A departing veteran Toronto city councillor suggests that if Coun. Rob Ford wins the mayoral race on Oct. 25, he will be a powerless leader.

"If Mayor Ford is elected, city council will have a caucus meeting and they choose their own mayor," Kyle Rae (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) said Wednesday.

"He will be mayor in name, but I hope the citizens of Toronto wake up."

Rae, who is stepping down after 30 years on council, used $12,000 of his office budget to throw himself a farewell party. He said the cost was offset by not putting out a newsletter and by turning over unused campaign contributions to the city in 2006.

Ford, the apparent frontrunner, has repeatedly blasted Rae for using taxpayers' dollars in such a manner. He said his opponent George Smitherman, a former Liberal provincial cabinet minister, attended Rae's party.

Ford demanded Rae pay back the money, but Rae said he didn't care what Ford thought.

Another councillor leaving is Case Ootes (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth), who said he's proud to have been a councillor -- but won't miss the job at all.

He thinks council has become too polarized between left and right and has left too many serious issues for the next council to deal with.

"Spending has gotten out of control. It's a major factor. I don't think there's any doubt about that," Ootes said.

The city's 2010 operating budget came in at $9.2 billion. The 2007 operating budget, the first after the 2006 civic election, came in at $7.8 billion.

Some like the direction the city has taken, particularly with respect to transit and environmental policies.

However, the city has created some new sources of revenue for itself -- the land transfer tax and the vehicle registration fee -- to help pay for the increased spending.

While most of the five major candidates for mayor vow to get spending under control, Ford has made the issue a particular hallmark of his campaign.

The divide over how much Toronto needs to spend to have a great city has been a fiercely contested one, and it has left hard feelings on both sides -- not to mention angering the public.

"The negative legacy will be around the amount of disillusionment, distrust and anger that's out in the public," said outgoing Coun. Brian Ashton (Ward 36, Scarborough-Southwest).

Some other veterans that will be leaving the 44-member council include:

  • Mike Feldman (Ward 10, York Centre)
  • Michael Walker (Ward 22, St. Paul's)
  • Adam Giambrone (Ward 18, Davenport), who ended his mayoral campaign after admitting to some sexual affairs

Joe Pantalone is running for mayor, which puts his Ward 19 (Trinity-Spadina) seat up for grabs. Doug Ford is running to replace his mayoral candidate brother in Ward 2 (Etobicoke North).

Miller reflects

For Mayor David Miller, Wednesday's and Thursday's meetings mark his final ones as the city's chief magistrate. He received hugs and handshakes from supporters on council.

"I've been elected for 16 years. I've been to probably 200 council meetings, and every single one still had something important before it," he told reporters, noting the important debate going on Wednesday over the city's zoning bylaw.

"I'm at peace with my decision," he said. "I'm moving forward, and I'm sort of glad it's over."

Coun. Doug Holyday said Miller had "a socialist agenda that he's followed to the 8th degree, and it's been very costly to the city."

However, budget chief Shelley Carroll said when one took the property tax rate and combined it with water and garbage, Torontonians still paid the lowest rate in the GTA.

Miller's version of his seven-year legacy will be available later this year. He has written a book: "Witness to a City."

With reports from Naomi Parness and Alicia Markson