The big story this morning from the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail is that the mayor’s office—either Rob Ford himself or possibly his brother, Doug—are trying to pressure TTC chief general manager Gary Webster out of his job. Apparently Webster, a 30-year veteran of the TTC, hasn’t been sufficiently receptive to the mayor’s plan to expand the Sheppard subway.
Most transit experts, including former TTC boss David Gunn, consider the subway plan a joke.
The Fords are so intent on Webster’s removal, sources say, they won’t let him hire a new chief operating officer—an internationally advertised position that is attracting top applicants from London and Sydney, Australia.
TTC chair Karen Stintz has expressed frustration about the slow speed at which improvements in customer service are taking place. But she has so far refused to be part of a plan to oust Webster, drawing speculation that her own time on the commission could be limited, according to some sources.
Stintz, for her part, isn’t anti-Sheppard, according to the Globe. Rather, she’s apparently focused on the city’s commitment to what can be funded right away—namely, a short extension of Sheppard to Victoria Park paid for with the $300 million from Ottawa that would have otherwise gone to Transit City’s now-defunct Sheppard LRT. This would make a joke of the mayor’s commitment that no taxpayer dollars would go to building the Sheppard line but, on the plus side, it’s actually possible.
Meanwhile, former TTC vice-chair (and fierce critic of the mayor) Joe Mihevc made an allegation that should probably alarm anyone south of Bloor: allegedly, Ford’s office is “so committed to Sheppard they are actively contemplating getting rid of the entire streetcar system in Toronto”—and applying the savings to the Sheppard subway. This too would make a joke of the mayor’s pledge that Sheppard could be built entirely with private money, never mind his pledge that there would be no major service cuts.
And on top of all that, we’ve got to wonder what happens to the price of condos in the city when owners along the Spadina and Queen’s Quay lines start selling off their properties that are no longer well served by streetcars. The whole thing is actually such a terrible idea that we would normally assume that excited Ford critics were just taking some licence, except last fall Ford’s election chief Nick Kouvalis mused to the Sun that this was in the cards. So some clarity—and fast—would be nice.