It's Not That Much Money

Submitted by John Stapleton on March 20, 2012 - 2:46pm
60 seconds on a calculator


Perhaps it was the barking into the microphone: “53,000 municipal workers… it’s just way too many”.

Maybe it was the Raymond Cho canvasser who came to the door saying that “Raymond also wants less government and lower taxes”. Maybe he looked at me and saw a sixtiesh Anglo white guy that looked annoyed and he just decided to give up.

And don’t forget the grave tones of the Globe and Mail reporters who say that Premier McGuinty now has to face the music.

Now Drummond is knocking on the door warning of structural deficits. It’s coming to a theatre near you.

Let’s start by tackling those 53,000 municipal workers

Pulling out our trusty calculator, a few clicks tell us that with 2.5 million people, 53,000 municipal workers translate to 1 worker for every 47 people in Toronto.

One in 47 workers that include all the police, our firefighters, librarians, pool operators, flower planters, TTC operators, grass cutters.

You have to admit that one in 47 has to be way too many ….

But wait!

By what standard? Is one in fifty enough? Is one in forty way too many? Who decides? What is the right metric? All we know now is that there are way too many!

But I’ve got a secret!

Spread the news……!

It may not be too many … and

It’s just not that much money!

Let’s look at the City of Toronto’s Budget deficit.

Let’s accept that Rob Ford is right for a moment. We need to raise $774 million to save us from “localgeddon”. Otherwise, the police give the night to criminals, the fires burn wild, the lights turn out, the grass grows long, the pools are emptied, the kids stop reading, and the childcare shuts down.

Yet my calculator shows me that $774 million divided by 2.5 million people is $309 a person or 84 cents a day. That’s just not a lot of money.

Now let’s say that half the people – seniors – kids and the poor can’t afford it. That means that even if he is right, the total for all the cops, the firefighters, the librarians, the grass cutters … is $1.68 a day – less than a tall bold coffee at Starbucks.

All that grief for a cup of coffee a day – it just can’t be so…..

Now let’s move on to McGuinty. He has a grave problem. Kubler Ross is counting the stages of grief in the background. Is he in denial? Is he angry? Is he bargaining?

Or has the new Premier accepted that he has a structural deficit?

It’s $15 billion. Spit it out. It sounds enormous. It’s here and it’s big!

But I just pulled out my calculator again (annoying habit….)

There are 13.5 million people in Ontario.

A $15 billion deficit translates to $3.04 a day per Ontarian. Take out the poor, our children and seniors and we are all on the hook for $6.08 a day.

Add this to the $1.68 from the city and the total is $7.76 a day.

A lot of money you say?


An annoyance?


But it’s not a lot of money for those of us who can pay it. And for less than $8.00 a day, we get back our libraries, the police, our parks, our hospitals, our firefighters, our pools, our street lights, our roads, our sewers, our transit …. In fact, all of it!

I used to think that our deficit was a problem.

It is and it’s serious. But it is not insurmountable.

It’s just not that much money.