TTC Coup Planned for March 5 Council Meeting (Updated)

Updated Mar. 2, 2012 at 8:45pm:  It now appears that rather than proposing a slate of potential new Commissioners, the process will be to have open nominations from the floor and an election.

The Globe and Mail’s Kelly Grant reports that there will be a move by TTC Chair Karen Stintz and her supporters to unseat the Gang of Five responsible for the firing of Gary Webster at next week’s Council Meeting.

Updated:  Tess Kalinowski and Paul Maloney from the Star weigh in on the story.

The original “compromise” allegedly worked out with Mayor Ford for an updated TTC had been for an 11-member board with 5 “citizen” members and 6 Councillors, one of whom would be appointed as Chair by Council.  Any upheaval would wait until June after the choice of citizen members was completed.

Recent news from the Mayor, his brother Doug, and other supporters shows that “compromise” is the last word on their mind when it comes to transit planning.  In quick succession, recent days brought us proposals for new taxes and fees, development charges, a casino, a lottery and even a new set of toll expressways to allow Doug to get downtown without congestion.  Each of these schemes has been more outrageous, ill-considered, hare-brained and short-lived as its predecessor.

Clearly, the Fords’ policy brains-trust is spinning out of control in a desperate attempt to find any way to bring credibility to a Sheppard Subway funding plan.  A few Councillors are gullible enough (or still afraid enough of the Mayor) to go along with this charade, but we will see how all that works out at a special Council meeting of March 21.

Meanwhile, housecleaning now, not in June, is absolutely essential at the TTC to prevent the Commission from highjacking Council’s transit priorities.

Stintz now proposes to dissolve the existing Commission and replace it on an interim basis with seven Councillors.  Four citizen members with transit expertise (not, I fervently hope, the political hacks such as Gordon Chong who once graced that board with the dubious value of their presence) will be added in June once the search process completes.

The proposed new Commission would include current Chair Stintz, former Vice-Chair Mihevc, current Vice-Chair Milczyn, current Commissioners Augimeri and Parker, plus Councillors de Baeremaeker and Colle.  Only one of these, Milczyn, hails from the former Ford camp, and his position has been wavering.

Updated:  Although the procedure now appears to be nominations and votes from the floor, we can expect that Council will divide into two camps, and that serious lobbying will occur for the handful of swing votes in the “mushy middle”.

Procedurally, this is possible because a report discussing the makeup of the Commission is on the March 5 agenda.  Its original intent was to help Ford bolster his control of the board, but the timing has blown that scheme up in his face.  If the left-centre group on Council succeeds in ripping the TTC from Ford’s control, we can be sure to see more moves to box in the Mayor and strip him of powers granted by Council.

A vote to replace the Commission will also be a straw vote on the future of the Sheppard LRT and of LRT plans in general because to lose the TTC will be a major political and strategic blow to Mayor Ford with more to come.

Some may argue that this will give him exactly the platform he needs for re-election (“they won’t let me fulfill the mandate you voters gave me”), but that argument will only play to Ford’s dwindling base.  What Toronto, and any potential challenger to Ford, needs is a demonstration that Ford’s way is not the only option, and that the city can be a better place if run with a more progressive and collegial outlook at Council.