Rob Ford Metting Core Services

Rob Ford on the Core Services Review

For those who would have liked to attend today's executive committee meeting regarding the KPMG-suggested cuts to Toronto services, but weren't unable to get off work, the mayor's press secretary has distributed Rob Ford's opening comments from this morning.

The document has all the hallmarks of Ford's mayoralty — we need to trim expenses, respect taxpayers, and stop passing the buck — but it also backs off the idea that the KPMG reports in question are all about efficiencies. They're not. As Ford (or his press secretary puts it), the point of this part of Core Services Review is to determine which services are "must haves" and which are "nice to have."

One wonders why the mayor didn't frame the reports in this manner during his recent interview on CP24, but at least the description of the function the reports are meant to serve is being offered more accurately now. As for the role that today's meeting has — that is, the listening to taxpayers part — it remains to be seen to what degree that will factor into the decisions made regarding services.

Here's the full text.

Good Morning and welcome to the meeting to consider the Core Service Review of Programs that fall under the mandate of the Executive Committee.

Before we get started this morning, I'd like to thank my Standing Committee chairs who have already chaired seven meetings as part of this process - and all the Councillors on those committees who have already spent a good amount of time working through this process.

I'd like thank City staff for their hard work launching this process - and the hard work that has yet to come.

But, mostly, I'd like to thank the thousands of taxpayers who have sent emails to my office or participated in this process up to this point. This process is one of the biggest community consultations in Toronto history.

And, I'd also like to thank the hundreds of residents who are here this morning to be part of this process. We are here to listen to you.

This meeting is one part of a long process that involves many steps. This process is necessary for one simple reason.

For years, our city has spent more money than it brings in. Instead of fixing the problem, we've kept passing the buck to "next year." Well, next year has arrived. It's time we fixed the problem.

What we're doing with this core service review is the same thing every family in every household across the city does every day.

But it's something this city has never done - in fact, I don't know of any city in Canada that's ever done what we're doing.

Every year, we've added expense after expense to our budget. We've added some "must have" spending and a lot of "nice to have" spending. Now, we spend more than we can afford.

Public libraries. Child care. Seniors. Affordable Housing. Safe roads. Clean water. Clean air. Sewers that don't flood basements. Beaches safe for swimming. Parks ready to play in. Garbage collection. Ambulances. Fire services. Policing. Community Centres. Recreation programs. Public Health... the list goes on and on.

These are all important things. Are libraries more important than Child Care? Is policing more important than safe roads? You tell me.

That's why we're here today. To listen... so we can begin to set priorities.

If we are going to reduce spending... and ladies and gentlemen, we must reduce our spending... it only makes sense to take the time to figure out which things are "must haves" and which things are "nice to haves."

Because, it makes sense to look at "nice to haves" first.

That's what this process is about.

As a first step, we asked KPMG to look at the city's spending and report back on which spending items are "must haves" - things that are required by law or essential to the operation of the city. And, we asked them to report which spending items were "nice to haves."

They've completed that work and today's meeting is the last of a series of meetings where they report their findings.

I want to stress something that has been lost in the media coverage over the past two weeks. This is the beginning of the process. Not the end.

As of today, not a penny of spending has been changed in any budget.

All that has happened is that spending has been listed and put into categories for discussion.

We've started a great public debate about what is "must have" and what is "nice to have" - and that's exactly the point.

Today, we will hear what you have to say about what's important to you.

That information will go forward, with the KPMG report and a report from the City Manager, to the September special Executive meeting where we will begin to identify our priorities.

Those priorities - combined with a review of how to improve efficiency - plus a user fee review - will then go to council for decision as part of the 2012 budget process which will finish in January.

Photo by Noah Markus in the blogTO Flickr pool

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