Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Council Scorecard: The not-so-final word on the Scarborough subway, plus cutting council in half

By: Matt Elliott Metro, Metro Canada Published on Thu Aug 08 2013

The July meeting of Toronto City Council was the last major city hall meeting until October, which meant it was really, really, really long. Debates spanned four days, often running late. When all was said and done, the City Clerk's office tweeted a photo of the assembled minutes from the meeting that looked not unlike a George R.R. Martin manuscript.

But for all the heft of it, the odd thing was that not much of any real importance happened. My update to the City Council Scorecard, which tracks major votes that receive significant public attention or substantially relate to Mayor Rob Ford's agenda, includes just three new votes.

Two of the votes relate to the Song That Never Ends that is the interminable Scarborough subway debate. A song, by the way, that goes like this: It's the subway debate that will not end / all the funding plans are just pretend / Scarborough started hating light rail not knowing what it was / and they'll continue fighting it forever just because…

The other vote had to do, once again, with Ford's campaign pledge to reduce the size of city council. His brother, Coun. Doug Ford, has routinely mocked the idea of trying to get council to vote in favour of halving the number of politicians. That would be like trying to get turkeys to vote for Thanksgiving, he likes to say.

So did the figurative turkeys vote for their figurative Thanksgiving? Well, no.

The votes added, from left-to-right:

Motion 1, Part 3 of CC37.17 was part of a motion by Mayor Rob Ford that officially saw councillors vote to scrap — for now — plans for an LRT line in Scarborough and instead opt for a Bloor-Danforth subway extension. (That it was Ford who delivered this motion and not, say, TTC chair Karen Stitnz or Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker — or any other neutral party — is notable.)

Part 3, specifically, was a request that the city manager look at keeping any necessary property tax increases needed to fund the subway to just 0.25 per cent per year. This limit was unrealistic — as most of the numbers behind the subway plan are — and so councillors rejected it. Instead, should this subway miraculously happen, residents will absorb a property tax freeze of between 1.1 and 2.4 per cent at a phased-in rate of at least 0.5 per cent per year.

The vote was close, coming in with 21 in favour and 23 opposed.

The remainder of Motion 1 of CC37.17 was the vote that determined what councillors would be throwing their lot in with the subway. Metrolinx has now put their plans for LRT along the Scarborough RT route on hold while councillors wait to see if the federal government pulls up with some giant sacks of money.

The vote to support the subway came in at 28-16, with several left-leaning councillors on side.

Last, Motion 1 of CC37.2 was yet another backdoor attempt by Ford to fulfill a campaign promise to reduce the number of local politicians in this city. This vote came about after the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition — known for their social media shenanigans — presented a petition, valid under the City of Toronto Act, requesting that council reduce the number of seats.

Ford, conveniently, jumped on the petition, and moved a motion asking that a new bylaw be passed reducing the number of councillors from 44 to probably 25. But he was trumped by a motion by Coun. Paul Ainslie which saw councillors vote 25-13 to reject the petition and, if necessary, defend its rejection at an Ontario Municipal Board hearing.

With council on break, let's look at which councillors saw their Ford Nation percentage — the measure of how often they voted with the mayor on key items — increase and decrease the most over the first half of 2013.

Biggest Ford Nation increases, January – July 2013:

Coun. Ana Bailão: +8.57 percentage points

Coun. Josh Colle: +7.81

Coun. Ron Moeser: +4.66

Coun. Maria Augimeri: +3.71

Coun. Raymond Cho: +3.57

Biggest Ford Nation decreases:

Coun. Paul Ainslie: -16.23 percentage points

Coun. John Parker: -10.90

Coun. Michelle Berardinetti: -9.39

Coun. Michael Thompson: -7.89

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong: -6.49

This post was originally published at on 2013-08-08T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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