POLITICS

Toronto reveals cost-cutting report: zoos, libraries, transit on the bubble

09/12/2011 11:07 EDT | Updated 11/12/2011 05:12 EST
Flickr: mark.watmough
TORONTO - Toronto's city manager released the final report of a core services review Monday, recommending which jobs, services and city-run attractions should be cut in the face of a massive budget shortfall.

Joe Pennachetti said the recommendations include either finding buyers for the Toronto Zoo and Riverdale Farm or shutting them down.

The report also recommended closing some museums and libraries as well as looking for efficiencies in transit, fire and emergency services. Reducing grass-cutting and snow-clearing services and subsidized child care spaces were among other proposals.

Pennachetti said he knows the recommendations will not be well received by a number of parties.

"My goal is to balance looking at those services against the fiscal reality of a huge, massive budgetary short fall," said Pennachetti.

The proposed cuts and reductions would result in up to $300 million in savings over a four-year period, he said, adding more than 1,100 city workers have applied for a voluntary separation program.

Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker called the report a "nightmare."

"Mayor (Rob) Ford said to us I know where the money is, there are no cuts, I promise there are no cuts. Every single page in this report says cut, cut, cut, eliminate, eliminate, eliminate," De Baeremaeker said.

Unions representing Toronto firefighters and transit workers were quick to criticize the report.

"Any further reduction in the scope of fire department responses would mean that response times for life-threatening calls would increase," said Ed Kennedy, president of the firefighters' union.

"In many cases, these few minutes can mean the difference between life and death," he added.

"This is a war on commuters, low-wage workers, the disabled and the environment," said Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

Heather McGregor, CEO of the YWCA Toronto, said cutting subsidized day care spots and ending investments in affordable housing will "make the poor poorer."

"Such cuts will diminish this city," she said.

But Michael Del Grande, the city's budget chief, said cuts are necessary to deal with a huge shortfall.

"What are the other alternatives? The other alternatives are let's increase the taxes by 30-odd per cent," said Del Grande.

The report will go to the executive committee on Sept. 19.

(680News, The Canadian Press)