Rob Ford is strapping some ski pants over his superhero tights.
The tax-loathing councillor from Etobicoke whose website portrays him as a taxpayer-defending superhero says he wants to save Toronto’s two struggling ski hills from closure.
“Absolutely, they’re essential,” Ford told the Toronto Sun editorial board Tuesday.
City council voted to cut the Centennial Park and North York ski hills from the budget, for a savings of more than $500,000, and contract out the operations to the private sector.
But a Request for Proposals, an invitation to submit a bid on running the operation for the city at a profit, failed to turn up any interest in the two businesses.
City parks staff want to reissue the request, but unless city council decides to reopen the matter, the two hills could not open for the coming ski season.
Ford said recreation programs are one area he believes the city should invest in.
“It’s what I call smart spending,” said Ford, who has now declared himself the frontrunner in the Oct. 25 mayoral race with 35% support in his campaign polling.
The remarks sparked an incredulous response from some of Ford’s opponents.
“He believes in spending money now?” asked deputy mayor Joe Pantalone. “Has there been a revelation on the road to Damascus? Maybe there’s some hope for Rob Ford.”
Pantalone said Ford was “Mister Cut Everything, contract out, spend less and less,” and to now push for the hills is a contradiction.
George Smitherman was also having a hard time reconciling Ford’s position with his campaign themes.
“He can express all of the sympathy he wants for keeping Etobicoke Centennial Ski Hill and North York going but the missing ingredient is money,” Smitherman said.
“Councillor Ford has offered up so far in this campaign a program of revenue cuts and expenditure increases that lead to the inevitable conclusion that he’s got a secret list of cuts that are going to be necessary to bring these things into balance,” he said.
By Smitherman’s calculations, Ford’s promise to scrap the vehicle registration and land transfer taxes will mean $1 billion less in revenue for the city over four years. At the same time, he’s promised to hire more police and build expensive subways over streetcars, Smitherman said.
“He’s all show and no go on this stuff. Sooner or later he’s going to be held to account and that’s why I wish he hadn’t chickened out and debated me like he promised to,” Smitherman said, referring to a head to head radio debate Ford agreed to but has since put off until at least September.