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.

28 thoughts on “TTC Coup Planned for March 5 Council Meeting (Updated)

  1. So Stintz wants left leaning Commissioners. I find it funny how she finds it sad about the sudden meet of right leaning Commissioners to fire Gary Webster and get their way. Yet she started her own sudden meet of City Council to get HER way on transit.

    This is pure politics. Gary Webster should of been fired years ago. So many routes had horrible route management. I spent 3 years telling him about certain routes in Scarborough. NOTHING changed. As CGM he was ultimately responsible for buses/streetcar bunching, not showing up, and delays.

    The fact that she wants Joe Mihevc on the board. two things:

    1) He told me at a TC open house for Eglinton Crosstown LRT, when I asked him why are we expanding since we can’t mantain the current system (maintenance of transit stations, both subway and bus stops). he said that the TTC won’t expand if it can’t maintain the current system. we all know where it went.

    2) I always say: for any kind of transit plan, there is the good and the bad. He thinks the St. Clair West had no issues. My family had a restaurant, ppl couldn’t come in, people with wheelchairs had issues. we had to shut down. he was no help. He has continuously ignored his own constituents that don’t agree with St. Clair West ROW/Transit City.

    This is exactly why we need politicians out of Transit.
    We need to look at 50 years for Transit. Not just 4 years.

    Every single TTC Chair has played politicis (Stintz, Giambrone, Moscoe…can’t remember after Howard M.).

    Just like Stintz’s “expert panel” are left leaning (most of them).


  2. Did you watch The Agenda on TVO that included Stintz?

    Paikin: Do you think [Rob Ford] is compromising more these days?

    Stintz: Certainly he compromised on the composition of the commission…

    Who would have imagined that these days?

    Steve: Yes, it was an amusing broadcast now available online on TVO’s site.


  3. “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.”

    The public’s perception is only one part. I’m fairly certain that Ford would receive fewer enthusiastic endorsements from council colleagues should he run again (I’m itching to say Doug Holyday will probably abandon Ford if there’s a more intelligent conservative/moderate to support).


  4. What I can’t figure about Doug’s toll lane idea is that does he seriously think that installing them would cost the city nothing?

    If I remember right, to even install just one more lane on the DVP, not one lane in each direction, you basically have to replace every bridge from the 401 to the Gardner; and that may include the viaduct. Then you have to deal with the problems with the Don river, the CP mainline “tunnels” and the old CP Don branch that Metrolinx now owns.

    With the Gardiner, can the supports on the elevated portion handle two more lanes without retrofitting? For that matter, is there even space for two more lanes along the entire route; especially around the EX?

    As for the 427, does he really think the province would give him the money if they set up toll lanes?

    Frankly, this is getting beyond ridiculous.


  5. TGAM has made major changes to that story. Now reporting that is proposing an open nomination process for the 7 commission seat held by councillors, including her own.

    Steve: I have updated my post to reflect the evolving nature of this story.


  6. I think it is a right move for Stintz to try to rip the TTC from Ford. Not everybody, but some of the councilors are constantly looking at the balance of powers in the Council and in Toronto. They see Stintz got a momentum in the Council – they are there with here. Tomorrow they see Ford is regaining the control and retaliates Webster – they on the opposite site. There may be 3 or 4 of them in the Council – but that is enough to write the whole story of transit development in different way. That is why it is important to keep momentum all the time and show that every step Ford takes will have consequences.

    As for Doug, next step for him would be building a bridge from Canada to China and use the road tolls from this bridge towards subway construction on Sheppard. Everybody have already agreed to wait for another 150 years to get this project done.

    Steve: The Gang of Five who dumped Gary Webster will be loyal to Ford to the end because they have no hope of any credibility or position if they were to “cross the floor” to the progressive wing of Council.


  7. Steve, what do you think of Councillor Pasternak?

    I feel that he can be quite clueless at times on how transit works, but based on his February 8th vote, at least he’s not a subways-or-nothing kind of guy.

    I suspect that his insistence on a Sheppard West subway link is stems from two causes:

    1) He, like Rob Ford, feels that he owes that promise to his voters no matter what, and

    2) A vote for the eastward Sheppard Subway extension would move Finch into an earlier timeslot ahead of any transit improvements on Sheppard, which would benefit his ward (provided that all of the Finch LRT would be built, instead of half of it).

    Steve: Pasternak voted for the LRT plan until it appeared that the Mayor had a way to finance Sheppard, at which point he fell back into the Ford camp. It remains to be seen how credible the Mayor’s plan will be, whatever it is by March 21, and how many new hare-brained schemes will be floated in the next few weeks. Pasternak’s challenge will be to vote for the revenue scheme that would build Sheppard, and I am not sure he’s up to that.


  8. How about this nightmare situation:

    With commissioners being voted on by Council, the leftist and mushy middle crowd can’t unanimously decide on who to vote for. Meanwhile, the Ford camp coalesces and votes in a majority of those politician spots!

    I can only assume though that there is consensus among #stinz26 to keep current LRT supporters (Stintz, Aug, Parker) on. Beyond that, I’m getting a little nervous…

    Steve: This will all depend on the left/centre block staying disciplined and not having every Councillor with an ego get nominated and, worse, split the vote. Ford only wins on a split vote.


  9. Hey Steve, do you know how this open nomination process works?

    Steve: No details have been released yet. I suspect we won’t know until the item comes up at Council.


  10. After what happened to Webster, the current Commission certainly needs to be dismantled, but the motion to initiate it should NOT come from Stintz. With it coming from her, the whole thing simply reeks even more. It needs to come from a councillor NOT on the Commission.

    Stintz should have taken the high road and simply resigned as Chair. I was with her until she did this — now, she just looks BAD. She still has time to redeem herself by NOT putting her name forward for the new Commission, or by not accepting a nomination.

    Steve: My problem with Stintz was that she stuck with the Mayor far too long including her support of the redirection of $5-million intended by Council for regular bus service to the Wheel-Trans budget. That was a flagrant disregard for the will of Council, and it was ironic that Stintz herself was blindsided less than an hour later by the move to suppress work on an LRT/subway report by Ford’s henchmen on the TTC. She hung on hoping that she could be part of the old boys’ club far too long.


  11. Doug’s plan to pay for the TTC by building a casino and starting a lottery should resonate with the transit riders in his ward. They know that relying on public transport in that part of Toronto has always been a “gamble”.


  12. Frankly, having an open nomination is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. If Karen Stintz has the votes (presumably she still does) her voting block with simply vote to approve or disapprove each councillor who is nominated. The end result will be a commission that will follow the will of council. In my mind this open nomination process is no more than a procedural waste of time and mere politicking to appear as if a slate has not already been determined.

    I don’t know how much more time this type of nomination and vote for each member of the commission will take over rather than simply voting once for a slate, but it is no wonder politicians of all stripes in general accomplish very little.

    Any now, here is hoping to a commission that will support transit.


  13. After Saddam lost the first Gulf War, he set the oil wells on fire. What plan does City Council have for the spite-based remainder of Rob Ford’s term in office? With Ford no longer responsible for anything he says on transit, he will instead make sure council and the TTC pay the maximum political price. He needs to confirm his prediction that LRTs will lead to a “St. Clair debacle,” and since perception alone evidently is sufficient to accomplish this, this is one thing Rob Ford has the capacity to deliver. He will goad gullible citizens’ groups and BIAs into protests and lawsuits, and do whatever anything he can to ensure the failure of the LRT plan. City Council must not underestimate the mayor here. Are they ready to put out the oil well fires?


  14. I would like to observe this session. What time does it start? Is it likely to last several hours?

    Steve: Two days are allocated for the meeting starting a 9:30 am Monday. It’s hard to say when this specific item will come up for debate.


  15. 1) If City Council decides to put non councillors on the commission then what are they looking for in terms of expertise?
    2) Does this really matter if the purse strings are controlled by City Council and Metrolinx/Province?
    3) What sort of restrictions would/should they put on citizen members?

    For example, would they prevent anyone who has recently been a lobbyist from being eligible? (Similarly, would they also require that someone could not register as a lobbyist for a certain period of time after their term is up?)

    Steve: Please refer to the report on this issue for details on proposed criteria for citizen members.


  16. Will the four citizen members in Stintz’s proposed makeup be vetted by council or will they be appointed through the Striking Committee? If the latter they could end up being Ford hacks which is what has happened with other citizen appointments.

    Steve: Although this might go through Striking, there is talk of sending the work to an outside consultant. In any event, Council does not have to accept Striking Committee’s recommendations. A more important move will be to re-strike the Striking Committee to remove this bottleneck to intelligent, balanced selection of representatives.


  17. So far The Brothers proposed the only viable option of subway financing via lottery and casinos (let’s leave freeways to be constructed for SOS meetings while taxes and fees is a no go option for conservatives).

    I found an annual report of Ontario Lottery and Gambling Corporation which holds all major lotteries and casinos in the province.

    According to this report net profit of OLG in 2009/2010 was $1.7 billion that was spent primarily on health care in Ontario. I don’t think that Provincial Government would be happy to get a competitor in the first place and lets City of Toronto proceed with its own program. But even if they do this and even if Toronto gets its own casino. Let’s see how much cash this would generate.

    The share of Toronto in Ontario population is 20%. Let’s assume that Toronto earns the proportional share of cash through lottery and casino – $340 million a year. But this would be the cap. In fact, of course, Toronto would have just a tiny share of this amount of money – somewhere between 0% and 50%. So in the best case scenario it would take as many as 30 years to finance this relatively short extension. While reality tells that in fact it would take 100 years and more.

    All of these rough estimates need a correction, of course. But yet they help to understand the overall picture with financing in case if the Council believes in these bubbles.


  18. Steve, I’m sick and tired of hearing over and over again the constant refrain and rhetoric that is ongoing over the “St.Clair fiasco”. Pleeeease, I grew up down at St. Clair and Dufferin area for over 30 years and after I was out, I had family that still lived there. So, I was and still am going down there frequently.

    I remember sitting on either the Earlscourt or St. Clair cars while car drivers who were driving in the streetcar lanes would stop there AND converse with acquaintances who were on the sidewalk or streetcar islands (yes not from the curb lane, but the streetcar lane!!!!). I’ve sat on a few streetcars that sat for more than a few green light cycles. Why? Too many cars making lefts in the same lane.

    As far as the construction time period,check things out and you’ll find that a frivolous law suit was responsible for a huge chunk of it and that was unexpected!!! All transit projects, be they subway, LRT, BRT, etc.,will involve major construction. Try looking up YRT/VIVA’s exclusive bus lane projects on Highway #7. It’s quite a bit of a mess right now (but it’s not LRT construction for those who want to complain!)! And this also is going to take a few years.

    I knew St.Clair Avenue West like the back of my hand from Mount Pleasant to Ryding (George Bell Arena) for many years. It was also starting to go downhill a little. But, I’ve been back and see a renaissance with new condos, restaurants, stores and other businesses. Oh and by the way, even back when I lived there, most parking was done on the side streets. Glenholme, Lauder, Northcliffe, Westmount, Boon, Earlscourt …, these streets were always full because patrons of the stores parked there, NOT on St. Clair! Also, check out the Globe article from about 2 to 3 weeks ago how things have improved on St.Clair. It disproves all the critics.

    Steve, I also wonder sometimes if all of this is being done (TTC disharmony and fighting) in order to take the spotlight off other situations facing the mayor and his allies. I read an article about a lacrosse organization that has to pay a hefty rental fee for the use of the pads that were previously free or minimal payment. The changes mean that some kids’ sports will become elitist or eliminated due to prohibitive costs thanks to the new city hall. Because of all of the transit talk, very few of these stories are coming out. Hopefully that will change, so many can see the light!


  19. All the morons who keep flogging the “St. Clair disaster” meme need to go here and read the comments from St. Clair Resident.

    Everything you need to know about the “St. Clair disaster,” you can get from the fact that Brother Doug said he was out door-knocking in the neighbourhood and hearing nothing but how awful it was. Sure, Doug. A rookie councillor from Etobicoke, who can’t keep count of the libraries or Tim Hortons in his ward, obviously needs to be out door-knocking on St. Clair.


  20. Not jus the St. Clair “disaster”. What about Spadina? I remember when the Chinatown merchants were “doomed” without the retention of the angle parking – which was an “essential characteristic of the neighborhood”. All the merchants, we were told, would be gone within a few years and Chinatown and even Kensington as we know it would be but a fond memory.

    How different reality turned out to be. The Spadina Car is heavily used and is true “local” transit. While the subway and Dundas/Spadina are major nodes, it is also an on/off in the community service – not a through route from and to somewhere else. Merchants are thriving and sidewalk traffic is up significantly. As for Kensington, the challenge (to the purists at least) is that the area remains so attractive that merchants such as Fresh Mart, Tim Hortons and Starbucks either have, or want to, move in. It is no surprise to hear the truth finally emerging about the health of St. Clair.


  21. David O’Rourke asked about observing the Council meeting and Steve replied:

    Steve: Two days are allocated for the meeting starting a 9:30 am Monday. It’s hard to say when this specific item will come up for debate.

    It is worth remembering that one can watch Council (and some committees) live from the comfort of one’s own armchair (and easy access to soothing drinks!).

    You can access the TV feed here.

    Steve: Rogers Cable 10 usually carries the feed through the daytime to 7 pm. If they continue into the evening, you have to watch online.


  22. Both Spadina and St. Clair didn’t find room for safe biking, and with Spadina, it’s one of the widest roads in the core.

    With the change in TTC governance away from Omissioners to Commissioners, are there some Councillors more suited than others? recognizing a need for diversity. I am thinking that Stintz, Parker, Augimeri, Mihevc and Perks are likely interested, and may have enough support and background, then it gets less easy. Carroll?, Fragedakis?, McMahon and even Mr. Thompson again?

    Back in Dec. 2010, I’d written to all Councillors expressing real worry about the slate that was going to be at the helm of the TTC, warning that “sweeping and perhaps destructive changes may gain more momentum.” I do look forward to another sweep, but one that removes the destructiveness of the Ford influences and flunkies.


  23. As someone who wants the LRT plan to go through as fast as possible with no more stalling, what are the 2-3 top actions I can take to continue to support this plan through this process? Thanks for your article. Obviously, we don’t want our councilors to do an “Obama” – try to compromise with destructive bullies who have proven that they couldn’t compromise if millions of dollars and city well being counted on it…

    Steve: Top 3? Ensure that honest, accurate info about the benefits of an LRT network get out to communities beyond the usual suspects in transit and environmental groups. Support the restructuring of the TTC to reflect the breadth of Council’s political makeup. Support policies at Council that “transit” supports all of Toronto, not just a multi-billion dollar project on one or two routes.


  24. I am watching the vote …. what the HELL is going on? Why did Perks withdraw? Why was Mihevc not nominated? And plumping is allowed … What a chaotic circus. It is high time we had party politics at city hall, this is an undisciplined joke. Why was a slate not prepared?

    Steve: Plumping is not allowed in this process, although some members did not cast a full seven votes. Perks withdrew strategically as there would have been too many from the left block on the ballot, and the vote might have been split. Mihevc was not nominated. It’s all horse trading behind the scenes.

    There was to be a slate, and the voting shows that one did exist in effect, if not in fact. Councillor Josh Matlow screwed that up with a premature announcement last week of what the “slate” would be when the dust had not actually settled on the scheme.


  25. Mayor Ford has about as much political clout as the Governor General; however the Governor General at least knows enough to keep his mouth shut.

    Stinz is acting like a very good leader of a minority government in a parliamentary democracy. She seems to work quietly behind the scenes to build a consensus and never attacks anyone, no matter how much they may seem to deserve it. I think she could be come a major power on council if she keeps this up because she seems to be able to work with left, right and centrist politicians. She is even getting a few of the Fordites to see that his way will not work. I hope she and the rest of council can keep this up.


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