budget motions that were worth more than $1 million and would have applied to the 2014 operating budget.
The Ford motions that made the scorecard are:
- Motion 2a, which would have cut the city’s tree planting budget by $7 million
- Motion 2f, which tried to eliminate the presence of security guards at Toronto Public Library branches
- Motion 2l, which would have eliminated City Council’s General Expense budget and their very tiny budget for travel.
- Motion 2o, which tried to reduce external grant funding to community organizations by $5 million
- Motion 2q (balance), which was a broad motion targeting planned growth-related service increases to various city programs. Had this passed, Toronto would have fewer library hours and less tree pruning this year.
- Motion 2r was a motion to cut staff salary budgets for city councillors
None of them passed.
I also added two more motions. The first, Motion 4c, only impacts the budget to the tune of $75,000 but it has an interesting history. The Tenant Defence Fund is a pocket of money available for tenants who want to dispute rent increases imposed by their landlords. In 2011, councillors voted 23-22 to cut it by $75,000. In 2013, they voted 26-19 against adding $75,000 back to the fund. Now, in 2014, they finally voted 29-16 to restore it to 2011 levels, following a motion by Coun. Josh Matlow. The circle of life.
Finally, there was Motion 16a, which is the closest Ford will get to following through on his campaign promise to eliminate the municipal land transfer tax. Coun. Gloria Lindsay Luby, after making a weird argument about the city relying too much on land transfer tax revenue, moved to commission a report for the 2015 budget process that would consider a five per cent cut. The report request was defeated 18-25.
Three councillors officially saw their full-term Ford Nation Percentage — a measure of how often they voted with the mayor on major items — drop below 70 per cent during the budget debate. Coun. Karen Stintz, Coun. John Parker and Coun. Paul Ainslie are now officially members of council’s “mighty middle.”
Coun. Ana Bailão, who has been a bit erratic with her support for Ford initiatives, also dropped down again. With a full-term percentage below 30 per cent, she’s once again mathematically a member of the opposition.
Coun. Gord Perks still reigns as the anti-Ford with a full-term percentage of two per cent, though Coun. Janet Davis remains within spitting distance at 2.02 per cent — and there’s still seven council meetings left before the term is up.