The spendaholics are back in control at Toronto City Hall.
It wasn’t hard to see it coming. Ever since resigning as leader of the PC Party of Ontario in ignominious defeat in 2009, new Mayor John Tory had been drifting rapidly leftward. We all could see the ever-growing attraction of Tory to the radical left-wing Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne – the woman who, ironically, delivered John perhaps the biggest humiliation in his spotty political career by defeating him in his home riding of Don Valley West in 2007, denying him a seat in the legislature despite his holding title as Leader of the Opposition.
Upon assuming the office of Mayor last December, Tory firmed up his lib-left bona fides with his first appointments to the all-important budget committee. His committee of seven includes the wife of a Liberal cabinet minister (Michelle Berardinetti,) a councillor closely tied to the York Centre Liberal Party political machine (James Pasternak,) a chip-off-the-old-socialist-block (NDP’er Mike Layton) and, to top it off, the former budget chief under the #1 spendaholic champion of the world, Mayor David Miller (2003-2010).
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the new administration’s quiet change of budget reporting policy that reduces transparency and radically increases the spending baseline of the operating budget. This week I discovered another bit of trickery that put the noted twitter-brawler Carroll on the defensive, exposing again that the new regime is not a reflection of the mythical “fiscal conservative Tory” but a throwback to the hard-edged leftist Miller era that was waiting to get its revenge on Ford Nation.
It all started when Layton took to twitter during the budget committee meeting Tuesday morning, and stroked his friend Shelley with the following information that just didn’t smell right: “@shelleycarroll points out how rarely media report on city projects finished under budget. In 2014 savings =$71M”.
At Budget Committee today @shelleycarroll points out how rarely media report on city projects finished under budget. In 2014 savings =$71M— Mike Layton (@m_layton) May 19, 2015
Apparently we were to believe that a member of the Layton clan (which has never met a tax dollar they didn’t try to spend three times over) is interested in “savings.” Who does he think he is all the sudden - Rob Ford? Also, we were to believe that the city actually saved money on a year’s worth of projects – beyond credulity! And finally, we were to believe the media has somehow been complicit in covering up important news on the spending front that would make Layton and Carroll look good. Laughable!
Going on the theory that this had to be a smokescreen for something, I entered into a twitter exchange with Layton and Carroll. Despite engaging with me immediately, Carroll refused to explain what projects this “savings” came from, or what the overall net overspend would be if all city projects worked on in 2014 were accounted for.
Thanks to the deep city budget knowledge of blogger-activist Steve Munro (@SwanBoatSteve, hardly a right-winger), who jumped in helpfully to the conversation, I was able to understand that the Layton-Carroll “savings” was derived from the select group of city infrastructure projects that were deemed “closed” in 2014 (either completed or cancelled). This leaves out all the grossly over-budget items like the Spadina subway extension (aka “The Sorbara Express”), the Pan Am Games infrastructure, and the Union Station renovation, all of which are still considered “open”. With the Spadina Subway extension alone revealed to be at least $400 million over budget, how does that $71m “savings” look, even if true? As Munro flatly put it, “full context of all capital spending is needed” to draw any significant meaning from the announced figure.
So, to deflect from the fact that I nailed her and Layton’s sneaky propaganda figure, Councillor Carroll took the easy way out. She picked two cheap-shot targets, summoned the #TOpoli mob, and pulled the chute, handing over the debate to the left-wing rabble that endlessly trolls the “Toronto Politics” hashtag.
Now it is true, I am a fan of Governor Palin and Mayor Ford, and I’m very glad Shelley, in her zest to prove her “savings” bona-fides while dog-whistling her leftist allies, brought them up. The gratuitous shot at her colleague Ford, currently lying on a bed at Mount Sinai Hospital in recovery from potentially life-threatening cancer surgery, was just mean. But the shot at Palin was a welcome one.
Palin’s record as a budget and fiscal hawk during her 2007-2010 tenure as Governor of Alaska was remarkable, as this 2012 article “Who is the Real Sarah Palin” attests. A 9.5% curbing of the bloated operating budget inherited from the Democrats, a fix for the state’s unsustainable pension plan, and consecutive credit rating upgrades during the downgrade era of 2008-2010 are just three of the highlights of an undeniably brilliant record.
So keep on playing the Ford/Palin card, Shelley. You can make your leftist friends and staffers LOL, and continue to make your political allies happy with an open spending spigot. But perhaps you should cut out the rhetoric and consider actually following the lead of responsible fiscal management that your smokescreen pretends to emulate. If you do, history may even judge you favourably in the end, as it will the former Governor of Alaska and the once-and-future Mayor of Toronto.
Oh, and to quote a very highly-regarded left-wing icon with the last name Layton: “Love is better than anger.”
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