Toronto city councillors have already been told to surrender their free Metropasses or pay back taxes on them.
Soon, they'll also be told to fork over their free passes to the Toronto Zoo (a VIP card that includes parking and free entry for the councillor's family) and city-owned golf courses (four tickets for 18 holes) as well as complimentary passes to the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
Celine Chiovitti, the city’s director of pension,
payroll and employee benefits, told the Star on Monday that discussions are
continuing with the Canada Revenue Agency over the freebies, with a
CRA-imposed deadline of May 14.
But, based on what Chiovitti said, it seems certain the zoo, the Parks and Environment department that runs the golf courses and the Sony Centre will follow the TTC's lead and tell the councillors to surrender their freebies.
“I think it’s going to be similar to what we’ve seen with the TTC. They are all their own entities but it would be similar,” Chiovitti said.
The man with the most to gain from the councillors' loss is Rob Ford. The penny-pinching Etobicoke pol and mayoral candidate told the Star on Friday that, after failing to convince councillors to vote away their own perks, he notified the Canada Revenue Agency that the comps should be taxable benefits, and the agency told him last year it was investigating.
The CRA, contacted Monday, wouldn't confirm any details of an ongoing audit, or discuss its origins.
The many Ford foes can quibble over whether he's responsible for the great council perk cull of '10, but they can't say he hasn't for years argued it's unfair for councillors to be handed a load of tax-free freebies while their constituents dig deep for the same privileges. (The screen grab above is from the YouTube video where Ford reveals his city-supplied booty.)
When contacted Friday, after TTC chief general managers Gary Webster's pass-demanding email had landed in councillors' inboxes, Ford was jubilant but didn't seem to realize the campaign gift that had been handed to him. However, after stories appeared in the Star and the Globe and Saturday, his camp sent out a press release and was still beating the drum on Monday.
There are many innings between now and the Oct. 25 election. But with council's left-wing designated hitter Joe Pantalone settling for bunts during the great Transit City debate, and fate throwing the hard-swinging Ford a lob, the home team must be getting nervous.