Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told a group from the city's business community Thursday that he won't support the tax increase being proposed for next year's budget by those that recently moved to strip him of most of his powers.

"They’re already talking as an hour ago that taxes are going to go to 2.5 per cent," Ford said during a speech at Casa Loma. "This is not the way I ran the government and I won't be supporting it."

Ford looked jovial as he addressed those attending the reception, speaking publicly for the first time since Monday's vote in council.

'In the coming year I will continue to fight for the taxpayer like I always have.' - Mayor Rob Ford

"In the coming year I will continue to fight for the taxpayer like I always have," said Ford, who was slightly late for the event.

“We’ve reduced council and the mayor’s budget by $6.4 million over four years — and even more in the last,” he said, stopping for a moment to chuckle.

Speaking prior to Ford, Coun. Michael Thompson ensured those in attendance that the recent events at city hall "will not in fact have a long term negative effect on our city’s economy

"The damage to our national and international reputations caused by reckless and irresponsible behaviour will heal over time," Thompson said as the mayor stood by in the crowd.

Ford later responded to Coun. Thompson's remarks by thanking him for his "kind words."

'A mountain to climb'

Earlier Thursday, budget chief Coun. Frank Di Giorgio told CBC Radio's Metro Morning that the mayor may have to back down from his stated desire to hold next year's property tax increase at 1.75 per cent.

"We're going to have a mountain to climb as a budget committee to meet that particular target," Di Giorgio said.

He cited a number of factors putting pressure on next year's budget, including:  

  • Council's decision to opt for a subway over light rail in expanding the Scarborough subway.
  • Reduced transfers from the province.
  • Ford's interest in decreasing the Municipal Land Transfer Tax by 10 per cent.

"The way the numbers are shaping up, it's going to be very difficult for the budget committee to come in at 1.75 per cent," said Di Giorgio. "The mayor, of course, isn't going to be happy."

Mayor not supportive of higher increase

Ford said he will not be supporting "a 2.5 per cent tax increase when I know we could achieve a 1.75 per cent tax increase."

"There is no reason why we can't achieve it," he said.

On the land-transfer tax, DiGiorgio wants some kind of relief in next year's budget but feels a 10 per cent cut may be overly ambitious.

"Whether it's doable or not … you can't meet all goals at once."

Complicating matters is council's recent moves to curtail Ford's power and greatly reduce his budget in the wake of an ongoing drug-use scandal.

Many of Ford's powers have now shifted to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. That means Di Giorgio, as budget chief, must report to Kelly because the budget committee is a subcommittee of the executive, which the deputy mayor now chairs.

Di Giorgio was scheduled to meet with Kelly on Thursday afternoon. The budget committee will meet on Friday.