Critics of this year's operating budget seemed less concerned with actually changing the numbers than with demonstrating their distaste for downtown socialism.
All of which gave a taste of what it might be like should fiscal conservatives ever decide to work together - and offered mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield a chance to prove herself as a rallying point.
Since the budget only passed by 27 to 17 votes on Wednesday, March 31, she may have done so.
Still, Mayor David Miller's foes' charges of mismanagement were undermined by their own apparent inability to understand the budget.
This explains the caterwauling over a modest property tax hike, increase in staffing, daily debt payments and use of last year's audited surplus of $81 million to top up reserve funds.
Even less persuasive was their scoffing at a burgeoning new deal with the province. Instead of being impressed by Miller's and senior staff's visionary negotiating, fiscal conservatives railed against reliance on provincial "bailouts," as if the city has a duty to tough it out alone.
Bizarre behaviour, considering that 81 per cent of property tax increases since 1998 have gone toward emergency services and the TTC, which used to receive robust provincial funding. And almost all staffing increases have been for the administration of downloaded programs.
Moreover, the $81 million will mostly top up reserve funds mandated by the province that have been drawn on to cover cost-shared programs.
So it's puzzling that Miller's fiscally conservative foes aren't rippling with enthusiasm over the proposed deal with Queen's Park. Maybe "playing politics" would be the phrase here.
On that note, while Don Valley West's contender for the big chair talked big about fares, she notably neglected to move a subsidy increase for the TTC. Pitfield did propose a flat cut to all departments, but declined to specify where city spending is out of control.
"I don't want to say which budgets in particular," she said, "but I think we need to be honest with taxpayers."
True that. Still, although she's been most vocal in oppposing the tax hike this round, Pitfield's own record on taxes isn't exactly that of a crusader.
"You broke a promise," she said to Miller during the debate, referring to his campaign promise that tax hikes would be within the rate of inflation.
"Are you going to vote for [the increase] again like you did the last two times?" he retorted, alluding to Pitfield's past stint on budget committee.
Miller eloquently established politics and financial planning are essential bedfellows by stating that increased business taxes were not just cold mathematics. "The business community benefits from policing," he said. "Those office towers wouldn't be there if it weren't for public transit. Business needs to pay its share."
And rebutting Case Ootes's accusations of irresponsibility for paying cleaning staff $25 an hour when the private sector is forward-thinking enough to pay them $10, Miller waxed passionate. "We provide social services," he reminded Ootes, "and I think our staff should be paid enough that they don't require those services."
But some of the opposition's darts did strike home. Asked by Pitfield why he wasn't making transit fares a priority, Miller responded that the TTC now offers transferable passes. That's great; it's also a non sequitur. And Miller has the debating chops to know better.
It's been hard to get a straight answer on why the last-minute $200 million provincial transit funding wasn't used to freeze fares. TTC chair Howard Moscoe had said that would be the first thing he'd do with any new money. But when it appeared, he said it was too late; it would cost too much to print new signs, and the TTC would've had to raise fares next year anyway.
It was also distressing to see policing become Miller's new battle standard, with "TTC, fire and police" slowly melding into one word. "There's been the largest-ever real dollar increase for policing," he said, "and I want to thank council for that support."
Crime rates continue to fall across Toronto, as Miller has been at pains to point out during media scrums, so one might be forgiven, then, for asking why the police budget gets all the prime cut beef.
And one might be forgiven for suggesting that the answer is votes - possibly on council, possibly in the ever-swinging electoral centre, which Pitfield is courting. But if the tax hike is for police, as Miller has said, then perhaps fare hikes are as well. One also wonders how, once the rash of gun violence is past, 200 new police will fit into a Clean And Beautiful City.
Given that the current budget refused to take the easy out of freezing programs like social housing, some might feel it deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Are the new police officers one last top-up before moving to more preventive measures? Did the province insist that the TTC clean house through "efficiencies" or a fare hike before it dipped its toes in? It could be that these decisions are setting the stage for Miller's still-coalescing second-term strategy.
If these conjectures have any truth, someone needs to own up. A single shrill note against taxes could resonate with the large percentage of people who aren't going to wade through budget documents. Miller needs to do as much finessing in public as he does in Queen's Park's negotiating rooms.