Gary Webster, the TTC’s top executive, is caught in the crosshairs of Mayor Rob Ford’s administration, prompting fears that the TTC could be headed on a disastrous course if he’s fired.
A 30-year TTC veteran, the 60-year-old chief general manager has drawn the ire of the Fords over his refusal to support the Sheppard subway extension the mayor wants to build, say sources.
Webster could not be reached for comment, but TTC spokesman Brad Ross issued a statement Thursday saying, “The TTC will not speculate on Mr. Webster’s future. The chief general manager is working hard with staff on the 2012 budget, as well as ongoing customer service improvement initiatives. This is a large, complex organization. His continued leadership has never been more important.”
Transit experts, including former TTC boss David Gunn, consider Ford's subway plan a joke because there's no clue where Ford will get the money from.
The Ford Brothers (Rob and Doug) are so intent on Webster’s removal, sources say, they won’t let him hire a new chief operating officer — an internationally advertised position that is attracting top applicants from London and Sydney, Australia.
TTC chair Karen Stintz has expressed frustration about the slow speed at which improvements in customer service are taking place. But she has so far refused to be part of a plan to oust Webster, drawing speculation that her own time on the commission could be limited, according to some sources.
Sources say Stintz won’t even talk about Webster leaving unless the Fords come up with an orderly transition plan that doesn’t include appointing one of their political cronies to the top job. (Nepotism in the Ford camp runs deep.)
The plan to get rid of Webster “is in play now,” said former TTC vice-chair Joe Mihevc.
“(The Fords) are so committed to Sheppard they are actively contemplating getting rid of the entire streetcar system in Toronto,” he said, adding that the cost of the new streetcars could be applied to the subway.
“If Doug Ford bullies his way through on this, it truly will be the victory of extreme authoritarian ideology over good public transit policy and good business management,” Mihevc said.
Replacing Webster with someone who has no engineering background or transit operations experience would be a disaster, say some councillors and transit experts.
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