That's a tough position for Team Ford to be in if it gets there- budget strategies are pretty esoteric, particularly in contrast to the more concrete alternatives that it could fund like a bus route or student nutrition programs.
For now, here is your schedule to look forward to.
Over the next week and a half various councillors are holding town halls in their ward (or nearby ones). It's a chance for people to have their voice heard and ask questions about the budget. Quite a few have already had town halls or consultations, but the table below shows upcoming ones. Kudos to John Parker for holding two in his ward, particularly when he'll be in the position of defending most cuts.
Councillors will use these sessions as feedback on where to stand on some of the more contentious issues, especially middle councillors Josh Colle and Josh Matlow.
In the midst of these will the budget wrap-up for the Budget Committee on Monday January 9. There might be a couple of amendments here from Chin Lee which should give a good idea as to where the point of compromise is on various issues. These will likely be voted down handily by the Ford-dominated committee, but also pay attention to how Michelle Berardinetti and Frank di Giorgio vote. These two are more or less necessary votes for Team Ford to win on many issues, and where they deviate could mean the failure of a proposed cut or an amendment down the road.
Once the Budget Committee makes its approval, it will get sent to Executive on Thursday January 12 where there will be lots of media attention and little substance. Behind the scenes it's likely that Jaye Robinson and Michelle Berardinetti will be arguing for the value of various programs or floating different fundraising proposals. Little to nothing will change at this stage except for a couple of smaller cuts that will be saved. Look for these (for instance, a solution to student nutrition funding) to be announced early in the day to start with a good news story, much like preserving windrow clearing and no library closures were pre-emptively announced in previous meetings. Team Ford knows that the budget battle is largely about optics, and managing the news with mayoral announcements is one advantage they have.
Between the Executive meeting and Tuesday January 17, there will be a lot of horse trading and pressure applied to various councillors as they debate in Council for three days. Matt Elliott's Ford For Toronto Council Scorecard will probably see an uptick in pageviews from City Hall computers too.
For Council's opposition to win their issues, they'll need a three of Chin Lee, Jaye Robinson, Gloria Lindsay Luby, James Pasternak and Ron Moeser plus everyone to their left (including Colle, Matlow, McMahon and Bailao). Of course other councillors could join them on certain issues, like Frank di Giorgio, Michelle Berardinetti or Gary Crawford, but that works both ways.
At the very least, there will be plenty to blog about.