Edward Keenan: Doug Ford does what no one else could ‚ÄĒ unite Toronto city council
|Toronto Star 15 May 2019 at 09:47|
Premier Doug Ford has recently taken to characterizing those who oppose his massive retroactive cuts to Toronto Public Health. It‚Äôs just a ‚Äúbastion of lefties‚ÄĚ wasting ‚Äúridiculous amounts of money,‚ÄĚ he said this week .
Let us, then, venture into this bastion to see these lefty spendthrifts in action, at Tuesday‚Äôs Toronto city council meeting, where a motion from the former leader of Ontario‚Äôs Progressive Conservative Party, Mayor John Tory, was being debated. The motion called for the province to reverse the cuts immediately.
Councillor Stephen Holyday, of Ward 2 Etobicoke Centre, rose to speak.
‚ÄúNobody should be surprised, I‚Äôm one of the first councillors here to openly admit that I‚Äôve questioned many programs in the city. And I question them fundamentally,‚ÄĚ he said.
Indeed, he is a second-generation small-government skinflint. His father was for a long time young councillor Rob Ford‚Äôs mentor and only ally, and shared with the late mayor the opinion that almost no government spending was good government spending.
Stephen followed his old man onto council, and has hewed closely to the family ideology, steadfastly opposing bike lanes, LRTs, the King Street Pilot, road tolls. He‚Äôs said and made clear through action that his priority is He publicly supported Doug Ford‚Äôs cut to the size of city council last year in the middle of the election. He is perhaps council‚Äôs most consistent vote against program spending of almost any variety.
Ford‚Äôs strategy of hitting municipalities with budget cuts, service downloads is ‚Äėrisky‚Äô politics, expert says
‚ÄúBut I opened up the public health budget agenda item, because I thought that it was important to read and understand how all the numbers work. And I asked the medical officer of health some high-level questions about how does this all fit in.
‚ÄúA couple things jump out at me. The provincial subsidy to Toronto Public Health is $183.5 million. It‚Äôs no small figure. Sixty-five million of that (the impact of the provincial cut in 2019) is very, very material.
‚ÄúI contrast that to the net expenditures of Toronto Public Health,‚ÄĚ he said ‚ÄĒ the amount the city contributes ‚ÄĒ ‚Äúand their whole proposed operating budget was $64 million. So according to the staff‚Äôs number, the cut is larger than the amount we even give to Toronto Public Health,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm quite willing to have a conversation about the different services that are in Toronto Public Health, but the conversation has to include understanding what exactly is ours to deliver by rule, and perhaps by rule of the province, and understanding what exactly those cost to deliver, what are the ones council has set and created on its own. And are those within our control to make changes? Perhaps, but there‚Äôs going to have to be a long process, through the budget committee.
‚ÄúWhere I have a big exception, is to change the funding mid-year. I mean this is baked in, $183 million worth of funding. And to rip $65 million out of them, I mean we‚Äôre getting shafted.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know how we‚Äôre going to make that. I don‚Äôt know if anybody in this room knows how we‚Äôre going to make up that gap as proposed. It seems to me it‚Äôs just not practical and couldn‚Äôt happen that way,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúThis is a very, very serious thing,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre in an untenable position,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThat is just not an acceptable process, to switch things right in the middle of the game, and we need to send that message that it‚Äôs not workable the way that it is,‚ÄĚ he said.
When Tory‚Äôs motion came to a vote, it passed 25-1. Those voting with Tory against Premier Ford included Holyday, as his speech indicated. They included Mark Grimes of Etobicoke-Lakeshore , who Rob Ford used to affectionately call ‚ÄúThe Midnight Mayor.‚ÄĚ They included Denzil Minnan-Wong of Don Valley East, who was a Progressive Conservative candidate for MPP under Doug Ford‚Äôs leadership in last year‚Äôs provincial election.
Some bastion of lefties this is, opposing the provincial plan for public health. It includes, apparently, the entire ideological spectrum of city council. It includes everyone, it seems, except one person ‚ÄĒ one lone supporter of Doug Ford‚Äôs cuts to public health spending. Who‚Äôs that?