Wednesday, 7 March 2012

'Fixing' the TTC

The issues pertaining to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) have arrived at a cross-road. As I type this, Toronto City Council is preparing to debate various motions to alter the composition of the TTC Board. At the moment, the board is made up of nine city councillors. Michael Thompson, Councillor for Ward 37 and Chair of the Economic Development Committee, will be introducing a motion that will eliminate councillors from the board in favour of private citizens. Karen Stintz, Councillor for Ward 16 and Chair of the TTC, is proposing expanding the board to eleven members composed of seven city councillors and four private citizens.

I see both solutions as problematic. Thompson is offering a ‘quick fix’. He believes that in removing councillors, the TTC will no longer be subject to the political whims of those councillors attempting to appeal to voters in their ward. He may very well be correct in his assessment. The problem he is not addressing, however, is the potential ‘yes (wo)men’ from the Mayor’s office; only present to ‘fix’ votes in the Mayor’s favour. Regardless of who is Mayor of Toronto, such a situation would not benefit residents. Those appointed to the board benefit only the Mayor of the day’s political vision; I would argue not always in the best interest of Torontonians. I would also like to take this opportunity to remind those that support such a plan, that Rob Ford will not be Mayor forever. I would ask those same people if they would have supported such a motion under former Mayors David Miller or Barbara Hall.

Alternatively, Stintz (who I have been defensive of as TTC Chair since she took the position), is offering another extreme. Her plan to increase the number of representatives would lead to a re-election of TTC board members. It has already been acknowledged that Stintz will stand for chair again. Following that she would wish to maintain the memberships of Peter Milczyn, John Parker, and Maria Augimeri; while adding Joe Mihevc, Glen DeBaermaeker, and Josh Colle. Every single political member of this potential board has come out against the leadership of Mayor Ford on the transit file. I cannot pretend that this would be good for Toronto. City councils, boards, commissions, and committees need debate. They require diverse opinion. Stacking the deck to the left or the right will not benefit our city. Our transit will be worse for it.

Here, in lies, the problem. The TTC is a mess. It will take more than simply altering the composition of a board to fix transit in this city. Launching into debates about such things distracts from larger issues. Why is our council not discussing procurement? Or expansion? Or perhaps why, after eighteen months of Mayor Rob Ford, absolutely no construction has begun on making the TTC the world class transit commission Toronto deserves?

[Originally posted at]

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