A tale of two councillors

Eglinton-Lawrence's two reps come out on vastly different sides of key budget vote

Karen Stintz said she took some heat from some constituents after council’s controversial budget vote on Jan. 17.

The midtown rep said she received about 150 emails from residents asking her why she didn’t support a sweeping motion to prevent widespread service and program cuts.

The motion, tabled on budget day by fellow Eglinton-Lawrence councillor Josh Colle, reversed cuts to the school-based childcare rent subsidy, Community Partnership and Investment Program grants, priority centre youth programs, ice rinks and pools, mechanical leaf collection and three city shelters. The collective work of several centrist councillors in the days leading up to the budget vote, the motion squeaked by with a vote of 23 to 21. An additional $5 million in cuts were also prevented in subsequent motions.

Echoing budget committee members and Mayor Rob Ford, Stintz said she didn’t support using surplus funds because it won’t help a long-term funding problem.

“That’s non-recurring revenue, so we can’t rely on that next year,” she said. “Taking money from a surplus fund to re-instate operational programs that we know we can’t afford next year I didn’t believe was financially prudent.”

Stintz said she would have rather seen the $154 million go to pay down the $700 million unfunded streetcar capital project.

Stintz said she spoke with Colle as negotiations were taking place leading up to the budget vote.

“I told him I couldn’t support it, and he understood why,” she said.

As TTC chair, Stintz and her fellow commissioners are now responsible for allocating $5 million for the TTC, a figure included in Colle’s motion.

Councillors who worked on the motion said they intended that the funds would stave off further bus service reductions. Days before a scheduled TTC meeting, Stintz said she would be requesting the funds be directed toward keeping the Wheel-Trans program for patients requiring transportation for dialysis sustainable for another year.

For his part, Colle said he is pleased with how he and fellow colleagues handled a tough budget process, and felt he did what was in the best interests of his constituents.

Colle presented the $15 million motion in council chambers, and had to defend the reverse cuts proposal when opposition councillors grilled him.

“Citizen expect councillors to come to some kind of consensus,” he said. “We can’t please everyone, we can’t get the perfect budget. A lot of hard, hard work has been done by budget chief Mike Del Grande to get to this point, and this represents some last tweaking that Torontonians want to see,” he said in council chambers.

In an interview days after the vote, Colle said some tough decisions had to be made to reach consensus on the motion. Constituents in his ward did not want to see cuts to the youth outreach worker program, for instance.

“I was hearing that a lot specifically in Lawrence Heights,” Colle said. “It’s a service they relied on.”

Council ultimately voted to cut it.

But the Ward 15 rep said he was pleased he and his colleagues were able to batch several preventative cuts together. Colle said the motion prevented cuts that would be a detriment to young families.

“To me, it’s priority centres, (they are) very important to me, obviously money that was going to transit, maybe not exactly where I thought it was going to go, and the whole basket of what I call family programming and services, that would include pools and childcare,” he said of his budget priorities.

About this article:

By: Karolyn Coorsh
Posted: Feb 8 2012 2:57 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto