Tory Plan: Fire the Managers

According to today’s Toronto Star, PC leader John Tory’s solution to GO Transit’s on-time performance problems is to fire managers if they cannot meet the targets.  Although this is a refreshing change from the usual right-wing habit of blaming everything on the unions, it is no more realistic or responsible a platform.

GO Transit operates in the unenviable position where much of the physical plant is not under its control.  If CNR doesn’t have enough switch heaters, or decides that their freight train is more important than GO’s service, there is very little GO can do about it.

Yes, operating contracts could contain penalty clauses for poor performance, but I doubt that CN would ever sign anything with draconian penalties that would actually affect their profits.  Indeed, performance management of “private partners” is a big problem and there is a balancing act between holding the private sector’s feet to the fire and reaching a point where they don’t bother trying to meet their obligations.

We need a much better public accounting and explanation of the reasons why trains don’t run on time so that everyone can discuss what areas (a) provide lots of opportunity for improvement and (b) why some problems will always be with us.

How often is GO service blocked by freight activities?  How often does a train not run because there is no working equipment?  How often does the crew show up late for work?  How often is there a problem with the track or signals?  How often is there a cow on the tracks?

Each of these problems needs its own approach, and there will be different issues on each line. 

John Tory’s simplistic “solution” shifts the blame from where it really belongs — at Queen’s Park and the decades of underfunding — to the managers who try to run an organization under difficult times. 

Tory needs to own up to his own party’s legacy, to changes in funding and downloading of costs to municipalities, and say what he would change.  The Liberals may have left some Harris policies in place for their own convenience, but if there are things Tory would change, he should say so.  He should acknowledge the damage that was done the last time his party ran Ontario and set himself clearly apart from that regime.