Five bad moves John Tory may want to take back

From taxing double-talk and borrowing terrible ideas

1. Still playing partisan politics

For all his talk of building consensus at City Hall, the mayor set a conservative tone by stacking his executive committee with former Ford henchmen and shutting out left-wing councillors. Politically it was the convenient thing for him to do, but it doesn’t make for forward-thinking policy. It’s already costing Tory, who found himself on the wrong side of a number of budget votes. 

2. Taxing double-talk

Tory has said be believes the city has a revenue problem. Even his own city manager has said Toronto can’t sustain its current quality of life without introducing a sales or income tax. But Tory is seemingly reluctant to do anything bold about it outside of begging other levels of government for money. Despite advocating for new forms of taxation while he was the head of CivicAction, Tory refuses to contemplate them now that he’s mayor. 

3. To borrow a bad idea

In order to patch an $86 million hole in this year’s operating budget, Tory endorsed an unusual scheme: borrowing the money from one of its reserve funds and paying it back over four years. This financial patch-up job will put tremendous pressure on future budgets, since Toronto is already nearing its debt ceiling and has little room left to borrow. Some councillors are warning that Tory is setting the stage for service cuts. 

4. Money for nothing

During the election, Tory sold himself as the only candidate with enough pull to secure funding from the other levels of government, but his political powers of persuasion are so far proving wanting. The province denied the city’s request to fill the $86-million budget gap and refused to pick up unforeseen costs to renovate Union Station. That does not bode well for the future funding of SmartTrack. 

5. Scarborough subway shakedown

While Tory’s move to fund routes cut under Ford provides relief for riders in the short term, he still seems intent on saddling taxpayers with the $1 billion costs – and rising – of the Scarborough subway extension, which is looking more like a boondoggle every day. The city was hit in February with a $74.8 million bill related to the decision to scrap LRT plans for the subway. That doesn’t include additional costs the city may be on the hook for associated with the purchase of light rail vehicles for the now abandoned LRT. In the recently revealed $400 million overrun on the Spadina subway project, we might have caught a glimpse of Scarborough’s future. | @nowtoronto

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