Council's right wing flies into a window
They gathered reporters at lunchtime Thursday to announce the creation of rggtoronto.ca (no taxpayers' money; they kicked in $200 each from their own pockets) to highlight the fiscal irresponsibility and opaque budgeting of Mayor David Miller and his followers. Peter Milczyn gave the gathering some zing with startling news.
Milczyn told reporters that, at a budget meeting in March, Cam Weldon, the city's chief financial officer, told him that $20 million in surplus funds from the Toronto Parking Authority was part of the $100 million surprise surplus announced in March.
Milczyn then brandished a letter from the TPA saying the $20 million had been hand-delivered to Weldon in March 2009. So how could it be part of the March 2010 surprise (which was on top of a $250 million surplus announced in February)?
"What else was hidden and why were these funds hidden from council and taxpayers?" Milczyn thundered.
But it quickly became apparent that the $20 million was noted in a budget report last fall, hadn't in fact been hidden and wasn't part of the $100 million surprise. The air drained from the zing. In the council chamber the RGG councillors, triumphant in outrage a short time before, were looking glum. The Millerites, on the other hand, appeared to have received their Easter chocolate early.
Milczyn admitted not checking that October report. As he turned from reporters to head back to his seat, Councillor Gord Perks couldn't resist rubbing it in.
"I expect better from you, Peter," he told Milczyn, smiling and shaking his head in front of the reporters.
Still, if nothing else, the episode was a reminder that the city has still yet to give us a dollar-by-dollar explanation of the $100 million surprise. After a long explanation, spokesperson Kevin Sack said it may come, after the 2009 books are officially closed, in the months ahead.
Post-script: Influential Wall Street bond-rating agency Moody’s gave Toronto’s credit rating a slight bump up to AA1 on Thursday. Miller crowed the news from the council floor in what looked like an attempt to pre-empt the Responsible Government Group's press conference. RGG members Case Ootes and Brian Ashton in turn tried to snuff out any hint of a Miller win by saying Moody's was kind to energy giant Enron Corp. before it collapsed. Overall, not a good day for the RGG.