“So are they all, all honourable men”

Rob Ford’s Gang of Five turned its knives today on Gary Webster, the much-respected Chief General Manager of the TTC.  At a special meeting called for the purpose of discussing “personnel matters”, the Commission thrashed out Webster’s future and, it is rumoured, that of other senior staff at the TTC.

After three hours in private session, the Commissioners emerged to confirm what had been decided, that Webster’s contract would be terminated in accordance with its “without cause” section.  Although we don’t know the details, this almost certainly means that Webster will earn not only his pay for the remainder of the contract, but a penalty payment for early termination.

The recently recruited Chief Operating Officer, Andy Byford, takes over as interim CGM, an utterly thankless task in the poisonous environment of City Hall.  Whether he will be chosen to replace Webster, or would even want to, remains to be seen.

The TTC will launch into a search for a new CGM, but no sane, let alone respectable senior manager from another transit agency will want a position whose primary role is to kiss the mayor’s ass.

Before the vote, some of the Commissioners spoke to the issue.  Maria Augimeri spoke passionately about the role of the Commission asking “who do you serve”.  Does the Commission exist as puppets of the mayor, or as a responsible body serving the citizens of Toronto?  John Parker spoke extremely briefly merely noting the words “without just cause”.  Both Augimeri and Parker would join Chair Karen Stintz and Vice-Chair Peter Milczyn in voting against the termination.

Ford’s minions — Frank Di Giorgio, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Norm Kelly, Vince Crisanti and Cesar Palacio — could have kept their mouths shut, but no politician can resist a chance for a sanctimonious speech.

Di Giorgio talked about the relationship between previous mayors and CGMs noting that both David Gunn and Rick Ducharme had left under strained relationships with past administrations.  What he neglected to mention was that Webster was threatened not by a professional disagreement, but by Mayor Ford’s mistaken belief that staff owe him a personal allegiance supporting whatever position he might take.  Di Giorgio actually said that excellence in a CGM means the ability to perform tasks set by the leader of the city, by the Mayor.

That’s not how professional staffs work in Canada, and indeed this concept violates both Council’s code of ethics (which provides that staff work for all members of Council without favour) and the Professional Engineer’s code that regards tailoring advice to suit the opinion of the hearer, rather than facts and the professional opinion of the engineer, as a form of misconduct.

Norm Kelly praised Webster, but tempered this by saying that his good deeds lay in the past, while the TTC needs someone to “lead us into the future”.  That will be a very dark future if this decision stands without a change in TTC governance.

In the best tradition of stories with black-hatted villains, there were boos, hissing and calls of “shame” from the public.  This is the most disgusting example of political manipulation, of abuse of power, that I have seen in 40 years of TTC and Council-watching.  Toronto is soiled by this action.

Council now faces the task of bringing Mayor Ford and his lackeys to heel, of driving home the basic fact that power rests with Council, not the Mayor no matter how delusional he or his toadies may be in thinking him Rob the First, The Great and Powerful.

The next opportunity will come at the Council Meeting of March 5-6 when a proposed change in the makeup of the Transit Commission, recently passed by the Ford-dominated Executive Committee, comes to Council for discussion.  The outcome may not be to Ford’s liking.  His actions, the moves of a spoiled child, a bully who cannot stand losing a fight, will only harden opposition to his reign.  Council can and should act to strip the TTC of Ford allies, especially the five responsible for Webster’s dismissal.  There will be no transit progress in Toronto while a tinpot potentate interferes with the execution of Council’s will, strangles the transit system for funding and service, while promising subways he and the City cannot possibly afford to build.

[The title of this article is from Marc Antony’s speech from Julius Ceasar, Act III, Scene 2, in which he mocks Caesar’s assassins and their dubious self-justification.]

46 thoughts on ““So are they all, all honourable men”

  1. So Webster as I understand it is gone from the TTC.

    However, the timing is very suspect. I have never been a supporter of Webster, and I have been hoping for his ouster for a very long time. First, we have his poor handling of the 2008 strike, VERY piss-poor project planning (an audit revealed that 90% of all projects go over budget in time and finances), the decision to sole source subways instead of putting the contract to Tender, inability to work with the Roads dept in setting up Signal priority, etc, I could go on…. I was hoping that Gary Webster would be one of the first people to go when Ford came to power, and strictly for that reason alone.

    Simply put, I don’t like retaliatory dismissals. Saying what is right (or in this case, disagreeing with your boss) should never be a reason for dismissal. Had the commission delayed its decision by a few more months, then perhaps there wouldn’t be such an outcry. But I suppose if someone wants the subways to go in now, it had to be done now.

    If I were Webster, I’d sue bigtime. Getting shown the door in that fashion is not fun. Trust me, I have been in such a situation and would not wish that on anybody (save the bosses who do retaliatory firings).


  2. Steve, Let’s see if I’ve got this right.

    Webster’s been dumped by the transit purists from the inner suburbs (in most cases) for stating the benefits of light rail over subway. Andy Byford has it in the interim … who has come from Australia, the country whose two major cities, Sydney and Melbourne, may have some of the most extensive network of light rail anywhere in the world. Go figure. With that logic, he might not be around for long either!

    Also, the vote was close, which means that he (Ford) is also losing some influence among the appointees(Augimeri was originally the only non-Fordite appointed). Maybe, there is hope …


  3. Well, folks, it’s a done deal – five-to-four TTC Councillor vote to terminate Webster.

    Mayor Ford has gotten his way – now he’ll take his “War On The Car” concept to the ultimate destiny he has had in mind for it from the outset – which is to bring all progress on Toronto’s public transit to a complete standstill. The Fords have all-but forced McGuinty into a state of complete and angry disgust where he’ll withdraw all the Province of Ontario’s 8-billion dollars’ worth of funding for transit.

    Ford doesn’t now, and never has, given a hoot about subways or transit of any kind – whether surface or underground – he’d as soon the TTC disappear altogether along with all its pesky buses and streetcars so that HE and his minions can drive unfettered and unimpeded on the region’s roadways.

    I am willing to wager a substantial sum that Ford has now forced Premier McGuinty across the line to where he’ll now withdraw all Provincial funding for Metrolinx’s transit plan, citing Toronto’s “inability to get its act together.” This is EXACTLY the outcome the Fords have been aching for from the start.

    Clearly, as I said after Ford was elected Mayor and cancelled Transit City, the time has come to end all planning for transit improvements in the Toronto region. No substantial public works improvement project, even one worked on for as long as the Metrolinx plan was, to the point of being agreed on and funded, can survive changes of administration and governance.

    What is the way forward? There will have to be substantially fundamental changes made on how major public works projects are planned, structured and implemented so they can weather political changes of heart, mind and, yes, whim.

    The present planning system has proved itself totally useless and unworkable – it’s a terribly frustrating, heartbreaking and infuriating waste of everybody’s time and brains and money. Transit City and its aftermath in the “capable” hands of the Dual Ford Brothers has shown that in this political climate planning for a transit future is a non-starter.

    Steve: I think you are jumping the gun here. Moves are afoot to strip control of the TTC away from Rob Ford, and the political situation is such that his ability to control Council on many issues is fading fast. Queen’s Park can afford to sit tight for a month or so to see how things evolve.


  4. Update: Gary has been dismissed.

    Although the meetings were held behind closed doors, rest assured his pink slip reads “Employment Terminated due to exceptional, competent service benefiting the citizens of Toronto. NOTE: disagreed with Mayor.”

    Someone buy this man a drink — thrown (so ironically, not likely lost on him) under a bus for stating the facts, as economy and bang-for-your-8.7b-buck dictate.


  5. It’s a shame that Gary Webster was fired. This comment of yours come to mind in Ducharme’s Resignation post:

    Steve: Speaking of yes-men, a former CGM was notorious for packing the place with managers who told him what he wanted to hear, but who didn’t know one end of a bus from the other. David Gunn got rid of most of them. Pray that we don’t get a repeat performance.

    Hopefully it doesn’t come true under the Ford regime.

    P.S Ducharme was at the [Council] meeting surprisingly. Guess who he blames for this fiasco?


  6. What this debacle points out is – Toronto as a whole voted for Ford as their mayor, even if not by a majority and, short of his being forced from office by health issues and/or by an egregiously illegal act, you’re all stuck with the man and his destructive policies for the remaining two-and-one-half years of his term.

    I truly fear the destruction this man is going to wreak upon your city. Now that his hand has been forced on the transit issue by Council, you can bet his next act will be to issue an edict that the streetcar replacement project be cancelled, and that no further expenditures be made on the streetcar system, which he’ll then move to scrap and replace with buses – just you watch! He’s now in a position to put people in the TTC who’ll gladly carry out his plan.

    Until the next election, it seems your hands are tied.

    Steve: Not tied at all. Council has options to rein in the Mayor, if only they will use them.


  7. Does this while situation with Webster not violate the code of ethics?

    I mean the fact that he was fired without just cause and because he disagreed with the mayor should be grounds for an investigation by the ethics commissioner should it not?

    In my opinion he was a victim of intimidation and intimidation (with threats of job loss) by the mayor of Toronto is a breach of ethics. It was stated in the news today that Rob Ford was behind Webster’s dismissal.

    Long story short if I were council I was get the ethics commissioner involved. Let them investigate and report back to council.

    As for Webster I say he should sue the pants off the city for what happened, anywhere else it would be wrongful dismissal. I know that council supported him but the city runs the TTC and the therefore the city was his employer.

    Like I said, get the ethics commissioner involved. Launch an investigation and let council have their proof.

    Steve: Actually, the TTC is an independent organization, although it is owned by the city, and Webster is technically a TTC employee. As for a lawsuit, I suspect that because he was terminated under a “without cause” clause in his contract, the payout this triggers will pre-empt a suit.


  8. I guess there was kind of agreement between Stintz and Webster that if it’s meant to be (with $500K bonus), it’s meant to be. I would understand Gary considering all obstacles from The Clan the TTC is facing now. At the end of the day, someone might think – what is all this for? In this case, Stintz just didn’t have reasons to speed up anything and make the next call for emergency meeting. Let’s see what is going to happen on March 5th.

    Now some interesting information. Yesterday I posted a comment under the article of Emily Jackson at Toronto Star.

    It happened that my post was the first published. I had a chance to follow what was going on over there. During the first 20 minutes it got only 11 “agrees” and “16 disagrees” (from “Ford Nation” obviously). I was shocked actually knowing the overall attitude of Toronto Star readers to this issue. However, during the next 4 or 5 hours my post got another 61 “agrees” and as little as 12 “disagrees”. Don’t say anything or blame anybody, but such a dramatic difference seems to me, let’s say, suspicious.


  9. Steve, what’s the best action ordinary citizens can take to help support council in any moves it may make to change the TTC Commission’s composition for the better? If you can pass strategies along, I’ll disseminate them to the communities of which I am a part.

    Jos: thanks for your thoughts, but your rhetoric is exaggerated (rather substantially) and therefore not helpful. Please try to temper things a bit if you choose to post again.

    Steve: Be sure to write to your Councillor regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum. Councillors who oppose the Mayor’s view need to see their position is supported in the community, and those who support the Mayor need to understand that “Ford Nation” isn’t the only constituency they have to represent.


  10. Well, this does explain at least one aspect of Ford Brothers’ administration. If they are unable to tolerate subordinates giving them honest opinions and advice, it would certainly explain why none of their political advisers have been able to dissuade them from this disastrous path.


  11. An addendum to my previous comment: if Rob Ford’s political advisers are not spineless sycophants and they are giving him what is, in their honest opinion, the best possible advice and he’s following it….

    That would make them the worst political operatives of their generation.

    On the upside, whether sycophants or disasters there is a good chance that they will fail upward to a senior Conservative operation.

    Steve: It would be too much to think that the Tories know incompetence when they see it.


  12. Here’s a great opportunity for Metrolinx to seek the services of a professional, fully qualified “transit man”. Let’s see now, Gary Webster could be put into a position to oversee design, construction and even operation of new Light Rail lines in Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Mississauga and Toronto. Don’t you just love the possibilities here!

    Steve: Actually, I am not sure Gary would be a good fit at Metrolinx or that related agency, Infrastructure Ontario. They love consultants and the myth that somehow the private sector will do so much better a job than in house staff. Consultants are good at telling people what they want to hear, and that’s certainly not what Webster was doing in his final days at the TTC.


  13. As crazy as this will sound, this is why Toronto needs a strong mayor system. The problem here is that the mayor campaigned on a vision. Most citizens voted for him for that vision, only to discover that the mayor has near zero authority. It’s time to let Mayors live and die by their agendas with council acting as a legislative body. Otherwise, the Millers will be as hamstrung as the Fords and nothing gets done.

    As for Webster. Yes, he had to give his professional opinion. But as a public servant, he has an obligation to do everything possible to implement his boss’ agenda. If he couldn’t do it, he should have followed the lead of Canada’s Chief Statistician and resigned. The Fordites were wrong to fire him. Though, I disagree with it, I fail to see how is this any different than Moscoe-Gunn?

    I know you think those were because of professional disagreements, but at the end of the day civil servants serve at the pleasure of the executive. They can give their best advice. But council and the mayor are not bound to it. And if they disagree, the public servant is duty-bound to implement their chosen course of action.

    Steve: The question here is “who is his boss”. If Council had adopted a pro-subway agenda, then it would be Webster’s job to implement it, and I have no doubt that he would have done so. TTC staff were already working on the all-underground option for Eglinton, for example.

    Most definitely, the Mayor is not Webster’s boss nor does he hold that role for any of the City Staff. By the City’s own ethical protocols, staff work for Council and should give advice free of political consideration. That’s what Webster was doing.

    In the case of Moscoe and Gunn, there were a few issues brewing. One was the fact that Gunn was routinely attacked in Budget Committee by Tom Jacobek, but Moscoe did not rise to his defence. Also, there were major battles about accessibility with Moscoe taking a much stronger stance on the importance of making the system accessible to all, while Gunn viewed this as a diversion from the basic need to keep the system functioning. This was a clear difference both of policy, and of support from the head of the TTC for the professional opinion of the CGM.


  14. Richard White notes that it may be time to get the Ethics Commissioner involved and you, Steve, seem to respond that the TTC is an independent body. Surely the Councillors are there BECAUSE they are Councillors so their Code of Ethics still applies. Section XII of their Code clearly states ” …Members shall be respectful of the role of staff to provide advice based on political neutrality and objectivity and without undue influence from any individual member or faction of the Council. Accordingly, no member shall maliciously or falsely injure the professional or ethical reputation, or the prospects or practice of staff, and all members shall show respect for the professional capacities of staff.”

    It may be best to go straight to Council and toss the “Fatuous Five” off the Commission but I do think they dented, if not broke, the Code.

    Steve: The Commissioners have gone to some pains to avoid commenting on Webster’s professional capacity and, if anything, the Gang of Five is bending over backwards to praise his work as CGM even while stabbing him in the back. The section you quote emphasizes that staff are supposed to give objective advice, and that Di Giorgio is badly mistaken in saying Webster acted wrongly by doing so. However, that is not the same as alleging professional incompetence, only political bad taste.

    The way to clean up the Commission is to vote the five off of the board at the earliest possible opportunity. If we waste time with the Ethics Commissioner, we will wait half a year for a report that will eventually say there’s not much to worry about, and the whole issue will be ancient history. We need the change now, and it needs to be a straight-on fight on the quite defensible basis that the TTC should broadly represent the will of the Council which appoints them.


  15. Forgive me if this post is in the wrong thread, but it seems to be a continuing machination of Ford and his allies.

    The Globe reported today that a Finch West BIA, on which Giorgio Mammoliti sits, is now opposed to LRT and seems to be putting its support behind a subway-friendly mayor. This is the same BIA that, four years ago, fully endorsed LRT. The spokesman says that Miller consulted extensively with them, but Stintz hasn’t.

    Isn’t the LRT as planned now almost identical to what Miller proposed? Hasn’t there been less consultation about the subway plan, any subway plan, than for the LRTs? Wasn’t the first mention of a Finch subway just a month or two ago? Just what story has Mammoliti sold these people to make them think that A) a subway is forthcoming, B) that the current LRT plan is substantially different from Miller’s (connection to Finch-Yonge notwithstanding), and C) that holding up and changing plans again is helpful to anybody?

    This city…

    Steve: I suspect that the BIA is more a stooge of Mammo than an independent body. Don’t forget that Mammo used to support Miller, and by extension all of his policies. Now that Mammo is part of Ford Village, he’s changed his turn, and probably has convinced the BIA to change course along with him.


  16. City Boy at Heart says:

    February 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    “Steve, Let’s see if I’ve got this right.

    “Webster’s been dumped by the transit purists from the inner suburbs (in most cases) for stating the benefits of light rail over subway. Andy Byford has it in the interim … who has come from Australia, the country whose two major cities, Sydney and Melbourne, may have some of the most extensive network of light rail anywhere in the world. Go figure. With that logic, he might not be around for long either!”

    Sydney only has 1 LRT line, 7 cars 7.2 km long. It is hardly an extensive system. Sydney does have “City Rail” which is an electric system that is a cross between GO and a rapid transit line. It runs on 1500 VDC and has a fair bit of underground operation in the city centre.

    Melbourne does have a very extensive LRT system that has line operating in mixed traffic like Toronto and other lines that are on private right of ways. It would have been nice to send some Commissioners there to see true LRT in a city a lot like Toronto.


  17. Steve wrote:

    “Be sure to write to your Councillor regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum.”

    Alas, my councillor’s name is Doug Ford. I don’t think he believes in the spectrum – it’s not black and white enough.

    Steve: For those unfortunates to live in a Ford Ward, the best bet is to find a nearby Councillor who could do with some encouragement. If nothing else, an accumulation of pro-LRT letters from Ford’s constituents would be useful to counter arguments that “everyone wants subways”.


  18. Notwithstanding the egregious behaviour of the five commissioners and the Fords in this matter, IIRC, the mayor’s subway plan will cost ~$2B more than the other proposals (the latter serving far more residents than the subways). ~$2B is far more gravy than the few tens (perhaps hundreds) of millions that the mayor claims to have saved this city. The shame of it is that I’ve yet to see the media truly pick up that part of the story.

    Who’s ladling the gravy, now, Mr. Mayor? How many more will count among the collateral damage, before your sauceboat nears empty?


  19. Welcome to the world of Kim Jong Ford, where only “right” thinking is allowed (take that in whatever sense you like), and “wrong” thinking will be punished by exile to the Gulag. Do not disagree with the Dear Leader, or you too will face the consequences.

    Fortunately, the City of Toronto isn’t really the world of Kim Jong Ford, and in the face of this situation, some action will be taken by Council to stop any further abuses.


  20. Hi, as per Steve’s suggestion and the petition mentioned above to have the councillors to remove Mayor Ford’s supporters from the TTC Board… here is my letter to the councillors who supported Mr. Webster.

    I also suggest that if council won’t act to remove the Mayor’s appointees to the TTC Board they should vote to give the TTC to Metrolinx (on the condition that Metrolinx gets elected not appointed oversight).


    Steve: Giving the TTC to Metrolinx would be a total disaster. First off, it would be the TTC who would take over Metrolinx simply by sheer size, but in the process we would have a “TTC” that was even less answerable to Torontonians than it is today. Also, giving it away does not remove the current funding obligations on the City, and through these the City would still control basic items like quality of service and fares.

    Second, Queen’s Park doesn’t want to take over the TTC as this exposes the province to a level of local detail and involvement they prefer to avoid. If they take over the TTC (especially its deficit), why not all of the other transit systems in Ontario?

    And if you expect Metrolinx to ever have elected members, you have been sampling too many recreational drugs. An elected Metrolinx would, by definition, have politicians with independent minds, and that’s not the sort of relationship Queen’s Park wants.

    Dear Councillors Stintz, Milczyn, Augimeri and Parker:

    Firstly thank-you for trying to up hold the ethically and morally appropriate, not to mention financially pragmatic, position at yesterdays TTC Board meeting where you voted to keep former General Manager Gary Webster in his position, despite opposite from the Mayors supporters.

    I appreciate your efforts.

    However, I believe this matter, where the Mayor and his supporters are fundamentally challenging the will of our elected council, should not end at Mr. Webster’s firing.

    I understand that Council can bring a motion to remove the councillors from the TTC Board who brought the motion to fire Mr. Webster.

    I hope you will work with my councillor, Ward 32 Mary Margaret McMahon, to bring such a motion before council as soon as possible, remove these five councillors from the TTC Board, reinstate Mr. Webster – saving tax payers $500,000 in severance, and get moving on the reapproved TransitCity plans.

    If you do not support such a motion then as an alternative, I suggest you bring a motion for council to hand control of the TTC to the Province / Metrolinx, on the condition that the Metrolinx board becomes a elected not an appointed body.

    Without one of these two motions I believe transit decisions will be taken away from council’s control by the Province and we will end up with the worst of both worlds – no elected oversight over transit in Toronto and no TransitCity.

    This is an urgent matter and I hope you choose to act accordingly.

    Yours faithfully,


  21. @Stephen Cheung: If the councilors who voted for Webster’s outing stuck to these talking points (which I do not know enough information on, and was/am hoping for Steve to address), they could hold their heads high in saying they made the right decision. However, our good friend Di Giorgio decided to open his mouth and confirm it was because he did his job properly. Because of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if his phone is ringing off the hook right now from employment lawyers wanting to take his case.

    If he plans to continue working and not retire early, I’d also suggest that he sue the Toronto Sun and demand a retraction for continuing to claim he was responsible for the problems which plagued the St. Clair ROW, as it could hurt his chances at finding new work. Then again, maybe that’s just because I hate the Toronto Sun and its gang of senile and brain damaged writers.

    Steve: Calling Sun writers “senile and brain damaged” gives them an excuse for being bigotted, right-wing, neo-conservative idiots. No, they are not senile — they think carefully about the bilge they write and believe it with great sincerity, if not intelligence.

    And, by the way, they’re not all like that. Some of the Sun’s writers are quite decent folk in person and in print.


  22. The TTC already has “citizen representatives”. They are called “councillors”, and are democratically elected by the people of Toronto. I don’t see how appointing half the the TTC makes it more accountable.


  23. I did expect Webster would be fired for not supporting the Mayor’s mandate and vision and was surprised he lasted this long. I don’t think Ford’s and their allies on council are explicitly “anti-transit” and are at least aware that Toronto becomes completed gridlocked without the TTC (thus their successful push to the Province declare it essential). However it is clear they have no idea what makes good transit service or how to achieve it. I do feel it sense that they would love it if the TTC were entirely (or as close to entirely as possible) underground subways, with roads clear of even buses (and no bikes on roads anywhere as well). But the reality is subways are expensive and take much time to build and buses will continue to carry the bulk of TTC passengers.

    It’s quite possible that the Fords and Co will move to cancel the streetcar renewal – if that is the case they’d better get the TTC to buy more buses, lots and lots of new buses.

    I do plan to write my councillor, who is among those that supports the Fords view (mostly from the point of view that subways can carry more passengers and do so faster than surface LRT). It should be interesting to see what comes of the meeting in March – this might be yet another meeting Ford and his faction fail to convince their vision is the best one.


    Steve: The Fords would have proceeded on an anti-streetcar binge if the Tories had won the provincial election. There is a report already written for the mayor, probably by his pet consultants at KPMG, trashing the streetcar system. If it’s anything like the quality of what we saw in the Chong report or in the Core Services Review, it’s a piece of superficial crap. “KPMG” is, for me, a thoroughly tainted brand.


  24. Karen Stintz said she would not call a special council meeting to rescue Gary Webster or to replace the 5 Fordite commissioners on the TTC. Thus, has she thrown in the towel? Leaving the 5 Fordites on the commission seems counter-productive and risky. They would thwart the majority on City Council and possibly fire other TTC staff.

    Steve: The composition of the Commission is on Council’s agenda for March 5 at which point there will probably be a discussion of what to do with the Fordites.


  25. Let’s not kid ourselves here, the TTC is a disgrace and Mr. Webster was one of the top people there.

    Whoever replaces him can’t do much worse.

    Steve: The TTC has many problems, and I could argue that Webster should have pushed harder to improve the organization before “customer service” (which covers a long list of ills) became such a buzzword. However, it is Council that decided to cut funding to the TTC both for operations (service quality and maintenance) and capital (replacement of worn out major subsystems). Webster’s job under these circumstances was to recommend the least harmful cuts and manage the system with the money he was given. That said, I believe staff could have done a better job of talking about the effects of cuts and alternatives. However, that would likely have led to Webster’s removal sooner, and before there was a clear indication at Council that Ford’s interference had become unacceptable.


  26. While Webster’s firing was handled poorly, I simply don’t understand where his reputation as highly respected and competent comes from. His job title was general manager and under his watch nothing about the TTC was managed well. Look at any TTC project of any size, down to an escalator replacement and the amount of time it takes is beyond belief. Not to mention us still using tokens, the dirty rundown stations and equipment, poor scheduling, bad customer service, surly staff, etc etc.

    Just because someone is an experienced engineer who’s been around forever it doesn’t make them an effective manager. He should have been turfed years ago.

    Steve: I used the term “highly respected” in the context of his reputation within the TTC, most of Toronto Council and the transit industry.

    It’s worth noting that Webster proposed expanding the number of escalator repair crews so that work could continue on multiple shifts, seven days a week. This was cut out of the budget by a Council more concerned about headcount than the benefits having more staff in this area would bring. Similarly, the size of the station maintenance workforce was cut to save money. When the effects of this became obvious, attempts to restore staffing were blocked again on the basis of “headcount”.

    There are definitely problems with service delivery, and the Operations side of the TTC has gotten away with a stock set of excuses for far too long. The failure to deal with this was a problem both at Webster’s level and at the Commission who rarely challenged staff to substantiate their claims or improve their processes. With the hiring of Andy Byford as Chief Operating Officer, we were supposed to begin to see a change in that area, but it has not had time to flower, and is compromised by funding cuts that force the TTC to run less service.

    Tokens? If you have $250m or so, please feel free to contribute it to the TTC to pay for a new fare collection system. There have always been two problems on this count. First, replacing the existing system has a high capital cost which the TTC would have to bear at least in part. Second, the TTC has been strongarmed into using Presto which is only now creeping into the modern era of fare systems, a quite recent change. For years, GO was content to use a limited, outmoded system because it performed well enough to show that “something was happening”, but even GO has not moved to 100% Presto because of issues with converting monthly passes.

    Yes, there are issues with the TTC, but don’t think that any CGM can fix them all without political support. If I have any complaint about Webster, it is that his gentlemanly personality could get in the way of advocacy, although such advocacy would probably have resulted in his firing much sooner than yesterday.


  27. I agree that if Metrolinx took over the TTC it would be bad news from the perspective of local accountability. What if they went to a model similar to the school boards (where funding etc came from Metrolinx) but there was a local board that was elected who would determine how/where to spend it within their district. This would allow for cooperation on a more regional level (Peel, instead of Mississauga)…and take the city out of most of the decisions (since the elected Transportation commissioner would have a mandate). In theory they could even have “a public system” and a “catholic transit system” model – ie alternate delivery mechanisms for special needs, or different quality levels.

    Steve: By analogy to the school boards (I worked much of my professional life at the Toronto Board), the problem would be that the ability of the TTC to deliver service would be constrained by the funding available from Queen’s Park just as it is today. We would have a Board that was powerless to raise additional funds (as the local Boards could do before amalgamation), and we would probably see Toronto taxes going to pay for bus service in North Bay.


  28. Steve:

    Giving the TTC to Metrolinx would be a total disaster. First off, it would be the TTC who would take over Metrolinx simply by sheer size, but in the process we would have a “TTC” that was even less answerable to Torontonians than it is today.

    You say that like it’s a bad thing. I agree with the suggestion that the TTC needs to be merged with Metrolinx. Not the entire TTC. Just the subway and LRT network. Leave the streetcar and bus network for the city.

    I know I’ve said it before. But I’ll say it again. The province is the only authority with any real cash. The province has far more long term interests. The province is truly concerned with regional integration. And the province is the only one with the authority to levy region wide user fees and taxes to raise the revenue required for transit development.

    Splitting up the service will give it real focus. Let the TTC focus on the bus and streetcar networks. You have mocked the idea that this would put the TTC on par with other regional transit agencies. By size, they would not be comparable. By scope? Most certainly. Running buses down Hurontario is no different than running buses down Sheppard. And bus services are far easier to dial up and dial down based on funding. This allows for residents to have more input into the level of service they desire.

    Meanwhile, long haul networks can develop in a truly integrated fashion. Planners will finally start imagining a region with inter-connected rail networks. Passengers will benefit. They can plan on mixing subway and GO Train rides. Authorities can move to fare by distance on the subway network. Etc.

    Steve: But the subway system is designed to be an integral part of the bus and streetcar system, including the fare. If we start charging by distance for subway travel, we will distort the entire basis on which the rapid transit system in Toronto was constructed. Remember that the suburbs were responsible for getting rid of zone fares 40 years ago. As someone who lives and travels mostly downtown, I wouldn’t mind a lower average fare, but I will bet that all those folks travelling into downtown from the outer 416 will object to paying a lot more to do so.


  29. Steve I understand the concerns re: “giving” the TTC to MetroLinx.

    Two thoughts…

    1. Wouldn’t this be a good bargaining position for council with the province? i.e. “We the city want to give you the TTC” knowing the province really doesn’t want it… wouldn’t it be possible to negotiate some benefits for the city and TTC?

    2. Do you think the current set-up of MetroLinx + city / regional transit agencies can, even in theory provide effective planning and day-to-day operational organization for transit inter- and intra-regionally? If yes… why isn’t it working? If no… what alternative is there other than centralizing with appropriate elected oversight and stable funding model (my original point)?

    Aside: I guess my vision for transit includes reasonable service frequency and journey times, reasonable access to citizens of all abilities and incomes, within facilities that are obviously cared for, seamless use of any mode with seamless payment, consistent standards for transfers, integration of timetables across modes (to minimize journey times), etc. I know this is hard … but isn’t it what we need regionally, just as we want it within Toronto?

    Steve: The issue with all of these problems of “regional” transit is money. The subsidy per passenger in all of the 905 systems is well above the level in Toronto for starters. If we are going to somehow integrate fares between the 905 and the 416, what will be the basis for integration? How will the revenue be shared between the systems? GO heavily subsidizes riders who take a 905 bus to a GO station, but if we merge (and almost certainly lower) the combined 905/416 fare, who makes up the difference? Queen’s Park doesn’t want to shell out more subsidies to the cities.

    Why is service integration not working? Simple — none of the systems see it as their “job” to integrate with each other, even assuming that transfers between services at the boundaries are the right way to go. For some York Region services, this is handled by having the TTC run north of Steeles Avenue. It’s a through ride, but the level of service outside of Toronto is set by the Region, and there have been cutbacks due to budget crunches in York.

    TTC does not have much in the way of integrated service within the 416, and I would hardly expect them to manage this beyond. Many routes have “frequent service” where attempting to co-ordinate transfers isn’t worth the effort, but this can be forgotten during off-peak periods when headways are less friendly to transferring passengers. That being said, every route cannot make a timed connection with every other route it meets. Yes, someone will say, run them all on the same headway. That will mean we provide “better” service than some routes deserve in order to provide consistent schedules for connections. How long until the bean counters force some of the headways to change because we cannot “afford” the operation?

    I’m not saying that this cannot and should not be done, but we must also recognize that the 905 has huge problems with service quality and transit mode share that dwarf some of the so-called integration concerns. However, it’s easier politically to talk about “regional integration” rather than about service, and to imply that an inability to co-operate locally is the root of all evil.


  30. Thank you, Kim, for your kind and patient words in commenting on my postings.

    I am open to your saying that my commentary is exaggerated perhaps to the point of not being helpful. For that, I apologize; I have no wish to add insult to the injury and frustration you’re all experiencing at the moment. I hear you, and so I will do my best to rein in my exasperation and anger at (and sometimes, despair over) the current situation with your mayor.

    I live in the US, but have visited and know Toronto quite well; it’s one of my favourite cities. I am a strong advocate for good public transit, and so I was very excited and pleased when I learned about Transit City and how it was going to be a showcase for the good (if not perfect) application of light rail in areas of the city not presently well served by transit as compared to the older city centre. Then, along came Mayor Ford who, with one dismissive wave of his hand, trashed years of hard work and planning (as well as millions of dollars) that had gone into this Metrolinx project. I can hardly begin to imagine the anger and disappointment you must all have felt as a result.

    What has happened to you in Toronto closely echoes what we in the US are going through fighting against those (think ‘Tea Partiers’ and ultraconservative Republicans) whose principal purpose in life seems to boil down to saying ‘no’ to anything and everything our Central Government can do that might really accomplish some public good but which also costs some real taxpayer money, yet is considered good value for money (public transit, infrastructure rebuilding, standard and high-speed rail, protection of the environment) – so it’s not surprising, I suppose, to see that same mind-set work its way north of our common border.

    Your mayor impresses me as a man who possesses a dangerous mix of lack of vision (tunnel vision, anyone?) and stubborn bull-headed opposition to any evidence which runs counter to what he wants to be told or hear. His obstinacy is wreaking havoc and has already set Toronto back several years.

    Kim, perhaps I’m exaggerating the extent of damage Ford is capable of doing. I hope you’re right, and that, as Steve suggests, your mayor ends up reined in by Council to where he “mainly stays at his cottage and shows up for the occasional ribbon-cutting ceremony.”

    As for you, Steve, I admire your patient steadfastness in the face of all this destructive pandemonium, and I need to take from you more of a cue about how to think about, react to, and comment on what is happening in your fine city. I know that most of you who post here live in or near Toronto, so you all have a more immediate “hands-on” feel for what is happening than I can possibly have. I’m sure that you know the great danger that Mayor Ford is posing to public transit improvements of any kind – and here I greatly hope along with you, Steve, that Premier McGuinty has the fortitude and patience to wait out this drama for several more weeks until Council finally determines how it wishes to move forward on the “Stintz Plan,” especially now that Ford’s sacking of TTC GM Gary Webster “for no cause” has really stirred up a hornet’s nest of public furor.

    I am as eager as the rest of you to see this matter settled once and for all, so that your 8.4 billion Canadian dollars can begin to be spent on putting shovels into the ground to get the lines built.


  31. Hi Steve:-

    As we know, Mr. Webster is not perfect. Are any of us? But when a decent man attempting to do his job in the most moral manner possible is raked over the coals by mealy mouthed, mean spirited, childish buffoonery like has just occurred here, what does this say for our society?

    Should we have been raising our children to be knee kicking loud mouthed non thinkers wearing ear pieces so that their fearless leader(s) can whisper to them what they should say? They then will be the ones rewarded as work ethic, morality and hard work are now proven damnable actions!!

    Shame on this city, shame on this Mayor and shame on the despicable way he and his supporters have handled a man that they are unable to emulate and couldn’t for the life of them understand what decent human courtesies are . Pack dogs and jackals everyone, with the head hyena laughing in his SUV all the way home!!

    Dennis Rankin


  32. Thanks for all your patience during these trying times from dealing with over heated discussions to ridiculous interviewers (Krystal at CityTV is quite the prize).

    I hope too that the council asserts some power to reform the TTC Commission in March (or sooner) but am dismayed to hear Karen Stintz repeatedly seem to back down from taking action. Seems like she is some what spooked by the movement that has arisen and could be the 1st to reach some kind of compromise with Ford. I hope I am wrong. Ford allies in Scarborough sound pretty desperate on Matlow’s show with talk of Miller suppressing Transportation Dept studies that showed Eglinton LRT above ground would be a disaster.


  33. As an employee of the TTC, I am absolutely appalled by this decision by the Commission. Was Gary Webster perfect? I would have to answer NO. Many workplace issues have happened during his watch. There are many employee morale issues which have not been addressed under GW’s watch (some have actually been moved from “simmer” to “boiling over”). GW has made many positive moves under his watch, however. Health and safety issues have been moved to the forefront, which is important to all employees.

    Personally, I have had a few face to face interactions with GW as I have encountered him out and about the system. The main one which comes to mind was the time when the H4 train derailed on the crossover exiting Kennedy Station. GW and Adam Giambrone were at Kennedy spending face time with passengers. I was passing through the station on my way to work when they spotted me. Both GW and AG approached me and asked how I was doing. When I asked a question about the derailment, GW tool me aside and gave me a very detailed explanation of what happened and how they were cleaning up and getting ready to resume service. I was very impressed by GW, as he was able to grasp my understanding of his explanation and gave me answers to my questions that I could understand.

    My other dealings with GW were equally as impressive. I know that ATU113 has had issues with GW over the years, but the interviews that Bob Kinnear gave yesterday spoke volumes about the integrity of GW. As someone, who in past careers, has worked alongside Professional Engineers, Chartered Accountants, etc., I know that people in these disciplines will not violate their professional vows. I stand behind GW, as he is a victim if a “right-wing” vendetta.


  34. @Mark Gold why would you think Karen is backing down? Feel free to think that if nothing is done at the March council meeting, but from what I read all she said is that there wouldn’t be a special meeting to reconstitute the board. That’s because the Ford Bros were kind enough to put it on the agenda themselves (not realizing what they were doing).


  35. @Mark Gold,

    Stintz said that she wouldn’t actively campaign to reinstate Webster. Nor would she fight against such a move, I would think.

    Part of me knows that Webster isn’t essential for the full revival of Transit City, but the other part of me is frustrated that Doug and Rob Ford won their petty victory. It would be so sweet to have Webster return just to bug the Fords, but I’m just being selfish and vindictive to want to use Webster like that.

    Steve: Gary Webster is too much of a gentleman to take on such a role.


  36. Keith says:

    This is why Toronto needs a strong mayor system. The problem here is that the mayor campaigned on a vision. Most citizens voted for him for that vision, only to discover that the mayor has near zero authority. It’s time to let Mayors live and die by their agendas with council acting as a legislative body.

    Moaz: The Mayor campaigned on a vision, but with respect to transit, one could easily say that his vision was blurry. For some reason, the public is being told that they voted for the mayor’s subway vision, but no one on the mayor’s side wants to mention that this vision was announced secretively, that it was inaccurate and unrealistic (e.g. extend the Bloor-Danforth line to Scarborough Town Centre by integrating with the SRT), and full of promises that ranged from implausible (private funding for the Sheppard subway extension) to the impossible (completing the extension by 2015 in time for the Pan-Am Games).

    Not to mention the fact that Ford is not interested in raising taxes to fund his transit plan. Even Stintz and other councillors have not come out and said, clearly, that Ford’s subway plan is possible but would have to be paid for with tax increases.

    Yes, I’d like to see Ford clearly stand or fall by his own vision, but I also want a council that works. If Ford can lie to the people of Toronto in order to get votes, I want council to call his bluff.

    Cheers, Moaz


  37. Moaz Yusuf Ahmad wrote,

    “…but no one on the mayor’s side wants to mention that this vision was announced secretively, that it was inaccurate and unrealistic (e.g. extend the Bloor-Danforth line to Scarborough Town Centre by integrating with the SRT), and full of promises that ranged from implausible (private funding for the Sheppard subway extension) to the impossible (completing the extension by 2015 in time for the Pan-Am Games).”

    Let us not also forget that Ford’s “vision” included using ALL of the Metrolinx “5-in-10” money. The fifth project in that is the VIVA rapidways that are now under construction using a billion-or-so of the province’s money.

    I have to work hard from puking in my mouth every time Ford says he has a ‘mandate’ to build underground transit. His whole position on transit came out half way through the campaign, contained all sorts of “fuzzy” images as described above, and was released as a late-night produced Youtube video. Calling it an “afterthought” is very complimentary.

    Ford earned a perfect score in campaigning by repeating a catch phrase over and over and over again. So much so that when he was interviewed on subjects having nothing to do with ‘city hall waste’, he always got in his ‘stop the gravy train’ mantra at least twice in each interview. At no time did he ever squeeze in a ‘rapid transit must be underground’ in an interview on another topic.


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