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Claim: “Under the City of Toronto, we saved the taxpayers over $1.16-billion.” – PC Leader Doug Ford, leaders’ debate, May 27

Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford has regularly repeated this claim, although typically he cites around $1-billion. It has been controversial since his late brother, Rob Ford, touted it as one of his key accomplishments during his scandal-plagued four-year term as mayor, during which Doug Ford was a city councillor and his brother’s right-hand man.

There is no question that in the Ford years, the rate of growth of the city’s operating budget slowed and property-tax increases were lower than under his left-leaning predecessor, David Miller. But the $1.16-billion claim may leave the impression that spending and taxes actually declined by that amount. They did not. Both city spending and property taxes rose in nominal terms from 2011 to 2014.

Much of what Mr. Ford is referring to is a tally of reductions – either service cuts or “efficiencies” − from the projected expenditures that are compiled each year as the city’s budget process begins. Most years, these amounts are usually first estimated in the hundreds of millions dollars, but are winnowed down in order to balance the operating budget, as the city must do by law. Every council, under every mayor, squeezes millions out of the annual budget – which now totals $11-billion − this way.

The numbers in Mr. Ford’s ledger include the estimated savings from his brother’s move to contract out half the city’s residential garbage collection, or $11.5-million a year. But they also include things that are far from what conservatives would call fat-trimming: unexpected fuel-costs savings, for example, and $30-million in increased user fees. And the tally counts actual cuts to city services, not just “efficiencies” as Rob Ford promised.

In April, 2014, then-city manager Joe Pennachetti said that during the Ford years, council achieved about $890-million in this kind of budget savings. By comparison, council in Mr. Miller’s last four years approved $545-million in similar moves to close annual budget holes, Mr. Pennachetti said.

But the Ford-era operating budget savings, while significant, are a far cry from what Rob Ford promised in his mayoral campaign, in which the “gravy train” at city hall was a mantra. During the 2010 race, he promised to find $2.8-billion in savings, including using attrition to get rid of 3 per cent of city staff a year, saving $1-billion and finding $1.7-billion in “efficiencies.”

And to arrive at his $1-billion-and-more figure, Doug Ford appears to include as much as $50-million a year in projected revenue lost to the city from council’s cancellation of Mr. Miller’s $60-a-year vehicle registration tax, among his brother’s first acts as mayor. But this was not a budget saving: It was a tax cut that actually enlarged the city’s budget shortfall, rather than reduced it. Still, it was money that stayed in drivers’ pockets.

Mr. Ford’s math also ignores the costs that he and his brother added to the city’s books. Among them is the $75-million in sunk costs the city owed to provincial transit agency Metrolinx after the Ford-driven cancellation of the Scarborough LRT line, which would have been completely paid for by the province.

The Fords’ preferred subway extension that replaced this project – subsequently endorsed by all levels of government and Rob Ford’s successor, John Tory − is now expected to cost Toronto property taxpayers at least $1-billion of its estimated $3.35-billion price tag.

Claim: “Not one single person lost their job [ due to cost-cutting during Rob Ford’s term as mayor ].” – Doug Ford, leaders’ debate, May 27

While mayor, Rob Ford advocated for about 1,200 layoffs in his proposed 2012 budget, despite originally promising while a candidate to shed thousands of city workers only through attrition. City officials warned in December, 2011, that the layoffs would be necessary after too few of the city’s 50,000-plus workforce signed up for voluntary buyouts offered in an attempt to trim the size of government.

Even before the city’s budget was passed that year, several non-union staff were shown the door and 666 unionized layoffs were planned, The Globe and Mail reported at the time.

Toronto Transit Commission spokesman Brad Ross said on Wednesday that the TTC eliminated 482 positions as a result of budget cuts in 2011 and 2012, but used attrition to thin unionized ranks and offered affected non-unionized employees a buyout package.

Hundreds of other staff reductions were spread across a long list of city departments: child care, parks, transportation, public health and libraries. According to city budget documents, Rob Ford’s staff reductions, as approved by council, cut the city’s workforce by about 1,504 positions, from 53,237 permanent and temporary workers in 2011 to 51,733 in 2012.

But city officials this week were unable to verify how many layoffs occurred, as opposed to the number of positions eliminated that were already vacant, or the number of staff reductions that saw employees redeployed or be allowed to retire or take a buyout.

According to a 2015 study by the Wellesley Institute based on information provided by one of the city’s main unions, 31 police-station cleaners and daycare workers whose roles were contracted out by the city were laid off and left without jobs.

Claim: “We created 56,000 new jobs.” – Doug Ford, leaders’ debate, May 7

Leaving aside the limited effect a mayor or the policies of a municipality can have on broader economic trends, and the fact these jobs were created by businesses, not the city government, this claim appears to actually understate the number of jobs added to Toronto’s economy in the Ford years, as the city and the rest of Canada was recovering from the recession spawned by the 2008 global financial crisis.

According to Statistics Canada data compiled by the City of Toronto, the city actually added 67,090 jobs from 2011 to 2014. However, by 2016, in just the first two years of Mayor John Tory’s term, Toronto added 77,630 jobs. It added another 57,550 in 2017 alone, the most since 1999, as the broader Canadian and U.S. economies experienced strong growth.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne are criticizing Doug Ford’s Tories for not releasing a full platform ahead of June’s provincial election. The leaders spoke to reporters after Sunday’s debate.

The Canadian Press

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