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Both sides declare victory on police budget (even though Bill Blair received pretty much everything he wanted)

Rob Ford’s allies folded like a cheap shirt in the ongoing dispute regarding the police budget. Recall that Chief Bill Blair responded to the mayor’s request for a 10 per cent budget reduction by requesting the exact opposite: a budget increase. Sabres were rattled, meetings were held and, in the end, Blair will walk away with almost everything he wanted. But don’t expect Ford to spin it that way: two of his allies on council, and Blair himself, said the new budget represents a significant reduction.

The Globe and Mail has the details:

After a session with the city CFO, mayor’s staff, board members and Chief Blair that extended beyond 9 p.m. on Tuesday, the two sides agreed to a $936.3-million budget, a slight increase on its 2011 budget of $930.4 million.

Those figures are a far cry from demands the board had made of Chief Blair just two weeks ago, when members vowed to impose a 10 per cent cut over one year that would slash the budget to under $890 million.

Of course, those involved in the negotiations at city hall declared victory all the same, calling the proposed budget a significant cut. Sure, it’s a 4.6 percent reduction from an earlier 2012 forecast; but that budget included the collective agreement signed earlier this year boosting uniform pay by 11.5 percent over four years (not to mention the new budget’s reductions are spread out over two years instead of one).

It would probably be premature to conclude that this is proof of the mayor’s willingness to compromise. Despite all the tough talk, we know that Ford has a soft spot for police (besides, it will likely be a long time before another city leader is brash enough to openly spurn Ford the way Blair did).

But one lesson that can be drawn from all this drama is how misguided Ford’s one-size-fits-all belt-tightening routine really is. If Ford will allow for this kind of finagling from the police, we can’t help but question the math behind his call for 10 per cent budget cuts across city departments. Really, why not tailor the cuts to each city department? Seems that Josh Matlow is full of good ideas these days.

Blair wins: Ford poised to accept police budget hike [Toronto Star]
Blair wins police budget battle [Toronto Sun]
Toronto police board breaks budget stalemate [Globe and Mail]
Toronto Police chief’s latest offer avoids layoffs [National Post]

(Images: Rob Ford, Shaun Merritt; Bill Blair, Daniel Ehrenworth)