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Council Scorecard: How did your councillor vote on the island airport tax deal? Oh, and burgers, too

Last week's meeting of Toronto City Council was a study of priorities. By which I mean there was a long, drawn debate about burgers and how readily available burgers should be in Nathan Phillips Square, followed by a short, perfunctory debate about homeless shelters. If you want to know how your city councillor feels about burgers, you've come to the right place.

The Hero Burger hysteria meant that the big story from the meeting flew mostly under the radar, but council's vote to reject a tax deal with the Toronto Port Authority for the island airport has taken on even more relevance with news this week that there's a move afoot to expand the airport. That vote could prove illustrative when the question of whether jets should be allowed to land on the island hits council's agenda.

The votes added, from left:

GM20.3 was the scene stealer related to the island airport tax deal that ended up awash in all kinds of drama. The nut of the issue: the Toronto Port Authority owes the city more than a decade's worth of property taxes on the island airport. The total amount owed is said to be about $31 million. No small chunk of change.

As reported, the Port Authority proposed a deal that would see the city accept payments-in-lieu totalling about $5 million and receive a fixed amount per airport passenger from now on. That city, for its part of the deal, would essentially forgive the rest of the $26 million debt.

Mayor Rob Ford was seemingly supportive of the deal, and at first it didn't appear that there would be much debate. The item came up as a “quick release” after councillors had returned from lunch and ended up passing on a 20-11 vote.

But then things got weird. Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon stood up and explained to colleagues that she had pressed the wrong button when she voted. She asked for a do-over, which council consented to. But then the re-vote saw a wildly different outcome, with councillors this time rejecting the deal 18-19.

In the time between the two votes, six councillors who were absent for the first vote returned to the chamber, most of them voting against, while McMahon, Coun. Josh Matlow, Coun. Raymond Cho and Coun. Anthony Perruzza switched from “yes” to “no” votes.

The net effect: no deal. The Toronto Port Authority still owes the city, and a new deal will need to be worked out. Following the vote, budget chief Frank Di Giorgio made comments indicating that he would withhold budget money from wards represented by councillors who voted to reject the deal. Seriously.

GM20.12, on the other hand, was a vote that saw council opt to grant a contract to Hero Certified Burgers to operate a snackbar in the revitalized Nathan Phillips Square. I am not sure that there is anything else to say about it.

Coun. Paul Ainslie is the one to watch this year. The Scarborough councillor voted with the mayor 96.88% of the time in 2011 and 95.24% of the time in 2012. In 2013, so far, he's voted with the mayor just 56.25% of the time. It seems Ford's decision to ignore Ainslie's desire to serve as budget chief and instead appoint someone of dubious qualification to the post was a mistake.

This post was originally published at on 2013-04-12T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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