Toronto budget debate: Councillors approve 2.23% property tax hike

Toronto councillors have approved the 2.23 per cent tax hike after a day-long session full of debate antics.
Mayor Ford was asked about the proposed savings he will present to council. 1:05

Toronto councillors have approved the 2.23 per cent property tax hike after a day-long session full of debate antics.

City Council voted 32-13 in favour of the increase.

After the vote Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said this "is probably worst day since I've been mayor down here at city hall."

Before the noon hour on Wednesday, a recess had already been called within council chambers, protesters had made an appearance and Mayor Rob Ford had sparred with his colleagues.

Ford could be heard telling someone to "shut up" at one point on Wednesday morning and Coun. Frances Nunziata, the speaker, warned that he could be asked to leave council chambers.

Part of the tension on Wednesday morning was related to the decision to debate the property tax first, something that Ford and a handful of other councillors opposed. Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly moved the motion that made the property tax the first item of business.

"This is very premature, so I totally disagree with the deputy mayor and I encourage people not to support this," Ford said.

The budget process is typically contentious, but several councillors had starkly different priorities just hours before the debate began on Wednesday.

Yesterday, Coun. David Shiner said that council should push through a zero per cent increase on property taxes, as the city is already saving millions by not filling vacant jobs.

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti told reporters Wednesday that he, too, believes that council should support a zero per cent tax increase.

"We said we’d find savings within the bureaucracy and instead we’re raising taxes," Mammoliti said.

Those calls for a tax freeze contrasted with Kelly’s stated support for a 2.23 per cent increase in the property tax, a portion of which would go toward the Scarborough subway extension.

And Ford has suggested that the budget is the worst in the city’s history, while promising to present millions in potential savings at today’s council meeting.

The mayor would not reveal what those potential savings were prior to Wednesday’s council meeting.

The Toronto Sun reported Wednesday that some of the mayor’s proposals included seeking $19 million in sponsorship money for the Pan Am Games and eliminating a $3.1-million general expense fund for council.

When Coun. Frank Di Giorgio, the budget chief, spoke to CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Wednesday, he was asked about the details reported in the Sun.

Di Giorgio said that all of things the mayor was suggesting had been looked at previously.

On Wednesday, Ford was asked by reporters if he had been working with his fellow councillors on the proposed savings he would be bringing forward.

"I’ve been working with staff in getting the exact numbers and I’ve got it down to a science," Ford said.

With reports from the CBC's Michelle Cheung and Jamie Strashin