Amended 2012 Toronto budget a blow to Ford's agenda
It what was a whirlwind day at City Hall yesterday, an amended version of the 2012 Toronto budget passed 39-5 shortly after 7:30 p.m while a group of protestors clashed with police outside. Although Mayor Rob Ford would later characterize the day as a victory, the big story was the reversal of many of the cuts endorsed by the executive committee heading into the city council vote.
Councillor Josh Colle led the charge with a motion to repeal cuts to community grants, public swimming pools and arena hours, youth priority centres, homeless shelters and to save about $5 million in TTC funding (amongst other things). Coming from Cole, who's mostly stayed out of the headlines in his first year in office, the move seemed to catch the mayor and his allies by surprise. Not so for his fellow councillors, who would eventually vote in favour of the motion (23-21).
Along with Colle's motion, around an additional $4 million in cuts were overturned, the money for which will come from the 2011 surplus, currently estimated at $154 million. So while Ford did manage to keep the property tax increase at 2.5% (did anyone seriously speculate about raising this?) and though there will be cuts to city staff, the general sentiment is that his agenda took a significant blow.
At a brief press conference after the budget passed, Ford argued that the appetite of left-leaning councillors to spend remained out of control, comparing it to a tidal wave and that of "food in front of a dog."
"But we fended them off," he said in a less than triumphant tone when it was all said and done. Thing is, the councillors who voted to save services probably thought the same thing about Ford and his allies. I know who I think won. How about you?
Photo by Kevin Lam in the blogTo Flickr pool