Critical of perks? Take pay cut, councillor challenges

Fed up with fellow councillors who fulminate about their pay and perks (Michael Walker, Rob Ford, come on down), Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby made them an offer last week.

In her speech on the mayor’s tax plan (she voted with the majority to approve it), Ms. Lindsay Luby waved a form for councillors so inclined to donate a percentage of their $95,000 salary to the city or hand back their $7,785.60 pay increase for 2007.

Here’s a shocker: no takers so far.

“It’s all about councillors biting each other’s backs and trying to get a headline,” says Ms. Lindsay Luby (Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre). “It’s shameful.”

For the record, Ms. Lindsay Luby will not cut her salary. “As it is, we are the lowest-paid councillors in the GTA and beyond,” she says. “I earn my pay.”

Mr. Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North), who cites pay and perks as examples of profligate spending at city hall, wants nothing to do with her offer, saying he already forgoes his $53,000 office budget: “I have done my part already in saving taxpayers’ money.”

During last Monday’s tax debate, Mr. Ford again needled Mayor David Miller over council perks.

“That whole argument is offensive,” Mr. Miller shot back. “To call things like office budgets, which allows [councillors] to communicate with people, a ‘perk’ is really unworthy of a member of council. … It is an essential necessity.”

The mayor could not resist a final jab at Mr. Ford, who owns a printing firm. “Frankly, not every member can own a printing plant.”

The great debate

The daylong debate on Mr. Miller’s two controversial proposed taxes last week was an anti-climax, but it contained some great examples of the Cicero-like oratory around here.

The award for best mixed metaphor goes to Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre), who urged his fellow councillors, in going over the city budget, to “corral all of these sacred cows and put them under the microscope.”

The honour for easiest question lobbed at the mayor goes to Councillor Bill Saundercook (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park), who, while arguing that the city should charge tolls on the Don Valley Parkway, let slip that he had no idea where the DVP (which the city controls) ended.

“Where does the DVP start?” he asked the mayor, who responded that the expressway begins south of Highway 401. “So north of it, it’s called 404?” Mr. Saundercook continued, incredulous. He then asked: “Why wouldn’t that be called DVP right to our boundaries?” You go get him, Bill.

While Michael Del Grande (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt), holding up a tea bag and invoking the Boston Tea Party, did give the judges pause, the award for most boneheaded historical reference clearly goes to Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East).

“History shows that appeasement is seldom rewarded,” he warned centrist councillors supporting the mayor’s new taxes.

He would only laugh nervously when asked afterward just what history he was referring to. But we all know. And Mr. Minnan-Wong should know better than to invoke the horrors of the Second World War in a debate about a tax on land sales.

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