Just imagine if Rob Ford were the Mayor of Vancouver

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


How would Vancouverites react if this man were their mayor?

It might not be making a lot of headlines out west, but in Toronto the topic of cutbacks at City Hall is front and centre on the nightly news. Mayor Rob Ford got elected last year on a promise to end “the gravy train” within his local government.

To prove that he was serious, Mayor Ford is doing what few other civic politicians in Canada would dare to attempt. He is proposing cutbacks to police, fire and library budgets. In spite of this, he still has tremendous support from the public.

Now close your eyes for a moment and imagine if Ford suddenly became the Mayor of Vancouver. What do you think would be at the top of his “end the gravy train” agenda?

I suspect his first order of business would be to imitate Coquitlam’s cost-effective model of privatized garbage pickup for single-family homes. In that city, if residents don’t like the service they’re receiving, they simply terminate the contractor and hire someone else. Just like you or I would do if someone is providing bad service.

Vancouver’s new Mayor Ford would then take aim at city services that could be easily delivered by the private sector instead of bureaucrats. He’d tell his city manager, “If you can find the service being delivered in the Yellow Pages, I want to know why we’re in the business of delivering it too.”

As a result, city employees who work as lawn cutters, pool cleaners and electricians would be wondering if their private-sector counterparts could start bidding for their jobs.

It’s hard to believe Ford wouldn’t demand efficiencies within the police, fire and ambulance services. If they can’t figure out which one of them should be called out to a fender bender, he’ll do it for them.

The reality is Ford, or anyone like him, will never become the Mayor of Vancouver – at least anytime soon. If you’re a city bureaucrat or union boss, you can take a big sigh of relief.

There is no way on Earth that Vision Vancouver and Mayor Gregor Robertson are going to pursue a Ford-like agenda here. Nor will the fiscally conservative NPA propose cutbacks with a liberal-minded mayoral candidate like Suzanne Anton at the helm.

Heck, even Vancouver’s tax-averse business community is only proposing to tinker around the edges. They’ve half-heartedly asked city hall to look at cutting back a few staff “gratuity” days and reduce some duplication.

Mayor Robertson was recently quoted as saying it was “ignorant” for provincial politicians to claim he could find one-per-cent efficiencies within his own “lean” government. Something tells me if a certain Hogtown mayor were in charge, he’d have a slightly different perspective.

- - Post by Daniel. You can follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus. Or you can "like" us on Facebook at Facebook.com/CityCaucus. This column first appeared in 24 Hours Vancouver on Thursday, August 4th, 2011.


I lived in Toronto for 12 years. Ford is a goof who snuck in when other candidates wouldn't offer tax reduction. He is owned by the police union. They alone will evade cuts. He has already been caught giving the finger to another driver who he delayed by using a cell phone in traffic. He won't get through a single term. If someone wants a clown who makes funny faces, and performs a tired 'straight-shooter' act, move to Toronto.

If someone wants a clown who makes funny faces, and performs a tired 'straight-shooter' act, move to Toronto.
Isnt this a good description of Robertson. Looks like we dont have to move to Toronto.

But if one needs to meet a monkey playing the banjo, the Deliverance tune... move to Vancouver!

Too funny,my son in law just sent an Email to Ford begging him to come and save us from our insane agenda driven city council and crazy mayor.LMAO

The Thought of The Night

"In Toronto they have a FORD - a good old reliable, afFORDable, popular, form of civic "transportation". In Vancouver we have GREGOR... a Hybrid between the Flintstones and the Simpsons...


Did you see what I mean?

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

So this is how the re-branding of Klassen begins.
I do not know why you keep using the Coquitlam garbage contract as a shining example. As a Ccoquitlam resident we lost great city service, replaced it with utterly terrible service, and then replaced that with shoddy service, that now costs us more than it did when it was done by city employees - city employeees that went beyond their job of basic pick-up but worked hard at keeping the streets and neighbourhoods clean.

did anyone happen to catch the US news last night where a city has claimed bankruptcy? The pension plan costs are 4 times their revenue.

I understand that our system of collecting revenues is different in that regardless of what the assessed value is of the total tax roll - the city collects 100% of its required revenue BUT the basic point remains - city budgets have to be sustainable and quite frankly, like many others, Vancouver is not - we are outpacing inflation and population growth. Anyone know how much of the city budget is paid to the pension plans? That may be reason alone to start contracting out.

Some of you might like this - http://bit.ly/o4tUqC

Yes if Ford was the mayor of vancouver those bike lanes would have been torn up by now. He would bring in forensic auditors to review expenses of the entire staff and council.


How are you even marrying Mike Klassen into this?

On the garbage note, we have private pick-up at apartment units and condos.

We have it with my place. Never had a problem, and it was a welcome relief during the civic strike.

While some people will complain loudly about Ford's tactics, others will applaud him for them.

I have many friends in Toronto and they have zero problem with what he is doing.

Vancouver, population 600K. Toronto 2.5 million. It was mostly the (more conservative) suburban portions of TO that put him in power. I don't think Vancouver really has this demographic in the numbers needed to put a truly conservative mayor and council in power.

Good for you Max. I also have lots of friends in TO and they think he will be a one term mayor, if he even makes it through a full term.

That said, we do need a complete rethink on what are public goods and services and what should be provided by the private sector. That would make for an interesting debate between the NPA and Vision.

I tend to agree with Jane Jacobs that public goods are generally better provided by the public sector. But if something is a choice, then the private sector is much better at providing choices.

What we want to avoid is the failed model of PPPs.

How fitting, a car metaphor. Must keep you busy.

It is important to distinguish between the provision of a public service and the delivery or a public service. The city is still providing the "public good" of garbage collection whether it is through city employees or a private sector firm under contract.

The "Coquitlam model" is a true privatization where each taxpayer has to negotiate individually for the service. This is probably not to the taxpayers advantage as presumeably the city could negotiate a better deal on behalf of all its citizens through competitive bidding.

Cities that philosophically decline to consider privatization of the service delivery do their citizens a huge disservice as the rise of powerful public sector unions and weak or compliant politicians have created a negotiating power imbalance. This is clear from the higher than private sector compensation they have been able to negotiate.

Gawd I'd love to have Ford here.

We could play Whack-a-Mole with the Progressivistas, Eco-Jihadis and kick the bicycle mafia to the curb and then rip up all the anti-car crap Mayor Moonbeam and his Hollyhock smelly hippies think is so good for Gaia.

Where is our Ford to save us from the idiots running the show now?

And this is what you get when untendered contracts are given to Vision Vancouver 'friends':

Olympic Village tenants seek meeting with Coun. Andrea Reimer over energy costs


According to the last actuarial report for the municipal employee’s pension plan, there is an unfunded liability for the basic benefits of about one billion dollars. That figure is included in a foot note to the city's 2010 annual report. The plan covers many more employers than the city so the billion dollar liability for basic benefits is not allocated by employer. Note that when supplementary benefits are included (inflation indexing at 3.5%) the unfunded liability balloons to 8 billion. On January 1, 2009 plan members received a 3.5% inflation adjustment in pension benefits. In 2009 my employer reduced my total compensation. Plan members receive subsidized health benefits. As examples, retiring members in 2009 with service between 24-29 years receive a pension of $34,000; those with 30-34 years of service receive a pension of $41,600. That does not include the cost of subsidized health benefits and inflation indexing for life. The pension costs (i.e. contributions) for first responders (they receive a higher benefit than all other plan members) are so high that the plan must get a special waiver from Revenue Canada. The COV's pension expense in 2010 is reported as $51.2 mil up 4% from 2009.Of particular note deferred payroll costs in 2010 (sick leave gratuity, banked vacation etc) were $84 mil. So, yes there would be significant savings.

@ skippy and Julia – you have both touched on one of the major issues facing most levels of government. Defined benefit pension plans, which are typically only available to public sector employees, have and will cripple municipalities going forward. The private sector has moved to a defined contribution pension plan out of necessity – I think GM declared bankruptcy the first time to get out from under that burden. The amount of liability recorded on the balance impaired their ability to function.

There was an article in the Burnaby Now in the last couple of weeks that noted based on current life spans, that a City employee actually costs the city more (in absolute dollars) retired than they ever did employed.

Skippy, thank you for the sobering figures.

I have a family member who's husband retired from the COV back in the 70's. He took a lesser pension on the provision that it would be transferred to his wife should he pass away first. She is now 97 and I believe her pension is around $2,000 a month. In this instance, I am thinking the pension payout has eclipsed the earnings of 25 years service as a city engineer.

As the city workforce grows, so does the long term liability.

Half the taxpayers out there have no company pension whatsoever (like me!) and are being asked to pay more and more to keep this Titanic afloat.

Perhaps I should check the job postings at the city.

Max, George et al - look at this


read between the lines - this is an admin assistant position that would probably pull $15-18 an hour in the real world.

@ Julia
"Half the taxpayers out there have no company pension whatsoever (like me!) and are being asked to pay more and more to keep this Titanic afloat."

Very well said. As people get more and more tax fatigue, issues like this will come to the fore front more clearly.

i remember years ago making 5.75 an hour and the very strong unionized positions in the company were getting 25.00 an hour.
I was not unionized and there was a minimal pension plan.

It was difficult being told by unionized employees that they couldn't live on what they were getting.

Try living on 5.75 was my answer.

I do not believe people should be made to work for slave wages but somehow we have to get away from wide disparities.

Many people who have lived in Vancouver for years and years are finding it hard to stay here.
Taxes go up and up and up and the trickle down effect is huge.

It's easy to feel resentful when there doesn't seem to be any value coming your way.

Just the honour of saying 'I live in the best City in the world -'cough,cough)'

I'm with you Julia!
The gravy train has run out of steam. What we have now is a pull and push locomotive. Not good news!

@Max re OV Tenants

If you google Pam Burge, you will notice this isn't the first time this individual has been in the press re social housing.

Mr Steven Forth,
That must have hurt right? Why didn't you think of that?
That is a good metaphor. I am old enough to guarantee you Ford to be a good old reliable mode of transportation for more than 100 years! Here to stay, because it takes care of you in many ways...compared with what we have in Vancouver... I am talking about The Robertson.
You don't need many words from Glissando!
But you knew that right?
Good weekend
Dr. Richard Unger (MD ret)

"Nor will the fiscally conservative NPA propose cutbacks with a liberal-minded mayoral candidate like Suzanne Anton at the helm."

And therein lies the problem. Reigning in the public service is going to take very strong leadership as the unions are not going to accept the necessary changes without a fight. (Take a look at the current contract - gratuity days for showing up, bonus weeks off every 5 years etc) There are no strong leaders on the horizon which means there will be no substantive changes during the term of the next civic contract.

The financial turmoil that is about to engulf the developed economies will have us wishing for the good old days when the biggest issues were bicycle lanes and chickens.

Absolutely true Dr. Unger. Metaphor or not, Rob Ford is what the people of Toronto need. Period. And we DO NEED someone just like that in Vancouver, to get rid of this Vision disease and Gregor wart.

The CUPE contracts expire on December 31, 2011. Normally bargaining starts 4 months before expiry and thus negotiations will occur during the civic election campaign. With Meggs mettling in the backrooms and being so deeply behooved to CUPE there no doubt is a sweet heart deal in the works.

Skippy, the current silence would suggest you are right. If things were not going well you can be sure the threats would have already started. It is also a good indication that CUPE thinks Vision is going to win the next election.

We have our own 'Ford'.... his name is Bruce Allen, and it is up to him to step up..(please!!!!)

@ Mr. Allen....will you consider it ?????

I'm always baffled by those who seek to nullify Ford's victory by saying "its the suburbanites that put him in power". So what? They're now part of the City of Toronto. Its like bemoaning the fact the residents of the former municpality of Point Grey put the NPA in power.

What about the COV spending excessive money on cycling signs. More and more I continue to see signs telling motorists where they should stay out of.

Here is a good article on the City of Vancouver going overboard with cycling signs.


OMG Fred, your comment was not only brilliant but oh so entertaining.

How is it that in Vancouver we are blind to what is going on in many US cities due to the union payouts & the public sector pensions? It is literally killing some US cities, most esp. CA.

I call it greed.

I just found this site & it's about time I found an antidote to the usual bs from the Tyee et al.

Check out BCWineLover.com!

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