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Ford seeks three wins at first big council meeting

by Daniel Dale
Urban Affairs Bureau

Two victories seem nearly certain. The legislative hat trick will be tougher.

At the first substantial city council meeting of his tenure, Mayor Rob Ford will seek Thursday to win council support for three prominent campaign pledges: slashing councillors’ office budgets, abolishing the vehicle registration tax, and asking the province to declare the TTC an essential service.

Ford may not face much of a fight on the first two proposals. The thorny essential-service question, however, represents his first major test: Even the man who is now his deputy mayor, Councillor Doug Holyday, split with him on the issue in 2008.

Below, a look at the three key items on the agenda. The Star will be live-blogging the meeting beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Declaring the TTC an essential service

Ford wants council to ask the provincial government to designate the TTC an essential service. The designation, already applied to police and fire services, would deny TTC workers the right to strike.

Council rejected a similar proposal by one vote in 2008. In an October Star survey, 10 of the 32 councillors who responded said they supported the proposal, 13 said they did not, and 9 were undecided; Holyday will now vote with Ford.

Proponents of the essential service tag say the TTC is critical to the functioning of the city. Opponents say the tag would hurt taxpayers, since unresolved labour disputes would be settled by arbitrators whose decisions are frequently friendlier to workers than negotiated collective agreements.

Cutting office budgets

As a councillor, the independently wealthy Ford habitually claimed none or almost none of his office budget. As mayor, he is asking councillors to endorse the frugal spirit on which he made his name. His proposal: chopping office budgets from $50,445 to $30,000.

The reduction was one of the central planks of the stop-the-gravy-train portion of Ford’s campaign platform, and it is widely expected to pass — though it has not gone unchallenged. Downtown councillors Adam Vaughan and Kristyn Wong-Tam, among others, have argued that councillors who represent wards with bigger populations should get bigger budgets than others.

Eliminating the vehicle registration tax

The tax, implemented in 2008, charges drivers $60 per year per vehicle. Ford wants to scrap it for Jan. 1.

According to city staff, eliminating the tax would cost $64 million in revenue next year. Some councillors have pressed Ford to explain how he plans to make up the shortfall, and some — including Ford’s budget chief, Mike Del Grande — have said that the tax would most fairly be eliminated on its three-year anniversary in September. Del Grande, however, will support Ford’s plan, and most of council appears ready to join him.




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