Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It's Toronto budget time - oh god, make it stop!

The City of Toronto is debating the City Budget, live on the local cable channel. Jane Pitfield says the $200m the province gave the city for "transit funding" (sounds better than "bailout") should defer the TTC price hike - where oh where are the transit lefties? Where is the braying of Moscoe defending his riders?

Nope, Hizzoner says no fare hold, no property tax freeze - not with the province's money or last year's $80m surplus. Instead we must replenish "reserve funds". I hear about those every year, the hidden piggy banks Toronto raids. Personally I can't understand how there are several of these funds, instead of one overarching one as the Feds seem to use for contingency.

Watching 45 minutes of the debate was painful. Toronto Councillors, most of them with years, even decades in post, are dreadful public speakers in a chamber whose standing orders are ridiculous (and which invariably involves hours of debating points of order over nothing). Denzil Minnan-Wong completely fluffed "zero budgeting", Ford needs a new line as "free money" has probably got him as much Toronto Sun coverage as it ever will and Cowbourne was just embarrassing as she rambled on about arts groups. My local guy, Ootes, pitched for contracting out but his heart isn't in it these days as the lefties, most of whom seem to be ex school board trustees, have the votes. Miller gave it away in the last collective agreement anyway.

Most of all, the bit I saw was dominated by various councillors wanting to get away to some unspecified event. First Miller proposed a 6.30 adjournment but failed to pass it by 2/3. He then left anyway, leaving the City's biggest masochist David Soknacki in the chair. Pitfield then got worried that Hizzoner would clean up at whichever dog and pony community event was going on and Michael Walker tried to get her a 7.00 adjournment (failed) or then an earlier speaking position. At that point I remembered we had taped Boston Legal. Hallelujah!

For all those organising these community shows - the Budget, all $7,500,000,000 of it, is the most important thing Councillors need to be doing at this time of year. Stop putting pressure on them to come, because if they come to your thing it almost always involves shutting down the budget discussions ahead of time.

The City should also stop scheduling budget discussions on Friday as there is invariably a request for early adjournment due to the Sabbath as I seem to recall there was last year or the year before - it's a fair request but people always seem surprised when it comes up, you'd think someone would remember Monday to Thursday would work better??
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