Councillor Doug Ford says a shakeup is in order at the TTC to bring a business perspective to the city’s transit system and the commission that oversees its operations.
Councillor Ford, who lately had been stepping in as point person for his brother the mayor on the controversial transit file, said plans to appoint four of five citizens to the commission will come to council “relatively soon.”
Beyond that, he’d like to see major changes throughout the organization. “I believe we need some business folks involved in the TTC,” the frank-talking Etobicoke councillor told The Globe and Mail. “As far as I am concerned the TTC needs a complete enema.”
The councillor’s comments come as the mayor and his allies continue to rally support behind their plans to bury the entire planned Eglinton Crosstown light rail line. It also comes as speculation increases about the leadership of the transit commission, given a widening schism between commission chair Karen Stintz and the mayor’s office.
The mayor went to the busy intersection of Eglinton Ave. and Victoria Park Wednesday afternoon to reaffirm his commitment to the underground plan promoted by Scarborough councillors with rush-hour traffic as the backdrop.
“Just imagine putting a streetcar in the middle of that traffic,” he said. “To me rapid transit...an LRT or subway, must run underground.” He later added: “Putting trains down the middle of congested, jammed up streets like the one behind us is not the answer. It is wrong.”
A deal struck between the mayor and the McGuinty government last March on the $8.4-billion project still requires the endorsement of council. In a bid to make that happen, a group of councillors –including Ms. Stintz – have promoted a compromise that would see the eastern leg of the line run at street level, as first envisioned under former mayor David Miller’s Transit City plan. The money saved would be directed to the mayor’s promised Sheppard subway extension.
Ms. Stintz said earlier this week that she believed she had an agreement with the mayor’s office through his brother for that compromise deal, but Councillor Ford declined to confirm those details. “I am not going to discuss that,” he said.
At a meeting this week of the commission, a group of Mayor Ford’s supporters out-voted Councillor Stintz to block a staff report that would have included the pro’s and cons of taking the entire Crosstown line underground.
In the face of what many saw as a show of force by the mayor’s office, Ms. Stintz, usually part of the mayor’s camp, said she would look for other ways to get the information to councillors. She also said she has no intention of giving up her post as TTC chair. “I don’t see any reason for me to quit,” she said.
Reached Wednesday, Ms. Stintz said the commission gave its unanimous approval in the fall to appointing citizens to the commission and has taken several steps to improve business practices.
“We have been waiting for recruitment to begin,” she said.
There is pressure for council to make a decision on the Eglinton plan soon. A letter this week from Metrolinx, the provincial agency building the Crosstown line, said it was becoming “increasingly difficult” to continue without a decision from the mayor and council.
A reply sent by the mayor last Thursday promised to bring the transit deal with the province, as well as a report on the proposed Sheppard subway extension, to council by April at the latest.
Councillor Ford would not say if changes to the makeup of the commission would be discussed then.
“We are going to have private-sector folks that know how to run businesses, that know how to run a $1.3-billion corporation with 11,000 employees,” he said. “We need a business person running the TTC.”
The TTC commission is made up of nine councillors. Any new appointments would require the approval of council.