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Toronto to consider more than $700-million in cuts to police, TTC and zoo

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has wrested the KPMG report away from left-leaning councillors into the hands of own inner circle.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Mayor Rob Ford says he is taking his lead from taxpayers who want a clean, safe city and will pick a police officer over "someone to water plants" when he makes his call on budget cuts.

The mayor has yet to show his hand on the kind of money-saving measure he prefers from the long list of ideas being floated in KPMG study that has trickled out one department at a time over the past two weeks, but Thursday morning as the eighth and final instalment of that work was release, he indicated he will be guided by what he characterizes as taxpayers' priorities.

"To say exactly what is going to be contracted out, what is going to be closed, I can't give you that information now. I don't think anyone can because we are at the very, very beginning, early stages," he told reporters gathered on a subway platform to see the rollout of the new Rocket train.

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"We are going to look at what people want. It is not what the politicians want. It's what the taxpayers want," he said. "The taxpayers have been very, very clear. They want a clean, safe city. That's a priority. So if you are going to say am I going to hire someone to water plants or am I going to hire a police officer, obviously we are going to take a police officer."

The last of the KPMG reports on expendable city services suggests deep cuts to police services, public health, TTC and libraries and dozens of other city agencies. It also raises the spectre of selling off an array of city properties including the zoo, Exhibition Place and one or more of three municipally owned theatres.

While previous reports focused on individual committees at city hall, the latest casts a much wider net, covering all Toronto's 105 arm's-length agencies, boards and commissions. The report will be considered next week by the executive committee, chaired by the mayor and filled with his supporters.

Toronto has embarked on a massive service review, an attempt to meet Mr. Ford's campaign pledge to stop the "gravy train" at city hall. Estimates for next year's budget show the city short by about $774-million and Mr. Ford has said he will not raise taxes by more than 3 per cent.

Some of the over $700-million worth of options KPMG presented in its report released Thursday morning include:

Police

  • consider one-officer cars in place of the current partner system
  • scrap the crossing guard program
  • reducing size of force through a hiring freeze or early retirement incentives
  • remove a rule requiring officers in construction zones
  • transfer some towing, parking and bylaw enforcement duties

Library

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  • close some of Toronto's 99 libraries
  • trim library outreach and programming

TTC

  • transfer Wheel-Trans users to TTC
  • cut late-night buses
  • contract out some TTC services

Zoo

  • sell off the zoo to private interests
  • transfer ownership to a community non-profit group
  • negotiate operating partnership with other levels of government

Public Health

  • eliminate a program that funds AIDS prevention, student nutrition programs and drug prevention projects
  • slash a dental health program

Exhibition Place

  • sell off city interest in the grounds
  • explore merging Exhibition Place with Ontario Place

Other cost-cutting options.

  • shut down the Toronto Atmospheric Fund
  • consider selling Toronto parking lots
  • look at selling off one or more theatres currently under city ownership or amalgamation
  • examine divesting Heritage Toronto to a third party
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