Toronto – If you’re at Toronto City Hall Thursday, be prepared to bring along some sleeping bags, pajamas and snacks because Mayor Rob Ford has confirmed that he is prepared to hold the Executive Committee Meeting until 7 a.m. Friday.
During an interview with CP24 last week, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford welcomed everyone in the city to come down to city hall Thursday during the Executive Committee meeting where City Councillors would discuss recommendations in KPMG’s Core Service Review.
The mayor said he wouldn’t care how long it would take and everyone would have five minutes to speak with him – that number was later decreased to three minutes due a motion introduced at the Executive Committee meeting at Committee Room 1.
Prior to the meeting, there were reports of how long the entire hearing would take. It was estimated that the meeting would take between 20 and 25 hours. On Thursday morning, Ford promised everyone that they would be there from 9:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. Friday.
The speakers list for the Core Service Review included more than 300 names and each person would have three minutes to address the committee and then each councillor would have two minutes to ask a question to the speaker.
Some of the deputations include Toronto residents, members of the Toronto Arts Council, community organizations, students, union leaders and members, disabled individuals and parents.
City Councillor Joe Mihevc urged the Executive Committee to postpone some deputations to the following morning because it wouldn’t be prudent to have some deputations be heard between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when they would have to work, take care of their family and get some sleep. Mihevc called the whole thing “unreasonable,” which received applause from attendees.
Ford responded that he wouldn’t know what would happen 12 hours from now, but said the committee would take a vote later in the day if a motion was put forth.
City Councillors Janet Davis and Kristyn Wong-Tam urged Ford to relocate the meeting to the Council Chamber because of the amount of speakers and the process, which also received applause from both the Committee Room 1, the overflow room and city hall rotunda.
The mayor said everyone already agreed to hold the meeting in Committee Room 1, even though it was at maximum capacity and many were transferred over to the Committee Room overflow to listen to the events.
Following the procedures, reporters, councillors and attendees immediately called the meeting “an all-nighter.” Although one staff member told Digital Journal that it’s likely that the meeting will end Thursday evening, continue Friday and possibly extend into the weekend.
Statements, Presentation and Questions
At the start of the meeting, Ford issued a statement:
“I’d like thank City staff for their hard work launching this process – and the hard work that has yet to come,” said Ford. “But, mostly, I’d like to thank the thousands of taxpayers who have sent emails to my office or participated in this process up to this point. This process is one of the biggest community consultations in Toronto history. And, I’d also like to thank the hundreds of residents who are here this morning to be part of this process. We are here to listen to you.”
Ford continued to state that he doesn’t agree with every suggestion in the KPMG report, but noted that the city has “to start prioritizing” and listed police, garbage collection and clean and safe streets as the top three concerns that he hears from taxpayers.
The mayor added that this is only one meeting that is part of a much longer process and this is not the end.
As KPMG executives and City Manager Joe Pennachetti delivered the Core Service Review, members of council were accused of being hostile, condescending and disrespectful when asking questions about the evaluation.
Despite this, KPMG delivered the report and highlighted some of their suggestions, which include scaling back Toronto Transit Commission services back to their former levels, eliminate or reduce the Blue-Night Services, sell the Toronto Zoo, or find a non-profit organization to manage and develop the zoo, and make the Yonge-Dundas Square independent.
Following their presentation, councillors asked about the social and economic impacts (the domino effect), what kind of city do they think Toronto will become in the next five years and if KPMG has done work for municipalities before.
Councillor Raymond Cho accused KPMG of not having any vision for the city.
In what may have seemed like a scene from a motion picture, Councillor Adam Vaughan asked questions about Melbourne, Australia’s privatization of its transit system, which cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies.
The KPMG executives responded that they didn’t know exactly what happened or the details of that plan, but Vaughan pointed out that KPMG was the one that recommended privatization, which led to many people applauding and laughing.
“So the question is this: KPMG was the consultant who recommended the privatization of tram lines in Melbourne, why would that in-house experience – from 161 and 159 Colin Street in Melbourne – why with that experience would you replicate the proposal here in Toronto knowing that you were 30 percent off cost, 30 percent off on service and you generated $100 million above and beyond inflation.”
Seven citizen speakers provided their deputation to the committee before heading for lunch. Each one encouraged the city not to cut services because of the implications and disastrous situations that would follow.
One of the first speakers was Wendy Graham, a mother of two girls, who talked about her experiences at Toronto’s Public Libraries where she said it was a place where her family spends if it is too hot or too cold outside.
“If prices go up, fees go up,” said Graham. “I have no idea how we’d pay for it.” Before leaving, Graham’s young daughter said in the microphone: “Save the libraries.”
The final speaker before recess was Susan Nagy of Lakeshore Arts. Nagy discussed how the arts programs in Etobicoke have helped many talented artistic students to get off the streets and urged the city to continue funding the various arts programs.
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti attempted to clarify how much the organization receives from the levels of government. Nagy responded that they receive $17,000 from the province of Ontario, $15,000 from the Toronto District School Board and $97,000 from the City of Toronto.
There were extra security guards posted near the committee meeting. At one point, Councillor Michael Thompson asked the mayor if one photographer could be removed from the room because he was making too much noise.
“Deal with that gentleman however you see fit,” Ford said to the security.
Security guards immediately escorted the gentleman out of the room, but Councillor Davis told security that he wasn’t do anything wrong and was just taking pictures of the hearing. Davis shook her head in disappointment.
The City of Toronto is facing a $774 million budget shortfall. Mayor Rob Ford hired consulting firm KPMG to evaluate the city’s budget and to find efficiencies that would reduce the deficit. It cost $3 million to produce the Core Service Review.
KPMG recommended shutting down some public library branches and reducing hours at others, reduce police salaries, eliminate or reduce dental health programs, sell parking lots and sell or integrate city-run arts theatres.