Mayor Rob Ford's 2013 budget for the City of Toronto passed this week, with more bumps along the way than most people expected. Though his administration did a much better job attempting to find common ground for compromise with councillors, Ford still came out of the process with a string of lost votes that saw about $12 million put back into the budget for programs like student nutrition, grants funding and childcare. Ford also lost his budget chief in the process – Coun. Mike Del Grande resigned from the post shortly after the budget was passed.
But even with the changes and the loss of Del Grande, Ford can claim some victory in that, unlike last year, there wasn't much of a coordinated effort to rewrite the budget by left-wingers and centrists on council. Without a comprehensive strategy from the opposition on council, this year's budget debate was messy, with several overlapping amendments and dozens of individual votes. I've added — deep breath — an impressive 12 votes to the City Council Scorecard. Of the votes added, the mayor won five, lost six and saw one come to a consensus outcome.
The votes added, from left to right:
Motion 2 of EX27.3 was an attempt by Coun. Janet Davis to slightly increase the revenue brought in by property taxes in 2013, bumping the rate for residential homes to 2.25 per cent from the two per cent recommended by Ford's Executive Committee. (Rates for commercial properties would also have been increased marginally.) The motion didn't get much traction, with councillors voting 29-15 in favour of the original rate. (Right-leaning Coun. John Parker indicated later on that his vote on this item was a mistake.)
Motion 1d, also by Mihevc, was brought up later on by Del Grande as one of the things that pushed him to resign as budget chief. The motion was a fairly innocent one, designed to look at ways to make the budget process more transparent for councillors and the public next year. But Del Grande warned councillors he'd take it as a slight against him if they were to support it. They voted for it anyway, 25-20.
Motion 2a, Part 1, by Coun. Josh Matlow, was a bid to remove drop-in fees for kids at city-run indoor pools. There have been reports that the fees – even though they're very modest – have resulted in fewer children using the pools It failed 27-18. Another Matlow motion, Motion 2b, which would have restored $75,000 to a fund designed to support tenants across the city, also failed to gain traction, failing 26-19.
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam saw a bit more success with her motions. Though her Motion 5a, an attempt to devote $60,000 to the cash-strapped Toronto Botanical Gardens, failed 25-20, she did convince councillors to devote nearly $900,000 in investment income to the Community Partnership and Investment Program. Motion 5b passed 23-22, with notable support from Coun. Paul Ainslie and Coun. Vince Crisanti, both of whom are generally loyal to Ford.
Wong-Tam wasn't as successful with her attempt to reverse a staff-recommended cut to the city's funding for AIDS initiatives. Despite making a fair argument that, hey, Toronto would be pretty dumb to cut funding for AIDS prevention programs when we're hosting the World Pride event in 2014, a majority of 24 councillors saw fit to vote against Motion 5c, Part 2, thus axing the $104,000 commitment for good.
Coun. Janet Davis also had a pretty good day. She passed Motion 6a by a wide margin, 35-10, bringing in 264 new subsidized childcare spaces next year. That's the first sustained increase in the number of spaces in two decades. Since the money for childcare was coming from the province, there weren't many rationale arguments against using it to expand the number of spaces. But, of course, the mayor and a few others found reason to oppose the move anyway. Don't ask me why.
Davis also passed Motion 6b, which asks the City Manager to look at using surplus revenue to restore the money Ford's Executive Committee drained out of the Social Housing Reserve Fund to devote to services. She won by a narrow margin, 24-21.
Motion 7a by Coun. Pam McConnell also passed 24-21. It reversed a truly bizarre Solomon-like move from Del Grande during budget deliberations. The budget chief, on a seeming whim, saw fit to take a request from the City's ombudsman for a new staff member and quite literally divide it in two – giving half the position to the Auditor General, who had not made any request for additional staff. McConnell was able to reverse this craziness.
Lastly, there was Motion 3, originally by Coun. Paula Fletcher but then amended by Ainslie. After a long slog and some tense moments of debate, all under the watchful eyes of the assembled red-shirted firefighters sitting in the council gallery, councillors finally came to a consensus on the issue of the Fire Services budget. The issue of whether Toronto should sustain cuts to the number of fire stations and trucks responding to alarms was a contentious one, with one side accused of fear-mongering and the other side accused of favouring cost savings over public safety. I wasn't fully convinced by either argument. In the end, though, the compromise – which says, hey, let's wait until the three reports we commissioned on the Fire Services department are complete before we do anything – seems fair enough.
Even with the widely-adopted consensus, there were still seven councillors who refused to play ball. One of them was Del Grande.
A number of councillors who had seen their “Ford Nation Percentage” trending downward over 2012 saw a reversal with these budget votes. The Ford administration's attempt to reach out to the centrist councillors is immediately apparent in the results. Middle-aligned Coun. Josh Colle saw his full-term percentage jump from 34 per cent to 41 per cent, up seven points in just one meeting. Coun. Ana Bailão, who had become a fairly reliable left-wing vote, moved from 23 per cent to 30 per cent, vaulting her back into the statistical ranks of the mushy (or mighty) middle.
Here's a list of the councillors who saw the biggest increase in their “Ford Nation Percentage” over the course of the budget debate:
On the other side, the biggest decline in Ford loyalty came from Ainslie, who dropped 5.6 percentage points. He's rumoured to be next in line for the budget chief job.
Super nerds may have noticed that full-term percentages slightly changed since the last update of the scorecard. It didn't alter anything aside from a few decimal points. I tweaked the formula I was using slightly to better account for year-over-year variation in the number of votes. It should ensure things stay more accurate as we move forward into the third year of this council.
CORRECTION: The version of the chart first posted reported incorrect results for the budget motion relating to student nutrition programs. It's since been corrected. Apologies to the councillors whose votes were misrepresented.
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/ford-for-toronto-matt-elliott/2013/01/18/toronto-council-scorecard-how-did-your-councillor-vote-on-mayor-rob-fords-budget.html on 2013-01-18T00:00:00.000Z