Rob Ford took to the airwaves this morning to make his case for more transit funding from the province under the new Liberal minority and defend himself from allegations that he cost the Conservatives the provincial election. As usually happens when you stick a microphone in front of our mayor, it got a bit weird.
The full transcript of the interview with CBC's Metro Morning is below. Some points to watch out for:
- Despite hosting a barbeque at which the prime minister called for a third level of Conservative government in Ontario, the mayor said he didn't endorse any candidate and congratulated all three parties. He then accidentally referred to the Tories as "we," outing himself as a PC supporter (as if we didn't know already).
- Ford rejected the popular idea that his sinking support hurt the Conservatives in the election, saying "I wasn't on the ballot."
- He called the suggestion that he inherited a budget surplus from the previous administration "factually incorrect." In fact, Ford began his first year in office with a $300 million surplus left behind by David Miller.
- Not for the first time, Ford referred to his decision to kill the vehicle registration tax as $70 million in savings, when in fact it cost the city that amount.
- Ominously for city workers, the mayor again identified the labour force as the main source of "gravy" at city hall.
- When asked what he loved about Toronto, Ford gave no indication he was aware the city even existed before he took office. Instead of praising the Toronto's virtues he spouted a list of his "accomplishments" over the past 10 months.
Is a Liberal minority government good for Toronto?
It's excellent. Myself and all the councillors get to work will all the leaders now. We have to work together, and that's what we're doing at city hall. As you know I was elected by NDP, Liberal, and Conservative voters right across the city. It's a great mixture.
As you said I did meet with all the leaders before the campaign, and they all said they were going to help Toronto one way or another. Most of it was transit. TTC is a huge burden on us, and we'll see what happens now.
When you talked to the leaders what did you ask them for?
It was funding. It all comes down to funding for the TTC. We just can't depend on the fare box. We need some help. To keep the TTC in a good state of repair, we need that money.
All of them said, "We're willing to work with you and try to help you out."
Again I don't like always depending on another level of government. I don't like pointing the finger and saying, it's the provincial government or the federal government's fault if we don't get the funding. We have to take care of our own backyard.
But the reason the TTC is in big trouble is because of downloading from the province to the city.
We have to get more funding both from the federal and provincial government. We're going to see what happens. Obviously we had a federal election and now we have a minority Liberal government.
I've worked well with Mr. McGuinty. He helped us make the TTC an essential service so we're not going to have strikes anymore. I met with him a number of times and we have a great working relationship. I want to congratulate him on his victory. I want to congratulate Tim Hudak on gaining more seats, and I want to congratulate Andrea Horwath for gaining more seats. I think it's been a victory for all three parties.
Were you asking for overall operating funds or were you asking specifically for funding for a subway line?
No, I was asking for operating funds. But obviously for the Sheppard subway we're looking for (an equal split between funding from the city, province, and private sector). All I said is, I want the money left over from Eglinton to put into the Sheppard subway.
Andrea Horwath said that you'd expressed that perhaps the private money for Sheppard wouldn't be there, and the city would be left short, and she was being asked to provide a bailout.
I wouldn't call it a bailout whatsoever. I think all three parties know that we need help, obviously with the capital and the operating budgets.
Is that different from what you said before, that the private sector would leap to fund the Sheppard line?
We're still going to get private development. Absolutely we're going to get private money there. But right now we're looking at a third, a third, and a third. The private sector will be ... through TIF (tax increment financing) it's definitely going to be a huge advantage to the taxpayers. And the taxpayers aren't going to be burdened with building the Sheppard subway.
Do you look at what happened yesterday, in that the Conservatives were unable to win a seat in Toronto, as a repudiation of what you're doing?
Not at all. Last time I checked we never had a seat, the Tories never had a seat to begin with in Toronto. My name wasn't on the ballot. I didn't endorse anyone.
The sense is what's happening in Toronto under your mayoralty is driving some people away from the Conservatives.
I guess the operative word is "some." I'm getting a lot of support. People are saying stay the course. As you know, we inherited a mess from the previous administration. $774 million ...
Which is often disputed. People say you inherited actually a surplus, not a deficit.
[Laughing] That's factually incorrect. We inherited $774 million (in deficit). And now there's two ways of going about this. You can sit back and say, "I'm not going to do anything," and hit people and homeowners with a 30 to 35 per cent tax increase.
Or there's the responsible way of doing it, which I'm doing, which is finding the efficiencies, getting us out of this mess. Just last week we saved $28 million, just scratching the surface.
That's in savings. Then in efficiencies there's another $65 million going to next year's budget. We've asked the city manager to look and say here, let's find the efficiencies.
So we're saving right off the top. If I wouldn't have done that, that's approximately $90 million that we could have just said, "Ok, Let the taxpayers pay for it."
But it's interesting that city manager Joe Panechetti put forward $100 million worth of cuts, and only $28 million was moved forward.
Again, it was approximately $85 million that was moved forward.
Ok but really $27 million, only a drop in the bucket. People are wondering where the gravy is. Do you know where the gravy is?
Absolutely. Look at our labour force. This is just a first step. In our first step we've achieved a lot. I gotta emphasize this again, it's $85 million. I don't know where you're getting your $28 million from. In city expenses, it was $28 million, but in efficiencies it's $65 million. So you're going into next year's budget, saving almost right off the bat, $85 million.
So there's still another $700 million on the line. But we have to continue finding the efficiencies. We have to continue contracting out some services, such as garbage, which is going to save millions of dollars.
So the gravy is in the labour force?
It's right across... Well a huge chunk, 50 per cent, of our operating budget is labour. So you look at where you can find your savings. Obviously, in the labour force.
Before we merged seven municipalities together, we had 7,000 less employees. In the private sector, when you merge two or three companies together, you only need one receptionist, you don't need two or three receptionists. You don't need three accountants.
We've increased the number of employees by 7,000 people over the last 12 years. That, right there, there's something wrong with that picture.
There's an impasse with the police budget. What's your view of that conflict?
I've asked for (a cut of) 10 per cent in efficiencies right across the board, in every department. That's very very achievable. Again, in your own household, in the private sector, people have to do it every day.
Chief Bill Blair says he can't cut 10 per cent without seriously impacting safety.
I have the greatest confidence in the chief, and the police services board, that we will find those efficiencies. Again, I've had a meeting with the chief. I'm very very comfortable that he will find those efficiencies.
If he doesn't, what happens?
That's not up for me to decide.
You're the mayor. It is up for you to decide.
I'm not on the police services board. It's a police services board issue. I'm sure he's going to find, I'm going to re-emphasize that, the efficiencies. We've had the meetings and things went very well. I've had numerous meetings with the chief...
If he doesn't find a deal, does he have to go?
I can't predict the future. I don't have a crystal ball in front of me, but I'm going to re-emphasize, I'm sure that he will find the savings. I have great confidence that he will find the efficiencies through the police services board to accomplish what I've asked every department to do.
It's ten per cent. Ten per cent is not that much. And you know it as well as I do, that every other department can find ten per cent.
Is that possible, since so much of the police budget is tied up in the labour costs?
Again, I'm not the police chief. I know in my office, I reduced my office budget by $700,000. I went from $2.7 million down to $2 million. I'm not the chief of police, so I don't know how all the departments work. But that's his job, he has to find the efficiencies and I'm very confident that he'll find the efficiencies.
What do you love about Toronto?
This is a great city. We've cleaned it up. There's less graffiti than there was a year ago, it's a cleaner city than there was a year ago.
We've made this a safer city, we've made it a cleaner city, jobs are coming into the city now. So, you know what, this has been a very very prosperous year.
We had a zero per cent tax increase, for the first time in 11 years last year, giving people some breathing room. I cut the $60 car tax, that's $70 million in savings and people said it couldn't be done.
But that's adding to the financial troubles of the city.
I beg to differ. Again, you find the efficiencies, contracting out services such as garbage, such as cleaning the police stations. There's so many ways to find money at city hall.
Again, at one meeting we found close to $85 million. I'm sure after a few more meetings, after the budget's over, we will come down to the number we're looking for.