'Small compromises' helped council build budget, Ford says
Mike Del Grande resigns as budget chief
While praising the "small compromises" that helped councillors sculpt their 2013 city budget, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said taxpayers can be proud that they fought off larger spending requests from members he compared to hungry piranhas.
"Every member, every single member of council can be happy with the small compromises made in it, because even with the compromises, we have turned the corner," Ford said during a news conference on Wednesday.
By midday, council had passed its 2013 budget, which had more spending in it than the mayor and his executive council had wanted.
The CBC’s Jamie Strashin reported Wednesday that the $12 million added to the budget would come from childcare, social-housing and social-assistance reserves.
When Ford was asked for his reaction to the spending increases that were added to the budget, the mayor said the changes were less than what had been requested by members.
"We fended them off, they’re like piranhas," Ford said. "So you're going to get bitten a few times, but you know what, you’re in there and they could have been a lot worse."
The deputy mayor, Doug Holyday, was unhappy with the extra spending that had been approved by council.
"We've spent $12 million more than we intended, which is an awful lot of money as far as I’m concerned," he told reporters after the mayor spoke.
Coun. Shelley Carroll disagreed with the mayor’s position that it was compromise that motivated the changes that got the budget passed.
"We saw a mayor making some changes to his budget because he had his back up against the wall," said Carroll, who was one of eight councillors who opposed the budget.
"All we need now is a mayor who understands that making compromises and building a budget with council is actually your job every year."
Other council members posted their reaction to the budget on Twitter.
Coun. James Pasternak tweeted that the 2013 budget was "a centrist document that preserves what we cherish and protects our financial integrity."
The budget was also viewed favourably by Coun. John Filion.
"Overall a good budget today," Filion tweeted. "No drastic cuts and more money for the arts and student nutrition."
However, Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who also voted against the budget, tweeted that the "'best budget in the history of Toronto was dramatically amended" from its original form.
The city's budget chief, Mike Del Grande, chose the day the 2013 budget passed to step down from his position.
Del Grande handed in a letter of resignation to the mayor and city manager Joe Pennachetti.
Funds earmarked for hiring firefighters
During the final hours of the budget debate, council approved spending more than $3 million to hire dozens of new firefighters, a decision Ford said was the only compromise he would support.
And while Ford and the majority of councillors voted in favour of a motion to add 63 firefighters at a cost of $3.1 million, the decision to do so was nonetheless contentious, as the fire chief had recommended eliminating the positions.
Holyday said that councillors should not be bowing to pressure from the firefighters who came to council chambers to protest the intended cuts.
"When the fire chief comes by and tells us what he thinks and lays out this plan and then we undermine it because the union puts pressure on members of council, that is not the way to do business," Holyday said.
Earlier in the day, Holyday told councillors that if they can't make decisions without bowing to pressure from unions and special interests, they should find another line of work.
Debate on the budget began on Tuesday, when members of council approved a two-per cent property tax hike — and turned down several alternate proposals, including one from Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti for a zero increase.
Asked Wednesday about his feelings on council's approval of raising property taxes by two per cent, the mayor suggested it wasn’t his first choice.
"I don't like raising taxes, but we're going to hold the line, less than the rate of inflation," Ford said, when speaking with reporters earlier on Wednesday morning.
With reports from the CBC's Jamie Strashin