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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

City budget moves on TTC, roads and cycling

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At a noon hour budget committee meeting, the City of Toronto publicly launched its capital budget approval process. While the biggest dollar figures were reserved for TTC and roads, bike lanes play a prominent role in the $1.6 billion spending plan.

Mayor David Miller, budget chief Shelley Carroll and city manager Joe Pennachetti all highlighted the investment of $70.3 million to be spent installing bike lanes between 2009 and 2012. Starting with $8 million in 2009, Miller said that with those funds and the streamlined approvals process, the bike plan will be completed by 2012. The outcome of the Annette bike lane debate at today’s meeting of City Council should be an indicator of whether the City will be able to spend the entire cycling budget.

The budget, for a change, comes in $99 million below the City’s overall debt target (the maximum amount it can borrow) and the City will continue to pay down its existing debt by $225 million per year. Only 40% of the capital budget will be funded out of debt, with the rest coming mostly from federal and provincial governments.

The budget goes to City Council for approval on December 10. The budget committee will be receiving councillor and public comment at meetings in November.

Bits and Pieces

Dance Sue-Ann, Dance!
With councillors not having a chance to ask questions on the capital budget until November 5, I believe that Councillor Mike Del Grande was using Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy to plant a question, though both Ms. Levy and Mr. Del Grande deny this. Del Grande summoned Levy to his side during the media scrum after the budget announcement. The two whispered and giggled back and forth. Then with Del Grande sporting a big smile, Levy launched into a question on one of Del Grande’s pet issues, cashing in the Toronto Hydro bank note to pay for environmental initiatives (a correction was made to this sentence, Spacing regrets the error).

Ed. note: Spacing was in contact with Toronto Sun editorial page editor Rob Granatstein regarding the above paragraph. Granatstein said that Sue-Ann Levy and Councillor Del Grande told him that they were discussing the City’s debt level, not Levy’s next question. Councillor Del Grande says debt level was the topic of conversation and the insinuation of a “planted question” by Ms. Levy is not true.

Selective memory
At the budget media scrum one journalist asked the mayor about the impact of the federal cabinet shuffle on Toronto and several questions were asked in the context of economic uncertainty.

Miller dismissed the importance of GTA Conservatives getting cabinet posts, preferring to shower praise on John Baird. Miller says he and Baird, who this morning was tapped to be Stephen Harper’s minister of transportation, enjoy a good relationship and that his background as Minister of Community and Social Services in the Harris government gives Baird a better understanding of the city’s issues than his predecessor.

Miller’s probably just trying to play nice because surely he remembers that COMSOC was responsible for some of the most mean spirited attacks on vulnerable Ontarians, and especially Torontonians, during the Harris years.

Then asked why in tough economic times other levels of government would want to give Toronto infrastructure money, Miller thought Baird would see the wisdom in Keynesian economic policy. I’m not so sure unabashed neo-cons like Baird are big fans of Keynes. Just a guess.

Rumour mill
Here’s the latest on three of the most talked about potential candidates to go up against Miller in 2010.

George Smitherman apparently pulled back his not so subtle pre-campaign to be mayor when local and provincial Liberals gave him a lukewarm response to the trial hot air balloon he floated earlier this year. Provincial Liberals are particularly perturbed by the thought of Furious George picking fights with a Liberal premier. But then Smitherman was seen working the municipal circuit again in late summer so he can’t be counted out yet.

Rocco Rossi, the head of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, former Bay Street executive and virtual unknown in municipal political circles has had his name dangled repeatedly. Rumour is that the one pushing Rossi’s name is Toronto’s Lastman-era backroom boy in chief, Paul Godfrey.

That Godfrey is seen spending his time pushing Rossi says more about Councillor Karen Stintz than it does about Rossi. Stintz has been lining up her run for mayor since before the last election. In the past two years, Stintz’s formerly chaotic style has been reigned in by her main backer Paul Sutherland, the former Tory councillor and current lobbyist. Problem is, Sutherland is slowly but surely painting Stintz into the same corner Jane Pitfield was in. Like Pitfield, Stintz has been convinced that her right-wing voting record won’t sell well in Toronto. Now Stintz has moved much closer to the centre and votes with Miller much more often than she used to. Come 2010, Stintz will have about as many wedge issues as Pitfield but even less tangible experience — a recipe for political disaster.

Photograph by bensonuka.



  1. “Councillor Mike Del Grande used Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy as his personal puppet.”

    And when the Mayor’s press team leak info to their preferred outlets, is that puppetry or media management?

    Seriously, give your head a shake Adam. This is not the first time you’ve been called out for reportage that has strayed into the realm of partisanry. Given the imbalance of power between members and non-members of the Executive Committee, Del Grande can hardly be blamed for trying alternate avenues to get stuff aired.

  2. Mark: if Adam’s description of the scene is accurate, this is more than “leaking info to a preferred outlet”. There’s a big difference between telling a journalist that something is coming down the pipe who has to go and find sources to confirm it, and what Adam has described as the actions of Del Grande and Levy. Levy acted as a “plant” without the secrecy of it. Shameful, really.

    And thanks for the 2010 mayoral candidate rumours. Good to start thinking of what the choices will be.

  3. Mark, think you missed Adam’s point. He’s not blaming Del Grande. He’s pointing out how corrupt Levy is. Like Luke, I enjoy stories like that because it always seems like Levy is devoid of professional standards but someone like me never gets to see how she really operates.

  4. Mark, there is a keen difference between “reportage” and blogging.

  5. Pretty easy to see from Sue-Ann’s columns that she has guts and courage to “report” facts, not sensationalize news….and so, we chastise her!

    Del Grande happens to be the only C.A. on Council and yes, he asks intelligent questions about Budget and Finances and Telecom and Housing….so…he becomes unpopular!

    The City prefers to complicate budget issues to intimidate people including councillors who probably do not truly understand the budget. “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Carroll as Budget Chief…what is her financial background or qualification? Friend of Miller!

    Let’s focus on increased taxes and other real issues that affect our pay checks and quality of life in TO instead of bike lanes which are a nuisance and cause accidents.

  6. You call this journalism?

    How presumptuous to know what was said or talked about in a private conversation.
    I suspect your hearing devices were not working; otherwise you could have tapped our private debate as to whether the City Debt was 1.4 or 1.8 Billion in 2003.

    Pet issues? Get your facts straight. Ms. Levy asked if the Hydro receivable was going to be used for the Mayor’s green initiatives and he answered in the affirmative. What does this have to do with my supposed issue of funding repairs? Strange that I would let constituents know from my newsletter that the funds were being used for this purpose without commentary. I challenge you to show my ongoing preoccupation with this topic. When the topic was debated at Council I did question whether a portion of these monies could be used for other priorities and whether Councillors should have input about these funds?

    With your personal attack, I can only conclude that you are a lazy writer who does not check facts and replaces them with innuendo and worst of all someone who clearly has a personal agenda and bias. You have lost all credibility.

  7. Councillor, I call this blogging.

    I was standing across the room watching you and Sue-Ann. To all who were watching it was clear what you were orchestrating. Frankly, I give you credit for being able to convince a writer for a large newspaper to act on your behalf. I think the writer is the one who needs to do some soul searching.

    Per the error, I have corrected it.

  8. Off the top of my head I can’t recall all four. I know that one of them will be the first recreation centre in the former city of York, in the Black Creek/Eglinton area. The analyst notes that have greater detail than yesterday’s presentation should be up on the City’s web site in the next couple business days so check and the link will be along the left side under Capital.

    Also, the City has now posted the presentation it delivered yesterday with the high-level overview of the 2009 capital budget. It’s in PDF at this link:

  9. Adam – I think the difficulty some of us are having here is that Spacing is a magazine (in fact this particular part of the website used to be called the Wire which has a different connotation to a blog, at least to me).

  10. Teresa so eloquently provoked:
    “Let’s focus on increased taxes and other real issues that affect our pay checks and quality of life in TO instead of bike lanes which are a nuisance and cause accidents.”

    ahem. It is so MUCH MORE convenient to continue marginalising those who use a legitimate and recognised form of transportation than accept the responsibility we are charged with in accepting the privilege of driving a motor vehicle.

    Teresa. Go read the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. Please.

    For the most part bike lanes raise awareness of bicyclists and in my humble estimation serve to remind motorists they have a responsibility to drive safely amongst these entitled road users. Marginalising bicyclists is well entrenched in our society and is expressed every time a motorist passes a bicyclist too closely, makes a right turn around a stopped bicyclist, forces a cyclist off the road or drives at a cyclist. Bike lanes are a tiny effort to right that wrong.

    Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a real issue today. Improving air quality would do a great deal for our quality of life. Driving around in motorised barcaloungers works at odds to our collective needs. Forcing others to do likewise by marginalising them as public road users is the real crime.

  11. Councillor Del Grande: I find it funny that you are calling out Adam on journalistic standards when Ms. Levy has clearly demonstrated time and time again that she is nothing but a shill for the right wing of council and has close to no credibility herself . Her poor writing skills are embarrassing, she is mocked in journalism schools, and most everyone who has had time to talk to city hall journalists knows she has no one’s respect.

    I don’t dispute your concerns, nor do I begrudge you the ability to find someone to write about the issues that concern you. But Ms. Levy is the one that is being called out, not you. Calling you out on a “pet priority” is not a personal attack. Ms. Levy has to decide whether she acts like a shill or acts like a journalist.

  12. Mark, did you happen to notice the graphic on the spacing homepage ( that says “READ OUR BLOGS!” with links to Spacing Toronto and Spacing Montreal underneath? Me thinks that settles any debate on what Spacing Toronto is.

    So let’s call a spade a spade: Mark Downling doesn’t like a particular writer. Apparently other people do. Now let’s move on.

  13. I often find Sue-Ann to be more than a little over the top and frequently in right-wing rant mode. That said, I will read her (on-line, of course) because unlike most media types (reporters, columnists AND bloggers) who do little more than regurgitate the mayor’s press statements, I know I’m often going to find items in her column that highlight the hypocrisy of the dominant coalition at City Hall. Often (but not always), the things covered in her pieces do make it to other media.

    Regarding this instance, and her being prompted in a question by Councillor Del Grande, the key issue, I think, is whether it was a legitimate question that was posed to the Mayor. If it was, what does it matter where this question was prompted from? Personally, I think it was a legitimate question. It is also the kind of question that most media types in Toronto wouldn’t think to ask because they really don’t have sufficient knowledge, expertise or time to be asking.

    I don’t like much of what Sue-Ann writes … but I’d rather read her column than something by yet another reporter who has done little more than regurgitate the official line out of City Hall without asking hard questions that should be asked.

  14. Here is a more important Keynesian ideal which the city should pay heed to……..

    “‘When, on the contrary, I show, a little elaborately, as in the ensuing chapter, that to create wealth will increase the national income and that a large proportion of any increase in the national income will accrue to an Exchequer, amongst whose largest outgoings is the payment of incomes to those who are unemployed and whose receipts are a proportion of the incomes of those who are occupied…

    Nor should the argument seem strange that taxation may be so high as to defeat its object, and that, given sufficient time to gather the fruits, a reduction of taxation will run a better chance than an increase of balancing the budget. For to take the opposite view today is to resemble a manufacturer who, running at a loss, decides to raise his price, and when his declining sales increase the loss, wrapping himself in the rectitude of plain arithmetic, decides that prudence requires him to raise the price still more–and who, when at last his account is balanced with nought on both sides, is still found righteously declaring that it would have been the act of a gambler to reduce the price when you were already making a loss.'”

    Was John Maynard Keynes foretelling the effects of Toronto’s high commercial property taxes?

  15. Del Grande shouldn’t be talking about anyone’s credibility. He takes money from special interests like the groups that represent landlords and sewer construction. Plus, he took money from one of the busiest development lawyers in the city Adam Brown, and lobbyist Paul Sutherland. Then he accepted a cheque from Clear Channel advertising, one of the outdoor ad industry players that routinely break the law.

    Now who has no credibility, Mike?

  16. Gerry

    11 councillors who voted against TTC as an essential service got money from the TTC union.

    Councillor Vaughn took exception when Councillor Ford suggested that he took money from a resident who got a position on a City Board.

    I can go on and on right up to the Mayor’s office.

    Do you believe the position of Councillor is for sale at up to $750? In many cases money comes in unsolicited from various sources. But nothing is hidden from the public because it is posted for all to see.

    Some of us would like to believe that support is shown because we are fair and objective and recognizes our devotion to serve.

    You can always make an angel look like a devil but it is scarier when you make a devil look like an angel.

    To Spacing’s credit they recognized that the presentation made was not fair and they have seen the light to correct it. They have acknowledged that the matter is closed and I am officially closing it from my end.

  17. That’s a magnificent photo of City Hall but I don’t see any photo credit.
    Who is to be congratulated?