Toronto councillor Frances Nunziata, a member of mayor’s inner circle, says she does not support closing libraries and predicts any proposal to shut branches would never get through council.
Ms. Nunziata, who has two branches in her west-end ward, says the buildings need to be used more for city programming rather than closed down.
“Personally I don’t think there is a will on council to close any libraries,” she said Wednesday. “I would definitely not support closing libraries.”
Ms. Nunziata’s declaration is the latest evidence of the headwinds Mayor Rob Ford could face as he looks to cut services, part of his campaign pledge to stop the gravy at city hall and close an estimated $774-million shortfall in next year’s budget.
The city’s 98-branch library system was singled out by consultants as an area where savings could be achieved by reducing hours and “closing some branches.”
The mayor’s brother Doug Ford, also a city councillor, has complained that Toronto has too many branches and said last week he would close one particular library in his own ward “in a heartbeat.”
The councillor’s comments, along with the report by consultant KPMG, has given birth to a groundswell of protests, including from writer Margaret Atwood, who this week suggested Toronto taxpayers stop worrying about “the bad Fords” and turn their attention to their local councillors.
Ms. Nunziata said she has heard from many residents on the issue, but blamed the union for creating the misperception that branches would be shut.
“The union is going around telling everyone that is what we are doing, which is unfortunate for them to lie,” she said.
Ms. Nunziata is not the first loyalist of the mayor to say no to branch closings, but as Speaker on council she has been a staunch ally. Last week, councillor Karen Stintz declared she would not support library closings, saying she had heard from more than 300 constituents on the matter.