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Ford loyalist speaks out against library cuts

Another councillor in Mayor Rob Ford’s inner circle is backing away from a proposal to close libraries.

When asked Wednesday if she would support library closures to save money, Councillor Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South-Weston) said “no, of course not” and that if anything, branches should be better utilized to host more city programs.

“I don’t think there’s a will on council to close libraries,” said Nunziata. “I think we have to make better use of what we have… these are great facilities for programming.”

First it was right-winger James Pasternak (Ward 10, York Centre). Then TTC chair Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence). Now Nunziata, who is the council speaker and one of Ford’s longest and most loyal supporters.

Nunziata’s split is the clearest sign yet that libraries will likely be safe come fall when council is left to consider the service cut recommendations proposed by KPMG during the core service review.

The library system has long been an annoyance of the mayor’s office, particularly its board, which has openly defied a belligerent Rob Ford. But it was comments by the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North), who said Toronto has too many libraries, which launched a public panic.

Last week the mayor’s brother said he would close libraries in his Etobicoke ward in “a heartbeat” and that his constituents wouldn’t even mind.

Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood, who had been leading a Twitter campaign to oppose library cuts, Doug Ford said: “I don’t even know her. She could walk right by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is… tell her to go run in the next election and get democratically elected.”

Stintz was the first prominent right-winger on council to break rank. After receiving more than 300 upset emails, Stintz issued an open letter to her Eglinton-Lawrence constituents stating “these are not the type of cuts I support.”

But there has been increasing friction between Stintz and the mayor’s office in the last few months over the direction of Toronto transit. There are some in the Ford administration working behind the scenes to undermine Stintz and even have her removed as chair.

For this reason, the opposition by Pasternak, who has consistently voted with the mayor at council, and now Nunziata’s is more significant.

Toronto’s library system, which boasts 98 branches, is among the largest in the world. In comparison, Montreal has 44, Chicago 78, and Boston 26. HOWEVER library staff notes that on a per person basis, Toronto has fewer libraries than Ottawa and Vancouver.

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