Among the many reasons that voters should support Jane Pitfield in her bid to become Mayor of Toronto is because she wants to cut spending. Her opponent, incumbent Mayor David Miller wants to add more than 800 new city employees onto the register, among other expensive plans.
Pitfield, the first high-profile candidate to challenge Miller and point out his list of broken promises explained her positions during a recent in-depth interview at Toronto's City Hall. She was asked - how would she clean up the mess of the city budget?
"I believe this (the economic mess the city is in) is an urgent matter, I would accomplish this by introducing zero (beginning with a blank piece of paper and insisting that each department would go back to zero and justify each dollar placed in the budget) base budgeting for all departments and at least over the three years it would be so for all departments, we would do one third each year, the other two thirds would be a value for money audit. This way we would uncover hundreds of millions of dollars which are currently being mismanaged and being spent on services that municipalities should not have to provide," noted Pitfield.
"We also should encourage the provincial uploading which would take place over a realistic period of time because of the 7.6 billion dollars currently in the budget, $700 million is downloaded. Some of it is our responsibility, I simply think they will assist us over time,” added the mayoral candidate.
Pitfeld noted that "we also need to encourage our employees to come forward with their ideas on where money can be saved. This is something that has never been asked of the employees. This will lead to better productivity and efficiency in the city."
"In my opinion we have not needed tax increases. The tax increase is currently one of the first items that is placed in the budget. Instead we need to do our budget in such a way the tax increase will be decided at the very end. I believe through the measures of zero based budgeting and the value for money audit on certain departments we'll find that tax increases will not be necessary," said Pitfield.
"Another important issue that needs to be addressed is the business tax. Commercial taxes in Toronto are four times what they are in the 905. This is the reason why there has been an exodus of so many jobs. We need to correct this in a timely fashion," added Pitfield.
"We have to make a commitment to hold our line on spending and not to pass on property tax increases. There has been a three percent property tax increase every year during this term. Spending alone, in the last year, has risen by 21%, which is unacceptable," said Pitfield.
"The issue is of managed competition. For the city's financial health we must have the opportunity to contract out to private sector companies. This is something our current mayor has attempted to take off the table completely and in this case it limits our savings. In London, England, 51% of the transit service is provided by private sector companies," informed Pitfield.
“Accountability and transparency is still not being provided by city hall. We need to be honest and straightforward with our residents and let them be a part of the budget process, not token consultation but actually have the city priorities set by the residents," said Pitfield.
"Currently the city has nine priorities. You cannot address nine priorities and resolve them in three years. We should have two or three priorities and deliver what we promised. The priorities from the majority of the residents are to significantly reduce crime, to make the budget sustainable and accountable and residents tell me they are tired of paying more and receiving less. We need to address service in this city. Finally, assessment has hit some neighbourhoods dramatically. When you have an increased assessment plus a property tax increase, I'm concerned that some people may not be able to continue living in their homes," explained Pitfield.
These are the economic issues that Councillor Pitfield dealt with; there will be more on other subjects later.
Jane Pitfield, the next Mayor of Toronto (1)