City council yesterday approved the financing for the TTC's controversial $674-million subway-car contract with Bombardier -- a contract awarded to the Canadian company without tender and defended by Mayor David Miller as a way to protect Canadian jobs. The vote, after a daylong debate, was 25-18.
But just how Canadian will this made-in-Canada subway car be? The answer, which surfaced in yesterday's debate, is 51 per cent. According to Bombardier, Toronto Transit Commission interim general manager Gary Webster told councillors, the other 49 per cent of the subway car will be made elsewhere, mostly at U.S. plants.
The 51-per-cent figure represents a percentage of the overall value of the car. But TTC chairman Howard Moscoe points out that Bombardier has pledged that 83 per cent of the labour costs will stay in Canada. Bombardier and its union say the contract will create close to 300 jobs over the five-year deal at its plant in Thunder Bay, as well as a smaller number with suppliers in the Toronto area.
Mr. Webster explained to reporters that Bombardier's 51 per cent was likely the highest level of Canadian content possible, since the TTC is essentially the country's only customer for this kind of subway car. (Montreal's system uses rubber-wheeled cars.)
U.S. law mandates that all urban-transit rail vehicles contain 60 per cent domestic content, so parts makers and subway-car manufacturers locate there, Mr. Webster said. No such rule exists in Canada.
Mr. Miller, who spoke to a midday trade union rally at city hall and called opposition to the subway deal "shameful," said the 51 per cent is good enough for him.
"Most of the labour's here. . . . The fact is, this contract will keep this plant [in Thunder Bay]open. . . . This is the way transit procurements are often done," he said.
Thunder Bay's mayor, Lynn Peterson, was in the gallery of the council chamber for the debate, along with members of the Canadian Auto Workers union that represents workers at Bombardier's Thunder Bay plant. "Three hundred families in my community will have at least five years of employment," a teary-eyed Ms. Peterson said after the vote.
Controversy over the subway deal has dogged Mr. Miller and Mr. Moscoe. Former TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme, who quit after accusing Mr. Moscoe of "political interference," called the deal a "fiasco" in his confidential resignation letter.
This year, Siemens, a German-based competitor of Bombardier, said without seeing the TTC's specifications or Bombardier's price that it could save the city $100-million, partly by building the cars in China. It protested against not being allowed to bid for the contract.
Yesterday, in a heated exchange, Denzil Minnan-Wong (Don Valley East) a right-leaning critic of the mayor and opponent of the contract, accused Mr. Moscoe of making secret deals with Bombardier. Mr. Moscoe denied the charge, accusing Mr. Minnan-Wong of meeting with lobbyists for Siemens.
Meanwhile, one of the TTC's financial headaches seemed resolved yesterday. TTC officials had raised the alarm after Queen's Park changed some funding rules for public transit in April, appearing to cost the TTC $150-million that it needs for the new subway cars.
A letter to Mr. Miller from Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, received Friday, promises to give Toronto $150-million over 2006, 2007 and 2008 for the "replacement and refurbishment of TTC vehicles."