tenants at riverdale farm fac- ing winter eviction aren't the only mammals buoyed by the line in the sand drawn by lefty councillors this week.
The message was clear: no service cuts, no layoffs, no fare hikes.
While they're being careful not to trash Mayor Mel outright, for this council their modest stand is revolutionary. Indeed, the press conference was kept under wraps until the last possible moment to prevent the mayor's office from upstaging it. Finally, for the first time in four years, progressives on council have said they won't keep quiet and just fall in line behind Mel's smoke and mirrors.
Until now the left's strategy at budget time has been underwhelming. In exchange for small concessions on the environment and social services, they've refrained from mounting resistance.
And forget new services -- they've been too busy cutting deals to preserve the existing ones. Every year, for example, councillor Olivia Chow has had to scramble just to protect dental care for the poor. It's shameful.
But with Mel in free fall, all bets are off. The lefties are getting cocky.
A year ago they wouldn't have dared propose -- gasp! -- putting the city further in debt by mortgaging Metro Hall to meet the budget shortfall.
But there were Chow, Joe Pantalone, Anne Johnston and David Miller Monday morning at City Hall, proposing just that.
Here's how they propose meeting this year's $305-million shortfall:
$84 million from mortgaging Metro Hall.
$45 million redirected from the employee-related liabilities fund (which has been built up as a result of the OMERS pension fund contribution holiday).
$27 million from reducing cash payments on capital projects.
$5 million from projected savings or efficiencies this year.
$4.3 million from parking authority revenue.
$4 million from increased tipping fees at the Keele Valley dump.
$53 million saved by delaying hiring for vacant staff positions, a conservative estimate of the number of people on welfare and reducing overtime costs. Includes $20 million less than the proposed police budget: freezing wages, cutting the chief's communications consultant, the anti-gang task force and helicopters.
$50 million from 5-per-cent tax increase on homeowners (city is unable to raise taxes on commercial properties).
Admittedly, it's a one-time band-aid. And the picture will likely remain bleak, as Pantalone says, until at least the next provincial and municipal elections, when voters can turf Mel and Mike -- or not.
To the horror of the Toronto Sun editorial page, these lefty hogs at the public trough didn't propose a single cut to councillors' office budgets, cars or salaries. I love it.
Of course, it's unlikely this plan will fly when council debates the final budget committee proposal in April. They just don't have the numbers. But it's shaping up to be a hell of a fight.*