Campaign Lie Detector: Rob Ford says 14 untrue things at Scarborough debate
Rob Ford participated Tuesday in his first debate since he took a two-month leave of absence in May. He said by far the largest number of inaccurate or misleading things: 14, by the Star’s count.
The other candidates said far fewer: John Tory had three, Karen Stintz two, Olivia Chow and David Soknacki one each.
1) “Friends, there has not been one strike with labour since I have been mayor.”
False. The city’s library workers went on strike for 11 days in 2012.
2) “I built the subway in Scarborough.”
False. Ford, and Stintz, successfully pushed for a subway to replace the Scarborough RT — but it has not been built yet, and construction won’t even start for several years.
3) “If you look at the city four years ago and now, everyone will tell you all they see is cranes. . . again, lower taxes.”
False. Ford has raised taxes, not lowered them. After a tax freeze in his first budget, in 2011, there has been a property tax increase in each successive budget: 2.5 per cent in 2012, 2 per cent in 2013, 2.7 per cent in 2014.
4) “We have a one-and-a-half per cent property tax increase, lower than any municipality in North America.”
False. The annual property tax increases over Ford’s four years averaged 1.8 per cent, and that is not the lowest increase in North America: other cities, such as San Antonio and Windsor, have frozen property taxes entirely.
5) “John is exactly the same; there’s no difference between Olivia and John. They both want LRTs.”
False. Chow indeed prefers LRT in Scarborough. Tory, though, is steadfast in his support for a Scarborough subway. While he has not renounced the planned Finch and Sheppard light rail lines, he is not advocating LRT alone, and there are clear differences between him and Chow.
6) “You said you can’t build (subways) without revenue tools. Well, John, I have built them without revenue tools — a quarter of one per cent!”
False in three separate ways. First, Ford has not “built them” — again, he has not built even one subway. Second, his tax increase for that subway, in Scarborough, is not “a quarter of one per cent” — it is 0.5 per cent in 2014, another 0.5 per cent in 2015, and another 0.6 per cent in 2016, then staying for about 30 years. Third, this tax levy is a “revenue tool.”
7) “…hiring more police officers like I have.”
Misleading. Ford’s tight budgets forced a long police hiring freeze; as of the end of 2013, there were about 300 uniformed officers than there were when Ford took office. The 2014 budget did include money to allow the force to plan for 360 new recruits, but the total force size at the end of Ford’s term will still be smaller than when he came to power.
“Olivia, at least we know where you’re coming from with LRTs. John’s plan is exactly like yours: a subway above ground. That’s the biggest oxymoron I’ve ever heard. We don’t have subways above ground.”
False. Toronto does have subways that run above ground as well as below. And Tory is proposing a different plan than Chow: a surface rail line he calls “SmartTrack.”
9) At Toronto Community Housing, “I got rid of all the riff-raff, I got rid of all the high-paid bureaucrats.”
Misleading. Ford did force the firing of chief executive Keiko Nakamura. But he replaced her with Gene Jones, who was ousted this year after a scandal of his own — which involved high-paid bureaucrats, including a former Ford campaign volunteer, being given raises and promotions without justification. Ford strongly supported Jones.
10) “(Chow and Tory) want to have a sales tax. They have both said it.”
False. Neither of them has publicly endorsed a sales tax. As chair of the advocacy group CivicAction, Tory was a strong advocate of the need for transit taxes in general. He did not specifically endorse a sales tax, and he is not advocating any transit taxes now.
11)“I said I was going to find efficiencies. I have found over $750 million of your hard-earned tax money in efficiencies.”
Misleading. This number is endorsed by senior city officials, including the chief financial officer. But an item-by-item analysis of these “efficiencies” shows that hundreds of millions are not actual efficiencies at all.
12) “My friend Olivia — when you were a councillor, you were the top (expense) spender year after year after year.”
False. Chow was the top spender in 1993, when councillors’ office budgets were determined based on the population of their ward and she represented the ward with the most people. After amalgamation, when each councillor got the same budget, Chow was never the top spender; the closest she came was second place in 1998.
13)“I said I was going to return every call. I return every call, folks, you know I do.”
False. Ford personally returns far more calls than most big-city mayors, but he does not return every single one; while he tends to call back people who seek help with local matters, it is easy to find people who have called his office with questions on policy issues or his behaviour and not heard back from him.
14) To Tory: "The first thing you did" in provincial office was "give yourself" a 25 per cent pay increase.
False. As Progressive Conservative leader, Tory did join with the Liberals to endorse a 25 per cent pay hike for MPPs in 2006. But it was not his first act as leader, nor as an MPP — he was elected in 2005.
1) Olivia Chow “wants to start her term in office by ripping up the agreement entered into already by the other two governments to build that subway.”
Misleading. The provincial and federal governments have indeed agreed verbally to build a Scarborough subway — but the only formal agreement in place is the previously-signed “master agreement” to build light rail. Chow indeed wants to start her term by reverting to light rail, but it is subway advocates that will be doing the “ripping up” if and when they get their own master agreement.
2)To Rob Ford: “I will say that on your watch we saw the Sony Centre go tens of millions of dollars over-budget, we saw the Nathan Phillips Square upgrade go tens of millions over budget, Union Station tens of millions over budget.”
Partly false. Sony Centre problems were revealed by the auditor-general during Ford’s term, but they mostly took place before he became mayor.
3) "Who has the experience in delivering results? I don’t think that can come from a career politician.”
Misleading. Tory has spent more time than Chow, Stintz and Ford doing things other than serving in elected office — he has run Rogers Cable and the Canadian Football League — but he himself has had a lengthy career in politics. He served as principal secretary to premier Bill Davis in the 1980s, helped lead the campaigns of federal Progressive Conservatives Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell, ran for mayor in 2003, and served as PC leader from 2004 to 2009.
1) “And we don’t spend time and hopes and dreams about, you know, 28 kilometres of subway that’s going to get built in two years with money that comes from nowhere.”
False. Stintz was speaking of Tory’s “SmartTrack” surface rail proposal. While there are indeed unanswered questions Tory’s funding model — he wants to use tax increment financing to fund the city’s portion of the cost — his proposal is for a 53-kilometre line built in seven years, not 28 kilometres in two years.
2) “We have a subway, John, because I fought for it with Councillor (Glenn) De Baeremaeker, and I got the money from the federal government.”
Misleading. Again, there is no Scarborough subway yet, not even an official signed agreement. Stintz also cannot claim sole credit for persuading the federal government to provide funding: Ford played a significant role.
1) “I will build the above-ground subway, or train, right here on Scarborough because it is shovel-ready.”
False. This seemed like it might have been an inadvertent slip, but Chow is proposing an above-ground light rail line, not a subway.
1)The Scarborough light rail plan “is a plan that Premier Wynne, not two weeks ago, said that she was willing to go back to fund.”
False. Though Wynne gave hope to light rail advocates by declining to say that she is committed to the subway plan for eternity, she did not explicitly say she was willing to revert to light rail or fund light rail, only that she wants to have a “good working relationship with the municipalities.”
Campaign Lie Detector: Rob Ford says 14 untrue things at Scarborough debate