Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ford And Facts

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.


Subway Wayne aka Happy said...

It is very easy to quote news snippets from the mainstream media, but those of us that have years of experience working with the likes of Gary Webster are more informed due to our experiences.
Don't just rely on an editor's pick of newsworthy content...educate yourself to all issues and then you may make a better evaluation.
My website shares the experiences of a First Responder who put his life on the line each day for the TTC ridership and the perils faced on the job.
Since I am uncertain if I can post my web address here, may I suggest you 'google' 'subwaywayne' for a different perspective?

Owen Gray said...

If readers click on the link which accompanies your comment, they can go to the letter you have written.

I have no doubt that the TTC is riddled with problems. We have been treated to stories of ticket collectors falling asleep in their booths and drivers texting while driving.

But my post dealt specifically with the Scarborough extension and the report which mayor Ford wanted to keep under wraps.

For the second time in history, council defied him. A lighter touch could have made his life -- and council's -- a little easier.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is appalling when politicians make decisions that do not take into condsideration the best factual information available.

It would be wonderful for all our rapid transit was undeground but when the best information possible says it is not cost effective, the appropriate mass transit should be chosen.

To build an expensive subway system on the basis "if we build it they will come" is particularly irresponsible when money is in short supply to do all that needs to be done.

It is telling that the mayor has not found anyone in the private sector, which is freer to risk its money that those in the public sector, to build a subway on "spec". The mayor should wake up from his dream in the face of this reality.

Owen Gray said...

Remember, Philip, this is the mayor who vowed he would look after the taxpayers best interests -- and who has championed all kinds of cuts to city services.

Something is out of joint.