Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fact #20: Rob Ford lied to you about pretty much everything



Why should I care?

Among other things, we can now conclusively say that Rob Ford:

On the other hand, Rob Ford:
For the sake of his kids, it's time to get better. For the sake of the city, it's time to move on.

And, one more thing:
  • The Hulk Hogan arm wrestling match was fixed

How do I know you're not lying?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fact #19: Rob Ford Math: $371M Fire Budget (2010) – $8M "Savings" = $423M Fire Budget (2014)



It's true. Rob Ford claims to have saved $7.9 million from Toronto Fire Services over the last four years. This is part of the $753 million of cost savings that make up the majority of his $1 billion claim.

Over the same time period, the annual budget for Fire Services has actually grown from $371 million to $423 million.

Why should I care?

The imaginary savings that Rob Ford keeps talking about are not real. Your taxes have gone up over the last four years, not down. There are a few reasons why Ford Math isn't real math:

  • Rob's claims are spread over four years. His $7.9 million in Fire Services "savings" is less than $2 million per year, or about 0.5% of the department's total operating costs
  • The "savings" aren't budget cuts - they are denials of budget increases and double-counting of lost revenue. Regardless of what Ford claims, the actual cost of running Toronto keeps going up
  • If you planned to go on a $5,000 vacation to Barbados but changed your mind before buying the tickets, you wouldn't say that you just saved $5 grand. But Rob Ford does
  • If you cancelled your $10,000 Leafs seasons tickets and bought $10,000 Raptors seasons tickets you wouldn't say that you saved $10 grand. But Rob Ford does
  • If work cancelled your $6,000 bonus you wouldn't say that your family just saved $6 grand. But Rob Ford does
  • If you sign a seven-year cell phone contract that saves $1,100 per year you don't say that you'll be saving $7,700 over the next four years. But Rob Ford does

If Rob Ford actually did save $8 million from Fire Services over four years, then the annual cost of operations should have gone down by $2 million, from $371 million to $369 million. However, costs have actually increased by 3.3% per year to $423 million, which is twice the rate of inflation.

So when it comes time to open this year's tax bill, be sure to call the City to tell them that the increased number is a mistake. Rob Ford says he saved a billion dollars, and you want your cut.

How do I know you're not lying?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Fact #18: Rob Ford voted against enforcing worker safety laws


It's true. On April 2nd, 2014, Toronto City Council voted 44-1 in favour of endorsing the "Stop the Killing: Enforce the Law" campaign. Council approved a motion to urge the Ontario government to improve the training of crown prosecutors and law enforcement for workplace safety laws, and to enforce the laws already on the books. There were no associated costs for the City of Toronto.

Toronto is one of many governments across the country which have participated in the Stop the Killing campaign. To date Rob Ford is the only municipal politician to have voted no.

Why should I care?

You could argue that it was just a symbolic motion, so it doesn't really matter how Ford voted. However,

  1. If you're going to take credit for all of the "cranes in the sky", then at least pretend to care about the safety of the workers who are driving Toronto's recovery.
  2. Better enforcement of laws would actually save money for the City of Toronto, since industrial accidents drive up the cost of construction, cause delays and often result in lawsuits against the City.
  3. Sometimes it's fun to be a dick, but when you're the mayor it gets old pretty fast. This is yet another example of how Ford is completely incapable of working with the rest of council. If Ford were smart he'd use these votes as part of a give and take with councillors. In return for supporting their motions, he could get votes for his agenda items. Instead, Ford's legislative scorched-earth policy just brings everything to a halt. Which wastes everyone's time. And taxpayers' money.

Once again, Rob Ford has led the principled charge against society's leeches. So if you are a construction worker, an Olympic athlete or Nelson Mandela, know that Rob Ford is keeping his eyes on you.

How do I know you're not lying?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fact #17: Ford Fest's free food and alcohol was provided by a nightclub lobbyist


It's true. Numerous media outlets reported that the food, drinks and supplies at Rob Ford's Ford Fest on July 5th, 2013 (and others) was provided by Muzik Nightclub. Muzik's owner is Zlatko Starkovski, a registered lobbyist with the City of Toronto (Registration #21995H). Starkovski and his wife donated $2,500 to Ford's 2010 election campaign.

Neither the Mayor's Office nor Muzik have responded to requests for clarification on whether the food and alcohol was provided free, at a discount or at full cost. Ford has never filed any details of Ford Fest with the City or claimed any expenses. Because the Ford Fests occurred outside of official campaign periods there is no record of who donated what.

Muzik has a long-term lease with the City at Exhibition Place, which was approved by Rob Ford's appointees to the Exhibition Place Board. Muzik recently led a successful effort to enforce their monopoly by banning all non-Muzik-hosted electronic dance events on Exhibition Place property.

Why should I care?

Oh, where to begin. Rob Ford is reported to be a personal friend of Starkovski and Ford is a regular patron of Muzik Nightclub, so on first glance it seems reasonable that Muzik would sponsor Ford's events. However, the nature of Musik's business relationship with the City makes their arrangement a clear conflict of interest.

The long-term non-competitive lease extension that Muzik recently negotiated with the city shares a number of similarities to the lease granted to the Boardwalk Pub. During the 2010 campaign, Ford was explicit in his criticism of the Boardwalk deal:
“Is someone getting money under the table?” Ford replied: “I truly believe they are, and that’s my personal opinion, and when I see all these donations, going through campaigns, it stinks to high heaven, we tried to re-open it, and they wouldn’t re-open it.” In an Aug. 12, 2010 Toronto Sun article Ford claimed the deal “smacks of civic corruption.”
Ford has refused to address any of the similar concerns with Muzik, nor has he elaborated on the nature of his relationship with Starkovski.

Of course, this is all a win-win for the interested parties. Ford gets to hang out with his buddy while patronizing one of the City's larger tenants. Starkovski's club gets regular visits from a bona fide clelbrity. And scantily-clad twenty-somethings get to experience their dream of taking a 3:00am selfie with a sweaty, overweight, crack-addled, 44-year-old married father of two.

How do I know you're not lying?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fact #16: Rob Ford takes credit for keeping global interest rates low


It's true. Rob Ford says that his $1 billion savings claim is backed up by Roberto Rossini, Toronto's Chief Financial Officer. Rossini published a briefing note on March 27th, 2014, that broke down $972 million in "savings" over the past four years, which on the surface appears to back up Ford's campaign slogan.

However, as numerous observers have pointed out, the memo proves that the vast majority of Ford's "savings" are based on council saying no to department requests for more money (but not actually cutting their budgets), double-counting or incorrectly counting expenses as savings, and including savings over which Ford had absolutely no influence.

One of the latter areas is "Debt service cost reduction due to lower interest rates", which totaled $36 million in 2012. That's over 10% of the total cost savings identified for the year. By including this figure in his total, Ford is basically taking credit for keeping global interest rates low for longer than the city expected.

Why should I care?

While it's certainly nothing new for a politician to take credit for things they didn't do (and avoid responsibility for things they did), Ford takes this habit to a whole new level. The $1 billion thing looks good on the side of a movie prop fire truck, but it's completely dishonest to those who thought Ford was serious when he claimed to be cutting the gravy train. The interest savings is not the biggest item on Ford's savings fantasy list, but it's the clearest example that he either has no understanding of budgets work and/or just doesn't care about what he says as long as it sounds catchy.

On the other hand, maybe Ford actually was responsible for prolonging quantitative easing in the United States, leading to a depressed bond market and an extended period of historically-low interest rates that reduced borrowing costs for the city. In that case the Bank of England screwed up royally by hiring Mark Carney. Clearly, they should have gone with the Sage of Etobicoke. And if Rob said he was committed to staying on as Mayor, they could have always hired Randy.

How do I know you're not lying?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fact #15: Rob Ford's transit flip-flops have cost taxpayers over $165M in cancellation fees

Update: The final total for cancellation fees is still up in the air (there is still no formal agreement to build the Scarborough subway extension). If it's just the Scarborough LRT that gets cancelled the number will be in the $85M neighbourhood. If Ford gets re-elected and all the lines are killed then the total will be much higher. If Ford loses and we go back to all the LRTs, much of the wasted costs will be avoided.


It's true. When Rob Ford became mayor the city had already approved Transit City, a multi-year multi-billion dollar coordinated program improve public transit across the region. One of Ford's first acts as mayor was to kill off Toronto's share of the work. "Transit City is over", he declared on December 1st, 2010.

Meanwhile, a significant amount of work had already been spent getting Transit City up and running. By unilaterally cancelling the Sheppard, Finch and Scarborough LRTs, and modifying plans for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Ford forced taxpayers to walk away from over $100M in sunk costs (and growing). In addition, taxpayers are on the hook for $65M in cancellation penalties to contractors such as Bombardier. Some of these decisions were later reversed by council, but much of the sunk costs stayed sunk.

His flip-flopping on whether the Eglinton Crosstown line would run fully underground or mixed over/under caused delays and additional wasted money, but that's a bit harder to quantify since the work is still ongoing.

Why should I care?

Residents along Finch and Sheppard are being denied true rapid transit because Rob pulled funding to help cover the cost of the Scarborough subway extension. Sheppard and Finch LRT planning continues, but Rob's insistence that a subway be built (and then Council's override in 2012) has caused delays and uncertainty. Rob says that he is going to build subways along those streets, but in four years he has found precisely $0 to fund construction.

Ford supporters love to rail against the provincial government's $1B gas plant cancellation boondoggle (why the cancellation of an Oakville power plant matters to Toronto politics is mystifying, but what can you do...). At the same time they ignore that a fully-funded, fully-approved, expertly-designed transit plan for the entire city was scrapped so that Ford could buy votes in Scarborough with a three-stop subway extension.

The cost to you? a mere $165M, or $83 per household. Plus the little fact that we still aren't building rapid transit. In 15 years when you're still waiting in the rain for an overflowing Finch bus, take comfort in knowing that Rob Ford flushed your tax dollars down the toilet to buy off Scarborough voters.

How do I know you're not lying?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fact #14: Rob Ford lied to you when he said the Scarborough LRT would disrupt traffic


It's true. The biggest decision faced by council in 2013 was whether to replace the aging SRT with either a surface/subsurface extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT or a subsurface extension of the Bloor-Danforth Subway. The Crosswtown LRT option would run along the current SRT route, was preferred by transit planners, had more stations and was billions of dollars cheaper. The Danforth Subway option was more expensive and had less stops, but offered a faster ride and eliminated the annoying transfer at Kennedy Station.

Becuase both proposals would either run underground or along the current SRT route, neither option would ever inconvenience a single car or truck. Impact on traffic was completely irrelevant to the choice that taxpayers had to make. However, Rob Ford made this a centrepiece of his objections to the cheaper SRT option.

"LRTs go down the middle of roads, tear up your roads" Ford repeated during the subway vs. Crosstown debate on July 16th, 2013. He refused to correct himself after multiple people reminded him that the Crosstown extension wouldn't touch a single road.

Rob Ford either lacked a basic understanding of what he was debating, or he was purposely lying to taxpayers in order to get what he wanted.

Why should I care?

There are in fact three rail lines planned for Scarborough:

  1. The Sheppard LRT from Don Mills station to Scarborough Town Centre,
  2. The Crosstown LRT along Eglinton to Kennedy Station, and 
  3. The SRT replacement with a Subway or Crosstown extension
The first two lines will run down the middle of roads and impact traffic, but the SRT replacement would not. Ford is ok to talk in general terms about a preference for underground rail, but he is lying when he says that the SRT replacement (running along the current SRT route) would be any more disruptive to traffic than the current SRT (honk if the SRT has ever blocked your car).

As taxpayers consider how to pay for an SRT replacement, both rail options have significant advantages and disadvantages. Anyone who suggests the answer is clear-cut is oversimplifying the issue. What we don't need is politicians purposely confusing the conversation by repeating lies, or worse, not bothering to understand what they are debating.

Ford's supporters often say that he's "a straight talker" and "not like a regular politician". However, if he's going to mislead you on a $1B addition to your tax bill, what else is he lying about?

How do I know you're not lying?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fact #13: Your property taxes have gone up by $228/year under Rob Ford


It's true. In 2010 the average Toronto house was assessed at $407,374 and paid $3,384 in municipal and educational taxes. In the just-approved 2014 budget, the average house is worth $499,521 and will pay $3,612 in property tax. This represents a four-year increase of $228, which is an average increase of 1.6%/year.

The $228 is an average. Half the city will pay less than this amount, and half will pay more (in some cases much more).

Why should I care?

The $228 is actually in line with inflation, so that's a decent accomplishment for the city. However, it is based on our total debt going up (we're paying less taxes than we should because we're borrowing more) and our infrastructure backlog for road repairs and other maintenance is increasing (the backlog for roads alone is growing by $200,000 per day).

Ah, you say, but we don't have to pay the $60 vehicle tax. That's true, but you're paying $153/year more for a Metropass. The $3B or so in user fees that the city charges for services like parks and recreation are also going up at twice the rate of inflation. So let's call the VRT savings a wash at best.

Fine, you may continue, but our taxes are only going up because council stripped Rob Ford of powers and then went on a spending spree. That's not quite true. Rob approved three of the four budgets, and the difference between what council approved for 2014 and what Rob wanted is less than a dollar per household per month.

You may be confused, because raising taxes is not what Rob Ford said he would do. In 2010, Ford promised to reduce the size of government by $3.0B, or 22%. Instead, he's only managed to keep spending growth in line with inflation. Rob Ford hasn't been saving us money - he's just been treading water. So what about the $1B he claims to have saved? If that were true our property taxes would have gone down by 11% (around $360/year), and not up by $228. Rather than do something difficult like cut costs, he's just taking credit for "avoiding" new ones. Which doesn't really mean anything.

If you want to Save Like Ford it's easy - just write down on a piece of paper that you are going to buy a new Escalade, and then rip it up. Boom - you just saved $70,000. How about planning and then cancelling a trip to the Bahamas? You just lopped another $10,000 off the family budget. Finally, go ask your boss to cut your salary by $20k, and you're up to an easy $100 grand. Feels good, doesn't it?

How do I know you're not lying?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fact #12: On the weekend he was filmed smoking crack, Rob Ford skipped five official city events


It's true. The infamous Rob Ford crack video was filmed just before 8:00pm on Sunday, February 17th, 2013. That was Family Day weekend, and as expected the mayor had a number of public events planned.
According to previously released freedom of information requests, the mayor had two scheduled events that evening: a calligraphy and paintings exhibition at 5:00 p.m. that was attended by Councillor Chin Lee (Ward 41, Scarborough-Rouge River), and a Lunar New Year gala in Richmond Hill at 7:00 p.m. The mayor did not attend either event, and also did not do his Sunday radio show, citing Family Day weekend. He had three events scheduled for the holiday Monday on February 18: accepting a donation to Riverdale Farm with Norm Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt), a Toronto Waterfront Family Day event, and a Black History Month event at Mackenzie House. He did not attend any of the events. 

Why should I care?

Rob Ford loves to say that he is the hardest working mayor in Toronto history, and that he has never missed a day of work. He says that being mayor is a full-time job, while simultaneously demanding privacy when he is "off the clock". Supporters say that they don't care what he does on personal time, as if there were no overlap between Mayor Rob and Junkie Rob. However, it's clear that Rob's hobbies are a major distraction to his work.

The range of skipped events is particularly telling. “There’s no one that helps black youth more than Rob Ford,” said his brother Doug. And nothing says helping black youth like skipping a Black History Month celebration because you have a gangster-fueled crack hangover.

How do I know you're not lying?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reader Mail: Ruminations on the primacy of council vs the chief magistrate

At we welcome your submissions! In this occasional piece we'll highlight contributions from readers that didn't quite make it into our official RFF series.

Today's post comes from an anonymous reader, who suggests that Rob Ford's attempts at reform were stymied by an intransigent city council:

4/8/2014 18:26:28

What's your Rob Ford fact?
That the blogger of this site is a lying, whiny bitch that forgets Ford is but 1 vote. Council is to blame son

Can you explain your fact?

Why should voters care?
bla bla bla

What's the source?

Do you want credit for your fact?

Looks like we have a Project Pat fan in the house! So keep on ridin' hundred thousand dollar cars and feelin' so damn pimpish, and don't forget to send in your facts.


Fact #11: Taxpayers reimbursed $280k to non-Toronto Rob Ford donors


It's true. Under Toronto election laws individuals can donate up to $2,500 to the race for mayor. Depending on how much you donate, contributors are eligible for a rebate of up to $1,000, paid for by Toronto taxpayers. Toronto is one of the few jurisdictions where donors who don't live in the city are eligible for reimbursement.

In 2010, Rob Ford reported $1.86M in donations over $100, of which $624k came from donors living outside Toronto (1/3 of the total). By applying the donation reimbursement rules to each donor, including the $1,000 maximum per person, Toronto taxpayers were on the hook for $279,162 in refunds paid out to non-Torontonians.

This total assumes that everyone who could claim a refund did, and ignores donations between $50 and $100 that earned a 75% refund but were not included in the city's electronic reporting. Some of the donors living outside of Toronto could still be Toronto landowners, but there is no way of tracking that information.

Why should I care?

All of the major candidates in 2010 relied on outside money. Smitherman actually raised a bit more than Ford - $716k, also 1/3 of his total. Over half of Mammoliti's mayoral money came from non-Torontonians, while Rosso and Pantalone raised 15% and 25% respectively. It should be noted that while raising outside money is pretty slimy, it's not against the rules. Ultimately it's a "pox on all their houses"-type situation here.

In Ford's case this is rather at odds with his claim that he's there for Torontonians, or as he told Fox News, to "fight for the little guy". Maybe by "little guy" he meant the 344 non-Torontonians from places like Woodbridge, Brampton and Richmond Hill who contributed more than $500 each (for a total of $580k) to his 2010 campaign.

On the other hand, Ford's experience with national fundraising should come in handy when he runs for prime minister.

How do I know you're not lying? 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fact #10: The $250M road repair backlog that Rob Ford promised to erase is now up to $342M


It's true. Rob Ford's 2010 Transit Plan promised to tackle the backlog of road work facing the city:
We will clear up the $250 million backlog in road repairs. We will returnToronto’s roads to a state of good repair that can be maintained by normalannual operations. Cost: $250 million. (2010 Transit Plan p.4)
However, Rob's administration has failed to put a dent in the backlog. In the three years that he has been mayor it has actually grown by almost $100M to $342M.

Why should I care?

There is a whole pile of wrong in Rob's road repair campaign promise, including:
  1. The backlog is way more than $250M - that's just for major and local roads. Add in the Gardiner, expressways, bridges and sidewalks and the total jumps to $981M (in 2014)
  2. We're still underspending. The backlog grows by about $200k per day. Even if Ford were able to catch us up via a one-time spending spree we'd be back to a $250M backlog in less than four years
  3. You can't just spend $250M on top of your existing budget overnight. That would more than double the annual capital spend on state of good repair work for all transportation infrastructure
  4. If he'd left the vehicle registration tax in place we'd at least be close to breaking even
It's a good thing that Rob learned all of those valuable lessons about financing and operations when he was CFO at his family business.

And drivers, every time your steering column gets jammed into your sternum by an errant pothole, take comfort that it's just Rob's way of reminding you how he single-handedly ended the war on the car.

How do I know you aren't lying?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fact #9: Rob Ford spent Canada Day weekend at his cottage and Family Day weekend at his crack house


It's true (or at least it's allegations-not-yet-proven-in-court-but-captured-on-video-and-wiretaps). Rob Ford has repeatedly declined to participate in Toronto's Pride Parade since it conflicts with his annual cottage retreat. As he stated in June 2013:
“If it falls on the day that I’m going up, the weekend I’m going up to the cottage, unfortunately, my family comes first,” Ford repeated. “We’ve had a tradition of going away every Canada Day. And that tradition’s not going to be broken.”
On last year's Family Day weekend (February 16th-18th 2013), Rob Ford did not make it up north. Instead, on Sunday evening he went to his friend's house at 15 Windsor Road and smoked crack:
“At one point Mayor FORD holds the glass cylinder to his mouth. Lights the lighter and applies the flame to the tip of the glass cylinder in a circular motion. After several seconds Mayor FORD appears to inhale the vapour which is produced, then exhale the vapour."
It's not known who else is in the room with Ford, but it's pretty clear that he isn't related to any of them.

Ford plans to continue his family cottage tradition. As he stated in February 2014:
“I’m not going to go to the Pride parade,” the mayor said. “I’ve never been to a Pride parade. I can’t change who I am.”

Why should I care?

In Canada, the families of politicians are generally left alone and that's a good thing. However, politicians frequently use their spouses, children and parents as props. This makes it hard to keep family out of the story. The Ford brothers are quick to demand privacy. As Doug once said "I just ask everyone to leave my kids, leave my family out of it — come and get me". Meanwhile, Rob drags his kids out to hastily-scheduled photo opps and humiliates his wife at globally-watched press conferences.

This blog focuses on Rob's dubious economic and political record and not his personal escapades. However, they clearly collide when he uses his family as a shield to deflect criticism (can't go to Pride - need to spend time with my family) and then ignores his family when he has other stuff to do (can't stay home for Family Day - need to score some crack). It would be funny - if Ford weren't a 44-year old man with a young family.

Ford should be more careful - with the Easter long weekend coming up, let's hope he manages to keep Good Friday from becoming a Very Bad Saturday.

How do I know you're not lying?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fact #8: Rob Ford has missed over 1,070 council votes as mayor


It's true. From the beginning of his term in December 2010 to the end of March 2014, Rob Ford was absent for 1,070 of 6,294 votes on council motions. In contrast, Mary-Margaret McMahon has skipped out on a mere 242 votes.

Rob's absences include:

  • 22 motions related to the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, 
  • 14 motions related to budgets,
  • 25 votes on children's services,
  • 2 votes on repairing the Gardiner Expressway, and
  • 47 motions involving transit and the TTC.

Why should I care?

Just like the previous fact on Ford's council absences, this one speaks to his effectiveness as the self-styled Robin Hood of Toronto politics. That's also a ton of unexplained gaps for the guy who has "never missed a day of work" (maybe he meant ... at the ACC). If the guy you elected to "clean up the mess at city hall" doesn't bother to show up for one vote in six, you've got to wonder how serious they are about their job.

However, his football team did make it to the city finals. So there's that.

How do I know you're not lying?

Voting Record Reporting for Members of Toronto City Council

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fact #7: Rob Ford charged taxpayers $130,000/year to hire his old football coach


It's true. Rob Ford hired David Price as director of logistics and operations in April 2013 at an annual salary of $130,000 (almost $25,000 more than a City Councillor). Ford and Price have been friends for years, dating back to high school, when Price was Rob Ford's football coach. The Globe and Mail reported that sources say Price sold hashish with Doug Ford in the 1980s. Price's employment was terminated after Ford's mayoral powers were stripped in November.

Despite this being Price's first political role, he was paid twice the rate of his predecessor. “You can’t teach loyalty,” Doug Ford told the Globe and Mail.

Why should I care?

Rob Ford promised to fight the "gravy train" at City Hall... and then turned around and hired his unqualified, temperamental, at-times-violent high school football coach as one of the most senior bureaucrats in Toronto. Not only was this an insult to City staff with longer tenure and infinitely more experience and qualifications, it was also a clear abuse of scarce tax dollars.

On the other hand, Price knows how to grow a bitching 'stache. So there's that.

How do I know you're not lying?

Rob Ford top adviser David Price no stranger to controversy
Rob Ford: David Price no longer working in the mayor’s office

Fact #6: Rob Ford promised "up to 10" new subway stations by 2015 and built 0


It’s true. Another one of Rob Ford's transit-related campaign promises was an ambitious infrastructure program for the TTC:

"By 2015: We will complete the Sheppard Avenue Line as a subway line.
This will include 12 km of new track and up to 10 new stations between Downsview and Scarborough Town Centre. Cost: $3 Billion.

We will extend the Bloor-Danforth Line to Scarborough Town Centre.
This will run on the elevated SRT platform and will connect to the
Sheppard line at Scarborough Town Centre, completing a “closed loop”
making travel across Toronto much easier. Cost: $1 Billion.(2010 Transit Plan p.2) 

Rob's Sheppard subway plan failed to gain either funding or approval, and the LRT from Don Mills to Scarborough Town Centre is proceeding as planned. The Bloor-Danforth line extension has been funded, but is still in the planning stages and will be stopping well short of the Town Centre.

Why should I care?

Rob will promise anything to get elected. In this case, any rational observer could tell that it is impossible to plan, build and open two major subway extensions in only four years. When Rob made this promise he either didn't understand how subway construction works, didn't tell the truth to taxpayers and/or just didn't care.

In his 2014 election platform Rob is promising a subway on Sheppard (yet again), a subway on Finch and the Downtown Relief Line. Rob's latest subway promises ignore the recommendations of transportation planners and are completely unfunded. There is also no date attached to any of his pipe dreams. Regardless of whether one supports a subway or above-ground trains in Scarborough, it is quite clear that Rob's transit plans were and are meaningless promises made to capture votes from trusting taxpayers.

Rob had four years to put a shovel in the ground, but it's not clear that he even knows where the shovels are kept.

How do I know you’re not lying?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fact #5: Rob Ford promised $1B in private subway financing and raised $0


It’s true. In Rob Ford’s unfortunately titled “A Transportation Plan that makes sense for Toronto” , Rob promised that by 2015 he would pay for a Sheppard subway and Danforth subway extension using a mix of public and private funds:

"This Transportation Plan will cost $4.7 Billion over five years
The Province of Ontario has already committed $3.7 Billion to fund Phase I of Transit City. We will work with the province to re-allocate this funding to our Subway Plan. The remaining $1 Billion will be raised through private financing.

Partnering with the Private Sector
Subways bring new development and increase property values. We will work cooperatively with the private sector to sell development rights along our new subway corridors, raising at least $1 Billion in new development-related revenue. This money will be allocated on a priority-first basis as follows: $300 Million to complete the Sheppard Line Stations and $700 Million to fund the Roads Plan." (2010 Transit Plan p.6) 

After his election Rob tried selling the idea to developers but didn't get any interest. Rob’s Scarborough subway extension  is now being funded entirely with your tax dollars.

Why should I care?

Rob loves to say that he brings a businessman’s touch to city hall. This would be great – if it were even remotely true. Rob’s business experience is limited to some largely symbolic roles his family business, where the overriding concern was to keep him away from sharp objects until his family sent him off to a taxpayer-funded daycare program on Queen St. W.

Rob’s plan to cross the city with subway tunnels was a perfect chance to prove his business acumen, and he fumbled badly. Private subway financing (where companies provide the cash to build up front in exchange for a for-profit long-term operating contract) works where ridership will cover costs (Rob’s Sheppard plan wouldn’t) and where there is sufficient density above-ground to build offices and stores above subway stations (which Scarborough isn’t). Not surprisingly, what works in Hong Kong doesn’t always work east of the DVP. Done poorly, these partnerships end up like the 407, where taxpayers cover the cost and a private company gets to make all the money.

After he was elected Rob made a few half-hearted attempts to get investors on board, but was crippled by a lack of formal business training, experience with public-private financing and any understanding of how private organizations balance risk and opportunity.

Having made a campaign promise to drum up $1B in private financing during his first term, Rob now has six months to come up with the remaining $1B.

How do I know you’re not lying?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fact #4: Rob Ford spent your tax dollars on his home maintenance

(Still not an April Fools joke)


It's true (or at least it's allegations-that-have-been-made-to-police-by-multiple-witnesses-but-not-yet-proven-in-court). See Post #3 for details of how Rob Ford used taxpayer-funded office staff for personal errands, and why that's (obviously) a bad thing.

"The Mayor would call FICKEL to change light bulbs in the front lawn, change batteries
in his children's toys, buying cartons of cigarettes, bleach, laundry detergent and diet
coke for the Mayor's wife. The Mayor made these requests because FICKEL was his
"body man" at the time. Isaac SHIROKOFF worked in this capacity and with football
prior to FICKEL." (Project Brazen ITO p.110)

"Sometimes Mayor FORD would call NEJATIAN late at night for personal reasons. For
example: dry cleaning (Mayor FORD uses La Rose dry cleaners), change light bulbs
and helping his wife with the computer." (p. 135)

"TOWHEY would push back on Mayor FORD getting staffers to do his personal
errands. TOWHEY wanted Mayor FORD to hire a personal assistant to do these
errands and pay them out of his own pocket. Mayor FORD told his staffers that
TOWHEY had been fired and that everything was going to be fine." (p.140)

"FICKEL was on a date with a girl... and received a call from the Mayor. The Mayor wanted FICKEL to come and look at his wife's computer because it wasn't working. FICKEL noted that the Mayor sounded impaired when he called. FICKEL assumed he could fix it quickly so he went... After 15 minutes, the Mayor insisted that FICKEL's date come into the house because the Mayor thought it would impress her. FICKEL did not want to bring (her) inside because the house looked like it was falling apart and messy. There was heavy cigarette smoke and clothes everywhere in the house... Then the Mayor left the room and came back with a marihuana cigarette. The Mayor lit the marihuana cigarette, asked if anyone wanted any, and then proceeded to smoke it alone. FICKEL recognized the smell of the smoke to be marihuana. After approximately 10 minutes, FICKEL and (his date) were uncomfortable and left the house." (p.116)

Why should I care?

Nobody says the job of Mayor is easy (in fact, many say it's far more difficult than the current incumbent makes it out to be). There's got to be some latitude for staff to help with personal items: Grab lunch for the mayor? Absolutely. Pick up his dry cleaning? Why not. Change light bulbs at his house? Uh, no. Pick up smokes for his wife? Wait, what?

Rob had the largest staff budget in the city. How much money could he have saved with fewer staff if they didn't have to spend a portion of their their time acting as the Ford family's manservants? It's too bad Rob didn't get them to come by and make gravy, because then the irony would be perfect.

How many Fords does it take to change a light bulb? None, apparently.

How do I know you're not lying?


Fact #3: Rob Ford used his office budget for home delivery of vodka and cigarettes

(Unfortunately this is not an April Fools joke...)


It's true (or at least it's allegations-that-have-been-made-to-police-by-multiple-witnesses-but-not-yet-proven-in-court). The largest single category in the mayor's $914,071.51 office budget* is staff salaries. These city employees are tasked with serving constituents and supporting the office of the mayor. The positions are generally salaried and, due to the nature of politics, their work often extends beyond a regular 9-5 weekday.

The mayor's staff told police that they were regularly asked to purchase alcohol, cigarettes and other personal items on the mayor's behalf. These goods were then delivered to the mayor at his office, to his car or to his home. It's assumed that Ford picked up the actual cost of the goods, but at no point did the staffers ever report that Rob Ford paid them privately for their labour. None of the staffers had a personal relationship with Ford that extended beyond their employment, so it certainly wasn't being done as a 'favour'. One must conclude that they were acting as City of Toronto employees on official City business. And taxpayers picked up the tab.

"Nico FIDANI, Kia NEJATIAN, Michael PREMPEH, Amin MASSOUDI and Isaac
SHIROKOFF may have bought alcohol for the Mayor as well. Staffers would go
approximately 10 times per month to purchase alcohol for the Mayor. The Mayor always wanted "Iceberg" vodka." (Project Brazen ITO p.114)

"FICKEL was frequently on-call during his employment with the Mayor. This meant that
he would be the person the Mayor would call after hours. The Mayor was unpredictable
and would sometimes call FICKEL with a 15 minute warning that he was going to go to
an event that he had previously said he was not going to go to.
The Mayor would call FICKEL to change light bulbs in the front lawn, change batteries
in his children's toys, buying cartons of cigarettes, bleach, laundry detergent and diet
coke for the Mayor's wife. The Mayor made these requests because FICKEL was his
"body man" at the time. Isaac SHIROKOFF worked in this capacity and with football
prior to FICKEL." (p.110)

"The Mayor had asked FIDANI once to buy him a "mickey" of vodka. FIDANI did so and
afterwards he told Mark TOWHEY about it. TOWHEY said that it was fine but to never do
it again. They Mayor was at his house at the time and FIDANI dropped it off there." (p.95)

Why should I care?

While the job description for a political staffer does include "special assignments as requested by the Mayor", it's highly likely that "picking up a carton of smokes for the Mayor's wife" is not what the City had in mind. Time spent on Rob's publicly-funded dial-a-bottle service meant time not serving constituents. It also meant a lack of respect for the personal time of staffers and exposed taxpayers to liability. Imagine if a staffer got hurt while fixing something in the mayor's house, or if a staffer sued the City for overtime.

Rob Ford loves to rail against perceived waste in the $31k discretionary budgets of city councillors (or at least the ones who aren't multi-millionaires and can pick up the tab themselves). However, discretionary costs pale beside the amount of money taxpayers spend on staff salaries - salaries that are also part of office budgets.

Abuse of staffer time is at least as serious as abuse of an expense account. But that's probably a little too nuanced for Rob. 

How do I know you're not lying?

Constituency Services and Office Budget Expenses
City of Toronto Office Budget Policy

*Pre-Nov 2013 clawback