Toronto Star Quizzes Councillors on Ford’s Plans

Toronto Star quizzed the new councillors about whether they would support Rob Ford’s promises: which include:  making the Toronto Transit Commission an essential service, contracting out city garbage service, cutting funding to parades such as Pride, reducing council by half and eliminating the fair wage policy, which requires city contractors to pay their workers set union rates.

It makes for interesting reading, and it certainly helps us determine what is at stake, and who we should talk to to save what we care deeply about.   We encourage you to contact the councillors directly and ask them to outline why they responded to the Star as they did.

Read the article below.
See how your councillor responded.

Ford faces stiff fight on council

Mayor-elect Rob Ford faces a divided council and a stiff fight to get through some of his most contentious proposals, according to a Toronto Star survey of the new council.

The Star surveyed all 44 councillors elected Monday with five questions based on Ford’s key campaign pledges: making the Toronto Transit Commission an essential service, contracting out city garbage service, cutting funding to parades such as Pride, reducing council by half and eliminating the fair wage policy.

On two of the five — cutting parade funding and the size of city council — the mayor-elect appears to have very little support, according to the survey.

And Ford’s pledge to eliminate the fair-wage policy has only six councillors prepared to back him now.

Thirty-two of 44 councillors agreed to fill out the survey. The remainder either declined or did not respond to numerous phone calls or emails over several days.

Monday’s municipal election appeared to shift council to the right as voters turfed out half a dozen incumbents — including Miller loyalists Sandra Bussin and Adrian Heaps — replacing them with right-leaning candidates, such as Mary-Margaret McMahon and Michelle Berardinetti.

But while Ford has potential to win enough councillors over to his plan to contract out residential garbage service and make the TTC an essential service, cutting the size of council appears to be a non-starter.

“There is a serious disconnect between City Hall and the residents it serves. Cutting elected officials in a growing urban centre will exacerbate this problem,” said James Pasternak, a newly elected centrist York Centre councillor.

“Moreover, there is little hope such an effort will save money. The remaining councillors will add more high-paid staff to cover the doubling of calls from constituents.”

“I believe it will be less democratic with little savings to be had,” said Gloria Lindsay Luby, an Etobicoke Centre councillor.

In total, 17 councillors said they would not support Ford’s plan to halve council, seven said they would and eight said they wanted to learn more.

The cutting of funding for parades such as Pride has even less support.

In June, Ford seconded a motion at council brought forward by Giorgio Mammoliti to end future funding for Pride Toronto. Ford believes events such as the Gay Pride parade — “no matter what parade it is” — should be sponsored through the private sector.

Only two councillors are in favour of cutting all funding; 17 are against while 13 need to hear more.

“It’s a tough question. We have to look at both sides. All these parades: what’s the economic effect? If we bring tens of thousands of tourists and it brings up the economy of Toronto, we have to look at it from the positive side. But if the parade doesn’t bring all the tourism — I’d have to look at it,” said Scarborough Councillor Raymond Cho, who puts himself in the undecided category.

Maria Augimeri, who by the slimmest of margins held on to her seat against Ford-backed rival Gus Cusimano, thinks the money question is settled.

“Gay Pride and Caribana bring in millions of dollars to the city. Why would we wish to hamper economic development initiatives?”

Ford will also have a tough fight to eliminate the fair wage policy, which means contractors doing business with the city must pay roughly the same wage as city employees doing comparable work. Just six declared they want to scrap it against 14 respondents who want to keep it. Twelve need to hear more and many of those were open to at least reforming the policy.

“We need to work to achieve wage parity with the private sector through the fair wage policy and also union contracts,” said Scarborough Councillor Paul Ainslie.

Kyle Rae’s successor, Kristyn Wong-Tam, is staunchly opposed.

“The fair wage policy was created to raise the employment standards and the city should be a ‘model employer.’ If we start to remove policies and laws that were created to protect workers, what’s next? Pay equity?” she said.

Ford has more support on making the TTC an essential service and contracting out private garbage collection.

On the TTC, votes are split relatively evenly between yes (10), no (13) and those who want to wait to hear the debate at council (nine).

Premier Dalton McGuinty has said Toronto should designate TTC an essential service, which would prevent workers from striking. However, opponents have said essential service leads to mandatory arbitration, which results in higher contract settlements.

Two years ago, shortly after a strike, the old city council narrowly voted against putting the transit commission in the same category as police and fire, which are classed an essential service. Only on the question of contracting out garbage is there more support for Ford than opposition. Eleven are in favour, 10 against and 11 undecided.

Downtown Councillor Adam Vaughan is someone who needs to hear more. “We have a blended system now and that blended system provides a competitive price. It’s got to make sense economically, it can’t just be an ideological yes or no. Are we privatizing garbage to avoid strikes or are we privatizing to save money?”