Candidates pound pavement in mayoral campaign
It was back to the campaign trail for Toronto's would-be mayors on Monday, one day after the release of a poll showing city councillor Rob Ford had distanced himself from other candidates.
Ford -- who has the support of nearly 46 per cent of decided voters – was in Etobicoke on Monday morning, where he announced seven new planks to his Taxpayer Protection Plan, outlining how he plans to clean up a wasteful city hall.
"It is very, very simple: We have to put an end to the gravy train. We have to put an end to the party at city hall," Ford said. ‘People know … I am the only one who can take the bull by the horns and put an end to wasteful spending."
Included in Ford's announcement were plans to:
- record every vote at City Council and post councillors' voting records online
- limit the number of 'in camera' meetings during council meetings
- set standards for city staff to ensure phone calls and emails are returned in a timely manner and
- tie bonuses given to city managers to customer service levels.
Ford also said he would improve community consultation, give community councils more autonomy and let citizens speak their mind during council meetings.
"I am offering concrete solutions to some of the basic things I think are wrong at City Hall," said Ford. "I am going to clean up City Hall by making it more accountable, more transparent and more responsive to the needs of the people."
He also talked about spending by the city.
"When I start talking about a budget of $11.6 billion, they can't comprehend, they can't understand that -- but they can relate to the free lunches, the free dinners, and they're sick and tired of it," Ford said.
The city's operating budget for 2010-11 was set at $9.2 billion. The yearly lunch bill for councillors is about $6,000.
Other candidates were also pounding the pavement. Former deputy premier George Smitherman, running a distant second in the recent poll, toured the downtown Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where he discussing the differences between himself and Ford.
"Everybody recognizes work needs to be done at city hall to make it work better, to reduce waste, to improve customer service. But we can do that within a set of values we have come to know in Toronto, where we do it together. Or we can do it in Rob Ford's style, which is to divide people up."
Rocco Rossi attempted to rebrand himself on Monday, releasing a series of attention-grabbing advertisements that paint the former Liberal strategist as a sort of ‘Goodfella,' depicting his Italian heritage in a way commonly found in popular culture, such as the 1990 gangster movie "Goodfellas" and the television program "The Sopranos."
"These are bold ads, but Toronto needs bold ideas," Rossi told reporters. "I have offered Torontonians those ideas."
Rossi took the opportunity to outline some of his campaign's priorities, including implementing voter recall that could cut disappointing mayoral terms short, and considering an underground highway extending Allen Road to the south.
The provincial government would have to sign off on policies such as cutting the size of council in half (a move supported by Rossi and Ford) or recall powers.