After two years in the post, Councillor Mike Del Grande has resigned as the city’s budget chief.
It’s something Del Grande had been threatening to do for months, but it appeared the Scarborough Agincourt councillor still hadn’t made up his mind at the time council approved his 2013 budget on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the vote, Del Grande said: “I think before I say anything to the press, I think there’s a bit of discussion I’m going to have to have with the city manager and the mayor.”
The famously surly Del Grande vowed to step down if council voted to add any spending to his $ 9.4-billion operating budget. Council voted to add another $ 12 million in funding for the fire service, child care and student nutrition.
Del Grande said he felt “vilified.”
“We’ve had more meetings, we’ve had more briefing notes, we’ve had more information and to make the charge that the process is not transparent goes beyond the pale for me. I’m disappointed,” he said, later telling reporters he took the fact that council approved the motion as a vote of non-confidence.
Del Grande did not respond to a request for comment from the Star. He told Newstalk 1010 he wasn’t “bitter, it was just time to go.”
The mayor’s office released a statement late Wednesday, thanking the fiercely frugal Del Grande “on behalf of every Toronto taxpayer.”
“He has been a key leader on my team, helping Toronto turn the corner and achieve the sustainable budget we passed Wednesday,” the statement said. “I look forward to the contribution he will make as a member of the Toronto Police Services Board.”
“He told the whole team six months ago that (after the 2013 budget) it would be time for someone else to take the reins,” said Ford. “He’s done an incredible job. The guy is beat tired . . . I tell you, even being on the budget committee, meeting after meeting after meeting, it’s exhausting.”
Mihevc — who said his transparency motion was not about the budget chief, it was directed at the process — said he believes Del Grande’s departure is a sign of fractures in the Ford bloc.
“Tired? Everyone’s tired. Tired doesn’t mean anything. You don’t do things like that when you’re tired. He’s making a statement. He knows how this will be perceived publically. This is Mike Del Grande losing faith in the mayor. You can’t interpret it any other way,” Mihevc said.
Del Grande, like other members of the mayor’s circle including Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, was upset that the mayor voted in support of a 0 per cent property tax hike, when the 2013 budget was built around a 2-per-cent hike.
“To me it’s a sign of a deep fracture on the mayor’s side. Denzil’s reaction and this — this is a sign that not only has the mayor divided council he’s divided his own allies. He’s now almost totally isolated himself,” said Mihevc.
“I grew up poor, so I know what it’s like to make a buck,” Del Grande told the publication. “My attitude is, any dime that’s spent out there, I treat it (like) it’s my own.”
And if they aren’t — “I tell them who I am, then they crap their pants,” he said. “And I basically just tell them, Look, the public wants to see value for their money. They’re working for me. I’m the boss. It’s my money.”
He told The Grid: “My philosophy? You don’t have to fire everybody. You take the biggest bull, the biggest problem, whatever the heck it is, and you gore it publicly. You make it bleed so bad that it scares the s— out of everybody else, to put them in line if things are going bad.”
“I think he’s the best budget chief the city’s ever had,” said Ford.
Speaking to Newstalk 1010 Wednesday night, Del Grande said he had no regrets.
“When I took on this horrendous task I did tell the mayor I would do it for two years.”
When asked if he’d ever change his mind, Del Grande said: “I feel a lot of the pressure is off of me. I feel I won’t be vilified as much as I have been for the past three years trying to do a very difficult job, that some people (are) very flippant, to be very mean-spirited and nasty about the kind of work that’s required to fix things and I’ve tried to fix things and when I couldn’t fix tried to repair.”
With files from David Rider