Facing a hurly-burly of political blowback for trying to cancel bike lanes, declaring the city payroll bloated and introducing a new graffiti policy, Mayor Rob Ford took a moment to announce three surprise task forces on child care, arena construction and homelessness.
Mr. Ford chose Giorgio Mammoliti, chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, to head up the new bodies – the first batch of a number of task forces to be announced.
The task forces will attempt to open new revenue streams to reduce child-care wait-lists, house more homeless and build more arenas.
Mr. Ford said years of funding reductions from other levels of government have jeopardized the viability of the city's child-care system.
"The city does provide some child-care spaces, but other levels of government have either reduced their support or taken it away entirely," he said. "This task force look into what can be done to make child-care sustainable in Toronto."
The man he chose to lead it, Mr. Mammoliti, went one step farther, saying if provincial government doesn't pony up more money "we're not sure whether we can continue this."
The task force will consider new private-sector partnerships, reducing costs, and changing regulations in its quest to find new child-care funding and create more day-care spaces, according to Mr. Mammoliti.
The aims of each task force remain murky. Mr. Mammoliti could not offer a basic objective for the homelessness task force, saying only that both he and the mayor looked forward to an "era where we don't have people sleeping on our streets, especially in the winter."
Ice Rink Infrastructure Task Force will court public-private partnerships with an eye on building new arenas throughout Toronto.
"I think we can move into an era where we're building ice rinks at pretty much no cost to the City of Toronto," Mr. Mammoliti said, citing his efforts to tap into federal money for public-private partnerships.
The announcements rattled some veteran councillors who championed the city's homelessness policy under Mayor David Miller, which is credited with reducing the number of homeless people on Toronto streets by 50 per cent since 2006. Councillor Janet Davis said the only problem with long-standing city policies on child-care, arenas and homelessness is a lack of provincial funding.
"We don't need these task forces," she said. "We have a plan. We simply need pressure brought to bare on the provincial government."
She also chafed at the prospect of more responsibility for child-care being handed to the private sector.
"We don't need to be looking at private-sector alternatives or contracting out or poorer quality forms of child care – all those forms of child care have been explored over the decades," she said. "It's been demonstrated across the world that for-profit child care is of poorer quality."