Stig Harvor —
Our quasi-Mayor Rob Ford persistently and very loudly proclaims he is protecting every single dollar of “hardworking taxpayers.”
Yet his policies and actions are causing millions of such dollars to be wasted in big and smaller ways.
Some of the waste is conveniently hidden. A lot of that is the considerable cost of city staff being forced to spend endless amounts of time studying and reporting on the implications and consequences of projects he is promoting with his usual disregard for facts and figures.
The most recent example is the proposal by private Porter Air to expand the Island airport (Billy Bishop Toronto Airport) to accommodate jets.
The existing tri-partite government agreement covering the airport excludes jets. Yet Ford supports them. He ignores the accompanying high costs and negative effects they will have on the massive revitalization of our precious waterfront with its enjoyment of the harbour and its unique green islands.
For a year now, a comprehensive study of the jet proposal has engaged city staff.
The federal Toronto Port Authority (TPA) has already spent over $1 million on consultants. It owns the airport and benefits from its revenue.
On April 1, city council extended the complex study for yet another year to obtain information now lacking on the wide and serious implications of the jet proposal.
The big drain of taxpayer dollars continues.
An early example of wasted money was Ford’s support of selling city-owned land on the former industrial Portlands at the eastern end of our harbour. He was desperately looking for new money to compensate for the loss of city revenue caused by his freezing of property taxes and his abolition of the $60 Vehicle Registration Tax (cost of one full gas tank).
Given Ford’s inability to put together full sentences unless scripted, his older, aggressive brother Doug became Ford’s voice.
Doug, a rookie Etobicoke councillor, loudly promoted turning the Portlands into a Las Vegas North with a megamall, a gigantic Ferris wheel, a luxury waterside hotel, all joined to Union Station by an elevated monorail.
Doug’s plans provoked an immediate, fierce public outcry. An emboldened city council reaffirmed Toronto Waterfront’s existing positive role as Portlands planner with a review of timelines for future development. Ford’s tactics are estimated to have cost taxpayers upwards of $2 million.
City staff time was also wasted by a push by Ford and deep-pocketed gambling interests, mainly American, for a Downtown casino.
The proposal was initiated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission led by Paul Godfrey, a long-time Conservative insider later fired by Premier Kathleen Wynne. After much public pressure, city council reaffirmed its earlier decision in the 1990s to disallow new casinos in Toronto.
Other wasted dollars are not so hidden. They are published in the media. One example is the 2012 firing without just cause of Gary Webster, General Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). He was dismissed by Ford supporters on the TTC board.
Webster had the temerity to express his professional opinion that subways are not necessarily the be-all for public transit. His severance-pay amounted to half a million dollars.
His contract would have expired the following year. Acting on his conviction streets are for cars, Ford removed the new bike lanes on wide Jarvis St. They were installed just two years earlier at a cost $89,000.
Ford spent three times that amount scrapping them for a total waste of some $400,000.
This was chickenfeed compared to the staggering waste of money caused by Ford’s obsession with “subways, subways, subways”. On taking office, he singlehandedly scrapped comprehensive, approved Transit City plans. Renegotiation of already established contracts is said to have cost an unbelievable $65 million.
This was followed much later by the wasting of upward of $100 million sacrificed when existing technical plans were scrapped for Scarborough Light Rail Transit (LRT) already approved by city council and fully funded by the province.
What indeed is the reality of Rob Ford, the mighty defender of taxpayer dollars?
Rob Ford is wasting taxpayer dollars big-time
Stig Harvor —