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Ford era starts on high note

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford with the "chain of office"

TORONTO, Ont. – Mayor Rob Ford has jumped over the first few hurdles of city council with a ‘yes’ vote on his top three campaign pledges.

The vehicle-registration tax is gone, office budgets have been cut, and the push is on for the TTC to be declared an essential service.

It’s up to Queen’s Park to legislate a law that would declare the TTC an essential service, which essentially would make it illegal for workers to strike.

On Thursday, council officially eliminated the vehicle-registration tax and approved a motion to cut councillors’ budgets by $20,000 per year.

“It’s a great day for the taxpayers of Toronto,” Ford said as he referred to the fee as “the most irritating tax”.

Following a five-hour debate, city council voted 39-6 to kill the levy on Jan. 1, 2011, meaning Torontonians with a birthday on that day or any day thereafter will not have to pay the $60 fee.

“Sixty dollars is a lot of money to people, and I’m glad that we finally got rid of it,” Ford said about his first major victory while in the mayor’s chair. “That’ll put $64 million back into the pockets of Toronto taxpayers.”

He told 680News that he would use the extra money to buy his son and daughter two Christmas gifts.

Several of the councillors agreed that the tax was a mistake in the first place.

“It actually seems like a war on owning a car, not on the effect of using cars,” Paula Fletcher said.

“The city of Toronto said to you ‘happy birthday, give us some money’. And if you owned two or three cars, ‘give us even more money,’ ” Glenn De Baeremaeker remarked.

However, some were questioning the Mayor’s decision.

“I want to know what your big moves are, like where you see the big moves,” he asked Joe Mihevc.

“I’m going to repeat myself probably for the 10th time, but I don’t mind doing this. The budget is not before us today,” Ford responded.

Others were upset that Ford decided not to stretch the tax cut to drivers who celebrated their birthdays as far back as September, as those with birthdays before January 1, 2011 will still be required to pay the tax.

“This promise isn’t being kept for everybody in the same way,” Anthony Perruzza said, calling the decision a slap in the face.

Later Thursday afternoon came the announcement that council approved the motion to cut councillors’ budgets to $30,000 from $50,000, which covers everything from food to office stationery.

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