Is Mayor Ford looking to oust TTC GM Gary Webster?

It's Ford's way or the highway. Or at least that what reports out of the TTC are making it sound like. Rumour has it that both the Mayor and his brother are plotting to remove TTC General Manager Gary Webster on account of his opposition to the Sheppard subway extension. Webster, who's occupied his position at the TTC since 2006, is under contract until 2013.

The plan to get rid of Webster "is in play now," former TTC vice-chair Joe Mihevc told the Toronto Star. For such a plan to come to fruition, five of the nine counillors on the TTC Board would have to vote to fire him. On the board are TTC Chair Karen Stintz, Peter Milczyn, Maria Augimeri, Vincent Crisanti, Frank Di Giorgio, Norm Kelly, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Cesar Palacio, and John Parker.

Some of the names that have been thrown around as possible replacements include Case Ootes, Gordon Chong, and Liberal MPP David Caplan, none of whom, notably, have an engineering background, something many believe is necessary for the position.

The TTC's official statement on the situation showed cautious support the GM. "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," said the Commission's Director of Corporate Communications, Brad Ross.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it's also not completely neutral either. The real question is how such a plot, if successful, would be received by the public. Not everyone cares to follow the inner workings of the TTC, but firing the GM because he refused to go along with a plan that numerous critics have called unfeasible would surely come off as vindictive and short-sighted.

How this all plays out will surely be intriguing, especially as Stintz has started to distance herself from the Ford's vision of a public-private partnership to build the Sheppard extension. "Until it's demonstrated that a public-private partnership can build the subway, we should move forward with the resources we have to extend the infrastructure that exists," she said. Never mind that such a statement sounds a hell of a lot like a reference to Transit City, the fact that she now thinks it makes sense to build only to Victoria Park is a sign that support for the Ford plan is eroding quickly.

Perhaps removing Webster is already a last ditch effort to save it?

Photo by oileanach in the blogTO Flickr pool

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