Nobody’s asked him yet, but Scarborough East Councillor Paul Ainslie says he’d be more than willing to fill the shoes of outgoing budget chief Mike Del Grande, should he be invited.
“If it was offered to me I’d be very interested in doing it,” said Ainslie, who currently chairs the city’s government management committee and also the Toronto Public Library Board.
Ainslie made the comments the day after Toronto Council approved its 2013 operating and capital budgets — and the morning after budget chair Mike Del Grande announced that this would be his last budget.
Del Grande, the councillor for Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt, resigned from the post he held for two years after what he termed a “vilification” of his service as budget chief at council.
Councillors voted to increase the $9.4 billion budget by $12 million, adding in funding for firefighters, student nutrition programs and daycare spaces. Del Grande had earlier promised to quit if council added to his budget.
But he said that the clincher was a motion by St. Paul’s Councillor Joe Mihevc, asking for a report on having greater transparency in the budget process.
Del Grande handed in his resignation Wednesday night, and in a television interview on Thursday offered only the slim possibility that he might return to the position.
“If they had a vote and unanimously said come back, I think that would send me a different message,” said Del Grande. “But the probability of that are next to none.”
Reached on Thursday, Mihevc said his motion was not meant to be a personal criticism of Del Grande, but was just about making the budget process easier to follow. It’s so complicated and involves so much paper it’s hard for councillors to understand, let alone the public, Mihevc said.
“Anyone who can follow the budget process has to be a Sherlock Holmes.”
Mihevc said he’s had political disagreements with Del Grande, but the motion was supposed to be “innocuous and friendly,” and Del Grande did not asked him about it before the vote.
As a former vice-chair of the budget committee, he added, he knows the budget chief’s job is a hard one, but the idea of Del Grande’s resignation as a reaction to his motion is “totally bizarre,” Mihevc said.
The question of who will take up the job of budget chief is now open.
The position is widely regarded as the most time-consuming appointment on council, and few are interested.
Scarborough Southwest Councillor Gary Crawford, a budget committee member, said he wouldn’t consider it.
“I’m on eight or nine boards at the moment, on the three major committees in the city and the thought of taking on more is difficult,” he said. “I’m a team player and all, but he’s got huge shoes to live up to.”
Ainslie, however, said he’d be willing to try.
“I ran my own business for 15 years, I worked for David Soknacki when he was budget chief from 2003 to 2006, and I was vice chair from 2006 to 2010,” he said.
“I’m pretty fiscally conservative so I think there’s a five year plan we’ve adopted to continue on, and I was supportive of that.”
Ainslie said he would take a slightly different approach to chairing meetings than the sometimes abrasive Del Grande did.
“I probably would be a little more amicable than the former budget chair,” he said. “If it’s offered to me I’d be happy to take it.”
- with files from Mike Adler