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Councillor revises history on TTC leadership change

By: Metro Canada Published on Fri Feb 22 2013

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong noted yesterday that it's been a year since former members of the Toronto Transit Commission board — including Minnan-Wong — voted to drop the axe on Chief General Manager Gary Webster, a decision that ushered in current TTC CEO Andy Byford as his replacement. The move, which many felt was politically motivated, resulted in a successful play by TTC chair Karen Stintz to remove Minnan-Wong and other councillors allied with Mayor Rob Ford from their oversight roles at the TTC.

Despite the whole episode being remembered mostly as a political gong show, Minnan-Wong tried to spin the anniversary as a positive thing:

Which he then followed up with this congratulatory note:

He's spinning a nice story, but it's not really true. Minnan-Wong is revising history.

Let's try to keep things straight.

I'll start with what didn't happen. Gary Webster was not fired for anything to do with his job performance. He was not fired because trains were delayed or employees were rude. Instead, his firing came soon after he had the gall to show up at a city council meeting and answer questions about whether Scarborough should get a subway along Sheppard Ave.

He said no. He said there are no ridership projections to justify that subway and the large costs associated with it. He said, honestly, that LRT would be a better fit for the corridor. Then they fired him.

Byford, too, was not made CEO as the result of some stroke of inspired genius by the Ford administration and councillors like Minnan-Wong. Instead, he was hired as Chief Operating Officer by Webster and Stintz months before the LRT-versus-subway debate got hot. The plan was that Byford be groomed into a strong candidate to replace Webster in the top job — because Webster was planning on retiring in 2013 or 2014.

There was nothing in the conversation at the time about how Webster was being fired for the good of TTC service. That sort of narrative simply does not square with reality.

Here's what did happen: a well-respected senior civil servant stood up at a meeting and answered questions honestly. Soon after that, he was fired, only a year or so before he planned to retire anyway. He was then replaced with the guy he had hired to replace him.

Did I mention the whole thing ended up costing the TTC a cool half-million in unnecessary severance costs? Because there was also that.

By most accounts — and I'd agree — Byford has done a good job over the last year as Webster's successor. That anniversary is worth noting. But Minnan-Wong, for his part in a politically-motivated decision, has got no reason to celebrate.

This post was originally published at on 2013-02-22T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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