Ford affirms 'support' for firing of TTC GM
Jered Stuffco, ctvtoronto.ca
Published Tuesday, February 21, 2012 11:01PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:32AM EDT
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he supports a TTC decision mandating the "departure" of the commission's long-serving general manager.
The decision to sack the TTC's Gary Webster on Tuesday afternoon marks the most high-profile casualty of a contentious debate over the city's transit future.
Following the controversial decision to dump Webster, Ford thanked the long-time bureaucrat for his service.
"He was an important element in the organization's many successes to date and can proudly point to a list of accomplishments," Ford said of Webster in a press release.
Webster's firing comes after he failed to back the mayor's plan to build subways on key routes like Eglinton and Sheppard Avenues.
Webster had instead advocated for a plan that would put surface rail along those routes.
The TTC's nine commissioners, five of them Ford allies, voted on a resolution to fire Webster on Tuesday afternoon, following a three-hour closed-door meeting. The vote passed 5-4.
"This is not how I expected it to end or how I wanted it to end, but clearly the choice has been made to replace me as the chief general manager and I accept that," said Webster.
"I want it to be clear that I'm very proud of the Toronto Transit Commission, it's a great organization."
Less than two hours later, Ford said that the city must look to the future.
"But, it's time for the organization to look forward. The Commissioners tell me this. Councillors tell me this. The general public -- and subway, streetcar and bus passengers all tell me it's time for change."
The move to dump Webster comes nine days after city council voted in favour of a light rail transit plan and against Ford's plan to focus on moving more transit underground.
At that meeting, council voted 25 to 18 in favour of TTC chair Karen Stintz's light rail-based plan shunned by Ford when he was elected mayor in 2010.
Ford had asked councillors during the meeting to step back and take time to make an informed decision on transit in Toronto, but councillors voted down that suggestion.
Ford's allies on the committee who voted to fire Webster are Frank Di Giorgio, Denzil Minnan-Wong Norm Kelly, Vincent Crisanti and Cesar Palacio.
As the vote came down, Di Giorgio said that Webster's firing had nothing to do with his work as the TTC general manager.
"His performance or his integrity is not an issue for me," he said, noting that top bureaucrats should perform tasks consistent with the mayor's vision.
Commissioners opposed to the Ford TTC contingent, like Coun. Maria Augimeri, chastised the vote.
"You are kicking success out the door," she said in an emotional speech. "What are you thinking?"
Following the vote, Stintz said that the commission will continue to focus on ridership and delivering timely service for riders who depend on the TTC.
"It is also important that we remind ourselves that this is a without-just-cause decision," she said.
"But I think the values that we share are shared by Gary Webster and those values will survive this decision."
Webster's contract was due to expire next year, and there is no one in line to replace him as of yet.
Earlier, Stintz said there was no reason to fire Webster.
"At the meeting of council, the general manager gave his professional advice to council; council chose to accept that advice and now we are presented with a special meeting of the commission to potentially replace him," Stintz told reporters.
Stintz said the board would be foolish to fire the long-serving general manager noting that it would cost the city some $500,000 to replace Webster.
Trained as a civil engineer, Webster has been at the TTC for 35 years. He earned nearly $282,000 in 2010.
Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the province is losing patience over the transit debate and called on the key players to make a decision.
"I can say that we are running out of patience. I think the people of Toronto are running out of patience," he told reporters. "The time for talk is coming to close to an end."