Toronto’s budget chief is down, but he’s not out.
The day after his budget passed council in a 39-5 vote that weakened a number of his suggested cuts, Councillor Mike Del Grande found himself at the physiotherapist’s office.
“My hands are shot,” he said on Wednesday morning, as rumours swirled of his imminent departure from his role as Mayor Rob Ford’s budget chief. “All the keyboarding, it’s taken a toll.”
As for speculation swirling Wednesday that he’s stepping down from his budget post? “That is absolutely incorrect.”
For the last year, Mr. Del Grande has been poring over line items as the front man for a budget process that has polarized council. Day after day he repeated a singular message: Council cannot continue balancing the City Hall budget using one-time surpluses without risking fiscal disaster.
Over the past week, council colleagues pulled several controversial measures from the fiscal blueprint he’d slaved over, reinstating funding to pools, community centres, library hours, TTC routes and other programs.
Already dismayed by the physical toll of his budget post, Mr. Del Grande told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday that he was interested in taking on a new role at City Hall.
“I would prefer to be a regular councillor,” he said. “When I took this on I told the Mayor I wasn’t interested in doing it forever. I wanted to fix this and hand it off to someone else.”
But he’s not resigning, he wants to make that much clear. Every two years, the mayor is free to shuffle his committee chairs. That means in October, Mr. Ford could replace Mr. Del Grande. But the budget chief is insisting that if the mayor wants to replace him, it should happen sooner than the fall.
“With the budget process taking place earlier in the year now, it would be unfair to drop someone in this position in October,” he said. “If I’m to be replaced, the shakeup should happen before that.”
Mr. Ford’s chief strategist, Mark Towhey, quickly squelched any talk of plans to replace Mr. Del Grande.
“He’s done a great job,” Mr. Towhey said. “We’ve got a lot of work left to do and I hope he continues to do it.”
The Scarborough councillor wasn’t so sure.
“The world will survive if I’m not there,” Mr. Del Grande said.