Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Fact Check: Rob Ford voted against several of his listed 'accomplishments'

By: Metro Published on Wed Mar 05 2014

Two months after registering for re-election, Mayor Rob Ford finally has a campaign website.

There was what seemed to be a mad rush to get it ready it over the weekend, prior to the mayor’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Ford did manage to get in a quick plug for the site while talking to Kimmel. You probably missed it because you were cringing and hiding your eyes.

It's probably good that the website isn't getting a ton of attention, because it's packed with inaccuracies. In addition to a biography that claims Ford is still coaching football at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School — he was banned from coaching by the school board almost a year ago — the site also has an “accomplishments” section that plays very loose with the facts. So loose, there's no choice but to do an exhaustive fact check on every single item — my biggest fact check ever.

The following are the list of accomplishments taken off Ford’s website on Monday, March 3. Don’t blame me for the weird capitalization — it was like that when I got there.

But it’s not just the presentation that feels haphazard. The list itself actually leaves out or glosses over a few things that Ford probably should be at least attempting to present as accomplishments.

Of the accomplishments the list does include, several of them are based on bad data. Some are so vague as to be almost meaningless. And at least six of the mayor’s accomplishments relate to things that Ford actually voted against, either as mayor or as councillor.

Here's the list:

I can’t find any record of Ford bringing an item to council to create this desk, but there does seem to be a desk near the entrance of city hall where people can ask questions.

The mayor doesn't have much to brag about when it comes to renovations done at Nathan Phillips Square. (Torstar News Service)
The mayor doesn't have much to brag about when it comes to renovations done at Nathan Phillips Square. (Torstar News Service)

Made Nathan Phillips Square Safe and Inviting for Citizens

Ford may be referring to one of two things here. Either this is about a Sue Ann Levy column that complained about too many homeless people in the square, which prompted Ford to complain to the city manager and apparently step up enforcement. Or it’s about the Nathan Phillips Square Revitalization project.

If it’s about the latter, Ford doesn’t have much room to brag. The project began long before Ford became mayor and in 2007 he voted against it. (Page 95) Later, as council debated the 2009 capital budget, Ford moved to remove all funding for the project. (Page 6)

Improving Communication with the City through 311 and mobile apps

311 was a project of the previous administration. Ford was against it. On December 8, 2009, Ford moved to eliminate all funding for plans to implement it.

Improving TTC service

On January 10, 2011, Ford announced his first budget would cut service on dozens of TTC routes. Since then, the fare subsidy for the TTC remains below 2010 levels and the system is wracked widely-reported instances of crowding.

Made TTC an Essential Service

Improving Toronto EMS and Toronto Fire Services

Too vague to verify.

Gene Jones has drawn controversy since being appointed as the head of TCHC by Mayor Rob Ford. (Torstar News Service)
Gene Jones has drawn controversy since being appointed as the head of TCHC by Mayor Rob Ford. (Torstar News Service)

Renewed public faith in TCHC

Ford is likely referring to his move to replace the TCHC Board following a 2011 spending scandal. Sure, many felt that action was necessary, but that was also three years ago. Is there still reason for the public to have faith in TCHC? The waiting list for social housing in Toronto has grown from 78,187 in early 2011 to 90,157 last fall. Meanwhile, the TCHC CEO appointed under the Ford administration has been dogged by issues relating to HR practices. The board has since forced him to get more management training.

Made Council more Transparent & Accountable

It's unclear exactly what this means. In 2010, Ford did propose a series of reforms designed to increase transparency but many of them were not implemented. Most never even came to council or committee for debate.

Posted More Expenses Online

Councillors were already posting their expense online when Ford took office. Under Ford, staff do post expenses made with city-issued credit cards, though the usefulness of this data can be questioned. Still, we’ll give him this one.

Adopted Whistleblower Protection By-law

Eliminated the Personal Vehicle Tax (PVT)

Reduced Council Expense Budgets

He did. Though council later instituted further reforms that included the creation of a general expense budget shared by all councillors.

Contracted out Garbage Collection

Partial credit. Ford technically only contracted out garbage collection service in one of the city’s four districts. One district was already contracted out prior to this term. Half the city continues to receive city-run service.

Stopped out-of-control spending growth at City Hall

I’m not sure it’s possible for this to be any more vague. Most of the city spending growth over the last decade has been to the gross operating budget, while the net operating budget has grown slowly. This is an important distinction, as the gross budget includes services funded by user fees and transfers from other orders of government. I’ve written lots about this.

Lower Debt- Reduced planned debt by $808 Million

The city’s debt has actually increased under Ford, though that’s due to prior commitments. Planned debt has in fact decreased under Ford, but some of that is because of offsets from a financing strategy introduced in 2012 that banks on operating surpluses and the sale of city assets.

Found over $600 million in permanent efficiency savings

There are many ways to quibble with these figures. It’s important to note these kinds of efficiency savings are not new. Mayor David Miller’s final budget achieved $167 million in savings alone.

Balanced the operating budget, for the first time ever, without using any prior year surplus

Sure, but it’s worth noting that Ford has yet to balance a budget without using one-time revenues. This year, he used just under $70 million in reserve funds — which were funded at least partially through prior-year surplus money in previous budget years — to balance the budget.

Total reduction in City staff of 1,346 since 2011

I get slightly different numbers, but this appears to be accurate enough. The city offered staff buyouts in 2011.

New Surplus Management Strategy: Adopted new financial management strategies

This feels more like a statement than an accomplishment, but yes, the strategy does exist. But it was adopted in 2004.

New Collective Agreement with full and part-time workers

Yes, but again, this is the political equivalent of me bragging about putting my shoes on in the morning. Of course a new collective agreement was put in place — the old one expired. Ford is missing an opportunity to brag here.

What happened to Toronto's plastic bag fee? It's...complicated. (Torstar News Service)
What happened to Toronto's plastic bag fee? It's…complicated. (Torstar News Service)

Eliminated the 5-cent bag tax: Ensures that retailers have a choice in charging for plastic bags.

A couple of problems here. First, it was never a tax. It was a mandated fee. Second, Ford only managed to eliminate the fee after council made a surprise decision to ban plastic bags altogether but then were forced to back off after city lawyers got involved.

Focused public debate on building subways as Toronto’s long-term rapid transit strategy

True enough, I guess. We’ve had lots of debate about subways over the last three years. But even with Ford’s focus, the TTC and Metrolinx are still in the process of building three LRT lines. I’m not sure Ford’s got much to brag about.

Investing in the TTC: The 2013 budget included over $500 million in new TTC funding

This is a weird one. It’s a very specific claim, but it’s hard to know what it refers to.

It’s definitely not about increasing the TTC’s operating budget. In 2012, the TTC’s operating subsidy from the city was $411 million. It was exactly the same in 2013. So no increase there.

On the capital side, the 10-year capital plan in 2012 included $6.184 billion for the TTC. The 2013 plan boosted that to $6.392 billion. That's an increase of $200 million, which you’ll note is significantly lower than $500 million.

Station Modernization Program: Existing station upgrades, including Pape and Dufferin stations

The TTC’s plan to modernize subway stations predates Ford’s term by several years. The program was first discussed in 2007. Funding for the project became available through the 2008 city capital budget and plan. Ford voted against that budget. (Page 14)

Signal System Replacement: Signal System replacement will improve subway system capacity and reliability

This, on the other hand, did happen during Ford’s term. The TTC authorized $90 million in expenditures for signal system replacement on March 30, 2012. However, it’s worth pointing out that this happened after Ford lost all influence over the TTC, so it’s fair to ask if he or his office had anything to do with the decision.

Resurfacing hundreds of kilometres of roads and filling around 200,000 potholes every year

Putting $500 million into maintaining the Gardiner Expressway- a key transportation artery

Putting money into maintaining and upgrading roads, bridges, sidewalks and expressways

We'll take these three together. The 10-year capital plan approved in 2010 included $1.699 billion for state-of-good-repair projects relating to the city’s transportation department. In 2014, that figure jumped to $2.435 billion. Much of that increase is related to the Gardiner. But Ford can take credit for spending more money on road repair.

Upgrading decades old playground equipment and building new community facilities

This, on the other hand, is a harder claim to make. Just this past September, back when Ford still had procedural powers, he made a point of attending a meeting of the Parks & Environment committee just so he could vote against a series of motions. One of those motions asked staff to look at increasing the number of playground refurbishments.

Upgrading 26 Municipal Child Care Centres and constructing a new facility

Ford’s record on child care is disastrous. In 2012, he voted against a motion that would have increased the operating budget by $670,000 to restore child care centre programming. In 2013, he voted against a motion that would have increased availability of subsidized child care.

Building new community centres in York and Regent Park

The Regent Park community centre is part of the ongoing Regent Park revitalization, a project that started more than a decade ago. The York Community Centre has been planned since the 1990s, with funding held in reserve since amalgamation. Construction on both facilities did begin while Ford was in office, though.

Upgrading and maintaining 16 homeless shelters and building a new facility

The only recently opened city-run facility I am aware of the Peter Street Homeless Shelter. In December 2007, Rob Ford moved to remove the development of that shelter from the 2008 capital budget (page 11) in an attempt to kill the project. It didn't work.

Last year, Ford was one of 20 councillors who voted against looking at increasing the number of shelter beds available following a rash of homeless deaths. Council did eventually vote to increase the number of beds available. Ford was the only member of council to vote against it.

Investing $10 billion, over the next 10 years, to maintain aging infrastructure in a state of good repair

In 2010, the city was planning to spend $9.8 billion over the next 10 years on state-of-good-repair. In 2014, the plan is to spend $11.4 billion. Ford hasn’t invested $10 billion in new money, but planned spending has increased a bit.

Investing $2.5 billion over the next 10 years into water mains, sewers and other vital water infrastructure

This, on the other hand, i couldn’t verify. According to Toronto Water’s latest budget, capital spending on water infrastructure peaked in 2010 and has declined since. They even have a chart:

Fighting Gridlock: Traffic Management Strategy to keep Toronto moving:

Created a plan of action to improve the flow of traffic at over 1000 intersections, across every corner of the city

Protesters talk with police during a failed attempt to block the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes in 2012. (Torstar News Service)
Protesters talk with police during a failed attempt to block the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes in 2012. (Torstar News Service)

Launched a comprehensive bicycle strategy

The mayor’s bike plan does include lots of off-street trail improvements, but I’m not sure I’d call it “comprehensive.” It proposes just four on-street routes. Three of them are upgrades to existing bike lanes. The only entirely new bike infrastructure included in the strategy called for lanes on Richmond or Adelaide Streets. But when a plan to study those lanes came before council in December 2011, Ford voted against it.

After a prolonged period of moving sideways, the unemployment rate in Toronto is very noticeably dropping

Nope. Latest report had Toronto's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate at 9.7 per cent, up from 9.2 per cent a year ago. Here's what the city-produced unemployment rate graph looks like:

Collaborating for Competitiveness – Toronto’s Economic Development Plan

Chicago Business Mission: Led the largest delegation of Toronto leaders on a business mission

Ford did indeed go to Chicago. There’s photographic proof. Nobody really keeps records on mayoral delegation sizes, but Ford seems to have a decent claim to saying his was the biggest. Miller took 40 people with him to Ukraine in 2005 and just 25 to Europe. Mel Lastman once took 50 people to Italy. Ford’s delegation had 62 people in it.

So, yes, the mayor did go to Chicago with a lot of people. That’s an accomplishment I'll give him.

This post was originally published at on 2014-03-05T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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