Tuesday 27 March 2012

Expertise Will Get You Canned (in Toronto)

We citizens of Toronto have only now begun to realize our collective error in electing Rob Ford our mayor. (I didn't vote for him, but the majority of Torontonians felt otherwise, and I must live with that.)
The latest bout concerns Gary Webster, chief general manager of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), who was fired on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012, after a career spanning almost four decades.
Why? Because he objected to Mayor Ford's decidedly uninformed view that Toronto would be best served by an expansion of the underground subway system, when Mr. Webster (let's repeat that: chief general manager of TTC) and many others chose an overhead Light Rapid Transit (LRT) solution instead. The latter solution would have saved billions of dollars, but Mayor Ford and his cohorts chose the former. One must ask why, especially when said Mayor is so big on "cutting the fat", a rather ironic phrase from a man whose personal contribution to this cause has been to lose 20+ pounds in 6 weeks. He still tops 300 pounds; when he loses another 100 pounds, let's talk.
Mr. Webster has made his career over 37 years in the TTC, and offered his best opinion on the choices available. Perhaps he even thought that the most inexpensive method might fly best in the Ford winds, but if so he was incorrect. For standing up for his conclusions, he was summarily fired.
To say the least, this has caused tidal waves in the various bureaucracies over which Mayor Ford has muscle. Many careers are now at stake: Agree or Goodbye; even acquiescence is not good enough.
In short, Mayor Ford has created his own fiefdom, with his clutch of toadies that includes Cesar Pallacio, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Norm Kelly, Frank di Giorgio and Vincent Crisanti. The ultimate vote for Webster's firing was a narrow 5-4.
There is even more ugliness at stake here: the firing was declared "without cause" -- in other words, after 37 years of excellent service, Mr. Webster was fired for not kow-towing; even those in favour of his ouster could not come up with any excuse other than that.
The ironies abound. Mr. Ford, then 330 pounds, campaigned on a "trim the fat" soundbite. Since then, he is reported to have shed 20+ pounds. Another hundred and he'll attain some small shred of credibility. This erstwhile champion of public transit, who declared himself anti-transit not long ago, now has the gall to propose and mandate a solution far more expensive and disruptive than the LRT solution. By the way, Toronto City Council voted 25-18 in favour of the LRT plan, originally introduced by former mayor David Miller in his plan called Transit City; apparently their votes are inconsquential. Of course, in a fiefdom, expertise and votes are the costume jewelry of democracy.
The time for revolt has come. The time for a new mayor has come. The time for all free-thinking city bureacrats and city councillors to vote down Everything Mr. Ford proposes Has Come.

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