A Toronto city council meeting intended to establish the 2014 budget, expected to include a secretive budget proposal put forward by Mayor Rob Ford, was bound the get ugly.
But no one thought it would get so ugly, so fast.
Within moments of council session getting under way Thursday morning, Ford had already told one councillor to "shut up" and a recess was called after public spectators began shouting and chanting.
Shortly after the council session began, Ford got into a shouting match with conservative Coun. Michael Thompson. "No, you shut up," Ford yelled at one point, before a recess was called.
Ford has yet to unveil his secret plan, which he says will save the city $60 million.
The problem is that the motion appears to be a fireworks display intended for failure. Ford assumes his motion will be rejected. But by keeping its contents secret until the 11th hour he has ensured it. A cynic might suggest that failure is Ford's goal. It works well with his election narrative: The gravy train is loose again.
“I’m going to save $60-million and it’s up to the councillors to vote for it. And if they don’t they have to answer to the taxpayers," Ford said before the council meeting, according to the National Post. "I’m putting stuff forward, I want to see what they do. If they want to ridicule me, fine go ahead. But I want to see what they’re going to do to save the money. That’s the bottom line.”
Consider. The budget committee has been working since early November, and probably before that, to debate and consider various budged issues and proposals ahead of Wednesday's council debate. It was a conversation that played out in public.
Ford, meantime, started hinting at his own budget proposal earlier this week, but refused to divulge details to other councillors.
The details were instead released in a Toronto Sun article and published Wednesday. This, Ford told reporters, should give councillors enough opportunity to consider his plan.
According to the Sun's article, Ford's proposal caps the property tax increase at 1.75 per cent – 0.5 per cent of which is earmarked for the Scarborough subway project. The budget committee’s own proposal, backed by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, recommends a 2.23 per cent increase (0.5 per cent of which is earmarked for the subway).
According to the Sun, Ford's plan also includes 25 motions that vary from asking city staff to find private money to cover Pan Am Game celebrations, push for provincial changes that would allow the city to force people to pay unpaid library fines and cut council's general expense budget by $400,000.
The full savings are said to be $60 million. Considering Ford has set this motion up to fail, its real value will be seen on the campaign trail.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said Ford is within his rights to keep his plans secret until they are unveiled to council.
"I'm expecting, as other are, a flurry of motions coming from him on a range of items. But what exactly he will propose, I don't know," he told CP24. "According to the budget chief, his proposals have already been vetted; they have already been looked at and analyzed, and discounted."
A secret budget proposal poised to fail? At least Toronto politics isn’t boring.
Rob Ford’s secret budget plan is destined to fail, and that's just the way he wants it (external - login to view)