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Mayor Ford says budget consultation could go all night
Business owners, university students, children and senior citizens were some of the residents voicing their opinions on a controversial series of potential budget cuts at the public discussion that ran late into Thursday night.
Each of the more than 300 residents expected to speak are given three minutes to discuss a report that proposed dozens of cuts to city services in a bid to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in spending.
"We are going right through the night," Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said as the executive committee meeting began Thursday morning.
By 9 p.m. approximately 70 Torontonians had spoken on everything from libraries, transit, heritage spending and student nutrition and Ford and his councillors were knocking back Red Bulls to stay alert.
The report, conducted by KMPG, recommended cutting back on dozens of city services; police staffing reductions, library closures and transit cutbacks are among the more controversial recommendations being considered.
Mayor Ford began the meeting on Thursday by saying the process was about cutting "must have" services from those that are "nice to have" but generally waste public money.
"For years, our city has spent more money than it brings in," Ford told a packed committee room. "Instead of fixing the problem, we've kept passing the buck to ‘next year.' Well, next year has arrived. It's time we fixed the problem."
The meeting got off to a rocky start, with Ford stopping the meeting several times in order to admonish councillors for not showing respect to the KPMG representatives in attendance and a fire alarm that cleared the first floor of City Hall.
One man was also removed from the meeting at about 4:30 p.m. after screaming at Ford.
With hundreds of residents poised to speak, the consultation meeting was expected to last as long as 25 hours.
A motion at 10 p.m. to reduce each councillor's questioning time limit from two minutes to one minute was carried six to five.
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti said that he has not seen such a large number of registered speakers in his 16 years on city council.
The committee will take two breaks through the course of the day,
City staff had suggested the meeting will likely go late into the evening and resume Friday morning, but Ford said there would be no end time on Thursday.
Jeff Melanson, Ford's cultural adviser, has said he plans to tell the committee that reducing or eliminating arts funding would end up costing the city in the long run.
With files from The Canadian Press