That leaves Doug in more of a COO role to Rob's CEO. He's the hands-on one who's swinging side deals and keeping the mayor's agenda in the minds of other councillors. "I think Doug makes Rob a better mayor," said Councillor Adam Vaughan, a vocal critic of the mayor. "I disagree with him a lot, but it's collegial disagreement. He's open to talking. I have two or three conversations a week with Doug. I've had more conversations with Doug this week than I've had with Rob in 10 years. I think he was quite amazed to come to council and realize we're not all the wide-eyed socialists his brother made us out to be. He's engaged in thinking about the future of the city, and that makes him a more complex person than his brother."
Doug says his chief role is trimming the size and cost of government. "My key goal is to focus on the finances," he said.
In particular, his eye is on financing the Sheppard subway and selling off idle portions of Toronto's $18-billion real-estate portfolio. "We shouldn't be in the real-estate business," said Doug, who sits on the organization responsible for liquidating city properties, Build Toronto. "There is a couple billion dollars sitting out there in the form of vacant buildings, not creating any value. We want to up-zone them and sell them and make a profit." As a major initial stage in that liquidation, Case Ootes, the one-man board at the helm of Toronto Community Housing, announced on Thursday plans to sell 900 homes for $400-million.
The mayor's Sheppard subway plan seems to some a pipe dream. Even Gordon Chong, the man the Mayor appointed to explore financing options for the Sheppard subway, has said the project may end up being unfeasible. But Doug Ford has a plan. He's heard a number of serious proposals already for financing the $4-billion line privately, including at least one from a Chinese firm. He insists the city should start digging with partial funding: accepting a few hundred million from the federal government, borrowing against future tax revenues (known as tax-increment financing) along Eglinton and Sheppard and diverting cash leftover from the $8.1-billion the province has promised for the Eglinton subway. "I know for a fact Eglinton won't cost that much," he said. "Let's just get the shovels in the ground," he added. "Even if we go a kilometre a year, just don't take those boring machines out of the ground once they start going."
Local councillors question the math. "Tax-increment financing is supposed to be used for local improvements," said Mr. Mihevc. "Why should people at Black Creek and Eglinton mortgage their future tax revenues for a subway way out on Sheppard East? The money isn't there. You might squeeze millions or maybe tens of millions that way, but definitely not billions."
As for that $774-million budget shortfall, he seems certain that the mayor's quiet request for 10-per-cent cuts from every city department will fill much of the hole.
"It's tough work, but I'm having the absolute time of my life," he said, as he sat up from an office table to meet with an Armenian delegation. Not such a good time that he'll commit to another term in office, however. "I can't answer that, I don't know," he said of running again. "I know one thing, I don't want to be reading my obituary in the newspaper, and this place may very well kill me if I go much longer."
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