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Smitherman vows balanced 2011 budget

Framing himself as a careful cost-cutter, George Smitherman released a budget blueprint yesterday that would balance the 2011 operating budget by cutting $265 million in costs, eliminating 1,300 jobs through attrition, and securing a non-guaranteed $100 million from the province.

Framing himself as a careful cost-cutter, George Smitherman released a budget blueprint yesterday that would balance the 2011 operating budget by cutting $265 million in costs, eliminating 1,300 jobs through attrition, and securing a non-guaranteed $100 million from the province.

Attempting to slow the Rob Ford juggernaut, Smitherman made repeated jabs yesterday at his front-running rival, proclaiming: “I am going to control the cost of government by using surgical precision — not lowering a guillotine.”

But while he warned that the cost-cutting Etobicoke councillor’s promise of huge savings would translate into “a whole lot of deep cuts,” the former Ontario deputy premier balanced his budget only with $100 million in annual transit funding from the province that has never been pledged.

“This can be achieved through a long-term, constructive negotiation — not the annual bun fight we’ve seen in past years,” Smitherman told about 150 people at an Economic Club of Canada fundraiser luncheon. He later told reporters his former Queen’s Park colleagues are aware of his plan but have made no promises of funding.

He has added $71 million to the spending column with election promises, including a one-third reduction in the vehicle registration tax, a “war on bed bugs,” free transit for seniors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays, and a property tax cut on multi-unit apartment buildings.

“I would say it’s a good first draft,” said Coun. Joe Mihevc, a member of the budget committee.

“His understanding of the budget is miles ahead of the pathetic understanding that Rob Ford brings to the budget process.”

Smitherman, who has promised to be both mayor and budget chief, said he would save $61 million next year by not replacing 1,300 retiring staff in 2011 — attrition that would rise to 2,800 positions halfway through his term and to 4,000 after four years.

The cuts to the city’s workforce of roughly 50,000 people would not affect staffing for emergency services (police, fire and paramedics), transit or provincially mandated services, Smitherman said. He suggested management “policy” jobs in the transportation and recreation departments could disappear.

 
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