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Rob Ford’s “billion dollars” in savings is actually probably more like $350 million

(Image: Christopher Drost)

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Here’s Rob Ford, speaking to a Fox News reporter in November:

And these aren’t my numbers John. I’ve saved the taxpayers a billion dollars in the first three years of my mandate. These [numbers] are from the city manager Joe Pennachetti and Rob Rossini the CFO.

On too many occasions to count, in interviews and in mayoral debates, the mayor has used versions of that same soundbite to defend his claim that he has saved taxpayers “a billion dollars” over the course of his mayoralty. He even got some backup from Pennachetti and Rossini—two of the city’s top bureaucrats—last month when they released a briefing note explaining where the billion-dollar figure came from.

Monday, after reporters had already spent weeks debunking that briefing note (the Star’s Daniel Dale did a better job of it than anyone else), Pennachetti and Rossini released a second briefing note that makes a key distinction. Yes, Rob Ford has arguably saved the city about $893 million. But, the briefing note says in impenetrable bureaucratese, if we’re going to talk about “savings” as personal accomplishments of different mayors, David Miller was almost as good.

Miller’s allegedly irresponsible spending remains a key talking point for Ford’s campaign, even four years after the fact. And yet, according to the briefing note, Miller saved about $545 million between 2007 and 2010. Going by those numbers (and it’s important to note that there’s still some debate about what actually constitutes “savings”) Ford’s actual savings, compared to his predecessor, are probably more on the order of $350 million. And that’s before factoring in all the costs associated with his decisions.

At a media briefing yesterday, Pennachetti actually told reporters a version of this. “In terms of budget savings being a billion dollars,” the Star quotes him as saying, “that is misleading compared to previous administrations.”

Monday’s briefing note also makes it clear that savings alone haven’t been key to balancing budgets over the past four years. The Ford administration has had an increasing amount of help from the province. Also increasingly helpful: the land transfer tax, a David Miller initiative that Ford at one point promised to abolish. Here’s the city’s graph:


(MLTT is the land transfer tax and “upload” is recurring funding from the provincial government.)

Ford continues to stand by his billion-dollar claim. When asked for a response to Monday’s briefing, he reportedly said: “He [Pennachetti] should run for mayor and debate me.”

So now, suddenly, the city manager’s math is up for debate. That’s convenient.

  • Bill Price

    Why would it surprise anybody that Rob Ford would lie. That’s what he does and Ford Nation knows it but doesn’t care. What a bunch of……

  • Mack Attack

    Rob Ford is an example of how people like being lied to when it is a lie they want to believe.
    People also like nice round numbers. $1 billion is an easier concept tor relate to than $350 million. Frankly, most of us can’t really relate to those numbers anyways. We are more likely to have gotten upset when we heard that Bev Oda spent $25 for an orange juice than about the provincial Liberals wasting $650 million on the Oakville gas plant because we can relate to overpriced orange juice.

  • wklis

    Maybe he’s thinking in Hong Kong Dollars? But then it’ll be $2,500,000 Hong Kong Dollars. What currency is he using?

  • Mack Attack


  • Mack Attack

    Hudak’s wife worked for the company that owned the gas plant. He was in a conflict of interest when his party was calling for the plant to be moved rather than closed.

  • Mack Attack

    Every time he says “I have saved the tax payers of Toronto 1 billion dollars” I think of Dr Evil in Austin Powers movie demanding 1 MILLION DOLLARS! ransom.

    Dr. Evil: “Here’s the plan. We get the warhead, and we hold the world ransomed for…..One MILLION DOLLARS!!”
    No.2: “Ahem…well, don’t you think we should maybe ask for *more* than a million dollars? I mean, a million dollars isn’t exactly a lot of money these days. Virtucon alone makes over nine billion dollars a year”
    Dr. Evil: “Really?”

  • Scottdaryle

    There once was a mayor with addiction
    To gangsters and crackpipes and fiction
    This great lying lump
    Toronto will soon dump
    And be free of the Ford family affliction

  • HockeyDadof2

    There is lots of information about these cons that doesn’t seem to get much coverage. On the eHealth spending frequently bandied around by Hudakists to attack the Liberals – the vast majority of the 1 billion cited as eHealth spending , or $800,000 of the total, was spent under the previous conservative government on their useless “smart systems” precursor the Liberals had to inherit.

  • HockeyDadof2

    No reason to keep the crack smoking liar and every reason to get rid of him!

  • Mack Attack

    His presence helps to neuter the right wing at city hall.

  • Jim

    Even 350M is pretty good. The press is going after these numbers and rearranging the rules for savings in an attack. We are all voting for Ford because he held taxes low in 3 excellent budgets. He was unable to reduce the land transfer tax for political reasons – even though he tried hard. The Scarborough Subway is going to create huge opportunities for growth and local jobs in Scarborough. The GO train actually runs beside the current SRT – put a GO stop at Ellesmere – problem solved. Hint: buy property in Scarborough in the McCowan area.

  • Mack Attack

    You are not bothered by the fact that Mr Ford plays fast and loose with the truth? You also seem to be skipping over the fact that Ford has not done anything much more with the budget than Miller did–and Miller did it without all of Ford’s histrionics and “distractions”. (Hint: Miller actually went in to the office and did his job.)

  • Alex

    Lets get this lying, drunken drug taking, gang friendly, embarrassment out of office.