- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 12 Sep 1994, p. 359-385
- Rowlands, June; Meinzer, Gerry; Hall, Barbara, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
A debate amongst the two mayoral candidates and the current Mayor of Toronto. Following the debate, a question period chaired by Mr. Maychak.
The issue of market value assessment. The hallmarks of the speaker's first term as Mayor. Challenges met and achievements. A review of activities. Decreasing crime rates. Maintaining quality of life dependent on preserving safety and the prosperity of downtown Toronto. The importance of defeating market value assessment.
Restoring the reputation of Toronto. Some details of the speaker's vision for Toronto. A commitment to lower taxes for home owners and businesses. Cutting taxes by attracting new businesses. A safe city building on enterprise and opportunity. Managing resources prudently. The need for new leadership.
What the job of the Mayor is. The wish to take charge and make things happen again. Some personal facts. Economic vitality and how to create it. Some specifics about how City Hall operates and the need to manage it better. A city that's good to work in, and good to live in. Working with people to find real practical solutions to the challenges.
Matt Maychak begins the discussion with a question about how each candidate would change his mind if he were a business person planning to leave the City of Toronto. More questions are taken from the floor.
- Date of Original
- 12 Sep 1994
- Language of Item
- Copyright Statement
- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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- Full Text
June Rowlands, Mayor of Toronto
Gerry Meinzer, Mayoral Candidate
Barbara Hall, Mayoral Candidate
Chairman: John Tory, 3rd Vice-President of The Empire Club of Canada
Introduction by Matt Maychak, Host of Metro Morning, CBC
June Rowlands is the Mayor of Toronto. She has been described by supporters as one of the hardest-working politicians around and by critics as invisible. A former research director of the Liberal Party of Ontario, she was elected an alderman in 1976. She has sat on the TTC, as a commissioner that is, and is a former chair of the Metro Police Commission. She was elected Mayor, in fact the first woman mayor of Toronto, in 1991 after promising, among other things, to make business feel welcome in Toronto. When she announced her bid for re-election she listed among her achievements--keeping a lid on tax increases, whittling away the debt and cutting city expenditures.
Gerry Meinzer is a newcomer to civic politics and that has prompted some to say he is trying to pull a Ross Perot. It's prompted others to call him a political unknown but he is no stranger to the Board of Trade. He was named President of the Toronto Board in 1992. Within 10 years of arriving in this country at age 22 with $20 in his pocket, he had booked his way to the top of the management ladder at IBM. He then built his own company serving the computer needs of the insurance industry. He says he wants to build a fixed link to the island airport and work to introduce commuter jets to that airport. He wants to cut city spending by contracting out some services and cut business taxes by 10 per cent.
Barbara Hall has been described in the press as an ex-radical. She is certainly an ex-NDPer and she is running in this election as an independent. Some talk of her passion for the city. Critics complain that's not reflected in her public performance which is sometimes labelled bland. She has been a city councillor since 1985 when she took over David Reble's seat in ward 7, the cradle of Toronto's urban reform movement, and before that she worked as a youth worker, probation officer and a lawyer. Among the things she has supported on council are the city's bid for the '96 Olympics and the Bay-Adelaide Centre. Here's one of her quotes: Red tape must give way to black ink.
The candidates drew their names out of a little plastic container before we came out here and they will speak in that order. We will hear first from the Mayor, then from Gerry Meinzer and then from Barbara Hall. So I ask the Mayor now to make an opening statement. We've asked all the candidates to keep their opening statements to seven minutes or fewer.
Mr. Moderator, my colleagues in this event this afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I thank The Canadian Club, The Empire Club and the Board of Trade for sponsoring this event today. I hope that this signals a change of attitude on the part of the Board of Trade toward the City of Toronto.
Market value assessment was the great battle of the second year of my term. Under the proposals for MVA citizens owning small businesses in Toronto would have paid approximately $47 million extra in taxes, escalating to $180 million as that plan matured. Obviously, many would have been forced out of this city. I fought MVA tooth and nail and during that MVA fight at Metro Council we were up against the Board of Trade. This letter I have here, signed by your former president Gerry Meinzer and the general manager Gerry Coles, is a clear endorsement for MVA. It advocates a 25 per cent increase in commercial and industrial taxes, as long as that increase occurs over five years.
I think Gerry has had a change of mind over these past two years. But the MVA debate convinced the citizens of this city that Metro Toronto no longer works, and the City Council agreed to place this question on the ballot: Are you in favour of eliminating the metro level of government?
This great city, the old central city of the metropolitan group of cities, the commercial, the financial, the cultural, medical and sports centre of this country cannot be ruled by politicians that are elected to represent the interests of suburban communities. We cannot allow ourselves to be governed by an unaccountable super-bureaucracy that is loyal to suburban interests.
Mr. Meinzer doesn't agree with that. Well, that will certainly be a great comfort to Metropolitan Council, but very cold comfort to the City of Toronto. The whole method of assessing properties obviously has to be studied. The present method simply doesn't work. We've got to find something that will not push businesses and people out of this city.
The hallmarks of my first term as your mayor have been promotional and new business development and economic growth, reordering and streamlining the city's bureaucracy to bring budgets into line with the economic reality, reducing the tax burden on Torontonians to match that reality, and strong and responsible administration. The largest part of my job has been to construct the base for renewed economic growth and prosperity, while maintaining our services and our facilities and preserving that humane, livable urban environment of which we are all so proud.
It wasn't easy at all. For almost two years of this term, I took on the responsibilities of Budget Chief and succeeded in keeping tax increases at zero for 1993 and achieved a small decrease of 0.5 per cent for 1994. This was accomplished despite an assessment base that had dropped by more than $104 million, a decrease in general revenue and an increase in debt charges, because debt charges passed capital spending and a substantial decrease in provincial transfer payments. All of that totalled approximately $41 million.
But after seven years as Budget Chief of this city, both during the recession of the early eighties and during the present unexpected recession, I understand that our ability to maintain those high levels of services, most particularly our social and public health services, rests squarely on the revenue which flows from our commercial and industrial tax base. And that is why I moved, both as Mayor and as Budget Chief, to streamline City Hall to cut waste and duplication. Over two years, beginning this year, $72 million will be cut from that $580 million budget. That is a 12 per cent decrease, which is a huge cut. Approximately 1,000 positions have been eliminated from the city establishment, and this was accomplished without layoffs.
I'm very proud of what we did. I worked hard with business to reduce red tape. Incidentally, 70 per cent of all building permits that come before us at the city are processed within two weeks. There is absolutely no city the size of Toronto that can equal that record. And over the past 12 months, as some of you are aware, over one billion square feet of downtown office space have been leased. The vacancy rate has been dropping quite rapidly--three to four per cent in the last year. Sixty-five thousand more jobs have been created, and two-thirds of those jobs are held by people that live in Toronto. By any objective measure at all, we have succeeded in meeting the challenges, and have erected a solid foundation for renewed prosperity.
One of my first acts as Mayor was to create our business development initiative, the BDI, to promote Toronto. This was a real marketing effort to present Toronto as the place to which to relocate, and the place in which to do business and also an effort to keep the business that we already have. Over the two years it's been operating, the BDI has compiled a database of more than 5,200 companies, of which 1,400 are now Toronto's top employers. The BDI has assisted 11 companies in relocating in this city. At the present time, it is working with an additional 25 that have expressed strong interest in locating their entire operation or part of their operation here. What are our great selling points? Of course our safe and clean streets, our vibrant and distinctive residential neighbourhoods.
Although overall crime rates are decreasing somewhat because of the aging population, unfortunately there is a growth in violent crime, drug-related crime and crime among youth. Denying it is not going to fix it. The increase between 1992 and 1993 was four per cent. I've been given the signal here. I'd just like to say that I have brought forward strong recommendations with respect to gun control. We've been in conversation with the federal government. Some of the recommendations may be enacted. We simply cannot allow violent criminals on our streets. We've got to begin to tackle that problem because it is a very serious one.
And I would just like to say that while we streamline and cut taxes, we know that many Torontonians need our help. That costs money. We are a caring community. Our quality of life of course depends on providing that helping hand to those that need it. And maintaining our quality of life depends on preserving safety and the prosperity of downtown Toronto. That was why it was so very important to defeat market value assessment. Thank you very much.
What a terrific incentive! Thank you to the organisers of this event. I think this serves the tremendous purpose of debating the issues.
Since announcing my candidacy, I've been right across the city talking to people. I've been meeting with people from all walks of life. They told me their hopes for a new Toronto. But in telling, they reveal an anxiety about our city. I think we have squandered opportunity. They wondered what has happened to Toronto over the past few years. They wonder if we have lost our sense of self. Have we lost our will to fight back? Have we become so tangled in the negative that we have lost the will to win?
To people of Toronto looking to restore the pride we once had in our great city, I want to restore that pride, but first we have to get the numbers right. We have to know where we stand and then we start selling the benefits of Toronto.
There was once a time when businesses flocked to this city. There was once a time when jobs were created in the thousands. There was once a time when Toronto had the confidence to dream big dreams. We have to regain that confidence. It will come back when we have a shared vision of a new and different Toronto. The next time we go after a world's fair or an Olympic bid the world will say, "Yes." Our reputation will be such that the world won't be able to say, "No."
How do we restore that reputation? Well, let's start with a vision. That vision must be from neither left nor right. It must be a vision with key pillars, around which we build the Toronto for tomorrow. Here are three pillars that I will build that Toronto around: lower taxes, creating a safer city for the people of Toronto, getting City Hall working for (not against) its citizens.
Let me offer you some details of that vision. I am committed to lower taxes for home owners and businesses by three per cent the first year, five per cent the second and seven per cent in the third year. This 3-5-7 programme of tax relief will signal the start of Toronto's economic renewal. I won't stop there. With the city leading the way, as I've demonstrated before, Metro and boards of education will not be able to run and hide. They too will have to respond to the public's desire to do more with less. I will cut taxes by further contracting out some services. Needless to say, the unions who do the work now will be eligible bidders. I will cut taxes by eliminating duplication between the city and Metro, not just divert attention through a ballot.
I will also cut taxes by attracting new businesses.--Toronto needs more tax payers, not more taxes. These new businesses will come to Toronto if they find a receptive environment. They can't count on that environment now. When everybody else out there rolls out the red carpet to attract business, we roll out the red tape. We will continue to lose jobs until we come to grips with all this. New business will come to Toronto if they have a valuable resource like an improved island airport. And they will come to Toronto if strong marketing lets them know we're here. On taking office, I will immediately appoint a Toronto infrastructure promotion team. (I recommended this to the Mayor before but nothing happened.) We'll seek out high productivity, new economy and jobs.
New jobs and a revitalised economy lead directly to the second pillar of my vision for Toronto. A safe city builds on enterprise and opportunity. The most compassionate government programme doesn't stop at giving people help. It starts with giving them hope. A safe city is composed of people who respect themselves and the whole community. As Toronto's representative, I will press for more resources to bring police in closer to the community. Where community policing is set up, it lowers crime. A safer city builds on practical, sustainable and workable environmental standards.
Finally, I want to get City Hall working again. Let me just tell you a story of one voter I spoke with. He wanted a tree planted on his lawn. He asked at City Hall and waited for months for an answer. The answer came and that answer sent him to Metro Hall. He waited for the whole month to discover he couldn't be included in this year's plantation programme. (We have more horror stories like this.) We have to break up the cosy little group that runs City Hall like a private club. Isn't it time to break the mould that has city officials more worried about their turf than their task? Their task is straightforward enough: to serve the public.
That's no different from real life. Each of us succeeds or fails based on how people see us meeting their needs. Right now, Toronto's need for new and different leadership isn't being met. To say government is somehow different from real life is a confession of failure. It is a copout. It's an admission one hasn't the imagination or courage to offer and to deliver new and different leadership. Real life means managing resources prudently. It is how we do business in our homes. Real life means respecting ourselves and the people around us. It's how we build a safe and civil community. Real life means caring about your work. It's how we succeed in meeting people's needs.
City Hall needs to get real and it needs to get a life. City Hall has to get real in cutting taxes. It has to get real in providing the leadership for a safe city. And it has to get real and be in the community, not stand apart from it. Toronto needs a new and different leadership. Ladies and gentlemen, I want your help in getting that leadership to work. Thank you.
Good evening. Thank you to the organisers. It is about time the campaign really got going and I guess this is officially it, in some respects.
The job of mayor is to provide leadership and to ensure that the necessities of city life are looked after. I think that our city is drifting without leadership and I want to take charge and make things happen again.
For those who don't know me well, I have been on City Council representing a downtown ward for nine years. I've been on the Executive Committee for seven. I've been Budget Chief on the Economic Development Committee and I chaired the Land-Use Committee. Before I was elected I was a lawyer, a probation officer, a dressmaker, a waitress and a youth worker. I believe that all my experience, both inside and outside City Hall, prepare me for the challenges before us--the challenges of creating economic vitality, of managing City Hall and of building a safe and a healthy city.
First I'm going to talk about economic vitality and how to create it. First of all, business does need lower taxes. I worked hard with members of Council, with small business people and with residents to kill MVA. As mayor I will lead the charge for fairer taxes. The City of Toronto, its businesses and its residents need a level playing field with the rest of the region.
Since the last municipal election, Toronto has lost close to 100,000 jobs. We have to stop watching from the sidelines and get into the global business game. The Design Exchange, which opens next week, is a perfect example of how to do that and I am proud to have played a role in setting it up. It's no accident that the Design Exchange is at King and Bay, in the heart of the financial district. It's good business and it's big business. The Design Exchange will enable home-grown technology and innovative consumer goods of all kinds to compete in world markets. We need to make sure that there are more design exchanges.
In order to create economic vitality, we have to do a better job of managing City Hall and making things happen more quickly. Over the past three years as Chair of Land-Use I've been able to expedite many projects through our process. Not all of them, unfortunately, were built, but during the past few months, the expansion of the Convention Centre and the conversion of vacant commercial buildings happened very quickly. I was able to show that it doesn't need to take years to get through City Hall.
Did you know that if you were to open a small business in this city tomorrow, the city would not pick up your garbage, even though your neighbour's garbage is picked up and your neighbour pays the same taxes? That's not fair. Public Works decided that on its own. Next week at Council I hope to reverse that unfairness. As mayor I will ensure that garbage pickup, indeed all city services, are delivered in a manner that is fair and equitable for everyone within the city.
It is curious that the city can't afford to pick up garbage but it can afford to spend $100,000 or more on a useless referendum. As mayor, I will take the lead to stop the municipal warfare that is happening out there. I will meet with the GTA mayors. I will work with the Board of Trade. I will push joint economic development, because the only way any of us will prosper in this region is by learning to work together, not to fight each other.
There's more to leadership than managing City Hall and creating economic vitality. I want a city that's not only good to work in, but is also good to live in. Four summers ago, after a series of sexual assaults in my ward, I met with a group of women in the neighbourhood and together we decided to take action ourselves. We set up the Safe City Committee. We didn't just lobby other levels of government or use scare tactics. We went out. We improved lighting in underground garages. We improved it on the streets. We got the planning department to factor safety into building plans for parks. We worked with small business and with the police to make our streets safer.
As mayor, I will continue to be on the streets throughout this city, working with men and women from all parts of the city, from all walks of life, to find real practical solutions to the challenges we face.
You may hear throughout this campaign that I represent just one particular political party. That's not true. I have supporters from all political parties and from people who belong to no party. What we all have in common is a view of the city. They believe, as I do, that to make things happen again in Toronto, we've got to create economic vitality, we've got to manage City Hall and we've got to build a safe and a healthy city. And that's why I'm running for mayor. Thank you.
Thank you all. In a moment we'll turn it over to all of you. We have microphones at either end of the room. First of all, we'll start with a business question. Suppose that I am a business person planning to leave the City of Toronto because of high taxes or red tape. Could you each tell me how you would change things in order to change my mind?
There's no question at all that taxes have been a very large problem. I would like to say, though, that in the last year and a half, no major business has left the City of Toronto for anywhere outside the City of Toronto. There has been a real turnaround partly because we did hold taxes two years ago and reduced taxes 0.5 per cent this year. However I must remind you that the City of Toronto only spends between 18 and 19 cents of every dollar that you pay. The big tax collectors, of course, are Education and Metro. Metro receives 26 or 27 cents of each tax dollar. So even if we were to reduce taxes almost to nothing here they would still be high because of the school board situation.
We have held conversations with the provincial government and the federal people as well on the unfairness of education taxes. Mississauga, for instance, gets a per capita grant for education. We in the City of Toronto have what we call a negative grant. In other words, we owe money. We don't get it. We owe it. Scarborough is in the situation that if it wasn't within Metropolitan Toronto, and those taxes were not pooled at the Metro level, Scarborough would qualify for a provincial grant for education. Instead it is our big assessment base here which is raided and used for education purposes without Metro. Last year in the City of Toronto, $319 million that were not needed by the City of Toronto for its own education system were collected in taxes and were distributed to the other members of the Metro Federation. Scarborough received about $160 million of that. That has to be straightened up. That is one of the main problems and it has to be straightened away.
Taxes need to come down and Toronto, I agree, needs a new deal. We need some friends to help us, but let's start at home. Let's get the taxes down and let's get our own bureaucracy out there to be friendly, so that they attract business not scare them away. That would be the way that I would fix it.
Of course we need to keep our taxes at the city as low as possible and we also need to ensure that we are not duplicating services that other levels are providing. But we're going to have to get the province to change how they tax us and, quite frankly, I don't think we are going to do that on our own. We're not going to do it in an adversarial situation. We need to sit down with the other area municipalities within Metro and within the whole GTA. I believe they recognise that if the core of Toronto dies, they suffer as well. People don't come to Vaughan. They come to Toronto. The region realises they need a strong core, so Toronto needs to show leadership in bringing people together, in sitting down, in developing some consensus and then in going to the provincial government and pushing hard, hard, hard for the survival of this city. This requires the reduction of taxes.
Ms. Hall, we heard the Mayor say that she managed to keep the lid on taxes, with a small decrease this year. We heard Mr. Meinzer's promises to cut them by 3, 5 and 7 per cent in each of the next three years. You just talked about fair taxes and petitioning the province. Can you give us a translation of fair taxes? Would you cut taxes, or would you be unable to cut taxes without the approval of the province (which has its own deficit problems)?
Well in the past, in all my years on Council, I have supported taxes below the rate of inflation. Over this past year and the year before, I supported a tax freeze. I think when I say "fair taxes" I mean: businesses within the City of Toronto being taxed in an equal way or on a level playing field with those in Vaughan and Richmond Hill. I mean equal grants or no grants. I mean all of us being treated the same way. That's not happening right now.
Mr. Meinzer, given all the complexity surrounding Toronto's taxes, and given that the Toronto share of the property tax is, I think, about one-fifth, how would you manage to cut by 3, 5, and 7 per cent? Are we looking at once-a-year garbage pick-up? What services would have to be cut in order to facilitate such a large tax cut?
It is my intention to follow the example of other municipalities in privatising garbage. Just next to us, East York has saved almost 20 per cent by contracting out. Hazel McCallion tells me she has avoided tax increases twice already because she got a better deal in contracting out. There's a study by the University of Toronto that reports that the minimum savings by privatising garbage pick-up is 20 per cent. Some save up to 75 per cent. If I only save 20 to 25 per cent, I'm saving $25 million. That's one half of the $50 million I need to save at the end of the three-year term.
That's one step. The other step is by cutting layers of management. I think we have duplication falling over duplication. Nothing's happening here. We still have 225 planners in this city. Somewhere the buck needs to stop. I believe that we need to look at management and that we need to look at a possible consolidation of services that are duplicated between Metro and the City. There isn't a reason in the world why we have to have two Parks Departments, two Roads Departments, and then send this poor guy to two City Halls to plant his tree.
The Mayor was shaking her head. Perhaps she would like to respond.
This whole question of garbage pick-up is an extremely complex one. It isn't just a simple one of saying it's unfair and we recognize it's unfair, and that a report is going to come forward with four alternatives. None of you are interested in that. The difficulty is this: that the tipping fee is $50 a ton. When we pick up the garbage, we are not charged by Metro for that tipping fee. When it is picked up commercially, the tipping fee is charged and that puts us in a real mess. The problem is that $50 tipping fee. The City of Toronto doesn't pay it, but if we start all of that commercial pick-up Metro will suffer.
Before we move on, let's have Barbara Hall have a say on that.
The reality is that it is unfair. It is a question of fairness. It's a question that has an easy answer. What's happening is that small businesses are dumping their garbage in parks. In one case I dealt with, a small business person who had another shop used to put his garbage in the trunk of his car and drive it down to the other shop each night. We've paid for a lawyer and an inspector to prosecute that person, instead of having the truck that's already on the street stop and pick up the bag of garbage. We need to pick up small business garbage and treat small business fairly.
May I ask if you would tender it out?
We have unions. If we privatise garbage pick-up, the union workers still can't be fired.
Ms. Hall, would you contract it out?
I don't believe that contracting out is the answer to our garbage problem. Clearly we have a lot of problems with 'garbage in this city. I don't believe the problem is due to the workers. I believe that it is a question of management and that we need to put our energy into solving that problem. I agree that contracting out would not be the economic salvation that Gerry has said it would be.
I'm going to take us away from garbage. I'm the editor of a newsletter that serves the Canadian casino industry.
The government of Ontario has designated the Greater Toronto Area as a possible casino site. This Wednesday, Metro Council will vote on whether it will reverse a decision which it made in February: not to create a committee which will talk with the government of Ontario about whether or not Toronto should have a casino. I'd like to place a question to each of you: Do you support having a casino located on the Toronto waterfront, or would you prefer Vaughan or Mississauga or somewhere else?
Thank you. I'm not opposed to casinos. I've been off to Atlantic City and thrown the dice and lost my $100. But I support the creation of good jobs and having a safe and healthy community. If a casino can be a part of that, then I would look it. I am concerned about public dollars going into casinos, and I'm also concerned about turning the downtown of this city into a theme park. Some of the descriptions I've heard sounded very much like that. But if there are people out there who want to put in applications for casinos, then I would tell them to do so. I would certainly look at the application and determine whether any application would contribute to employment within the city and a safe and healthy city. Those are my bottom lines.
Well, I don't have a moral hang-up on casinos either, but I'd like to see the balance sheet. I would like to see figures quite different from those from Montreal casinos. If 96 per cent of all the money in a gambling casino now is already in gambling within the Montreal area, and if only four per cent worth of new economic activity is generated, I'd say, "No." I believe that if Toronto needs to be rescued by a casino then, I think, we're more bankrupt than I thought we were.
I will be voting at Metro, and I shall be voting "No." My concern is this. I simply don't approve of the idea of a billion six coming in from the United States to install 3,000 slot machines. I don't approve of it because that money all goes back to those investors for at least 10 years, and from then on profits go back to the States. I simply don't agree with it. If this is such a great business, then at least it should be Canadian money that's invested.
But casinos, unfortunately, seem to create some kind of a vortex. They just suck everything into them. The experience in Montreal is not a happy one. Gerry just referred to it. In addition to that, the small restaurants in downtown old Montreal no longer have clientele. I've talked to the mayor of Winnipeg and she said she hadn't got anything out of the casinos at all except a lot of extra policing costs. It isn't the way to go. You've asked about the vote at Metro. May I remind you that the zoning bylaw of the City of Toronto does not allow a use of casinos. And so before any decision is made at all, there will have to be a very major debate at City Council. There's a limited number of dollars for entertainment, for restaurants, for theatres, for gambling, for the horse-racing (which is a good industry here in Southern Ontario). If those limited revenues start getting channelled through casinos, there are a lot of other businesses that are going to suffer. That's my point.
I would like to know how you envisage the delivery of police and welfare services in the absence of a Metro level of government?
It is a question that comes up all the time. It is not difficult. To begin with, the TTC used to be a separate commission that delivered its services and it is now part of Metro. The TTC Commission would once again be set up with representatives from the various municipalities. It would probably have to take over the central computer services of Metro and perhaps the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner. The police would simply be the present Police Commission, except instead of having Metro representatives it would have representatives from each of the municipalities. Parks could be sorted out. The City of Toronto can look after the parks. It doesn't need Metro doing the big parks. Roads are the same way.
This begins to cut out all those levels of jurisdiction which have provided so much discussion. That's all fairly simple to do. Ambulance services should be associated with the fire services anyway and there's a move in that direction now. And the move, of course, is to put the fire services over to Metro. We'd rather see the ambulance services come back to Toronto.
Welfare is an integral part of what the Metro government does. What takes its place?
The province would do family benefits. There is a move now to shift general welfare assistance over to the provincial government. I don't expect that's going to happen in a hurry. A committee would have to be formed from representatives from the various municipalities to deal with the welfare problem, as well as those services the other facility provides. It would cost much less than what we've got now.
Ms. Hall on the subject of Toronto leaving Metro.
It isn't going to happen. I happen to think that local government is important and that it is important for people to he close to City Hall and its services. I believe that we should streamline City Hall.
I guess I'll bring up the issue of market value assessment. I'm accused of supporting MVA. This is the letter that the Mayor referred to. It says in one sentence that the Board of Trade supports market value assessment, but goes on for two pages arguing that the deal won't work. You (Mayor Rowlands) had a chance to fix an outdated system by getting a new system in here and by getting a new deal, and all you did was complain. This system needs to be fixed. You had a chance to do it, and you just complained about it.
No, I didn't. That's not right, Gerry. We didn't do that.
While we are on MVA, let's not leave without letting Ms. Hall have her say.
I opposed MVA. I spoke earlier about how I think we need to change taxation.
I don't think that either the City or Metro can afford the several thousand dollars that are being used for this referendum. I voted against the referendum. I would have preferred to see that money being spent on garbage pickup or on the police or on many other things that need to be done out there.
I'd like to change the subject. I'd like each of you to tell us exactly how you see the role of the lesbian and gay community in Toronto. Will you, as mayor, be an advocate for that community as it battles for equal rights at the provincial and federal levels?
I supported and I continue to support equal benefits for gays and lesbians. As far as adoption is concerned, it's not understood well enough at this point. The issue came up much too quickly. It should have been much better thought through. I feel that City Council made a mistake by not indicating support for at least part of the benefit package.
I have no objection to gays and lesbians. I want to make sure that there is no discrimination. I will follow the law. At this point I'm not prepared to debate whether there should be adoption or anything else, but this is not a matter that this municipality needs to discuss. Neither am I prepared to talk about the income tax act here. But as far as same sex benefits, no big deal.
I believe that this is a question of fairness and equity. I supported the motion at Council. I believe that same sex couples who are co-inhabiting should be able to adopt each other's children. The day that that vote was taken at City Council was a black day for that Council. Toronto which has shown leadership in the past on this issue and many other issues turned its back and voted "No.'
I have a question for Barbara Hall. During the introduction this evening you were quoted as saying: "Red tape must give away to black ink." This is a statement which I wholeheartedly support.
Now let's look at some facts. Between 1988 and 1991 you were the city's NDP Budget Chief. Projects which you and your NDP caucus voted for increased expenditures by $93 million for Toronto alone and placed the city in a debt of $268 million, a debt which did not exist before 1988. How do you propose to pay for these business failures?
Well, the City of Toronto was affected by the drop in real estate values. You mentioned that the city went into debt during my tenure as Budget Chief. What you are talking about is the city borrowing or debenturing in order to build capital projects. During that period of time when I first became Budget Chief, the Council had already authorised the building of a community centre in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. We also built a community centre in North Toronto. In those days, partially because of appeals to the O and B, the North Toronto Community Centre cost $23 million. There are over 20,000 registered users at that centre. I believe that if we're going to have a strong, healthy and safe city, we need to be prepared to build facilities like community centres. The borrowing was done well within our limitations. The cost of servicing our debt is between six and seven per cent. Compare that rate to those incurred by other levels of government. Just last week I read in the Globe and Mail that if a government can get its debt-servicing costs down to 15 per cent of its revenue it is in good shape.
So I stand behind the expenditures that were made while I was Budget Chief. I believe that they were necessary to have a vibrant and a healthy city.
Don't get me wrong. I love a vibrant and healthy city, and I want to give and want to be fair. But still, I'm a simple businessman who was brought up on the principles of income and expenses, and a balanced situation to me is how much can I afford. How can we really balance our budget? From June Rowlands, for example, we hear that the expenses went down, but from what level? The level was extremely high, and then saving only half a per cent. There is room to save 30 per cent.
There isn't room for that kind of reduction. I went through that in my speech. I won't go through it again. We were able to come in this year at a 0.05 per cent decrease, which may not sound like very much, but it required us to go through every programme--it's never been done in the city before--every single programme. We reduced the Planning Department by more than 30 per cent. We reduced the Management Services Department by more than 30 per cent and the Builders Department by more than 30 per cent. We didn't touch the Public Health Department at all, because their services are extremely important to a healthy city. We didn't touch the library board. (I would've cut some there but nobody would support it.) And this was an extremely careful study. But if you're talking about debt, you're correct. This year, our debt charges are $62 million because of past capital borrowing. We have not debentured anything in the last two years. We're trying to reduce our debt servicing but there is a difference in philosophy on Council. One part of Council really believes in spending money to create jobs. And certainly some spending is required. There is no question about that. But at this point, I think we have to put the emphasis on keeping taxes under control, so that business can come in. The extra taxes that are collected from new businesses will begin to make that tax reduction up and we'll get into a viable situation again.
Well, I'm a great believer of spending what you earn, to begin with. I've been in business for a long, long time and I know what it's like to meet a payroll on Friday. Borrowing to me is a foreign word.
Gerry wants a fixed link to the island airport. Some American cities have deserted downtowns. Toronto is famous for its livable downtown. Gerry and June how would you answer those who say you don't care?
I believe that my position on the island airport and a fixed link is concerned with safety, building Toronto's infrastructure and taking it as an asset rather than a liability. It costs the tax payer $2 million or more to maintain that airport right now. I think the only sensible way is to go fixed-link, not use taxpayers' money. I know that the private sector will pay for it, which is sensible in letting this airport live up to its potential. I believe that I can get planes in there. To stop the evolution of an airport on a method of propulsion to me is preposterous. Let's just get on with it. Downtown Harbourfront will not be affected. I live down there. There are jets going in there every day. Nobody says anything about it. I know what it is like down there. I'm right in the flight path.
She wasn't asking about the method of propulsion. She was asking about the increased traffic in terms, I think, of people and cars as well as aeroplanes going to the airport through residential neighbourhoods.
Well, you can take that little shuttle bus down to the Island, walk under the tunnel and get to the island airport. That's my proposal. Less traffic, less congestion, even in the air.
Whatever form that direct link takes, it is necessary. We have been informed by two levels of government and other agencies that that airport isn't safe, because ambulances and fire trucks, particularly ambulances, can't get there if there is an accident. So something has to be done about that. We either close it down or we do something about a fixed link. The real issue involves some folks that live at Harbourfront, as Gerry does, who have said that they don't want the increased traffic. That's really what this is all about and I don't know the answer to that.
I was one of the architects of the tripartite agreement that is in place now. That cannot be broken unless the City of Toronto agrees to it. So this is something that has to be sorted out. But I can tell you this: the province will no longer pay the million dollars to subsidise the new ferry. The federal government has said they'll no longer subsidise the airport by $1 million. We've also been informed that the fire services there, which cost I think $460 million, are no longer going to be supported. So there is going to be a very big bill that we are going to pay.
At that point matters have got to be thought over carefully. A tunnel to the airport would be extremely expensive. What I had thought of was a special tunnel for ambulances only. It's a situation that's not going to be solved in a hurry. It's got to be thought through very carefully. Frankly, I'd much rather put in a rapid transit route to our big airport. That's really what we need. We need a rapid transit line to the big airport.
Do you support the fixed link?
Yes, I have always voted in favour of a fixed link.
Well, I think that if we think a fixed link is going to solve these issues we are fooling ourselves. To build a fixed link would be to get caught up in environmental assessment for years. The provincial and federal governments would tie that thing up.
I think I agree that the focus for air transit needs to be how we get people quickly to the airport. We need to divert the GO-line to Lester Pearson and get a much larger number of business people downtown and then from downtown out to the airport.
Expanding the airport to the extent that Gerry has suggested would destroy Harbourfront, a favourite place for visitors to Toronto. If we look beyond the traditional ways, we can have the capacity to get business travellers to the big airport and of keeping the Harbourfront area as it is.
Mr. Meinzer, I hope you realise that you are disadvantaged. According to an article in a local paper "For the first time in Toronto's history, there is not a single right-of-centre councillor on any of the city's 180 or so committees. And the frightening thing is that the majority of Toronto voters don't even know that." Mr. Meinzer, how do you expect to get their co-operation and confidence?
Well, I've demonstrated what can be done if one works with the councillors even if they are towards another side of the spectrum. I managed to get unanimous agreement of every GTA municipality to put an airport authority together for Toronto. I got an affirmative vote. So I know if you can put an agenda in front of them, you can work with these people. I think we can achieve it.
I own a small pilot training and charter company at the airport. I would like to direct my question to Ms. Hall and Ms. Rowlands. How do you see the future of the airport? Do you see the benefits that it can have? If you want my vote, what can you do for us? What will you do for businesses like my own?
I think the island airport, as it is, works not badly. I know that there are some people who would like to see it close down. That's not my position. However, I'm opposed to a fixed link, and I believe that we can service the airport without one. The question is whether existing business can carry the true cost of operating the airport in the way that's permitted. I know there is an issue about jets at the airport and I don't believe that the viability of jets at the airport has ever been fully considered. I think any change in plane type would require a full examination of the impact both in terms of noise and in terms of the cost.
We are talking about the economic viability of the airport and yet the New York run had to be cut out because there weren't sufficient passengers. I myself use that airport to go to Montreal. We know that two and a half million in subsidy is being spent. We also know that the airport has been declared unsafe, so we are going to have put in a fixed link whether anybody likes it or not, or thinks fireboats to be sufficient in a case of disaster (which of course they are not). So there is a whole big problem, about the financial viability of this airport. It certainly will require an environmental assessment and very hard financial analysis. I don't know what that analysis would show.
I guess the position I take is a very straightforward one. I think we can have our cake and eat it too. I think we can make this airport viable. I think the funds have got to come from the taxpayers' pocket. As Barbara mentioned, it is a perfect example why I am running in this election. If your friends can put housing on the island without ever consulting the municipality, then I think we can make the airport viable.
I have friends in many places, Gerry. I have friends at Queen's Park. I have other people at Queen's Park in the government who have not implemented things I want. As a City Councillor and as mayor of this city, I would be interested in what is best for the City of Toronto. I would approach governments of any and all stripes to advocate for the City of Toronto.
And on that note I am going to have to wrap things up. I apologize to people who have been so patient at the microphones but it's seven o'clock and if I'm not in front of the television when Peter and Pam come on my contract doesn't get renewed. So a few thank-yous now from Graham Murray of G.P. Murray Research Limited and he's with the Public Affairs Association of Canada and they are a co-sponsor of this event.
On behalf of the three sponsoring organisations it is my very pleasant task to thank our moderator, to thank our candidates and of course finally to thank you ladies and gentlemen for attending the kickoff of the mayoralty debate in Toronto this evening. I want to begin by thanking Matt Maychak a man I've worked with for a number for a years at Queen's Park. I used to think I was the funniest man at the NDP Caucus Research Department but I know he was the funniest person in the press gallery and I believe you've seen tonight the demonstration of his many great journalist qualities. He moderated this debate very fairly and yet at the same time he was a fine tough interviewer for our candidates and I'm sure they appreciated that. We owe a special vote of thanks to Matt for appearing at an event this time of the day. As you know as a morning person he's normally in bed by now, not watching Pam and Peter later on in the evening. I want as well to thank our three candidates, Mayor Rowlands, Mr. Meinzer and Barbara Hall for attending this debate and for participating as fully and willingly as they did and thank them as well for having indicated that they will be ready to stay around for a few moments after the debate for those of you who didn't have a chance to talk to them. They are all busy and have other things to go on to later but they are willing to stay for a few moments to talk with the members of our audience. Thank you very much indeed.