Councillor Josh Matlow

National Post: Stintz readies motion to fire Ford-friendly transit commission

March 4, 2012


The embattled Toronto Transit Commission is about to undergo a major shakeup with chair Karen Stintz and her allies moving to dissolve the Ford-friendly board and replace it with councillors who support light-rail transit and private citizens.


Ms. Stintz will be putting her own job on the line Monday when she moves a motion to fire all nine current commissioners.


The TTC boss will ask that a new board of seven councillors and four private citizens be created, with councillors who want a seat duking it out on the council floor for that privilege. The citizen members would be appointed in June.


“I’ll put forward my name in the hopes that I maintain my position, but ultimately, I do believe the commission needs to reflect the will of council,” Ms. Stintz said Friday evening.


The mayor took to the airwaves around the same time to denounce Ms. Stintz and her acolytes.


“It’s no secret, I guess she’s upset that she doesn’t have control over the TTC any more and there’s a majority of people in the city who want subways, not streetcars,” Rob Ford told radio station AM 640.


“If she’s going to change some of

[the commission], then I suggest we change everyone,” he added. “Everybody gets removed, including her as chair and the vice-chair, and all the councillors, including the ones that support subways. If we’re going to start off with a new group, let’s start from scratch.”


Friday’s extraordinary events are the latest in a tug of war over the future of public transit in Canada’s largest city.


On one end is Ms. Stintz and the majority of councillors, who last month voted to bring back from the dead most of the light-rail network Mr. Ford killed on his first day in office.


On the other is Mr. Ford and the majority of the TTC commissioners, who support subways.


Adding to the instability is the fact that the transit agency is without a permanent boss; the commission voted 5-4 last month to fire chief general manager Gary Webster.


The ad hoc way in which council business is now being conducted – with councillors working feverishly behind the scenes to cobble together votes and plots thickening from hour to hour – was fully on display Friday.


Earlier in the week, Ms. Stintz announced that she had reached a compromise with the mayor: A new commission would be appointed in June, made up of five citizen members and six councillors, with a councillor as chair.


Some time between then and Friday, she changed her mind. The instability couldn’t be allowed to linger until June, she said. At 4:30 p.m. Friday, Councillor Josh Matlow, a centrist who had been working on the plan to overhaul the commission, told The Globe and Mail that Ms. Stintz intended to move a motion dissolving the board, and that she and her backers would put up a slate of seven candidates to fill the councillor vacancies.


Mr. Matlow, who had the go-ahead from Ms. Stintz, said the group would recommend that four members stay on the commission: Ms. Stintz, John Parker, Peter Milczyn and Maria Augimeri. Josh Colle, Joe Mihevc and Glenn De Baeremaeker would round out the slate.


Within minutes of the news breaking, Mr. Colle was saying he knew nothing about the slate.


Ms. Stintz later emerged from a meeting, along with fellow TTC commissioner Mr. Parker, to say they had instead decided to support an open nomination process at council.


Both stressed it was imperative that a new commission and council be on the same page on light-rail.


“It’s not a matter of retribution,” for Mr. Webster’s firing, Mr. Parker said. “It’s not a matter of a shot across anyone’s bow.”


All of this comes as council prepares to decide March 21 on subways or light-rail on Sheppard Avenue East, a vote that will tell the province how Toronto prefers to spend the last of the $8.4-billion the Liberal government committed to transit when David Miller was in power.


As for Mr. Ford, he shows no sign of wavering in his commitment to subways.


“If Councillor Stintz and that group of people want to ruin the city, put streetcars through it, I’m going to oppose them, I’m going to fight them,” he said.


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