Council hopefuls pledge to penny-pinch

In a dimly lit room in a quaint gastro pub, 12 council candidates from across the city met to talk money.

Toronto’s money, that is.

They got together over pints at My Place pub at 2448 Bloor St. W. on Sept. 30 to discuss one of the monster issues in the Oct. 25 election: controlling city spending.

“It’s about being innovative [and] resourceful,” said George Singh, candidate in Ward 42.

The meeting was organized by Ward 13 candidate Redmond Weissenberger. His Zero Percent Pledge was at the heart of the discussion.

“We need a culture of accountability in city hall,” he said.

Weissenberger’s pledge is a strategy that aims to freeze taxes, fee hikes and spending increases, and force city hall to justify the yearly budget. It’s based on what Weissenberger calls “zero per cent budgeting”, which he says will freeze the budget and calibrate it to current finances.

“By forcing city staff to budget on a zero-per cent-increase basis, it puts power back into the hands of the elected officials to decide how taxpayers’ hard-earned money will be spent,” said Weissenberer.

The pledge includes plans to freeze hiring at city hall, introduce greater competition, open contract opportunities for city services where economically sound, and cancel the land transfer and vehicle registration taxes.

“I think [the meeting] brought out that Toronto has a spending problem and an accountability problem,” said Heath Thomas, council candidate in Ward 44. “We have a lot of overstaffing at city hall and I think that we really do have to find ways to bring down the cost of labour.

“One way to do that is by contracting garbage and contracting out as many services as we can.”

Thomas is also on board with repealing garbage fees and the land transfer and vehicle registration taxes.

“I think these taxes are only there to further fuel more spending,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any real added value to taxpayers.”