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Mayor Rob Ford slams 2014 budget as 'the gravy train all over again'

By Don Peat, City Hall Bureau Chief

TORONTO - 

Mayor Rob Ford slammed the 2014 budget as “the gravy train all over again” and promised to fight it despite his lack of power at City Hall.

Ford’s budget bluster Monday came exactly a week after council voted to strip him of his powers in the wake of the crack cocaine scandal. The mayor was quick to claim the proposed budget — which he no longer has the ability to steer — was in response to his newly powerless state. City officials flatly deny that claim.

Bureaucrats came out Monday recommending a 2.5% residential property tax hike next year — a 2% increase along with a 0.5% tax increase to fund the Scarborough subway that Ford championed.

The mayor showed up at the budget committee, raged against the tax hike in a speech and then came out fuming for the cameras.

“I will not be supporting this budget, I can guarantee it,” Ford told reporters as he left the meeting.

“This is a complete tax-and-spend, old-style way of City Hall. It is the gravy train all over again.”

Ford had repeatedly promised that the 2014 tax hike would be 1.75% including the 0.5% subway tax hike and a 10% cut to the land transfer tax. The staff-recommended budget doesn’t touch the land transfer tax.

“It is so disappointing that in five days, as soon as they reduce my powers, all they are doing is going back to the old tax-and-spend ways, getting back on the gravy train and spending and spending and spending,” Ford said.

“It is embarrassing that the people of this city have to pay over 2.5% in property taxes when we had it locked in at 1.75% — that is absolutely atrocious.”

In a separate speech to the committee, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly invited Ford to work with him to help make this budget the “very best budget possible” for the city.

“Over the next few weeks, and perhaps months, I hope that the budget debate will be vigorous and rational … between reasonable people with a minimum of sloganeering,” Kelly said.

Kelly said he wasn’t surprised by Ford’s claim the gravy train was back.

“It is one of the most successful election slogans ever in Canadian history, I don’t blame him for falling back on it … but it doesn’t inform the budget debate,” he said.

Councillor Doug Ford — the vice-chairman of the budget committee — also promised to vote against the budget.

“We have to drive efficiencies … the political will is not there,” he said. “What is so hard about finding a quarter per cent in a bloated bureaucracy?”

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said Rob Ford is “pretty much responsible for this budget.”

“The mayor can’t have it both ways, he can’t spend the money and then claim taxes are going up,” Minnan-Wong said. “If he wants to find efficiencies, let’s see them.

“It is fiscal duplicity, you can’t pay for transit with Monopoly money.”

City manager Joe Pennachetti said “there was no impact” on the budget process from the mayor’s “situation.”

“We just plowed ahead with our budget … absolutely, categorical, no impact at all,” Pennachetti said.

Budget chief Frank Di Giorgio denied the budget was the return of the “gravy train” and argued the city can only do so much with the budget.

“You can’t get blood from a stone,” Di Giorgio said.

“If we do want to move forward and not tread water, if we want to sort of swim on then you need to invest in the future.”


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