ABOVE: Fact-checking Mayor Rob Ford’s latest claims. Sean Mallen reports.
TORONTO – Amid a series of revelations on his alcohol and drug use, erratic behaviour and association with people facing criminal charges, and even as his budget was cut and powers stripped Monday, Mayor Rob Ford remains consistent on one thing: He isn’t going anywhere.
He and his brother have been on a media blitz the past couple of days, including an interview with Peter Mansbridge that aired Monday night.
We’ve fact-checked his claims so you don’t have to.
1. “The people elected me with the largest mandate in Canada’s history, and they just stripped my powers.”
Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion was re-elected in 2006 with 91.41 per cent of the vote (98,293 votes). Over in Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi was re-elected with 74 per cent of the vote (193,393 votes) last month.
So Ford wasn’t elected with the largest mandate in Canada’s history, or even Toronto’s history.
2. “Not one person brought up how much money I’ve saved the taxpayers.
(a) getting rid of the $60 car tax
(b) privatizing garbage
(c) having the lowest tax increase of any major city in North America
(d) getting union deals done
(e) building subways—that was never mentioned.”
(a) Eliminating vehicle registration tax?
In his first council session as mayor, Ford cut the city’s $60 vehicle registration tax in a 39-6 vote. The tax brought in roughly $64 million annually to public coffers.
(b) Privatizing garbage?
This only applies to people who live west of Yonge Street. During his campaign, Ford promised to contract out garbage service so residents would never be forced to endure a garbage strike like that of 2009. Ford maintains he aims to contract out garbage collection in the rest of the city, but said that will have to wait until his next term.
(c) Lowest tax increase of any major North American city?
Windsor, Ont. (population 210,891 as of 2011) has gone five years without a municipal tax increase, and could be going into their sixth. If you don’t consider Windsor, a “major” city, San Antonio, Texas (population 1.383 million as of 2012) hasn’t had a property tax increase for 21 years.
(d) Renegotiating union contracts?
During city negotiations with CUPE local 416, Ford was able to wrestle numerous concessions from the public union, including being able to freely schedule workers and renegotiating so-called “job for life” clauses.
(e) Building subways?
True-ish, but at a cost.
Ford got city council to agree to extending the Bloor-Danforth subway line into Scarborough rather than building a fully-funded LRT. But in order to pay the $910 million needed to build the Bloor-Danforth extension, he voted to increase property taxes in 2014, 2015 and 2016 while simultaneously increasing development charges.
In public records available online here, anyone can find that Ford has missed 19 per cent, or 84 of 440 committee or council sessions since he became mayor in 2010. (These records count morning, afternoon and evening sessions separately).
As far as being “straight as an arrow” at work, former staffer Chris Fickel told police he saw the mayor drunk numerous times, “including at the office, football practices and events.”
4. “There’s not one time, Peter – not one time – you’ll ever see me stealing a dime of taxpayers’ money. Ever.”
Open to interpretation.
While Ford denies the allegations, police documents not proven in court quote Fickel as saying he and other young taxpayer-funded staffers were frequently tasked with buying the mayor vodka “at any time during the day” approximately 10 times per month.
In the same documents, former staffer Isaac Ransom told police he found a marijuana joint in the mayor’s desk.
5. CBC’s Peter Mansbridge: “So you haven’t been drunk driving?”
Ford: “Never. I’ve never, ever been drunk and driven.”
Ford pleaded no contest to impaired driving charges in Miami, Florida in 1999. Statements from former aides in police documents released last week allege staffers were afraid to be in the car with him when he drove while drunk.
Ford has “saved taxpayers $1 billion”
Councillor Doug Ford repeated in a CNN interview Wednesday the Fords’ claim (initially made five months ago) that Rob Ford’s administration has saved taxpayers $1 billion. But have they?
Mayoral staffer Amin Massoudi posted a breakdown of the claim in June:
It includes an $84-million “compensation reduction,” which compares an actual wage increase for unionized workers with a hypothetical higher increase.
A $24-million increase to user fees and $73 million in service cuts are both counted as “savings” even though, as the Star notes, the fees come “out of residents’ pockets and the mayor promised during his campaign to avoid any service cuts at all.”
These “savings” also include $6.5 million withdrawn from a social housing reserve fund, $7 million from a welfare reserve fund and $12 million from a child care reserve fund, writes Star reporter Daniel Dale wrote.
In 2013, a hypothetical budget reduction from an additional $21 million proposed by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair was also counted as savings.
The $78.4 million the Fords say the city saved thanks to contracting out garbage is actually a seven-year projection. “The correct four-year amount should be about $45.2 million, which is just 57 per cent of the amount they’ve claimed,” wrote Matt Elliott.
And the $200 million from axing the vehicle registration tax is actually money lost from city coffers – money the city has to make up by hiking other fees.
“So Rob Ford cut the fee for driving a car by about $50 million per year, then raised fees for parents using parks facilities and people riding subways, among other things, by $65 million a year,” wrote Edward Keenan. “Total net cost to ‘the taxpayer’ – since Ford insists there is only one – is $15 million per year.”
Property taxes have also gone up since 2010 – no increase in 2011, but a 2.5 per cent in 2012 and 2 per cent in 2013. And they’ll keep climbing after Ford’s successful push for a billion-dollar subway when the city could have gotten light rail for free.
With files from James Armstrong