Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Star: With TTC head Gary Webster likely to be sacked, Karen Stintz asks why now?

February 20, 2012


Centrist and left-leaning councillors spent Family Day talking about what to do next in the face of a meeting that will likely end with the ousting of TTC head Gary Webster.


Regardless of Webster’s fate, the last minute TTC board meeting called by five allies of Mayor Rob Ford is unlikely to stop them from pursuing the LRT plan they battled to get through council earlier this month.


Two councillors said they would consider overhauling the TTC board to make it more “balanced.”


During a closed-door meeting Tuesday the TTC board is expected to fire Webster and perhaps other managers. Webster, a 35-year TTC veteran and engineer, supports the LRT lines that caused TTC Chair Karen Stintz to fall out of the mayor’s favour.


“There’s no question” removing him would be a political move, Stintz said Monday, pointing to customer service improvements under Webster’s watch.


Her first question for her five colleagues who called the unexpected session will be, “Why now?” She said she would also like to know what they have in mind to ensure stability at the TTC.


Stintz said she wants the commission to be less political and more stable. She wouldn’t give specific examples of how she would do this, but said another special meeting isn’t the answer.


“This isn’t healthy,” she said. “It’s not healthy to customers, for transit expansion plans, for the relationship with the province, with the mayor’s office.”


Councillor Josh Matlow, a centrist who was key to Ford’s defeats on budget cuts and transit expansion, warned the mayor not to fire Webster.


“I hope the mayor reconsiders the decision to further politicize our public service. We should not be firing people based on politicians not wanting to hear facts that they deliver to us.”


Asked about reports Ford’s transit opponents — council’s left, most centrists and sometimes Ford allies Stintz and John Parker — are planning to turf the mayor’s allies from the TTC, Matlow would only say, “All options are on the table.”


Parker did not want to speculate before Tuesday’s in-camera discussion.


Councillor Gord Perks insisted council’s decision on the LRT plan would stand.


“It looks like a small group of members are bent on ignoring council,” he said. “I’m just disappointed that five members of city council have decided to make a really fantastic dedicated public servant pay for the fact that they’re sore losers.”


While Councillor Shelley Carroll suspects conversations about what to do next happened “all over town” over the weekend, she too hopes that the commission decides not to fire Webster.


The five commissioners should keep in mind that the future structure of the TTC board’s is on council’s March agenda, Carroll said.


“There’s a majority of council that is very interested in ending the grudge match,” she said. “You can’t build consensus if you didn’t set up a balanced group to begin with.”


She would help build that consensus, she added.


Councillor and TTC board member Maria Augimeri said she doesn’t know who, or how many, people her five colleagues are targeting.


They are “doing the mayor’s dirty work,” she said.


“I’ve never seen anything so underhanded.” She said she also has hopes for an overhauled TTC board.

Denzil Minnan-Wong, one of the councillors who signed the petition to call the meeting, refused to comment about the meeting because it is a personnel matter.


His four colleagues did not return requests for comment.


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