01/21/11 – By JORDAN MAXWELL
The meeting, which delivered on a key promise from Ward 18 councillor Ana Bailao to have more public consultation, began with an overview of the operating and capital budgets from the city’s financial director Josie Lavita.
After an hour-long speech about where the money is being spent, Ward 39 councillor Mike Del Grande addressed the audience on the obstacles faced with this year’s draft.
“There’s no more free lunch in Toronto,” Del Grande said, referencing the relationship between spending and savings. “There’s a fundamental structural problem in Toronto. We need to have revenue match expenses. Every year we have a $500-million gap that we need to fill in capital.”
As Del Grande was explaining his position with intense concern and visible frustration, former Ward 18 candidate Ken Wood and other members of the audience began to get restless and wanted to ask questions to the councillors.
10 minutes later, when questions were allowed to be fielded, Wood was the first to challenge the councillors. Wood, who is a strong activist for public consultation, wondered why the public was not consulted before the budget is drafted instead of after, as it was earlier revealed by Del Grande.
Bailao said the budget was rushed while Del Grande, according to Ken Wood, danced around the question, which angered some residents who wanted their questions to be answered without delay.
“He didn’t answer my question but that’s politicians for you,” Wood said. “There’s evidence the budget was done on the back off a paper napkin and he basically made a speech to tell people how hard he’s working. I’m pissed that this administration views us as customers when we are citizens. There’s a big difference.”
The next set of questions came from a woman named Brenda, whose questions revolved around the city’s daycare services.
As a single mother of one son, she shared her dream of one day owning a home but said high daycare costs have stripped her of the money to put a down payment on a house. What’s more, she talked about subsidies and the fact that some people get to pay cheaper daycare costs while she doesn’t.
“It’s based on income,” Bailao said. Brenda wasn’t having any of it though as she stressed its inequality before Bailao agreed that more support is needed.
Clearly in a rush, Bailao urged for more questions. Another woman named Jill came forward and asked a question about getting more provincial support. Bailao responded by saying that she would make it a provincial issue for this fall’s elections.
Next, a local resident named Gordon stepped forward to question the TTC saying that fares should be paid based on the distance you travel. However, Bailao flatly dismissed the idea saying that poorest resident lived in the suburbs making it more expensive for poorer people to travel.
Bailao told The Bloordale Press that she has already begun work on a key campaign promise: getting parking back on Dundas St. As of Jan. 21, the motion has been passed and will be voted on on Feb.7.