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Toronto Councillor Howard Moscoe (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Toronto Councillor Howard Moscoe (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Inside City Hall

Howard Moscoe v. the Toronto Star Add to ...

Howard Moscoe should come with a warning label. Or maybe it should be a bumper sticker. Either way, it should read: Don't encourage me.

Yesterday the veteran councillor revelled in the round-the-clock coverage of his rogue contribution to the Save Transit Campaign, a cartoonish bumper sticker accusing Dalton McGuinty of stabbing Toronto in the back. It was such a hit that even Dalton the knife-wielder acknowledged Mr. Moscoe. "It's an interesting evolution of the conversation," the premier deadpanned this morning.

Emboldened by that stunt, Mr. Moscoe has decided to take on the Toronto Star. He's drafted a council motion asking that the Hay Group, the consulting company reviewing councillors' salaries, look to the Toronto Star for advice. The motion drips with sarcasm and painful floral metaphors.

"This week the pre-election ritual of reviewing Councillors' salaries began in earnest. Prior to this election the issue, like the trillium, blossomed every three years but now with a four-year term this ugly plant has morphed into a weed that always bears bitter fruit," it begins.

It goes on: "I know that managing a daily newspaper is far more important than managing the 9.2 billion corporation called the City of Toronto but the wisdom of important people like the Star Editorial Board ought to be given the weight it deserves."

Mr. Moscoe's motion, seconded by Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, is not clear in its purpose, other than to slam a newspaper for doing its job. (And with oodles more restraint than the Toronto Sun on the issues of salaries and perks.)

The motion actually recommends that "The Hay Group, in reviewing the salaries of Toronto Councillors, be asked to take into account the average compensation paid to the non-employee members of the editorial board of the Toronto Star."

It took two conversations with Mr. Moscoe to figure out that he was actually referring to the Toronto Star Advisory Committee, a committee of Torstar's board formerly known as the Editorial Advisory Committee. "They make like $120,000," he scoffed in an interview. "I think it needed to be said -- I really want to expose the hypocrisy of the Toronto Star on salaries."

Well, he might have picked a better example. The six members of the Toronto Star Advisory Committee (excluding the publisher and CEO of Torstar, both of whom sit ex-officio) earned an average of $94,113 in 2009 -- less than the $99,619.52 councillors will earn this year. However, the Star average is distorted because John Honderich, chair of the board, sits on the committee. He earned $207,991 last year. The others made between $66,020 and $80,223, according to Torstar's most recent information circular. That payday is hardly a kick in the pants for a part-time job that involves a couple meetings a month, at most. But it sure takes the edge off Mr. Moscoe's attack.

If council decided to follow Mr. Moscoe's advice, it could mean a pay cut. Not that there's any chance council will heed him, he admits. "I don't care. It doesn't matter," Mr. Moscoe said. "I've made my point."

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