He is the most sought-after politician in Toronto, yet he plops his elbows upon a rumpled, beverage-stained desk calendar that is still stuck on June. As he recapped a wild first year in office, the mayor talks to Elizabeth Church and Patrick White about shedding 7,000 jobs, changing his plans for the Sheppard subway, refusing to take a union lockout off the table and loving Tim Tebow.
Q: A year into your time here, would you say Toronto is a lean operation?
A: Leaner. There is still a lot of work to be done. Is this a better place, a better city than it was a year ago? Absolutely.
Q: You have said the city gained about 7,000 workers since amalgamation. To become leaner still are we going to have to lose those workers?
A: We should be coming down at least to where we were at amalgamation.
Q: So you are looking at losing 7,000 jobs?
A: Give or take.
Q: The city manager has said more than 1,000 people could be getting a pink slips.
A: We can’t keep running this city the way it has always been run. It has been run into the ground. We inherited the $755-million mess. Again, I am going back to we are spending less money than we did last year. It’s unheard of.
Q: I think Mike Harris and Paul Martin might have.
A: No. Well, okay. I talked to [Mike Harris] He said it’s a challenge to spend less … anyways.
Q: Union leader Mark Ferguson has pledged there will be no strike in January. Can the city pledge there will be no lockout?
A: I can’t get into the details of what we’ve been negotiating. That would be bargaining in bad faith. All I know is that we’re at the table. I believe it’s very fair what we’ve offered them.
Q: Do you think EMS workers should be an essential service?
A. Yeah, I believe it’s pretty important that we do that. It’s definitely important, they’re essential.
Q. Would that mean extending them arbitration privileges like police and fire?
A. Again, all the ins and outs, I’m not an expert in that, but I think we have to do what it takes to make them an essential service.
Q. Your advisor Gordon Chong has said that you’ll only get 10 per cent or maybe 30 per cent private funding for the Sheppard subway. How disappointed are you?
A. I’m not disappointed at all. I’m very confident we can get a shovel in the ground this year and at the latest next year. You look at the federal government, they’ve come to the table already with $333-million, and the province has committed funding, what’s left in Eglinton and probably more. So we’ll have to go talk to the Premier again about it. The private sector’s all over it. There’s people in our office every week about this.
Q. On the provincial side, they have said they can’t hand over that money until Eglinton is done in 2020. That’s a long way off.
A. I get along well with the Premier. I don’t think he’s going to wait until 2020 to make that happen. If he does, that’s his choice, but I think we can sit down and come up with a better timeframe than that.
Q. Are you still planning on one-third each from the province, the feds and the private sector?
A. You have to have a game plan here. I use the analogy of football. Sometimes you have a plan and it’s not working out … but you still have to have a plan going in, and that’s our plan. If the province didn’t have the money and wasn’t going to help us they’d come right out and say it. They haven’t said that.
Q. They did say that didn’t they?
A. I have never heard the Premier come out and say he’s not going to fund the Sheppard subway.
Q. What about the $65-million number TTC general manager Gary Webster kicked around as the cost of cancelling Transit City?
A. I have no idea where he’s getting his number from.
Q. Metrolinx, he said.
A. You hear 15 different stories about this number and I’ve never seen the number on paper. I don’t think any of us have. I think they’re just pulling it out of thin air.
Q. New Year’s Resolution?
Just, have your health, your happiness, your family. You have that, you’ve got everything. Outside of that, I’ve got my little angels, my son and daughter, and that’s it.
Q. Do you see much of your kids. Take them to school?
A. No, it’s a challenge. I try to as much as I can, but I’m down here quite early. But if I can take them to school I do, or pick them up if I can.
Q. You get home much for dinner?
A. Oh, no, no, no. Tim Hortons and McDonald’s have become like best friends.
Q. Any Super Bowl predictions?
A. I think Green Bay is in trouble. I don’t know what it is … I like Denver. I like Tebow.
He played a tough game against New England. I love that guy as a quarterback. Everyone hates him, but I love him.
This interview has been edited and condensed.