City councillors splurge with strike surplus cash

Toronto city councillors voted 22-19  to give taxpayers a break on their next garbage bill, despite an admission from the city’s budget chief that millions of dollars need to be shed from next year’s operating budget.

Residents will receive a slight discount after city council voted Monday to adopt a motion granting a one-time rebate on user fees for garbage collection. The motion requires the city to compensate residents for the disruption in services during last summer’s civic strike.

In speeches to the rest of council, supporters of the motion said the bill would send the message to taxpayers that the city was willing to “hold the line” on fee increases, particularly since the strike inconvenienced thousands of Torontonians.

But according to budget chief Shelley Carroll, the measure could lead to disastrous consequences for the city. She said taking money from the city’s capital budget for waste allocation could affect future projects down the road.

“The cumulative impact of holding the line is millions of dollars in future expenditures,” the representative from Don Valley East said.

Ward 24 councillor David Shiner dismissed Carroll’s concerns.

“We’ve been told the sky’s been falling for years,” he said. “[The city] lost control of its spending a long time ago.”

Gloria Lindsay Luby, who represents Etobicoke-Centre, said when she attempted to raise the issue of rebates at the last executive council meeting, supporters of mayor David Miller rebuffed her.

“I was told offering a rebate to single family dwellings would be offensive to multi-level tenants,” Luby said.

But, according to councillor Howard Moscoe, residents can expect to receive no more than $20 for their troubles, making the motion an empty gesture.

Moscoe even accused the motion’s sponsor, councillor Karen Stintz, of buying taxpayers allegiance with their own money while she continues to harbour mayoral ambitions.

“I am Howard Moscoe and I am not running for mayor,” he said, eliciting much-needed chuckles from a tense council chamber. “Any grandstanding comes from my own personal flaws.”

Parkdale councillor Gord Perks, a vocal opponent of the motion, said a rebate – while seemingly well-intentioned – would in fact cost tax payers millions of dollars in the future as the money for it would come out of monies intended for capital projects.

“We’re paying people with their own money to hide the truth,” he said. “Holding the line means higher costs down the road.”

Earlier in the day, Carroll told reporters the shortfall for next year’s budget could be as much as $350 million, meaning cuts will need to be made to city services and programs.