Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he's "absolutely" ready to play hardball with a provincial government reluctant to agree to his request for $150-million this year. And in a talk radio interview Wednesday morning he threatened to ensure the Liberals don't get back into office at Queen's Park following this fall's election.
"I haven't talked to [Premier Dalton McGuinty]face to face about that request of $150-million. And if he says 'No,' obviously there's a provincial election coming up," Mr. Ford told Newstalk1010. "I want to work with him, not against him. But obviously if he's not helping out the city, I'm going to have no choice but to work against him. I don't want to do that."
While Mr. Ford insisted he doesn't want to blame other levels of government for the city's financial woes - something he accused his predecessor David Miller of doing too often - he said that if the province isn't forthcoming with cash, he'd have "no other choice."
"If I need help from the province then I'll ask for their help. And if they choose not to help us, then I have no other choice but to get out, as I call it, 'Ford nation' and make sure they're not re-elected in the next election."
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan continued to deny the province would send more funds.
"That's very interesting," Mr. Duncan told reporters in response to Mr. Ford's comments. "There is no more money," he said, repeating the same blunt message he delivered on Monday.
It is routine for Toronto to submit a prebudget wish list to the province. In fact, most of the items Mr. Ford lists are long-standing requests, including asking the province to pay half of the public-transit system's operating costs and to update a cost-sharing agreement for subsidized child-care spots.
However, the city doesn't normally ask for one-time money to fix roads, according to former budget chief Shelley Carroll. This year, Mr. Ford and city staff are seeking $48.3-million in provincial cash to improve traffic lights ($16.7-million); untangle the Six Points intersection where Dundas, Bloor and Kipling meet ($15-million); and fix stretches of five major roads ($16.7-million).
Mr. Ford also said he plans to ask council to get rid of Toronto Community Housing Corporation's board of directors after the seven unelected board members rejected his request they resign. A pair of reports from the city's auditor-general Jeff Griffiths, published Monday, found the housing corporation had flouted its own rules on staff expenditures and procurement policies.
"I can only ask [them to resign] I can't force them. ... I have to get new people in there, and I'm going through council," he said, adding that he's optimistic he'd succeed. "I can't see any councillor defending these expenditures. It's absolutely ridiculous."
Mr. Ford said he also wants to see TCHC CEO Keiko Nakamura leave her post. He confirmed he asked her to resign in a brief meeting Monday evening, and "she said 'No.'"
Mr. Ford added he thinks a private social-housing model would be better run than the public one the city has now, and while he said he hasn't made up his mind whether to try to privatize the city's social-housing stock entirely, it's something he's considering.
"If contracting it out is the way to go, that's the way we're going to go."
WIth a report from Karen Howlett in Toronto