When the Toronto Transit Commission bus that was dispatched to pick-up Mayor Rob Ford’s football team arrived at the field, its driver saw no signs of a “major disturbance” – the latest evidence that the gridiron altercation that sparked the call wasn’t an emergency.
In a Nov. 5 e-mail to senior TTC managers, William Frost, the TTC’s former head of bus services, said that Toronto police left the transit agency with the “clear impression” the bus was needed as soon as possible.
“Also note that our bus, on arrival, is looking for a major disturbance and cannot find one,” Mr. Frost wrote. “Finally, there is little doubt our perception was that this was to be a shelter bus arising from the disturbance not a shuttle.”
Mr. Frost’s e-mail, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, is the introduction to a 26-page transcript of the calls made to transit control and among TTC employees and Toronto police about the Nov. 1 incident that saw two buses – one full, the other empty – pulled out of service to ferry Mr. Ford’s football team from one Etobicoke high school to another six kilometres away.
The transcript reveals the scramble inside the TTC as dispatchers and others hurried to get a bus to the field, including calls from TTC CEO Andy Byford, who tried to order a private school bus to the field after receiving a call from Mr. Ford, and a female bus driver who attempted to refuse the order to dump her passengers out into the rain.
“I can’t. I have a full bus. Do you want these people to lynch me?” the driver said during a call that began at 3:50 p.m.
“You have three buses right behind you,” a dispatcher replied.
“Can’t I refuse?” the driver asked, after receiving directions to the school.
“No, it’s a shelter [bus], it’s an emergency, we have to do it right away.”
Confusion remains about why, exactly, Toronto police summoned a shelter bus to Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School after a football game between the Carr Crusaders and Mr. Ford’s Don Bosco Eagles ended early following a disagreement between the Carr coach and a referee.
The school board has said the bus was called to whisk the players home and out of the cold, wet weather; police say they asked for the bus out of an “abundance of caution” amid fears there would be a brawl, which never happened.
At almost the same moment the driver was ordered to ditch her full load of passengers, Mr. Byford called Jerry Wing at Transit Control to ask about ordering a school bus for the players – after receiving the first call from Mr. Ford on his cell phone.
“Someone like Grey Coach. I do need a vehicle to an intersection but I do not want to use a TTC bus,” Mr. Byford said, according to the transcript.
The timeline in the transcript calls into question Mr. Ford’s version of events.
The mayor has said previously that he only called Mr. Byford directly because there was a “20-minute” wait for the bus that police had requested.
But only about nine minutes passed between Toronto police’s first call to transit control at 3:42 p.m. and Mr. Byford’s call to Mr. Wing just after 3:51 p.m., meaning the mayor did not wait long to dial the TTC’s top boss directly.
Mr. Wing called Mr. Byford back about five minutes later to offer a phone number for Stock Transportation, which had school buses available.
“Good, mate, you are a star. Thanks, mate,” Mr. Byford replied.
Just before 4:07 p.m., Mr. Byford called Mr. Wing back again. In the interim, he had received a phone message from Mr. Ford.
“Sorry about all this messing about,” he said. “I’ve had a rather garbled message. Have the police requested a bus to go to some school, some Henry something or another at John Garland and Finch?”
Mr. Wing at transit control replied that he checked it out and saw “something about some football team.”
“Yeah, that is it. So apparently the TPS [Toronto Police Service] cause, cause it’s apparently some brawl broken out between the school kids. The police are saying, get those kids out of here straight away or else they will not be able to control the crowds. So could you try to see what you can do to get a TTC bus there as soon as possible to pick these kids up?”
“Oh, we do have a bus en route,” Mr. Wing replied.
The transcript provides no evidence that Mr. Ford ever called transit control directly. Mr. Byford has already said that the mayor made two calls to him that afternoon: an initial, unclear call that was dropped and a second that went to his voicemail.
Neither of those calls appear in the transcript. “The voice-mail left by Mayor Rob Ford for Andy Byford on the afternoon of Thursday, November 1, 2012, was deleted and cannot be retrieved from the server, as confirmed by TELUS,” according to the response to the FOI request.
When the driver who dropped the players off back at Don Bosco called at 4:35 p.m. to explain the incident, the dispatcher seemed puzzled.
Shelter buses are generally used to provide refuge for people who have been forced out of their homes or apartments in emergencies such as apartment floods or gas leaks.
“The police demanded a shelter bus for a school at Martin Grove and John Garland, then they had our bus drive them over to another school? What’s that all about?”