Mayor Rob Ford is no A student.
In a grading by the The Toronto Taxpayers Coalition, Ford’s city council earned a C+ when it comes to respecting taxpayers.
In a bid to put Ford’s mantra of “respect for taxpayers” back in the spotlight at City Hall, the coalition is mailing out report cards to each member of city council this week.
The Sun had an exclusive look at the grades and council has lots of room for improvement, according to the coalition.
Ford earned a B based on the group’s grading criteria while many of his foes ended up with a big red F stamped on their report cards.
“We think it has been positive but we think more can be done,” said coalition president Matthew McGuire. “Council is divided which is concerning because we need them to get together and to work to resolve the fiscal crisis that we face and council has been distracted with different stunts, different drama … it distracts from the real issues.”
The group hopes the grades will help taxpayers judge the performance of individual councillors and city council as a whole.
“(While) C+ is not the best grade out there, we think council can, and has the ability, to work harder to put aside some of the personalities and the egos and the distractions,” McGuire said.
McGuire said the coalition’s advisory group hashed out the grades based on some key votes at city council including the 2011 property tax freeze, the ousting of the Toronto Community Housing board, contracting out more of the city’s garbage collection and asking staff to examine outsourcing at city-owned theatres. Comments councillors have made in the media, pet projects and controversies also factor into the grades.
“The mayor has had a lot of controversy around him,” McGuire said, explaining Ford’s B grading.
He pointed to Ford bringing in Don Cherry to give a tough-talking inauguration speech, getting caught talking on his cellphone while driving and the swirling controversy around Ford calling 911 after being ambushed in his driveway by This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
“That distracts from the financial crisis, from the real issues,” McGuire said. If Ford could avoid controversy more often, he may have an easier time getting moderate councillors on side to push ahead with his cost-cutting agenda, McGuire said.
In the comments section of Ford’s report card, the group chided the mayor for not yet making good on his campaign promise to eliminate the municipal land transfer tax.
“We’re not happy that he has had to delay that. We understand that there are different pressures but we are putting him on notice, we’re watching him on this and we need him to move on this in the next three years,” McGuire said.
The coalition did blast many of Ford’s foes for routinely voting against tax cutting measures over the last year.
Eleven councillors were given an F: Adam Vaughan, Mike Layton, Joe Mihevc, Pam McConnell, Janet Davis, Mary Fragedakis, Paula Fletcher, Sarah Doucette, Gord Perks, Maria Augimeri and Anthony Perruzza.
McGuire stressed he believes the report cards can help, if councillors take the comments to heart.
“The Fs are all equal as far as we are concerned,” McGuire said, adding councillors were given an F for voting the “wrong way.”
But how does the coalition define the wrong way?
“Voting the wrong way is going against the best interests of taxpayers,” McGuire said, adding the 2010 election was about respect for taxpayers. “Voting the right way is to respect the wishes of residents.”
Some of Ford’s most outspoken lieutenants actually earned a higher ranking than Ford in respecting taxpayers.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday — along with Councillors Denzil Minnan-Wong and John Parker — have an A+ to hang on the fridge.
Councillor James Pasternak got an A, missing out on an A+ because he pushed to bring taxpayer-funded snacks back to city council meetings less than a year after the perk was tossed.