Word on the street is that Gary Webster is about to lose his job. His mistake was to cross mayor Rob Ford. Ford is smarting, after city council scuttled his plan to expand Toronto's subway. Royson James writes in the Toronto Star:
Denzil Minnan-Wong. Cesar Palacio. Norm Kelly. Frank Di Giorgio. Vincent Crisanti. Remember their names for induction in the transit hall of shame.
The querulous quintet — censorious and calculating city councillors — have called a special meeting of the Toronto Transit Commission on Tuesday to knife the chief general manager, Gary Webster.
For more than a year, Mayor Rob Ford has schemed to get Webster out of the way. Webster’s sin? He spoke truth to power. He told Ford he could not support the mayor’s subway plan because it did not make sense any more.
Ford wanted to expand the subway east, along Shepard Avenue to Scarborough. He asked Webster to prepare a study on the costs and benefits of the project. Webster did just that, and reported that the Sheppard extension did not make economic sense:
Ridership along Sheppard is less than a third of projections. Job growth at the North York and Scarborough terminuses are abysmal. Projections had called for 93,400 jobs in North York centre and 65,000 in Scarborough Centre by 2006. In fact, the combined total for both centres is fewer than 44,000.
Ford ordered that the report be mothballed. But Karen Stintz, the chair of the TTC, made the report public; and council ditched Ford's subway plan in favour of an LRT line, which would run above ground and cost less to construct. Ford was furious. He can't fire Stintz; but his allies have enough votes to fire Webster.
This weekend, at a meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Canadian journalists took the Harper government to task for muzzling government scientists. Ford has been a vocal ally of Prime Minister Harper. Like the prime minister, he is allergic to facts. And, like the prime minister, he's a very vindictive fellow.