Councillors’ office budgets slashed

Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier Dec. 17)

Councillor John Parker voted to cut offices expenses.

Another stop on the gravy train has been eliminated as Mayor Rob Ford and council voted on Dec. 16 to cut councillor office budgets by over $20,000.
The vote was 40–5 in favour of reducing the expense accounts from $50,445 to $30,000, which will save a total of $899,580 a year.
“This reduction is highly symbolic of the will of Toronto city council to listen to the voice of the public and demonstrate leadership in fiscal restraint and respect for the taxpayer,” said Ford in a statement.
In 2009, when the office budget maximum was $53,100, Councillor John Parker was near the top that year, but voted to reduce the amount to $30,000.
One thing he’ll no longer be able to afford is his constituency office on Laird Drive, which cost over $7,000 in 2009 but he’s not mourning that loss.
“I live in the ward, so my front door is my constituency office,” he told theTown Crier. “It was more productive and satisfactory for me to meet with them in their homes, offices, factories.”


Another big cost for councillors’ is designing, producing and distributing newsletters to constituents. In Parker’s case, a newsletter, plus flyers, meeting notices, photocopying, postage and so forth ate up over $18,000.
“If we can coordinate sending out our ward newsletter with the material the city sends out, we can help each other with distribution costs,” said Parker.
Don Valley East rep Denzil Minnan-Wong said it’s about setting an example because all city departments will be asked to trim costs to balance the 2011 budget.
“We’ll have to do more with less,” said Minnan-Wong, who meets constituents in coffee shops. “We are trying to show leadership by example.”
North York rep John Filion, who was one of five councillors who voted against the cost-cutting proposal, said he needs the resources to adequately communicate with his residents.
“I have 100,000 constituents and 42,000 households. The (city) average is around 62,000 residents and 25,000 households,” Filion said.
Filion spent $48,798.42 from his 2009 office budget on a constituency office and staff and sending out notices.
While Ford campaigned on cutting councillors’ budgets by citing the abnormalities like politicians paying for bunny suits for parades or farewell parties Filion said that simply cutting the amount councillor can spend isn’t the right way to change the system.
“There was a lot of attention to office budget abuses, but there’s 45 of us and now everyone is paying the price because (former councillor) Kyle Rae spent $12,000 he shouldn’t have on a farewell party,” Filion said. “The solution would have been to change the rules not cut the budget.
“He (Ford) also ran on a campaign of customer service. He cut my customer service (budget),” said Filion.
City staff will report back in the new year on some flexibility for councillors with more populated wards and about the possibility of allowing for free office space in city civic centres.
(I wrote several different versions of this story. For quotes and analysis on councillors Josh Matlow and Joe Mihevc, click here. For a story focused on councillors Gord Perks and John Filion, click here. And for a version with Councillor Karen Stintz, see the link here.)

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15 responses to “Councillors’ office budgets slashed

  1. Here are links to some of the other versions I did which focus on the perspectives and office budget spending of different councillors:
    Josh Matlow and Joe Mihevc, Karen Stintz, John Filion and Gord Perks, John Parker.

  2. He’s looking to be a Judge, not MPP. (Where did you get your notion?) Parker wouldn’t have come out of that one smelling of roses if there hadn’t been so much support “on the ground” for the Talbot issue. That one reminded me of Stintz’s handling of the Riocan deal on the old liquor store site on Avenue Road. Either of them (Parker & Stintz), left to their own devices, don’t really give a hoot about their constituents – unless it improves their chances of re-election. They, and a few others, need to be marginalised if RF’s administration is to do anything out of the ordinary. I believe that plan is already in place. After Stintz has swept the floors at Yonge and Lawrence subway station she’ll be done. (She’ll be supporting Jane next time around, if she makes it to the round of 22.)

    We’ll have to see the finished product but, I’d say RF has Dalton’s attention. It’s in DMG’s best interests to keep Toronto on side. Since the majority feel TO has fallen behind in public transit, I’d say he’ll be trying to come up with the dosh RF needs for his subways. SH is likely on-side with this too.

    If you would comment a little more would I be able to ask you for your sources? I don’t think so. But, feel free to give us your opinion on these things.

    • Peter, that’s what I said in my first email response to you – whether you thought Rob Ford and Dalton McGuinty want Councillor John Parker to be a judge or JP. I had not heard that rumour. why do you think that will happen, do you have anything that leads you to believe this?

      • Peter MacQuarie

        “Especially if what you are insinuating is that John Parker will run provincially. He won’t run for the Liberals as Parker is a Conservative.”

        Kris, you wrote that, right? Why did you think I was insinuating that Parker will run provincially?

        I believe he wants to be a Judge (1st reason), RF wants rid of him (2nd reason) and SH/DMG are willing to oblige. All based on my discussions with my TO political connections. Parker didn’t expect to win in 2010. He only did win because the opposition was split.

        Do you ever express your own opinion on municipal affairs?

      • Peter, before I commented “Especially if what you are insinuating is that John Parker will run provincially. He won’t run for the Liberals as Parker is a Conservative.”
        I wrote a different reply to you, which I thought you also saw.
        “Who would promote Councillor John Parker, a lawyers as you may know, to be a judge or justice of the peace? I am not sure Mayor Rob Ford actually wants to get rid of John Parker, and neither do most of his residents as he had very strong competition with Liberal-backed Mohamed Dhanani, plus Leaside homeboy, ex cop Jon Burnside, and Parker still won.”
        Thanks for sharing your point of view.
        I have been writing a political affairs column called City Views for a number of years for the Town Crier.
        I started this blog as a way to post my stories not necessarily to “blog” about my opinions. I appreciate that you want me to tell you my opinions, but you will find most news writers as opposed to columnists try and let the stories and interviews speak for themselves.
        If I become too opinionated publicly it actually makes my job harder as it’s difficult to access sources when you are very biased in your articles.
        As you know, a news article isn’t supposed to be editorialized with the opinion of the writer. That’s where columns and editorials come in handy. But each are written, edited and done with different purposes in mind.
        I have written controversial stories that focused on the city and councilors but I still try and be fair and not malicious for the sake of sensationalizing. There’s also legal implications as well.
        Some bloggers aren’t concerned with facts and will say whatever they want to get attention. Since my reputation is attached to what I write, I take it seriously. I do research, interviews and write different sides of the story and then people such as yourself can tell me if they agree with what the people I have interviewed said in the stories I write.

    • Peter, actually I base my articles on facts, interviews which are attributed to people, reports, etc. Sometimes I will use unnamed sources as sometime people will only speak off the record or give your background and don’t want their names used.
      I am not asking you to name sources, etc.
      I am saying I have not heard anything previously about Rob Ford or Dalton McGuinty trying to find a way to appoint Councillor John Parker as a judge. So I am asking if this is your opinion and are you just throwing it out there for discussion?
      Or is there something more you are basing this statement?

    • “Especially if what you are insinuating is that John Parker will run provincially. He won’t run for the Liberals as Parker is a Conservative.”

      Why did you think I was insinuating this?

      • Peter.
        I’m not sure. But in one of your earlier comments you wrote:
        “I think RF would like to see him gone and a favourite in his place. RF’s friends Dalton and Steve are working on that while Rob is working on Parker’s replacement – possible candidate Jane Pitfield. Parker got in by coming up the middle and wasn’t expected to win – not “most of his residents” either, more like a freak event, quirk of democracy. He was such a lazy Councillor and I’m glad he’s been put to work as Deputy Speaker – a job where he can’t be AWOL/MIA for too long like before. RF is no dummy, he’s sly like a fox.”

        So I guess I just got tripped up when you said Rob Ford “RF” wanted to Councillor Parker gone and Premier Dalton McGuinty was going to help him by trying to work on Parker’s replacement. And since Parker used to be an MPP, I guess I started thinking you were insinuating that Premier McGuinty would help Mayor Ford by finding Councillor Parker a spot to run in the 2011 provincial election.
        So that’s why I wrote back that Councillor Parker is a Conservative so he wouldn’t run for the provincial Liberals.

      • Peter,
        I guess I just connected too many different references and was not clear on what you meant the first time ’round.

  3. I forgot to mention, the sooner Parker is “promoted” to Judge, the better. He’s another one who made an easy $100K a year doing very little. It’s a sin to think of him as a Judge but it’s the only way for RF to get rid of him now.

    • Peter, who would promote Councillor John Parker, a lawyers as you may know, to be a judge or justice of the peace? I am not sure Mayor Rob Ford actually wants to get rid of John Parker, and neither do most of his residents as he had very strong competition with Liberal-backed Mohamed Dhanani, plus Leaside homeboy, ex cop Jon Burnside, and Parker still won.

      • Peter MacQuarie

        I think RF would like to see him gone and a favourite in his place. RF’s friends Dalton and Steve are working on that while Rob is working on Parker’s replacement – possible candidate Jane Pitfield. Parker got in by coming up the middle and wasn’t expected to win – not “most of his residents” either, more like a freak event, quirk of democracy. He was such a lazy Councillor and I’m glad he’s been put to work as Deputy Speaker – a job where he can’t be AWOL/MIA for too long like before. RF is no dummy, he’s sly like a fox.

      • Peter, why do you call Dalton (McGuinty) a friend of Rob Ford? Especially if what you are insinuating is that John Parker will run provincially. He won’t run for the Liberals as Parker is a Conservative. I have written a number of stories especially on the Talbot apartments in Parker’s ward and always found him on the ball.
        So you think Parker will be gone and there will be a by-election and Jane Pitfield will run in her old stomping ground Ward 26? I have to say I haven’t heard this rumour. Is this just speculation on your part or do you have more reason to think Parker won’t stay through his 4-year term?

  4. “Denzil Minnan-Wong said it’s about setting an example …”
    What kind of example was he setting before? Was it OK under Miller to book your wedding and miss a Council meeting? The guy was often away from his desk when he did attend.
    “John Filion, … said he needs the resources to adequately communicate with his residents.”
    If he’d get on with updating the Sheppard Secondary Plan he wouldn’t need to spend so much money. Every planning application needs to be treated as an OP Amendment and it’s so unnecessary. As it stands, Filion gets to play ‘God” and I suppose he likes that position.
    “…there’s 45 of us and now everyone is paying the price… ”
    Yes, you all have to pay the price now for that sense of entitlement we’ve seen so much of. And, you’re all to blame – parties, espresso machines and speech lessons!

  5. I actually interviewed about ten councillors on this topic to get various views for the Town Crier’s community papers, but most of those quotes won’t appear until I write the print edition stories.

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